Smash Season 2 Review “The Phenomenon”

Smash Season 2 Episode 14 The Phenomenon (5)

This week’s episode of Smash is the show’s attempt at the perennial ‘grief episode’, in which a main character is killed off and we spend a whole hour dealing with the loss. This means lots of soul searching for the remaining characters, flashbacks to happier memories and, for a show like Smash, lots of emotional performance numbers. Now, there are two kinds of these episodes – the genuinely heartrending and meaningful, and the sappy and intolerable.

Smash, to its credit, falls somewhere in between those two extremes. The episode itself wasn’t too bad, but there was a lingering sense that Kyle had originally been introduced just so he could die, and that tainted things for me. If a character from the first season had been the subject then it would have been much more powerful, but killing Kyle felt especially non-climactic just because we hadn’t spent a lot of time getting to know the guy separate from Jimmy.

His last-minute relationship with Tom was the most transparent demonstration of Kyle’s position on the show since, without that point of reference (and the over-emphasis put on his and Julia’s passing connection) there would have been no solid reason to care that he’d died. He was created to be a sweet and generous character, with no apparent flaws to go with his angelic nature, but there wasn’t enough time or opportunity for the character to be integrated into the show’s DNA. He was Jimmy’s conscience and sidekick, and it was only Jimmy who really felt the pain of loss.

The trouble is, most viewers hate Jimmy and how he’s changed the show in this second season, and his self-righteousness hasn’t faded with the shock of losing his only friend. The reaction that felt the most real to me was Derek’s, with the balance of professional and personal loss and sadness that someone on the brink of their career wouldn’t be able to experience what he had. I even felt a bit sorry for him this week as both the ladies in his life rejected him for different reasons – Karen because she’s in love with Jimmy and Ivy because she’s tired of his fixation on whatever actress he’s directing at the time.

If you liked Kyle then this was a sweet and emotional send-off for the character but, if you weren’t really that interested in him or his fraught relationship with Jimmy, then it was an unnecessary detour for the show on the way to the impending Tonys. The stakes have been raised, with Jerry taking ‘Hit List’ to Broadway and ensuring it’s competition with ‘Bombshell’ come awards season, so we’ll have to watch the closely connected productions battle it out for the statuette. They haven’t forgotten about ‘Liaisons’ or ‘Gatsby’ either.

What did you think of the episode? Are you sad Kyle’s gone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

  • What’s sad about Smash is that it started as an entertaining look behind the scenes of a show about Marilyn Monroe. It has deteriorated into a show revolving around a drug addicted jerk who, as the reviewer put it, viewers loathe. I cannot even think of a character I’ve hated more in the past few years. NBC made a huge mistake hiring Saffran to run this show. And his biggest mistake was getting away from Bombshell and focusing on Hit List.

    Last night’s episode was laughable… an entire episode mourning a character we didn’t really care much about. And everything continues to revolve around Jimmy. Wish he’d been the one hit by a car… or jumped off the building. Viewers would have cheered!

    They’re also doing their best to make the originally likeable characters unlikeable. Saffran needs to stick with garbage like Gossip Girl. What’s sad is that he’ll probably get another gig even after running two of the lowest rated shows in recent history.

    I’m only watching to see how they stick a fork in this disaster.

  • Molly

    I agree. We didn’t get invested enough in Kyle to make this grief episode work. And neither did most of the “grief stricken” cast members. It was bad enough in the first season that we had McPhee bringing this show down. Then they added the Newsie boy to help her along. One thing in this episode that was very creepy was the sudden turnaround in Scott. Up until now, he’s been a great, likable guy. Now he’s the sleaze who lied about shutting down the show for a night for his own gain? That was a total plot device to send Julia running back to Tom. This show had potential but it really went to hell in Season 2.

  • cambiatagn

    It was basically a way to set up a repeat of “RENT” – dramatic death as show opens catapults show to levels it wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Particularly precious given the current presence of RENT alumni Jesse L. Martin and Daphne Rubin-Vega on SMASH.

  • Niall Wilson

    Funny how much Gossip Girl suddenly improved without Saffran at the helm, and how much this show suffers with him, Kyle was barely fleshed out enough for his death to even matter and the fact that they tried to push it as a huge event totally undercuts any of the tension surrounding the Broadway launch of Hit List and Bombshell (does anyone else think it seems like Hit List was wrote in a week or so? in the first season they spent ages working on Bombshell but apparently Hit List is ready after about 2 or 3 shows).

    Also, oh man do I hate Jeremy Jordan’s character.

  • Loveit

    I find this review interesting. I never hated Jimmy on this show. I thought his character had the most life and realness in it. He was a wild card. Came in and change everything. The best thing about Smash is that there are so many possiblities and places this show can go. Not like Glee which is set in a high school and more and more the scenarios are getting unreal or out of touch, this show actually is very compelling. The dynamics between characters, the music, the way lives are intertwined