Smash, Season 2, Episode 14: “The Phenomenon”
Written by: Jordon Nardino & Joshua Safran
Directed by: Roxann Dawson
Airs Saturdays at 8pm (ET) on NBC
When we last left Smash Kyle was singing a tune while taking the time to drop off Jimmy’s belongings at the crack house before a set of headlights shown brightly in Jimmy’s face while crossing the street. This left viewers to think the worst and it just so happens the worst did happen. Kyle is dead. It’s difficult to place why the writers of Smash chose this direction or what the point of Kyle’s death is supposed to prove. Especially since the first ten minutes of “The Phenomenon” shines a bright light on the self-absorbed goings on with most of the characters: Ivy and her mom are stunned that they had to wait in line at a Starbucks longer than ten minutes, Eileen is upset her ex-husband, Jerry, takes out an ad for Bombshell in the New York Times, Jimmy has a pity party while he sings “High and Dry” and Karen makes out with Derek.
The unexpected and quick death of a major cast member is affiliated with terrible television writing. Ratings down? Quick! Kill a main character! However, with Smash instead of a dramatic reflection on how short life can be this episode is baffling, almost laughable in some respects. Despite the dimming of Bombshell’s lights at the end of the episode there still exists a layer of selfish scum on the surface of this episode. Clearly Hit List will see ticket sales sky rocket, this is the kind of press Eileen would kill to have for Bombshell. Scott decided all along that Hit List was still going on that night no matter what, much to Julia’s demise. But Julia can’t stop to consider how much Scott has on the line for Hit List, especially when Scott is pretty much still in the dark about his leading man, Jimmy, and his drug habit. And Derek, well, if he can’t bag Karen he’ll sure try like hell to bag Ivy. (Anyone else cheer when Ivy says, “…there will always be a Karen…”?)
The main problem with this episode is Kyle (played by Andy Mientus, who is probably a really great actor, too bad they didn’t give him anything to work with) isn’t a beloved character for Smash. The show hasn’t invested the time needed for his death to resonate in the hearts of the viewers. Last week’s episode was basically the first time we got to some insight into what Kyle has been thinking through this whole Jimmy drug fiasco. And it was his first solo to boot too. We know so much of how difficult Jimmy’s life has been that it’s easier to empathize with Jimmy than to feel for Kyle. Who’s dead. At least Kyle got to go out with a bang, quite literally. Not only did he sleep with Tom, but got a personal concert from the wannabe piano man as he sung a cover of Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” As talented as Tom is, “Vienna” might have been a little out of Tom’s vocal range.
At the end of the episode the big payoff is revealed: Jerry is financing Hit List. Really if you couldn’t see that one coming you might want to reassess your life. Kyle had to die so there would be a big brouhaha that would peak Jerry’s interest so much he just had to give Hit List his money. And is why Eileen is so upset by this? She’s the one that keeps throwing drinks in Jerry’s face.