This was a solid episode of Smallville, one that offered a more sympathetic meteor freak as well as offering the first real showcase for John Glover’s Lionel Luthor. Admittedly, “Jitters” wasn’t the most original story, trotting out the old hostage situation storyline for the back half of the episode. Still, there was plenty to be entertained by this week, including some better than usual special effects.
Alright, as far as special effects, I’m more referring to the realization of Clark’s super-speed than Earl’s shoddy, stop-motion shaking. Still, while the latter was the focus of this episode, the former is something we’ll see time and again over the course of the series, so it’s good to see the show is off to a good start. There’s room to grow – he’s little more than a shuddering blur at the moment – but the scene at the party showing everyone is slow motion as Clark zipped about was a strong one.
Getting to the character beats, I will admit that it was a bit odd to see Tony Todd playing a sympathetic character like Earl. This is more from my own perspective, but he’s such a horror icon, I just expect him to be the malevolent, evil character. A bit of typecasting, to be sure, but the opening of the episode leans into his Candyman roots, showing him ominously hovering over a baby. Yes, it turns out to be his own, but it implies a horror tone that the episode doesn’t really follow through on.
Still, what we get is good stuff, the second meteor freak in a row to veer away from a role as an outright villain. He does take a group of high schoolers hostage, but it’s a move desperation; his only kill in the episode is an accident; and when Earl is carted off at the end of the episode, we hope that he can be helped somewhere down the line, possibly with the help of Lex and his soon-to-be meteorologist friend.
Speaking of Lex, he was probably the best-served by this episode among the cast members, mainly given the interactions he has with his father. We’ve seen Lionel a few times before now, but this is the first episode that’s show what a ruthless bastard he can be. Whether it’s a group of high schoolers or his own son on the line doesn’t matter, not in comparison to the public image of the company. He’s a master manipulator, a cruel, heartless man, and every bit the person we traditionally think of when picturing Lex Luthor in the comics. Here, Lex isn’t yet that man, but it’s interesting to see that when and if he does follow that path, he’ll come by it honest.
-Chloe’s dad is introduced as a LexCorp employee in this episode. He’s taken hostage by Earl, but it never evolves into an actual crisis or character arc for Chloe herself.
–Pete Watch: Well, he got to stammer with guilt in front of John and Martha.
-Real character work aside, Low-Stake Lex remains the best, with Lex getting a fireworks show together for Clark’s party in order to solidify his new friend’s rep.
Final Score: 8 out of 10