Smallville - 6.11 'Hydro'
by Ed Martin - January, 11 2007
In one of the more interesting guest star turns on any prime time drama this season, Tori Spelling tonight will join the ranks of memorable kryptonite-powered super-villains on Smallville.
And, for those keeping score, Justin Hartley returns as the Green Arrow, as well. It's an engaging episode, filled not only with the usual superhero twists and turns but with many surprising romantic developments and the hint of at least one new coupling to come.
Spelling plays the appropriately named Linda Lake, a woman who gained the power to transform herself into water in the second meteor shower that hit the title town at the close of season four. Lake's power comes in handy, because eavesdropping undetected is an invaluable asset in her work as the star gossip columnist for The Daily Planet. Lake slings the damning dish with all the ruthlessness and gusto of Lucy Spiller, the tabloid editor played to icy perfection by Courteney Cox in the FX drama Dirt.
Lake even sounds like Spiller, at one point declaring, "I only print the truth!" She cares not one whit if that truth destroys lives. Lake appears in full narrative stride at the opening of the episode as if she has been on the show's canvas for some time now, basking in her latest career-enhancing exclusive and putting down cub reporter Chloe Sullivan, with whom she appears to have a long-standing confrontational relationship.
"I can see Gotham from my new office," the ultra-successful Lake boasts. (I always enjoy the references to other D.C. Comics characters and locales on this show.) She then sniffs at poor Chloe, "You work below sea level."
Lake has exposed a local baseball superstar's use of steroids - and when she later encounters him on the street in full 'roid rage, he makes clear that she's going to suffer for what she has done. A chase ensues, during which Lake dashes to a fountain and quite literally becomes one with the water therein. When the enraged ballplayer gets too close, Lake effortlessly drowns him. That's because, like almost everyone exposed to Kryptonite, she has gone bad.
The mutual loathing between Lake and Chloe escalates when Lake, in water form and hiding in the office watercooler, listens in on a personal conversation between Chloe and Lana, who has come by to tell Chloe that Lex proposed to her and that she has been unable to give Lex an answer because of her lingering feelings for Clark. When Lake includes all the private details in her column, life becomes more complicated for Lana, Lex, Chloe and Clark, building to a number of quietly emotional confrontations and a splashy showdown between Chloe and Lake.
Appearing at the Television Critics Association tour yesterday to promote her new Oxygen reality series Tori and Dean: Inn Love, which debuts March 21, Spelling said her guest appearance as Lake was a one shot, but she didn't rule out a return to Smallville.
While the Lake storyline puts Lana on the spot and forces her to confront her feelings for both Lex and Clark, the latest development in the Green Arrow's story finds Lois Lane finally admitting two things to herself: That she is in love with Oliver Queen, and that she is convinced Oliver is indeed the Green Arrow.
"Oliver could tell me he's from Mars right now and I would find a way to dismiss it as an endearing quirk," Lois tells Clark. Erica Durance has never been more sweetly appealing as the headstrong Lois, seemingly shocked by the realization that she is capable of falling in love.
Lois enlists Jimmy Olsen and Clark in a clunky scheme to obtain proof of Oliver's secret identity, and as any Smallville fan will guess, her scheme does not go according to plan. But, by the time it plays itself out, there is a very strong hint of narrative changes to come that will align at least one primary storyline in Smallville with one in the Superman movies. It is an especially tantalizing development, and very sweetly played by all involved. Clark is smiling when it's over. You'll smile, too.
It is simply amazing how fresh the characters on this series remain in this, its sixth season. This episode in particular gives Clark, Lois, Lana, Lex and Chloe so much to do that a newcomer to Smallville might mistake it for a much younger show. The stories advance each of them in ways that fans are going to love. Appealing series newcomer Aaron Ashmore really comes into his own as Jimmy Olsen in this episode, while Justin Hartley, as Oliver and the Arrow, is so fully integrated at this point that it is difficult to accept the fact that he is not a permanent, full time character. (There will be a huge advance in the Arrow's storyline next week in the eagerly anticipated episode titled Justice. You've heard the buzz: Insiders insist that it will lead to a sensational spin-off next season.)
With or without its super-beings and special effects, Smallville remains a great character-driven serial drama, at times as sexy and romantic and melodramatic as any other on television. The most recent proof is in an especially strong scene between Clark and Lana near the end of tonight's episode - one that plays as powerfully as it does because we have been following the relationship between these two characters for more than five years, and because Tom Welling and Kristin Kreuk have developed such intimate chemistry during that time. Watching them as they look at each other with wide-eyed passion, both keenly aware that after being so close for so many years they are keeping huge secrets from each other, you may feel as if you shouldn't be in the room with them at so personal a moment. Kreuk has never been lovelier than she is in this scene. Clark and Lana may be the best looking star-crossed couple in television history.