ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 3.6: Relic
Love it or hate it, the “Smallville” TV show has been one of the most popular mass media adaptations of a comic, reaching millions of viewers each week with stories of what Clark Kent’s life was like before he became Superman. Now, we’re marking its passing by having ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, two guys who have never actually watched the show, watch and review every single episode of the tenth and final season.
Chris: I’m going to be honest with you, folks: With Smallville taking its mid-season break until the end of January, we’ve basically been deciding which past-season episodes to watch by looking at their descriptions and picking the ones that sound completely insane. And that’s how we ended up watching Season 3’s “Relic,” in which Jor-El comes to Earth as a hobo in the ’60s.
David: This one was actually considerably more insane than I expected. I knew I was getting a confusing, Smallville-continuity-filled Jor-El story going in, but I did not expect Jor-El to basically be James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. I am insanely disappointed this episode did not end with Jor-El and Lachlan Luthor engaging in a Kryptonite knife fight.
Chris: Our story begins with Lana visiting an old man in prison, because an old man wrote her and told her she looks just like his wife, who he was convicted of murdering. This… This is maybe not a great decision on Lana’s part.
David: I think that at this juncture, Lana making a good decision would be insanely out of character.
Chris: As it turns out, the old man is in fact Lana’s great-uncle, Dex McCallum, which doesn’t actually make it any less creepy, and he tells Lana that the murder was actually committed by — get ready for it — a nameless drifter who looks just like Tom Welling. Sort of.
David: GASP! What a convenient turn of events to prevent us from having to feature other actors in this episode! I do love how between this and the witch episode, apparently every female in Lana’s family looks like Lana Lang. They’re all clones. Did that kick off the Cadmus plot?
Chris: Except that this time, the ancestor in question — Louise — looks like Kristen Kreuk in early-’60s period costume, which I can only assume was the producers’ attempt to pander to the lucrative Darwyn Cooke demographic.
David: Way to discount Venture Bros fans everywhere.
Chris: Huh, you’re right. She’s totally rocking a Jackie O/Dr. Girlfriend wig, isn’t she?
David: Oh, totally. I’m pretty sure Doc Hammer could do a better acting job than Kreuk just by voicing over her, too.
Chris: But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Lana, in true Nancy Drewvian fashion, decides that Old Man McCallum must be telling the truth, and so she enlists Clark’s help in uncovering the identity of the real killer, who just happens to look exactly like her boyfriend. Clark, of course, recognizes the necklace in the artist’s rendering as being a Kryptonian symbol — because of course it is — and so he goes down to a cave where it’s painted on the wall and touches it, causing the paint to come to life and open like a safe, which goes into his head to give him psychic powers.
David: I absolutely loved that, because it’s so amazingly dumb. Like, how would that even work? Did Jor-El paint it on there with nanoactive paint?
Chris: I’m actually willing to give that a pass because it isn’t any more dumb than throwing a crystal into some snow and making a giant fortress. Which, if I’m honest with you guys, I actually do think is dumber than having a giant golden key. At least that fortress had a door.
David: There’s a gulf between charmingly silly dumb and just plain dumb, yeah.
Chris: In a slightly more lucid story — which would’ve been written by Otto Binder in Action Comics #130 and called “Jor-El: The Super-Hobo From Krypton!” — you’d probably expect that all the information from the past would’ve been shown in flashback as Clark and the rest of Mystery, Inc. uncovered all the clues. In Smallville, however, there is no plot point too contrived, and Clark is suddenly blessed with psychometry, the ability to touch things and relive the past, specifically as it relates to his dad wandering around in 1961.
David: To be fair, this show DOES crib the hell out of a seminal Golden Age story later, but we’ll get to that.
Chris: Two things I want to mention here. First, as we’ve said before, this is Jor-El, who looks just like Clark. Which would be fine, except that we know that by the time Krypton blows up, Jor-El looks like Julian Sands, a.k.a. Warlock. And then, after he dies (?!) he’s Terence Stamp. So apparently the aging process on Krypton makes you look like a completely different person every ten years.
David: I don’t know how to break this to you, but Clark’s actually a Time Lord.
Chris: That would explain an awful lot. Especially how he keeps swapping out hot female companions every few years too. Secondly, this episode would be a thousand times better if instead of the events of Smallville from 1961, Clark was flashing back to the events of actual Superman comics from 1961:
David: The thing is, as far as I can tell, 1961 Superman comics were pretty much happening every other episode at this point.
Chris: Just sayin’, if Jor-El would’ve come to Earth and gotten dosed with Red Kryptonite, turned into a were-lion and had to break up Louise’s marriage to Mr. Mxyzptlk, this thing would’ve been great.
David: Well, yeah, I think it goes without saying that Red Kryptonite makes everything better.
Chris: As it turns out, Jor-El came to Earth in 1961 because… Do they ever actually give a reason for that?
David: Something about him having pissed off his dad, I think. Some kind of rite of passage, maybe?
Chris: So basically, what you’re telling me is that this episode has combined the plots of Rebel Without a Cause and Predator. But with Superman.
David: Exactly what part of this is not insane enough for you?
Chris: Oh, it’s definitely insane. It’s just not good. As evidenced by the fact that the first thing that happens when Jor-El walks into Smallville is that Louise gets attacked by a gun-wielding mugger in broad daylight on main street and nobody notices.
Chris: Seriously. People just walkin’ on by.
David: At least Jor-El did something. I’d half expect him to just stand and watch from his previous characterization on this show.
Chris: Anyway, the mugger in question turns out to be… JOE CHILL!
David: I wish, although I was reminded of Joe Chill several times throughout this episode.
Chris: Yeah, it’s actually Lachlan Luthor, who we find out is Lex’s grandfather when Chloe explains that she has “a three megabyte file on Lex!“
David: Who was also a hobo.
Chris: This kicks off a subplot where Lex asks Lionel and his hair about his grandparents, and we find out — much to nobody’s surprise — that Lionel blew them up when he was a kid in order to collect the insurance money. Also, it’s worth noting that in this episode, he looks like El DeBarge.
David: And once again, Lionel gets a piece of character development usually reserved for Lex himself.
The entire “from a poor family, kills parents, becomes successful story” is supposed to be all Lex’s.
Chris: Back in ’61, Jor-El — going by the imaginative hobonym of “Joe” — proves that the Kent family has a type by straight up getting it on with Louise. Who, incidentally, is married, which doesn’t stop Jor-El from getting a handful in one of Smallville’s many highly erotic scenes that all seem to take place in barns.
David: Clark also experiences this entire thing in flashback after touching Louise’s pearl necklace, the implications of which I’ll just leave for the readers. But I mean, I cannot imagine a worse first sexual experience than psychometrically experiencing your dad banging a chick who looks just like your girlfriend.
Chris: To make a long story short — too late! — Jor-El confesses to Louise that he’s from space in a scene that’s very much like Clark confessing to Lana in Man of Steel, and after a few more flashbacks of Tom Welling peeling layers of Atom Age polyester off of Kristen Kreuk, you find out that the sheriff hired Lachlan Luthor to kill Jor-El, but — Jor-El being bulletproof and all — he ended up capping Louise instead and calling it a day.
David: What right does Jor-El have to continually give Clark s–t about not using his powers properly? He FORGOT HE WAS BULLETPROOF. I also love that the following events — Clark’s attempt at setting the situation right — are all basically stolen verbatim from the Bruce Wayne Playbook. Bill Finger should practically get a writer’s credit on this thing.
Chris: Seriously! Clark finds out that Jor-El met Grandpa Kent and that despite the fact that he was wanted for murder, Hiram thought he was all right and helped him out, keeping Jor-El’s bomber jacket so that it could be used in dozens of future Geoff Johns stories. Then, in a complete and utter riff on Batman tracking down his parents’ murderer, Clark dresses up as Jor-El and goes to confront the sheriff, who is now the mayor. And seriously, it is the most half-assed haunting of all time.
Chris: He doesn’t even slick his hair back.
David: After that, a crowd of kids cheer on Clark and Lex as they have a random street race and then fight in a circle with pocketknives outside a planetarium.
Chris: I wish.
David: I’d like to think that after returning to Krypton, Jor-El started a short-lived greaser fad.
Chris: The Mayor ends up confessing to the crime and Jor-El hides his necklace in a cave, then goes back to Krypton having seen his true love murdered before his eyes, meaning that Superman’s mom was totally his dad’s second choice. Poor Helen Slater.
David: And on top of all that, it was even adultery!
Chris: Who knew Smallville was such a den of iniquity? I’m surprised anyone was shocked at the barn orgy from last week.
David: At this rate, I’m impressed they didn’t involve the animals.
David: I’m not sure this episode HAD any high points other than maybe Lana’s period outfit.
Chris: Not gonna lie: Kristen Kreuk as a sexually frustrated 1960s beauty was pretty easy on the eyes.
Chris: Also, it’s nice to see that the producers didn’t just start throwing in the fetish costumes when Erica Durance signed on. Also, the fact that Lex apparently employs a bargain basement Brian Dennehy as his personal assistant. Really, though? That’s about it.
David: Oh God, the concept. Who pitched this and thought it was a good idea? Clark looking exactly like Jor-El was silly, Kreuk was terrible as usual, Pa Kent continues to be kind of a dick and Lex is still the only sympathetic character.
Chris: Yeah, for real: Lex assures Lionel that he’s going to find the person who killed his grandparents and bring them to justice. He basically does the exact same thing that Clark does in this episode except that — and here’s my Low Point — Clark didn’t want to do it!
David: Lex sure is naive not to immediately figure out his dad did it, though.
Chris: Yes, but again, I’m pretty sure that’s more evidence that Lex is good-natured and trusting at this point. Clark, meanwhile, just could not give a damn. Lana comes to him with an old man rotting in prison who was wrongly accused and Clark’s initial reaction — Clark Kent! SUPERMAN! — is “no way, that dude’s a liar, screw that guy.”
David: I get that they needed to show Clark BECOMING Superman and his journey on that way, but there’s such a lack of altruism here that it doesn’t even feel like he could EVER become the dude who assures Regan everything will be OK while hugging her on a rooftop.
Chris: At this point, he could barely become the guy who makes Jimmy Olsen think he got an immortality gem from a mermaid.
David: Haha, yeah, there’s a complete lack of creativity or invention in his character at this point. It’s astonishing what a BORING GUY Clark Kent is. Lex Luthor has a sweet house and lots of talent at a lot of different things and can talk philosophy or history or music or sports or whatever. Clark can talk about life being unfair, and maybe he’ll let you hang out in his special room in the barn.
Chris: Even the haunting scene, which is atrocious, isn’t just bad because it’s dumb and makes no sense, although those are certainly valid complaints. I mean, the mayor literally just talked to Clark earlier that day, and then Clark puts on a bomber jacket and makes no other effort to disguise himself and somehow manages to convince the dude he’s another person. Which, yes, I know, is pretty much what the Clark of the comics does with his glasses, but at least he combs his hair a different way and slouches to fool Lois.
David: Well, at least I can see this guy turning into the dude in Superman Returns. Shiftless, lazy, avoiding responsibility and a peeping tom.
Chris: No lie: This thing was ROUGH.
David: I wanted bad, and I got bad. I got a whole lot of bad.
Chris: If nothing else, at least this episode has disabused us of the notion that in Smallville, “crazy” equals “enjoyable.”
David: Definitely. I think we should cleanse our palate next week with some Bryan Q. Miller and Zatanna.
Chris: Agreed! So what have you got for us?
David: “Warrior”, where a kid gets superpowers from a magic comic book and Zatanna, Clark and Lois have to go to a comic book convention.
Chris: Fan. Tastic.
David: I had a feeling you’d approve.