A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about Smallville, and in the first one, I wrote that one of my favorite things that the series did was incorporate Christopher Reeve and Dean Cain into the narrative. I forgot how intensely amazing Reeve’s role was.
His character was Dr. Virgil Swann, a communications expert who found the message that came along with Clark’s ship (and the meteor shower that devastated Smallville in this version of the story). He first appears in the season 2 episode “Rosetta,” and is the first person to tell Clark about Krypton, his real name, Kal-El, and assures him that he can make his own destiny.
I watched this episode while my mom was popping in and out of our living room and generally when I’m doing “blog research” (I love that I’ve even got my father on board that me stowing up in my room watching old WB shows is good for my future…) she ignores it and moves on to other things, but she stopped and just said, “Hey!”
I laughed and explained that yeah, this was done to be a fanboy’s wet dream. She smiled and sat down to watch with me. Because the thing is, for all that he only has like, twenty lines in the whole episode and was at that point completely paralyzed, he’s still captivating to watch.
It’s something in the eyes that does it, a commitment to what he’s saying. I never mastered that. I also can’t memorize lines, these are the two obstacles that kept me from achieving stardom. (My staggering lack of confidence on stage probably also didn’t help…) I’ve seen some of my far more talented friends do this, really believe what they’re saying.
In “Rosetta” there are a couple of things that I noticed. First of all, really great actors can even make shitty WB/CW dialog sound good. And second, after this episode there is a pronounced shift upward in the quality of Tom Welling’s performance. Almost like after meeting the real thing, he knew he needed to up his game.
The other thing actually has nothing to do with Reeve, it’s the actual message that Swann communicates to Clark.
This is Kal-El of Krypton, our infant son, our last hope. Please protect him and deliver him from evil. We will be with you, Kal-El, for all the days of your life.
OK, look, I’m a Catholic. I’m fairly serious about it. I attended nine years total of Catholic School (4 high school, 5 college), and have an active faith life. The words of this message echo with the theology I’ve spent the past 25 years internalizing.
“Deliver him from evil” is taken from The Lord’s Prayer or The Our Father. I pray this every day of my life. I’ve had a fascination with Christology, an esoteric brand of literary theology that focuses on finding patterns and characters that mirror Jesus’s life, works and teachings in works of fiction, since high school when I took a course in Theology in Media. (I wrote a paper about Luke Skywalker that received a 98.) Superman is one of the easiest examples of Christology out there (The easiest is Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia) so it isn’t too much of a surprise that Smallville totally embraced this.
Anyway, I may not be able to do a lot of posting this week…We’re bracing ourselves for the hurricane around here and if the power goes and doesn’t come back (last year, after the Halloween snow storm, we were out for a week and a half) blogging is obviously down the bottom on my list after things like, “find a hot shower” and “make stovetop meals” also I won’t have the internet.