Review: Smash Season 2, Episode 3

The third episode of "Smash" this season shows one bright spot amongst too many familiar complaints.

Finally, “Smash” is going somewhere that satisfies the audience this week: real drama falls on the play writer Julia and the new character Peter, a dramaturg, which will probably refresh and re-explore Bombshell.

Guest star Daniel Sunjata, best known for the role Franco Rivera on "Rescue Me," played the dramaturg Peter. His participation in the writing of Bombshell irritates Julia: He criticizes her script harshly and suggests a makeover of it. Starting with the comedic first meeting and the big-picture discussion about the musical, Peter and Julia soon get into the argumentation over the theme and concept of Bombshell, about who Marilyn really was. This is the best drama “Smash” has shown so far, because the tension fits right into the situation that Bombshell is suspended, every character looks like they need a new start, and the TV show itself is receiving not so great reviews. It pushes the Bombshell crew into a deeper exploration of Marilyn Monroe, forcing them to come to terms with the complex person she was. Julia takes this as a chance to prove herself on another level. The makeover is the episode’s silver lining, as confusing characterizations and obvious plots continue to plague the rest of the episode.

For example, Derek has been the sort of commanding, ingenious, arrogant, but mysterious director. However, in this episode he acts more and more like a sleepy sweetheart who can’t part his muse Karen. Strangely enough, he even invites Ivy to the rehearsal after firing her two episodes ago without portent or reason. He is no longer mysterious, he’s merely confusing. Jimmy’s obvious plot lines–as mentioned last week–continue to be too predictable, right down to his musical within a musical about a musical. With Ivy moving on to another Broadway musical Liaisons, Jimmy pitching his musical story to Derek, and Julia being forced to explore Bombshell, of course, a battle of the musicals is coming.

As for the music, this episode has fewer fully played songs. The only one that is fully sung is Ivy’s musical fantasy of “Dancing on My Own” originally by Robyn. In this scene, Ivy is the outsider who is watching the rehearsing. Spotlights fall on Derek and Karen, and Ivy is in the dark along with other dancers. It delicately conveys Ivy’s solitude and distance between her and Derek, and Bombshell, and even fame.

Interestingly, the conversation between Julia and Peter in this episode sounds like a reflection of the TV show itself. Peter judges that Bombshell is not a Broadway musical, it’s a not-very-in-depth bio pic, and it lacks character development outside the songs. Doesn’t it indicate the embarrassing situation “Smash” is in? “Smash” is not a prime time TV show, it is a poorly developed story about Broadway musical productions, and “it lacks character development outside the songs.” Pointing that out amidst the distracting personal stories, doesn’t do the episode any favors.

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