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RERUN REVIEWS: Smallville 1×02 “Metamorphosis”, 1×03 “Hothead”, 1×04 “X-Ray”

Written by Scott Swartz

Alright were gonna crank up the pace on this, the pilot was a special occasion but now we are going to try and go over two to three episodes per article. Special occasions will still happen: finales, premieres, event episodes, but for now we will try to accelerate the pace as we still have a long way to go. Now in my opinion, “ Metamorphosis”, “Hothead”, and “X-Ray” really helped to cement the structure of what “early in the season” Smallville looks like. Clark would deal with the ramifications of the season premiere in episode two, some new wild card would be thrown into the series in three, and a major character is often introduced in episode four or five. It’s a simple structure that worked very well over the ten seasons and you can see how even as Clark evolved he still faced this pattern constantly. So lets dive into these three!

As “Metamorphosis” originally aired as part two of the pilot, this episode introduced a couple of concepts that would play huge roles in what defines the rule of a meteor freak. With Greg Arkin’s “Bugboy” we find out that some meteor freaks have residual radiation from their exposure to meteor rock fragments. Also, nine times out of ten this causes them to stalk Lana; weird correlation, I know but it’s kind of a fact. This episode is well known for two reasons: most prominently Clark receives the lead box from Lex, a symbol of their friendship early on and later a symbol of Clark hiding away his secrets. The other is Clark full on floats for like five seconds after waking up from his dream about Lana. This was the first instance of the “joy of flight” ever displayed on Smallville and since the whole show was based on the one rule, “no tights, no flights”, to see it almost be broken in the second episode was kind of bizarre.

The episode’s plot itself was fairly straight forward as once Greg got his “Bugboy” powers, he proceeds to try to make Lana his bug queen. There is some striking imagery, especially when Clark and the gang find Greg’s mummified mother as well as Greg scattering into a pile of bugs after his defeat. So overall Greg was a strong upgrade from Jeremy in terms of a villain. Whitney though continues to be an ass and that never really changes unfortunately. Whitney is really stuck being the typical high school jock and when there was an opportunity to be so much more he fades from view.

Once again the standout performance of the episode is Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex, as every time he meets a new character or interacts with Clark is fantastic. Rosenbaum captures Lex’s inquisitive nature perfectly as well as his desire to just be treated as a normal person, especially by Jonathan Kent, whose distrust is palpable.

Overall it was a very strong episode and a solid improvement over the pilot.

Final Grade: B

 

“Hothead” returned us to the schlockyness that was in the pilot and even though there was improvement over said pilot, this episode just did not feel like Smallville. It felt like if Smallville was trying to be Buffy instead of finding it’s own identity especially, with the whole Coach Arnold plot. Arnold, while having a fun power, was really pigeonholed by his whole tough-as-nails football coach persona. I mean we have seen this type of character before. Arnold as a character needed something to distinguish himself other than having a private sauna in his office, which being from a place that doesn’t have a big high school football community, I still have trouble believing that actually happens. Arnold’s story was more secondary to the true message of the episode, finding one’s own identity.

All of the story’s main characters, Clark, Lex, and Lana, were trying to distinguish themselves from their public image. Lex’s confrontation with Lionel and ability to outmaneuver his father was fun, as until this point Lex was still finding his footing in Smallville. John Glover’s first real appearance as Lionel was spectacular as he is as grandiose and dastardly as we expect a Luthor to be. Lana, striving to break out of he cage, picks up a job at a coffee shop which helps to lay the initial groundwork for what will be both her overarching journey of finding independence and her love of working in a coffee shop. Clark, of course, wants to break out of what he believe to be Jonathan’s overbearing nature which is odd. I get the whole all American boy/football star dream, but Clark should have some other interest than being the star of high school. The way Clark is portrayed especially during this first season is that high school is the be all and end all, and even Jonathan is telling him to let it go. Clark needed a kick in the pants and it was evident to a lot of viewers.

A little bit of a downgrade but still a good episode overall.

Final Grade B-

 

Now “X-Ray,” in my opinion was the best of this bunch as it managed to have a really solid villain, introduced a new power, and another character that would develop into the primary arc villain of the season. Clark’s development and realization that he does not know how his powers work really help to elevate this story, as Clark is often at his best as a character when he has the least amount of control over a situation. With the combination of Tina Greer and the development of his x-ray vision Clark was put in the awkward position of facing an enemy he was unable to effectively confront.

Tina, played by the awesome Lizzy Caplan, manages to play Lana’s stalker/ satellite very well and you can feel her adoration for Lana is pure, at least up to the point where she decides to full on replace Lana. Another great quality of Tina as a villain is that she is not just one note, as the combination of her mother’s oppression and Lana’s saving grace led to her mental instability in a way I had not seen before in TV. On the same principle as Greg Arkin, Tina’s kryptonite enhanced skeleton proves to be a major weakness and allows her to fight on the same level as Clark.

Lastly we get the introduction of Roger Nixon, who could easily be classified as the Big Bad of Season One. Lex’s desire to find out Clark’s secret plays a large role over the course of the series and it is always fun to watch those first few steps.  Nixon is your typical despicable reporter who is just looking to advance his career even at the cost of the truth. He is not meant to be likeable or even trust worthy but there is always a sense of danger when he is on screen.

Overall the best of this bunch.

Final Grade: B+

Extra Thoughts

–       Over the course of the series I believe three or four of Clark’s powers are directly triggered by sexual arousal for Lana. X-Ray is the first.

–       Coach Walt Arnold: “Yeah, I remember. Jonathan Kent was one of the best athletes I ever coached. A lot of God-given talent. It’s in your genes, Kent.” Clark Kent: “Actually, I’m adopted.” The coach really needs to do his research before openly recruiting.

–       Lex Luthor: “Can’t knock your taste in women. You want to tell me what happened last night?” Clark Kent: “It was just a stupid prank.” Lex Luthor: “You were tied to a stake in the middle of a field. Even the Romans saved that for special occasions. You could have died out there.” Lex drawing the parallels between Clark and Spartacus very early on.

 

About the author

Scott Swartz