This review contains spoilers.
5.3 The Curse Of Clyde Langer Part 1
Ever feel like the whole world’s turned against you? That’s the premise of the latest episode from The Sarah Jane Adventures team. But for Clyde Langer, it’s more than a feeling…
Things start off innocuously enough, as West London is pelted with fish from above – in other words, a typical day for our intrepid adventurers. Having ticked off several sci-fi tropes in last week’s story, the gang’s search for answers brings them into contact with a more supernatural staple, namely a big old artifact (in this instance, a totem pole) taking pride of place in a temporary exhibition at the local museum.
Unfortunately for the team, there’s no sign of life within the totem pole, and they’re forced to leave empty-handed. Except for Clyde, that is, who gets a shiny finger splinter. Splinters can be a nightmare at the best of times (just ask the Ninja Turtles), but this one is more of a pain than most. For when Clyde wakes up the next morning, he finds that the mere mention of his name is enough to make even his closest friends show him the door…
For the last four years, Daniel Anthony’s Clyde Langer has easily been one of the best things about The Sarah Jane Adventures. Brought in to replace the excruciating Kelsey character from the pilot episode, he brought a refreshing cynicism and humour to the at-times rather saccharine team of SJ, Luke and Maria. It’s clear that the writers enjoy writing for him. Even on the rare occasion that the show churned out a duff episode, there’d usually be a few choice Clyde lines to put in the quote book.
As the story title suggests, this is very much Clyde’s episode from start to finish, and it’s all the better for it. The early scenes of the episode have him at his wisecracking best, bantering with Mr Smith and the rest of the gang over the fish incident, and sharing a tender scene with his mum. The show also continues to look to the future after last week’s opener, as Clyde’s ambition to become a comic book artist once he’s finished school is explored further.
This is all set-up, of course, for the beating (both metaphorically and literally) that Clyde receives during the remainder of the episode. Having seen Clyde bond with Sarah Jane and Rani over the past three to four series, it’s genuinely painful to watch them reject him so completely and suddenly, and Anthony does a great job of showing the character in utter shock at the events unfolding. It’s during the closing scenes of the episode, however, that he really shines, as Clyde is rejected by his own mother and is forced to wander the streets.
Helped by some great direction, Clyde’s downfall is utterly heartbreaking to watch, and Daniel Anthony pitches his performance perfectly as Clyde’s wisecracking exterior is stripped away to reveal the vulnerable child inside.
Though this is Clyde’s episode, there’s meaty scenes too for both Elisabeth Sladen and Jocelyn Jee Esien (Clyde’s mum). Although both are under the influence of a curse, there’s seeds of genuine emotion bubbling to the surface, as Sarah Jane takes Clyde to task on his barrage of jokes aimed at her son during the show’s early years, and Carla confronts Clyde about the fact he’s kept so much from her since meeting Sarah Jane and the others.
We also get to see just how far Clyde has come, as he runs into an old friend playing football in the park, having left school at 16. When we met Clyde back in Series 1 he was ‘cool’ and a bit of a troublemaker, and in this scene we get a hint of just how different his life might have been had he not befriended Luke and Maria when he did.
Not everyone is well-treated by this story, unfortunately. Considering that the writers have hinted on several occasions at something more than platonic brewing beneath the surface between Clyde and Rani, it’s absolutely baffling that when Rani’s turn to turn her back on Clyde comes, she’s reduced to a bit of generic shouting at him to go away. It really does feel at times as though the writers don’t really know what to do with her as a character.
Plot-wise, the episode is a bit threadbare, and at times more than a little convenient; I don’t know how often you refer to your nearest and dearest by their full names, but it seemingly happens all the time on Bannerman Road. Heck, even the museum curator manages it, despite having only met him in passing the previous day. It gets particularly silly when Clyde attempts to use a cash machine and it displays the words ‘Clyde Langer’ over and over again…
All of this can be forgiven though, I think, as it’s the plot’s simplicity which allows for such a strong central performance to shine through. And with the episode ending on such a downbeat note, without even the usual cliffhanger, you have to wonder how much worse things are going to get for young Clyde Langer…
Read our review of the last episode, here.