After a strong episode last week, Smash disappoints with a fairly lukewarm offering, primarily brought down by some head-scratching moments and very questionable motivations.
Let’s take a closer look after the jump:
Let’s start off with the good:
Again the musical numbers really delivered this week. The opening number/montage with Tom (Christian Borle) belting out “Another Opening, Another Show” = absolutely fabulous. I love Borle’s voice and this song was a way to highlight his superb talent. I hope there’ll be more opportunities for him to showcase those chops. The visuals that accompanied the song also served as an excellent complement. We saw everyone packing their bags, ready to ship off to Boston (of all places) for the tech rehearsal* before previews begin. The sequence was a real winner in setting the mood of excitement and anticipation before Bombshell’s opening.
*In fact, capturing the stress and simultaneous monotony of a tech rehearsal was done quite well throughout the episode. Derek’s (Jack Davenport) brutish and frustrated screams actually made sense here.
We also got Ivy’s (Megan Hilty) rendition of “I’m Goin’ Down” which started off a sing-off between her and Karen (Katherine McPhee) in a hotel room. I’ve griped before about cutting away to fantasy sequences mid-way through a number, but in this case, it worked. It was breathtaking to hear Hilty start off acoustic with a slow instrumental build up, and the starkness of the accompanying fantasy (she’s ends up alone in the hotel room while it pours rain outside) was a nice enhancement.
So that’s the good…and pretty much everything else, especially character motivation, was just a train wreck. Honestly a lot of what happened made no sense to me.
Let’s start off with Julia. The replacement actor for Joe DiMaggio landed a pilot, leaving the show before it even began rehearsal. While it sucked that home wrecker and king of cheese Michael Swift (Will Chase) would have to be brought back, in reality, it makes sense. He’s the only realistic option for a show that’s opening in two days. Bringing Michael back isn’t wholly unbelievable. What is far-fetched, however, is Julia’s (Debra Messing) reaction. I can definitely appreciate how she doesn’t want to compromise the already fragile state of her family, but to put the entire show on the line because she didn’t have the foresight to control her primal urges just doesn’t fly. I’m surprised that Eileen (Anjelica Huston) didn’t kick her to the curb right away. Eileen says it herself – she has MILLIONS of dollars on the line. I give some credit to Eileen for trying to argue, but really, Julia’s position is entirely self-serving and unreasonable.
But not to worry – that’s all tied up in a neat little bow when husband Frank (Brian d’Arcy James) and son Leo (Emory Cohen, who thankfully only had a couple of lines) agree to go with Julia to Boston to help her through the impending Michael avoidance. Here’s hoping that Frank will get in a couple of more punches, or better yet, tell Michael’s wife about what went down so Michael can start feeling the consequences of his actions. Let’s overlook the fact that Leo was failing two classes last week but can suddenly jaunt off to Boston for a two week (?!) spring break with the fam to keep mom from sexing it up.
Notice that we haven’t even touched the business with Dev (Raza Jaffrey) and his cheatin’ heart? RJ (Tala Ashe) finally makes her move by coming over to the apartment with a bottle of bourbon. Nothin’ says booty call more than that. She manages to get a make-out session from Dev, but he pulls away before they go all the way. Riddled with guilt and desperation, Dev goes to Boston to hastily propose to Karen to try and wash away his indiscretion
Karen brushes him away, though, even when he comes (with roses!) to the theatre. He can’t even watch apparently because of all the “security issues” with Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) As much of a douche Dev is, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him when he sitting there all alone. At the same time, though, I was screaming – ‘JUST BREAK UP!” Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone more checked out of a relationship than Karen. Clearly her career is more important, and Dev (and us) shouldn’t be subjected to this. There’s no investment in this couple, because it’s been all about Karen the entire series. So just break ‘em up and so we can move on to more interesting things.
Of course, this doesn’t happen. Instead Karen gives the WORST answer to a proposal in the history of the world. She responds with “I’m in tech!” Umm, I’m sorry, what?! Who cares if you’re in tech? You’re part of the ensemble! Are we to believe that Karen is “so stressed out” that she can’t even give the man she supposedly loves the time of day when he puts it all on the line? Karen’s primary function during tech is standing around ensuring the that spotlight is NOT on her, and on the star. How stressful can that be? Yes, Dev was wrong in making out with RJ, but Karen doesn’t know this yet, and she’s being completely unreasonable. Again, to reiterate: Please just break up and put us all out of our misery.
Taking this tedious plot point even further, at episode’s end, Dev meets Ivy in the hotel bar and buys her a drink. Either he’s too drunk to care, or doesn’t put two and two together, but it doesn’t seem that Dev knows who Ivy is. Ivy on the other hand, knows exactly who Dev is, and puts her misplaced anger at Karen (more on that in a moment) into motion. Judging by next week’s preview, looks like Dev makes a completely irrational decision, but I’ll wait till next week to bitch about that one.
This brings me to the most infuriating part of the episode: the Derek and Rebecca crap. Where in holy hell did this come from? Yep, Derek goes after Rebecca even though it looked like he finally turned into Prince Charming by telling Ivy that he loves her. Oh sure, we’ve seen Derek be a womanizer before, but his actions throughout the series suggests that he actually cares about Ivy, and just last week he was telling everyone how much a dunce Rebecca was. Where on Earth does this come from? He also does NOTHING to hide the fact that he’s sleeping with Rebecca, much to Ivy’s dismay. So we can now we can tack on “unnecessarily cruel” to his character traits. This just feels like a totally fabricated plot point designed to create drama. I can’t wait to go through all the pointless melodrama of Ivy confronting Derek, Derek trying to defend himself by yelling at her and how it was all in pursuit of his ‘art’, and having yet another public blow up. Note to Smash: You already did this!
Furthermore, I get why Ivy is deeply hurt by this information, but I find it unbelievable that she would channel all of her anger at Karen. Yes, there’s likely more pent-up resentment toward Karen that motivated it, but really, I don’t see why Ivy would zero in on Karen as the fall guy for Derek and Rebecca hooking up. Again, it feels like another sloppy way to get these two pitted against each other, with Karen in the role of innocent victim and Ivy as the supreme, irrational bitch. All the progress once again flushed down the toilet. It’s mind boggling why these characters are doing the things that they are.
The more Smash moves away from the musical elements, the less interested (and angrier) I get. I don’t understand why the show runners don’t have enough faith that the intrigue involved in mounting a musical is entertaining enough. We don’t need these horribly executed, soapy elements – stick to the ‘Bombshell’ please! I’m approaching the same state as Emily Nussbaum in that I’m beginning to hate-watch the show!
- I didn’t mind the scenes with Tom meeting Sam’s (Leslie Odom Jr) family. It was nice to hear about Sam’s motivations about being a dancer and the struggles he’s had with his dad as a result. At the same time, however, I thought it detracted from the main strength of the episode, which was what was going on in the theatre.
- I also don’t mind the Eileen and Nick (Thorsten Kaye) lovely dovey, relationship stuff. In this instance it was one short scene, and was directly related struggle that Eileen’s having with the regard to the show. In this sense, this scene was less intrusive than the Tom and Sam scenes.
What did you think Smash-ers? We’re nearing finale time and it’s clear that we still have to get rid of Rebecca (peanut allergy – stat!). Do you think Ivy will get closer to cray-cray and dump some nuts in her smoothie? Why do you think Derek went after Rebecca? How do you think Karen is going to deal with Dev? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments section.
Smash airs at 10pm EST, Mondays on NBC