Saturday, January 27, 2007

Finishing Smith

After CBS yanked Smith from its schedule having only aired three episodes, they posted the remaing four episodes that had been produced on their website, and also for sale on iTunes and Amazon (they're no longer on the CBS website, but you can still get all seven episodes at iTunes and Amazon). I finally finished watching the four downloaded episodes this week, and it was sad to get to the end of the last one and realize there wouldn't be any more. (There are synopses of the next five unproduced episodes here, containing some pretty shocking developments - obviously they knew to end the show by episode twelve - but it's not quite the same thing.) After being totally blown away by the Smith pilot, with its lavish production values, brisk, hard-boiled tone and unsentimental characterization, I found the next two episodes a little disappointing, settling into a somewhat conventional rhythm of the team accomplishing one incremental goal per episode, and also introducing some boring and cliched cop characters to chase our band of outlaws.

The first of the unaired episodes left me with the same impression, and I was prepared to watch through to the end of a series that, while thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing, never quite lived up to the promise of its pilot. But by episodes five and six, that old tartness and bravado from the pilot started to come back, resulting in two quietly stunning bits of television, leavened by a slightly less impressive seventh episode. Episode five finds the crew, having stolen a shipment of gold bars, betrayed by their buyer and left holding property they can't get rid of. The way they treat their wounded betrayer and argue amongst themselves about what to do with the gold shows just how deeply ruthless and amoral these characters really are, and it's chilling and fascinating.

Episode six is a "down time" episode, with the characters scattering and tending to their own personal affairs, but it's just as powerful and just as effective at illuminating each person's flaws and ambitions. Watching Tom (Jonny Lee Miller) and Jeff (Simon Baker) stalk and ruthlessly kill a man out for revenge against Jeff, you root for them to succeed, even as you know (as do they, as they acknowledge ruefully) that they are entirely in the wrong. All the acting on the show was outstanding, making these heartless characters fascinating people even as they are completely reprehensible, but the stand-out had to be Amy Smart as Annie, delivering so many layers of deviousness under her sweet but menacing exterior. Of course, these episodes prove that this show was doomed on CBS, but that didn't make it any less heartbreaking to imagine how it might have flourished on FX or Showtime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what is it with critics and smith? i still don't get it, what makes this show so powerful? it just seemed pointless to me.