After last week's fiasco, Smash needed a strong episode to pull back the fans who might have thought the show was falling apart. And while there are still elements that don't work and one-dimensional characters who have lost their identities, "The Song" reminded us why we like Smash in the first place. And that wouldn't have been possible without Jennifer Hudson.
Let's be honest. There is still much to be desired when it comes to her acting ability. However, there is no denying that she has been blessed with an astounding voice, which was on full display this week (and during the Oscars!). While I've learned that watching the show with a critic's eye makes you pay close attention, focus on stuff you might never notice and, honestly, takes some of the fun out of watching, that all vanished during the final musical number. I stopped taking notes, as I found myself transfixed, listening in awe, with goose bumps.
Forget the Sideshows
This episode was not about the funding issues regarding "Bombshell," Julia's work with Peter the dramaturd (I'm sticking with that), Ivy's new part in "Liasons," Jimmy's tortured soul, Karen's seemingly lax attitude towards her future or even the return of super-villain Ellis. Heck, it wasn't even about Veronica Moore shedding her goody-two-shoes image and standing up to her annoyingly overbearing living-out-my-dreams-through-my-child mother. It was simply about "The Song" (aptly named episode, NBC. No need to get clever with it).
The problem still remains that we don't particularly care about J-Hud's character, which is good because apparently her four-episode arc is over now anyway. If her one-night show had bombed and it was all Derek's fault, we wouldn't really be terribly bothered. We never really got to know her, which is a shame because of how immensely talented she is. But that's still my main issue with the season so far. There is no main character.
Finding a Focus
Sure, season 1 had its faults. But it also had a clear central idea: "Bombshell." The plot and all its elements revolved around the musical and the steps necessary to get it to Broadway, from creation to casting to directing to previews. Karen and Ivy were the main characters (more Karen, though), and the main sub-conflict was their battle for the role of Marilyn. Even when other characters had conflicts outside the musical, it still basically revolved around how it affected the show. By stripping down the outside-the-show drama, they've made it so hard to connect with anyone and actually CARE about what happens to them. If Jennifer Hudson's character or Peter the dramaturd or Julia or even Karen were killed off the show next week, would it really upset anyone? No one is crucial anymore.
Everyone just kind of blends together, and while the story itself might be more busy dynamic, it's hard to get emotionally involved because the characters are not. We're already four episodes into the second season, and I have no idea what the main plot is going to be. Is it getting "Bombshell" to Broadway? Is it "The Hit List" and the rise to fame of the men behind it? What about "Liasons"? Veronica Moore's show lasted only one night, so that can't be it. Is it all just to get Jimmy to stop being such a sourpuss?
Protagonist Me, Bro
And who is the main character? Ivy and Karen are basically secondary at this point. Last season, Derek was obsessed with "Bombshell" and who should play Marilyn. This time around, he's basically bouncing around between three shows. Eileen is out as producer and her ex-husband, who apparently paid off Ellis to do something dastardly, is in. Julia and the dramaturd are so excruciating to watch that I beg for it not to be them. At this point, we have no clear direction for plot or character.
Jimmy IS Human!
And speaking of characters, the other big Smash news is that Jimmy actually smiled this week. Several times, too. It seems like most viewers hate him, but it looks like he may be beginning his path towards redemption (and potential likability). And the more he sings, the better. Despite his drug-infused first kiss with Karen (worst first kiss EVER, followed by "Let's try than again when you're not high") and the outburst after Derek refused to listen to his song, which started said drug binge, Jimmy actually seems like he's trying to shed those demons. We still have no idea about the random house his script was in or the dude who punched him in the face, but he certainly had some happy moments in this episode. I guess it's easier when you have Jennifer Hudson belting out your song to millions of people.
Peter is still a smug little sh*t, and Julia eats it right up and is somehow inspired in her endless revisions. After a daylong wine-and-brainstorming fest, he suggests they head to his mountain house up in the Berkshires to finish the book, and I'm trying to drown out the bow-chicka-wow-wows in my head. I can't WAIT for that relationship to be consummated. Ugh.
Still, none of these issues mattered, because this episode wasn't about that stuff. It was about one thing and one thing only. "The Song." And on Tuesday night, Jennifer Hudson saved Smash. For now.
You can watch Smash every Tuesday night at 10 pm on NBC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)