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.