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Smallville “Rogue” Review (S1E9)

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Man, you guys, Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent may have been right in Man of Steel after all; Clark using his powers to save a dog is a danger to his secret! Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that the DCEU version was a terrible father, with “Rogue” serving as a great showcase for how much better the Smallville interpretation of the character is. The subplots may have been slight this week, but it was a great week for the Kent family proper.

The story itself was a familiar one in superhero narratives, with Clark’s secret discovered by a criminal – in this case, crooked cop Sam Phelan – and being exploited to devious ends. But while the plot beats were familiar, the performances helped make this an enjoyable episode, telling a recognizable story extremely well. For one, Tom Welling did great work as a conflicted Clark, showing him as a young man struggling to find a middle ground between doing the right thing and protecting his family. Similarly, John Schneider was able to bring a real sense of menace to Pa Kent as he threatened Phelan.

Even better, this episode truly laid out the beliefs of this show’s versions of Jonathan and Martha Kent. First and foremost, they want to protect Clark because they love and care for him. However, the last thing they expect is for him to live in fear and hiding, telling him they would never ask him not to be the person he is. This is in regards to both his powers themselves and the fact that he uses them to save people. This is a version of Jonathan Kent that worries about Clark stopping a bus with his strength, but would never expect him to let people die instead.

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Phelan himself was an appropriately scummy figure, one the show doesn’t even try to give any real depth. Really, it’s fine that we don’t get much on the guy, as he serves his purpose of putting the Kent family into a bind. Besides, from the second he learns Clark’s identity, it’s fairly obvious he’s going to die by episode’s end, the show not far enough along in its run to start letting people in on Clark’s secret. That said, the ending was a bit easy, with Phelan turning into a crazed maniac so he could get gunned down. Similarly, Jonathan getting out of jail seemed to happen a bit quick as well.

Though the episode ends with Lex getting his first look at a blurred, super-speed Clark, his main story this week involved the return of an old flame, Victoria Hardwick. She’s come to try and get him to defect from LexCorp to her father’s company; in turn, Lex convinces her they should take both companies for themselves. This is more set-up than anything else, so I’m sure they’ll be more to say down the road.

Chloe, meanwhile, got a surprisingly effective arc herself, temporarily losing her position as editor of the school paper to Lana. Again, the story here is played out, with Chloe being jealous of Clark’s admiration of Lana, but Allison Mack does some stellar, subtle work as Chloe. From the look she gives Clark early on to the way her eyes slightly well as she talks about their being nothing between them, it’s quickly becoming clear that Mack may just be the show’s secret weapon. Just another way this episode succeeded in providing a much better hour of television than initially suspected.

Random Asides

– Low-Stakes Lex strikes again, inviting both Clark and Lana to the museum reception in order to try to get the two together.

– Seriously, what was Phelan’s plan if dropping that engine on Clark didn’t work? Just accept the murder of a teenage boy on a hunch?

– Overall, the performances were strong this week, but Phelan and Clark were hamming it up big time in their confrontation in the kitchen. Fortunately, Clark had already punched out a pillar, getting the scenery into nice, chewable chunks.

Pete Watch: I think Jonathan mentioned his dad was a lawyer?

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

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