Sunday, June 29, 2008

Smallville: Thirst – review (TV Episode)

Director: Paul Shapiro

First aired: 2005

Contains spoilers

I must admit that I don’t watch Smallville – indeed this is the only episode I have ever watched. Why? Whilst, intrinsically, there was nothing wrong with this, I just have never been a huge fan of the Superman franchise and this series is, essentially, a Superman prequel – college boy Superman.

Of course, I am well aware of the main movers and shakers in Superman – so the concept of Clark Kent (Tom Welling), Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) and the effects of kryptonite are familiar. Plus this is a vampire episode, I had to watch that.

The episode itself is essentially the story reported by Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) as she tries to get internship at the Daily Planet – having been rejected and offered the chance to produce a story to be re-evaluated by editor-in-chief Pauline Kahn (Carrie Fisher). There is a side story concerning Lex Luther and Professor Milton Fine (James Marsters) – obviously the characters’ conflict meant little in isolation but, unusually, the sub-story fitted neatly into and complimented the main plot.

As a prelude we see a pizza delivery to the Tri Psi Sorority and the door is answered by three young ladies in bikinis. They get the delivery guy to head to a Jacuzzi with them and, when he suggests that he has to get going, develop fangs and bite him. Sorority vampire chicks… oh my! Incidentally the sorority president is called Buffy Sanders (Brooke Nevin) – Chloe explains that the names have been changed in her story and this is obviously a nod towards the Buffy TV show .

Anyway Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk), Clark’s girlfriend, has been accepted into Metropolis University – a different college to Clark, and is going as they do the courses she wants. The only problem is that they don’t have any dorms left and so she is going to try for a sorority. In this case the Tri Psi Sorority. As you can guess she is successful and her initiation involves a passing of blood through a kiss – she seems to respond to the blood immediately.

The next day Chloe, who is having roommate hassle, discovers Lana in her dorm. She reacts badly to bright light but Chloe assumes she is suffering from a hangover. Clark shows up and Lana is acting strangely. She gets his scent and is suddenly aggressively seductive. When Clark doesn’t respond in a similar way (being in touch with emotions and all that) she suggests it is time to reassess their relationship.

Chloe is investigating the sorority, as well as googling vampires for some reason that seems like a leap of faith given that in her last scene she was oblivious to the signs. She telephones Clark and says something is wrong, in a flash he is there (Chloe, evidentially, knows about his powers). They decide to investigate the sorority at a Halloween party – cue Clark in a Zorro outfit deciding that the cape is kind of cool.

Unfortunately, to look at the lore, I will have to spoil the whole episode. Clark finds a clipping in Buffy’s room regarding survivors of a bat attack. Lana, meanwhile, has put the bite on Chloe. Clark rescues her and takes her to hospital. She is not responding to transfusions due to a rabies like virus that is attacking her red blood cells. Professor Fine comes in and suggests that Clark confronts Lex about project 1138.

Clark does so and, on hearing that Lana is infected, Lex spills the beans. A group of high school kids were stuck in a cave. The area around the cave had previously been struck by meteors and the radiation had got into the water table, forming into stalactites and infecting the (vampire) bats. Buffy was infected by the bats then rescued by Luther-Corp. The infection gave a cannibalistic thirst for blood, light sensitivity, caused the development of fangs and increased strength (we elsewhere discover it gave immortality and quick healing also). The infection seems to be kryptonite related as a stalactite effects Clark adversely. Luthor-Corp has a cure.

Once the information is divulged Lana gets into the room, she is specifically hunting Clark, as per Buffy’s orders. He manages to grab a syringe full of anti-virus but is bitten by Lana. His special blood invokes further powers in her. She looks in the mirror, disgusted by herself and her actions. In her disgust she shoots fireballs from her eyes, destroying said mirror. Of course, you know that Buffy will die (in a fireball), Clark will cure Lana and all will return to normality.

I found the idea of injecting the cure into the heart, which was synonymous with the stake in the heart, rather interesting and quite clever. The use of Bela Lugosi is Dead by Bauhaus on the soundtrack was an obvious referential moment. I did wonder at the strength of fangs that could penetrate super-skin – but perhaps Clark’s full powers have not developed and as a casual observer I’ll never know.

The episode worked in a glossy teen way. The cause of the vampirism worked within the confines of the Superman franchise. I don’t think it inspired me to watch the series, but as a vampire episode it wasn’t bad – which is, of course, how this will be scored. 5.5 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

This is the only Smallville episode you ever watched?
Too bad! You watched one of their worst (from season 1 to 5); as admitted even by the showrunners!

Derek Tatum said...

I have to say, this was the episode where I decided I never wanted to see another episode of "Smallville." The acting made me want to vomit and the use of Bauhaus nearly made me pass out in embarassment. Awful.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

la-belle-isa, thanks for the comment. As I put in the review I was never a fan of the Superman franchise so the show didn't attract me, though I can accept the concet that this was poor in the genreral run.

Hi Derek - to be fair to this the acting, whilst not superb, wasn't the worst I've ever seen - as you'll know through many of the films/shows featured here lol.

As for the Bauhaus, as I said - it was fairly obvious as a referential... At least using it in the CSI vampire episode made conceptual sense as they were in a Goth club.