Smallville 8.4: "Instinct"

I've mentioned before that the writers for "Smallville" often make the mistake of bringing established DC characters onto the show without bothering to give them enough distinct characterization. Too often, the writers simply assume that the audience will have some pre-existing knowledge of the visiting character. This alienates anyone not familiar with the comic book mythos and renders the series less cohesive and stand-alone. Considering that the series has long since abandoned any version of DC continuity, such "cheats" are hardly constructive.

One remedy, of course, is to focus less on the visiting character and more on character relationships. And that's precisely how the writers avoided the "cameo curse" in this instance. Granted, it doesn't hurt that Maxima was played by a gorgeous redhead (Charlotte Sullivan), and from what I could tell, the continuity references were relatively benign.

The core of the episode, however, was the relationship drama. Chloe and Jimmy were temporarily on the skids because of Chloe's previous yearning for Clark, and Clark is still pining for Lana. How things have progressed from that early "love triangle" is hardly a side issue, and the writers take it on with a deft touch.

I'm not at all convinced that Chloe is completely over Clark, but I am convinced that whatever time might have been theirs has long since passed. Chloe's too-casual embrace of her Brainiac-derived mental acuity is strain enough on their friendship; pushing the already forgiving boundaries of their friendship could be disaster. Incredibly bad dialogue aside, Clark is better as Chloe's "BFF", and the writers seem to understand that notion.

But that doesn't quite help Clark see where his future might lie. The audience knows that Clark will end up with Lois, and the writers have had them circling each other for a few seasons now. Getting them to acknowledge the attraction is the trick, since they've been established as barely friends over the years. Maxima is a step towards the means to that end.

After several seasons of pushing Lana as Clark's object of ultimate desire, it's a hard sell to bring Clark and Lois together, despite the inevitability of it all. Fans don't like change. But this season is practically a fresh start, even with the long-term writers at the helm, and there's a distinct effort to push the series out of its rut and into the direction it should have gone seasons ago. The pacing of the season as a whole is still a bit off, but I have to give the writers credit for a marked improvement.


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