It was just last week that we were complaining about how depressing Smash has gotten, with everyone fighting and breaking up and becoming pillheads. Not only was the whole thing a downer, it also distracted immensely from what this show is supposed to be about. Namely, y'know, putting on a musical. But luckily last night a tall blonde Veela arrived and started to get things back on track.
Uma!!! Willow-limbed movie star Uma Thurman technically first appeared last week, but last night was her first full episode, and boy was she a delight. In a fun nod to what's actually happening on Broadway these days, the producer of this floundering Marilyn musical has decided that the show needs a big Hollywood star to properly sell it, so they've brought in Thurman's Rebecca Duvall, a flighty, slightly imperious blonde who can't actually sing as well as her agents and managers had promised. That horrifying revelation was made in grand fashion last night, with Thurman awkwardly bleating out the show's signature ballad after doing some kind of embarrassing, breathy Marilyn impression. It was a great, awkward, genuinely funny moment from a show that often takes itself a little too seriously.
It's a good plotline, this not-evil but not-an-angel-either movie star landing with an oblivious bellyflop into the middle of the show, sending our technical heroines Karen and Ivy (oh, yeah, she's back in) scrambling for the sidelines. It feels of-the-moment for Broadway and infuses the series with the lighthearted showbiz insidery-ness that has been heretofore sorely lacking. Basically, the show is fun when Uma is around, and, more importantly, the show is about what the show is supposed to be about when she's there. Too bad she's only slated for a few episodes. I mean, they probably couldn't drag out her story for too long, but she'll be missed once she leaves.
Other than Uma, well... Last night's episode had a couple good Karen/Ivy scenes. Their budding frenemyship (ugh) is nice and thorny, and complex in a way this show doesn't do terribly often, or typically terribly well. There's also the most welcome dissolution of Karen & Dev that I wish they'd hurry up and just get over with, and these mysterious Marilyn daydreams that Derek keeps having. Those are mildly intriguing fantasy bits that could be leading a couple juicy places, so please proceed with those, Smash. The whole Debra's messing up at home thing is obviously still a snoozefest — a show about musical theater is somehow suddenly concerned with a bratty high school student's grades at prep school? — so it'd be nice if they could wrap that up. Guys, that kinda stuff is mostly unnecessary! Give us the show. Give us the bitchy backstage business. Give us more Uma. Just give us that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.