Mona Lisa’s Revenge

Posted in Episode by - September 11, 2022
Mona Lisa’s Revenge

Aired 12 -13 November 2009


After Luke furtively enters his friend’s artwork into a competition, Clyde leads his class to the International Gallery housing the Mona Lisa. Mysterious forces are in play in Phil Ford’s “Mona Lisa’s Revenge,” however, as the painting comes to life and its famed subject seeks her brother, the Abomination, with the power to take out of and put into paintings anything she sees.

The Sarah Jane Adventures has rightly been lauded for with willingness to tackle very mature and poignant subject matter, and the scene with Sarah Jane coming down on Luke for his messy room is perfectly relatable and hints not only at Luke’s continuing development and sense of individualism but also at Sarah Jane’s seeming reluctance to accept them. Of course, she is a mother who has found herself thrust into parenthood in her child’s formative teenage years even if Luke came with no true sense of self, and so this is uncharted territory for both that importantly shows that neither is static nor perfect. Similarly, whereas Luke’s friends have always looked out for his own best interest while trying to teach him what it means to be human, Luke taking action to bring attention to Clyde’s immense talents that Clyde would otherwise keep secret to avoid potential embarrassment is a fitting showcase of Luke’s growing independence and a strong moment of realization for Clyde that he doesn’t need to hide who he is behind a strong and often comedic veneer. Given that these characters are perpetually fighting against otherworldly and almost inconceivable threats, it’s easy to forget that they are still teenagers trying to find who they are and who will they will be in this world going forward, and although these moments are relatively minor in this episode, they go a tremendous way in grounding this entire series in very real emotions and sentiments that most children and parents will at some time experience.

Befitting of such a famed painting that has received such praise over the centuries, Suranne Jones gives an unhinged and frankly brutal edge to Mona Lisa incarnate, a woman who absolutely believes in herself and who is willing to use and accentuate anything to achieve her aims. There is an intriguing suggestion that she is incapable of appreciating anything outside of herself that adds an extra element of pathos and tragedy to the character, and Mr Harding’s obsession to his work and his resulting blindness to the errors of his enabling ways is a complex yet believable bit of characterization that anchors so much of the drama on display. This is very much Jones’s show as the villainess, but Jeff Rawle is every bit as important and capably adds a more nuanced element to balance out Mona Lisa and the altogether more frightening threat of the Abomination that is wisely kept more shrouded given the CGI limitations. While this terror doesn’t necessarily add anything more than what Mona Lisa’s previous interactions with the painted medium have provided, it’s nonetheless a firm reminder of the power she possesses that complements the frightening vision of Sarah Jane being trapped within a painting exceedingly well.

While the plot itself is quite light and doesn’t quite allow for an exploration of Clyde as much as might be anticipated, the brilliant foreshadowing of the resolution in the episode’s earliest moments and the inclusion of so many needed character moments for the core and supporting cast alike elevate what could have been a fairly generic- if undoubtedly colourful and bold- episode into something surprisingly more resonant. This is The Sarah Jane Adventures at its most absurd and reactions to Jones’s villainous performance will obviously guide any particular sentiments, but “Mona Lisa’s Revenge” also exemplifies the heart and genuine emotions at this franchise’s core and proves again just how flexible its format can be and how incredibly talented its young trio of actors is.

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