The ComicsAlliance Smallville Recap Returns With Jeph Loeb’s ‘Red’
Before they turned their attention to examining the Dark Knight’s cinematic adventures, Remedial Batmanologists Chris Sims and David Uzumeri were tasked with providing the Internet’s most in-depth review of the final season of Smallville, a show that neither of them had ever actually watched. On the off weeks, they delved back into previous seasons to learn a little more about the show. However, there was one episode of the show that, despite a promise to their readers, they never watched. Until now.
While sharing a hotel room at Comic-Con, Chris and David finally got the chance to reunite with Tom Welling, Kristen Kreuk and John Glover’s hair to bring you The Lost Installment of Smallvillains: Season 2’s “Red,” written by Jeph Loeb.
Chris: Here’s something I never thought I’d have to type again: Welcome back to Smallvillains! This week, we’re tackling an episode so intense that when we tried to watch it together in San Diego, it literally knocked David unconscious.
David: Well, I don’t know if it knocked me unconscious as much as lulled me to sleep. Don’t make me post the .wav I took of you snoring. I, for one, blame the Stone IPA they sold for $6 a bottle at Trickster that was, like, 6.9% alcohol.
Chris: Admittedly, I think there might’ve been some
alcohol mitigating factors involved, but at the end of a long day at Comic-Con International, I don’t think any of us could resist the appeal of nestling into John Glover’s hair and drifting off to sleep, knowing you’re safe and secure in the mane of power. Also, I think the fact that I took a picture of you sleeping makes this officially the creepiest article in ComicsAlliance history. We should’ve saved it for Halloween.
David: No, I think the creepiest article in ComicsAlliance history — or at least the past week — is still Hello Kitty Slave Leia.
Chris: As for the episode itself, this was one that was recommended by a lot of our readers when we asked for installments of Smallville that were actually good, and while I don’t know if it really qualifies on that front, it’s certainly enjoyable.
Chris: Basically, the premise is that Pa Kent is a total dick, which we learn right in the opening scene, when Clark is committing the grave sin of buying a class ring in clear violation of his father’s edict. There’s a brief mention of the Kents having money problems, but Clark also talks about having his own money, which implies that in the break between Seasons 1 and 2, he had a summer job. Now, I have a standing policy against watching any more of Smallville than absolutely necessary, but I’m genuinely curious as to what kind of summer job Superboy had. Part of me (and by that I mean all of me) hopes that it was just dredging up pirate treasure from the ocean floor like he used to do back in the Silver Age. Either way, it’s enough for Clark to buy a crappy class ring that Chloe claims was “jacked from P. Diddy.”
David: The amazing thing about Chloe’s P. Diddy reference is that it’s still timely.
Chris: P. Diddy will always be relevant. He’s the Keats of our times. Seriously, it’s a little known fact that “Ode on a Grecian Urn” was written about Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka. Anyway, while Clark’s nervously trying to figure out how to explain to his father that he bought his ring, Lana’s showing a new girl around school: Jessie, who is dressed for her first day at high school in a shirt that is both tiny and reasonably transparent.
Chris: For those of you keeping score at home, this brings Jeph Loeb’s total Scantily Clad Teenage Blonde count up to three.
David: I’m sure it’s more than that if we look farther.
Chris: Lana is trying to show Jessie around the school, and by that, I of course mean that she’s giving her a sales pitch about coming to her coffee shop. If nothing else, this at least explains where Clark gets his money, since apparently Smallville is a place where you can own your own business at fourteen.
David: From what I recall, actually, Smallville is a place where you can become best friends with the multimillionaire son of a multibillionaire who’ll have a crush on you and buy you a coffee shop.
Chris: Jessie voices an interest in — sigh — “the major hottie in primary colors,” which is weird because he is wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans, and while he’s being ogled, Clark puts on a ring. This makes his veins glow red, which no one notices, not even Clark, who is actually looking at his hand at the time.
David: I love how Red Kryptonite apparently works subdermally, then intravenously, eventually rushing to the eyes and the head. Is it basically Kryptonian cocaine? I hope Clark talks nonstop and goes on and on about his yacht.
Chris: He is about to go wreck Pete’s couch. Anyway, he tells the principal to lay off lecturing Jessie about the dress code because “your dress code sucks,” and the principal just straight up caves immediately and lets Jessie off the hook. And honestly? I’m pretty sure that’s the first time in a year of this dumb show that we’ve seen Clark actually save someone, even if it was just from detention. Clearly something is amiss!
David: I dunno, he saved some dudes in Metropolis once by throwing a can at their head and probably cracking their skull and giving them brain trauma. I also love how the principal doesn’t find anything weird about Clark “Boring Loner” Kent finally growing a backbone; he just completely caves. Does Clark have something on this guy?
Chris: After that, we cut to a private investigator who’s looking for Jessie, while interrogating a dude in a gigantic metal bathtub at a set that I am 100% certain we have seen before as a science lab:
Chris: They don’t even try to hide it! They just turn the lights down and hope nobody will say anything. Also it’s worth noting that despite the fact that he is interrogating a dude while he’s in a (giant metal) bathtub, this is never mentioned or explained. Nobody is acting like this is out of the ordinary, and the only time it even comes close to being mentioned is at the end of the scene when the investigator electrocutes him by dropping a radio in the tub.
David: Man, the dude in that bathtub was sure listening to some death metal! [hyuk hyuk]
Chris: Seriously though: There is no reason for him to be in that tub except that they wanted to electrocute him at the end of a scene, thus making the scene in question complete nonsense. Back at the school, Clark is endorsing bad behavior like crossing county lines and teenage drinking. This will bring him into conflict with his father, Bo Duke, best remembered for being a wanted moonshine runner who cost Hazzard County over $1.4 million in replacement police cars alone. And them’s 1979 dollars!
David: I wish Clark would change into an Ed Hardy T-shirt and get a diamond earring.
Chris: At this point, Clark starts flirting with girls and not wanting to do chores, which, combined with buying a class ring, creates a triumvirate of Completely Normal Teenage Boy Behaviors that Bo Duke takes as carte blanche to start yelling at his son about how he makes bad decisions. I wish there was a way to capture the disgust that drips from John Schneider’s voice in text, but I don’t think it’s possible without writing out the letters in slime.
Chris: And speaking of disgusted fathers…
David: What the hell happened to Lionel? Why is he rocking sunglasses and a pimp cane? Is he blind or — oh, okay, he lost his sight, he’s blind. Also, Lex is a total pushover, and once again more sympathetic than the protagonist. Although I guess that’s the point this time.
Chris: Yes, Lionel Luthor has somehow been stricken blind (soap poisoning?), and since he’s Lionel Luthor, he has of course turned this into an advantage by using it to browbeat Lex into letting him rebuild his office out of Lex and Clark’s Private Pool Hall, the room that launched a thousand fanfics.
David: For a second I thought the reveal at the end of this episode would be that Lionel was faking it just so he could be a dick to his son, which I really wish they’d done, since that’s a total Lionel Luthor move.
Chris: Meanwhile, while Lex is swallowing his pride and standing by his father at his time of need, that dastardly villain, Clark, in the throes of a sinister madness, has decided that studying is boring and girls are hot. So basically, in the world of Smallville, Red
Kryptonite Meteor Rock has the same effects as puberty.
David: Man, Pete Ross is loving this. And Clark is checking out Chloe with X-ray vision. Wait, does Pete know about Clark’s powers at this point?
Chris: I think so. He definitely uses Kryptonite on him at the end, so I think it’s safe to say that he’s in on the secret, much like he was in the Silver Age, except that Clark and the Kents know he knows. It’s also worth noting that Pete flips out when Clark starts checking out Chloe as though this is an insanely wrong thing, when it seems pretty natural to me. I mean, even with the puns, she’s a better choice for him than Lana.
David: Yeah, but she’s actually attainable, and Clark would basically have no problem having a normal romance that actual human beings might have with her, and then we wouldn’t have any schmaltzy, manufactured drama.
Chris: So since Clark’s friends are the only good-looking, popular teenagers in America who would rather sit around studying than take a break and goof off for a bit, Clark decides to steal his parents’ credit card and buy himself a GameCube.
David: Man, even with the Red Kryptonite, why would Clark want to play football videogames? He can live out any videogame he damn well pleases.
Chris: The show’s explanation is that he wants the stuff all the other kids have, which is actually a pretty relatable and justifiable feeling, considering that the Kents appear to have no luxuries at all, despite the fact that they appear to use their super-powered son solely for free labor to keep their farm thriving. Based on what we’ve seen, I’m willing to think that Jonathan Kent thinks modern technology has the taint of the Luthor family on it or something, and has banned anything less necessary than an icebox.
David: They actually just fill Clark’s rocket with ice and store beer in it. Jonathan goes underneath the barn to drink alone and cry next to it sometimes.
Chris: This scene also has what may in fact be the most important moment in the Smallville universe: Smallville Clark’s First Dumb Jacket!
David: This episode is Clark’s Dumb Jackets: Secret Origin, I swear to God.
Chris: There are two things I am convinced of: One, that Clark bought a ton of dumb leather jackets on his Red K spending spree that he didn’t take back after his father browbeat him into returning the rest of his stuff, and two, that he will be wearing these things constantly after the September Reboot in order to explain why nobody can see the new costume’s Jim Lee High Collar. But now that he’s properly suited up in Bad Boy attire, he does the most rebellious thing possible: He drives to school and picks up a classmate so that they can get there on time. And his parents react like he’s just murdered a bucket of kittens.
David: Why did Clark and Jessie even go to school? If they’re that rebellious right now, why are they even going to school? Shouldn’t they… skip school? Oh, plot contrivances.
Chris: That’s the thing about this entire episode: Jessie should not be in school at all! We learn right at the beginning that she and her father are on the run from both the law and some evil corporation that wants to destroy them, so why in the hell would her father take her to a town and enroll her in a public high school under her real name?! I don’t care how much he cares about her getting an education. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a noble goal, but things generally have to take a back seat to “not dying,” and her policy for social interaction seems to be “draw as much attention to myself as possible and then act surprised when the people looking for us find and try to murder us.”
David: The best part is, their plan would have totally worked if it weren’t for that meddling bartender! Absolutely no danger came from enrolling Jessie in high school, just from allowing her to go get drunk at a bar that apparently never, ever, ever cards anybody.
Chris: Pa Kent ends up following Clark to school and trying to physically force his son into a truck so that he can berate him for not acting properly submissive to the Kent his elders, conveniently forgetting that his son has super-powers. This is so monumentally stupid on his part that I have to assume that John Schneider just requested a setup for a scene where he could be shirtless.
Chris: From here on in, the episode continues to follow the path of the after school special, to the point where I was genuinely surprised that Jessie didn’t get her hands on some angel dust and jump through a window. What we do get, however, is a treatise on underage drinking that’s only slightly less hilarious than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia‘s, when Clark borrows Lex’s car and uses it to take Lana to… a bar!!
David: “Who’s more responsible than Clark Kent?” Man, I love how this guy is totally leveraging his previous personality to take advantage of people. I also fully approve of any crappy bar in rural Kansas that rocks Andrew W.K.
Chris: That’s the crazy thing: Aside from the stuff with the credit card and the GameCube, Evil Clark is way more likeable than Good Clark! He’s friendly and outgoing at first, he finally stands up to his dad who, from what I can tell, seems to be letting his paranoia force his son to hide himself rather than using his powers to actually help people, and he’s actually sort of honest with Lana about the way he feels.
David: Man, Lana is pass-agg and Clark is acting less like a douchebag and more like he’s honest for the first time in the entire show.
Chris: So of course, everyone thinks that something is hugely wrong. Pete even suggests that he’s on drugs, probably because he found some missing from his stash.
David: “Clark would have to be on drugs to be on drugs.” Chloe, you are a master of observation.
Chris: What does that line even mean? I seriously cannot get my head around it.
David: Meanwhile, back at the bar, of course Jessie just happened to be there to take Clark from Lana. And of course the next song just happened to be a perfect slow-dance dirty country song. And of course now the bartender calls the government agent from the beginning of the episode. The perfect confluence of events to make this episode’s story work is hilarious.
David: Lana is such a wet blanket, I swear to God.
Chris: She really is. Like, this bar actually seems like a pretty decent place. Everyone looks like they’re having a good time, and the only trouble comes from two dudes who want to stop Clark from bothering Lana. The only indication that it’s not super-wholesome is that they’re playing rock ‘n’ roll music, and… I mean, is Kansas the fifties?
David: How the Hell is Clark going to be able to cover up blatantly using his powers here? And, Clark in a wifebeater looks like new-DCU Superboy. Also, man, is Clark straight-up stealing Lex’s Ferrari?
Chris: Yeah, probably, but it ain’t like that dude doesn’t have another one. Besides, he not only asks permisison to borrow it, he gives him regular updates! He’s still crazy responsible! And, he actually suggests that Lex get out of Lionel’s house and go be his own man, which is exactly what would stop him from becoming a super-villain! Evil Clark is a proactive force of good!
David: I would totally watch Clark Kent and Lex Luthor: Metropolis Pimpin’, The Series. Like, every single damn episode.
Chris: After this, Clark ends up going back to the Luthor mansion, where he runs into Lionel.
David: Clark screwing with blind Lionel is the best part of this episode yet.
Chris: The thing is, messing with a blind person is just total hack shorthant for bad guy, but the fact that it’s Lionel Luthor makes it impossible to side with him over Clark. It’s perfectly acceptable for this to happen. Then, the guy looking for Jessie shows up, and after Clark terrifies him with his powers, he reveals that he’s actually a hitman sent to kill Jessie’s father because of corporate espionage, so Clark decides to go collect the contract himself.
David: I do love the slow transformation of Clark from “finally speaking his mind” to “kind of a douchebag” to “willing to get a dude killed to make some cash.” Honestly, why is Clark even doing this for the money? There have to be easier ways for him to earn a million bucks. This entire plan is insanely complicated, and as the hitman after them points out, he doesn’t even have the contact with the guy willing to pay him. It’s nice to see that as different as Clark’s temperament might be, he’s still an idiot.
Chris: He ends up chasing Jessie through a cornfield, when he’s suddenly ambushed by his dad and Pete. And just so we’re clear on this? There is no possible way they could’ve known about the whole bounty thing. This episode’s established reason for Clark’s best friend and loving parents to decide to poison him with Kryptonite and hit him with a sledgehammer are, in total:
1. He told Lana how he really feels.
2. He told Lex he should leave his father, an evil, manipulating mastermind.
3. He told Lionel to get out of town because no one in Smallville wants him around.
4. Credit card fraud.
That’s… I mean, that’s actually a pretty good track record of good deeds to bad, you know? But that’s what they use as justification to smash the ring and send Clark back to a life of hiding, farm work, and quiet desperation.
David: Clark punching the sledgehammer and his ring exploding? That’s pretty damn convenient. And speaking of convenient, the guy who saw Clark use his powers dies, not by Clark’s fault. But what about everyone in the bar?
Chris: They say the bar is outside of Smallville town limits, so presumably they were all killed the next day by a meteor freak who was acting outside Clark’s jurisdiction.
David: Well, at least Clark taught Lex to stand up for himself. Man, Lex Luthor totally rules. Also, did this show just imply that Lex learned how to become a villain from a changed Clark Kent?
Chris: I have to say, this is another episode where Tom Welling does a pretty great job, because he’s not shackled by playing doofy Smallville Clark, even if the ending of the episode does revert him right back to the mopey sad sack coward that we came to know and hate.
David: I wish I had red meteor rock for a get-out-of-jail-free card for acting like a douchebag.
Chris: Having just spent four days in a hotel room with you, I’m pretty sure Stone IPA is your version of red meteor rock.