I do not envy Cassidy Freeman. Entering the picture as LuthorCorp CEO Tess Mercer on last night’s season 8 premiere of Smallville, the actress has big shoes to fill. Lex Luthor is an iconic villain, and Michael Rosenbaum was beloved by fans. How do you come into a show in it’s eighth season and take over as the resident villain?
In the case of Tess, it will take some time. We learned a little bit about her last night, but overall, she has a long way to go if she wants to be taken seriously as a bad ass. After all, her predecessor routinely ordered assassinations and threw his own father out a building. Simply mocking Lois Lane’s wardrobe choices won’t cut it (though it’s a decent start).
I want to like Tess. As far as villains go, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has already proven that a ruthless red-headed female CEO can be quite terrifying. The difference is that Tess doesn’t seem to have a clear motivation yet. As far as super villain goals go, trying to find Lex Luthor isn’t high on the list.
If Smallville wants Tess to succeed, she needs to out-Lex Lex in everything he did. She needs to be more ruthless in business and personal decisions. She needs to find her own insane obsession. And most importantly, she has to redecorate and get her own style. Having her move into Luthor Manor might save on the budget, but it simply reinforces the notion that she’s a second-rate Lex who’s only there because Michael Rosenbaum opted out of his contract.
The fact that Tess Mercer isn’t a character from the comic should be the new Smallville showrunners’ greatest asset. They don’t have all this backstory they have to throw into the series, they can create their own mythology. The writers have a perfect opportunity to add something completely new and wild into the mix, and that kind of freedom should let them create something really special. With Lex Luthor, we all knew exactly where the story would eventually end up. The same can be said for the various romantic pairings, because much as you may love Clark and Lana, you know that’s not how it will wind up.
Tess Mercer is the best chance to do something new, to push the envelope and go outside the comic book story. Obviously Lex will remain a key figure on Smallville, whether Rosenbaum is there or not, but Tess needs to be her own woman. She needs to stand on her own two feet and move LuthorCorp in a direction she wants it to go. And if she gets into a catfight with Lois along the way, all the better for us.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)