First of all, Smash-ers, I’m assuming you’ve seen this.
I’ll give it a minute to sink in.
Not that it’s any surprise to anyone, of course. Smash has been tanking hardcore in the ratings for the entirety of season 2. It got so bad that it was airing first-run episodes on Saturday nights, for Pete’s sake. And now we have our official death notice. Perhaps it will trigger some nostalgic goodwill.
Frankly, the episode needs a little of that goodwill, after last week’s trainwreck. Smash is an imperfect show even on its best nights (including “Opening Night”, perhaps destined to remain the show’s high water mark, post-pilot), but even amidst the chaos the show has managed to do one or two things consistently well.
Most of these things have had to do with Derek Wills, of course. The charismatic Jack Davenport has shown himself to be the clear MVP of this endeavor, lending weight to his professional material and…not sucking at his personal story lines. Tonight was no exception.
Though it may have been retroactively ruined by the revelation that it was all part of his Daisy dilemma, this episode’s best moment was Derek’s monologue about working on the show, post-Kyle. The idea of “best for the show” vs. “best for Kyle’s memory” rang incredibly true as a legitimate theatre dilemma. Heck, it even managed to boldly recollect the fact that, no, Rent is not a perfect show, either, and was perhaps left alone a bit to its own detriment after Larson’s death. Of course, Smash dares not speak this blasphemous thought out loud.
As a matter of fact, God help me, the tweaking-of-Hit List storyline was actually the strongest element of this week’s installment, despite actively involving Jimmy! It just keyed into a very real kind of story, and I’ve liked Jimmy paired with Julia for a plot more than any other pairing the show has come up with for ol’ Jim. Heck, I even managed to like the utterly ridiculous use of social media that they ultimately end up plugging into the show. Especially the faces of the easily amused young audience members; those were the best.
So of COURSE they have to go and torpedo Jimmy/Julia with that “this is about Bombshell” “I feel so betrayed” ending. Because we can’t get through an hour without absolutely hating Jimmy, otherwise it wouldn’t be Smash! Aw, I’m getting nostalgic already!
Also awful? Why, Karen, of course! Much like Jimmy, she manages to remain bearable until the episode’s final scenes, where St. Karen the Perfect starts giving morality lessons to both Derek AND Ivy. She actually tells Ivy that the awful rumors spreading about her behavior are completely her fault, and the fact that they’re true means that “everyone already knew” and sure, of course she can just tell everyone everything.
When Ivy confronts Karen at the bar, it actually struck me as a hilarious miscalculation by the show: we were probably supposed to side with Karen’s naiveté and truth-speaking, but it was Ivy’s righteous rage and demand for a little freaking discretion that got my sympathy. In fact, Ivy’s entire storyline tonight was about owning who you are, and Ivy certainly does. She is a flawed human being, but certainly not an awful one.
Karen, on the other hand, is the worst kind of bad person – the kind who thinks they’re really a good person. Look at all the tantrums she’s had this season, the Jimmy/Derek baiting, the unearned status-pushing, and ask yourself: has Karen learned anything from any of it?
“Grin and Bare it“ was the obvious metaphor number for Ivy’s struggle with reputation. Sadly, at this point I’m getting a little bored with Smash‘s production numbers. This one ended up being a mish-mash of “Mein Herr”, Gypsy, and, sadly, “Moving the Line”, which it melodically resembled a tad too much. I hate to say it, but Shaiman and Whitman are getting a bit repetitive on this show. Maybe it’s a good thing they don’t have much further to go.
There were two Hit List numbers tonight, too. “Pretender” was a sort of ’60s girl-group throwback, and not remarkable for much beyond that, but “I’m Not Sorry” was a camp classic for this show. Picture this: Karen facing down The Diva (here played by understudy Daisy as part of The Worst Plot Ever), where they screlt at each other for the first half of the number. THEN, a bunch of dancers start circling around doing flips an’ stuff. THEN, they each ascend a staircase and start getting rolled around each other! THEN, they meet in the middle and start doing Boxing-ography! This might have been my favorite number ever for all the wrong reasons! (…nope, just kidding. Still Liza and Tom for the win.)
Finally, we had “Rewrite the Wrongs”, a rare instance of true dramatic poignance in a Smash musical number, sung by Julia (with Tom) at the Levitt/Houston cabaret that ends up as a salute to their broken partnership. Debra Messing steps up for her first musical number, and, for me, it works very very well.
Sure, her voice is thin, shaky, and just OK, but I felt it actually added to the vulnerability of it. It did sound very “the composer sings her own stuff”. I’d like to also add that the lyrics for it were quite good, very thoughtful, very haunting harmonics, moody.
Plus it was nice that the TV show that was about the musical about Marilyn Monroe finally acknowledged that Arthur Miller existed.
Let’s see, what else:
Eileen leaked the partnership breakup for good press. Smart.
Lin-Manuel Miranda showed up! And Tom hates him! I’d watch a spin-off about this rivalry.
Ivy Lynn is pregnant. Because of course she is.
Only two to go, folks! “
Next on Smash:
Two hour series finale (note new time) Sunday, May 26 at 9pm on NBC.