Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 5: "Perry"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Main Points:

  • In Clark Kent's youth, Perry White was a washed out drunkard.
  • Solar flares help Clark figure out that his powers are solar based
  • Lex Luthor hates Perry White (duh, but now it's in Smallville).
  • Lex gets homicidally angry at Perry, so he starts therapy with Dr. Foster.
  • Perry stops drinking because of Clark Kent's goodness, and goes to the Daily Planet.


    I talk with people on the old email (I say that like an old fart) daily with regards to how I review this show. I have people who write me telling me that I'm some kind of idiot (rare), people who write me with adjectival blessings of genius and brilliant (far too rare), but mostly it's a lot of good people who share their love of Smallville with me, and how they've reacted to episodes past or episodes at hand.

    I enjoy the interaction. It's hard, because there are so many good directions, so many ideas that they offer. I'm torn on one issue at hand.

    How do you react to implausibility? I mean, I've watched every single Smallville show at least once, most twice, some three times, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there are two major flaws.

    First, the show is formulaic. But this is hard to avoid. This I understand.

    Second, the show is rife with inconsistency, just like the comics, of late.

    I'm a spoiled guy with regards to Superman. I entered in the era of the "Death of", and I came into one, long, continuous story with a great deal of effort put into organizing, eliminating implausibility, and giving the fans what they want. I'm sure a lot of good stories were lost to the inability of artists to stretch their muscles and take new directions, but you could crack a book, read it, and not come away saying "Hey, Neutron was DEAD last issue. Why is he alive, and now why does he suddenly want to kill everyone?"

    And there's two camps with how to deal with that. One says, "NEVERMORE!" and stops reading or just hates what's going on. Generally, I'm among those who just takes it, as I love media so much I just have to assume things will eventually come around. It's why I take my media in moderation.

    The other camp just ignores it and has a good time. I admire people like this. I can't just do that. I try, but I can't. If I did I'd go out drinking every now and again instead of sitting around and writing, and I might watch a little more TV, go for a few more walks. I don't know. But it's like they say, writing isn't really a choice, it's a calling, much like the priesthood, and largely, I agree with this.

    So what's the point of this long intro? Well, basically, I write rather constantly with one particular reader, Rob Adams, and he writes a pretty thorough review for every review I write. It's great, challenging, and he keeps me on my toes.

    He points out that Smallville is just full of people who must be in denial. They've been traumatized by the meteor shower, they're like Ostriches. They keep their head in the ground because they just don't want to see what's becoming of their fair small town.

    I'm on the other side. I'm one of those people that really believes that statistically, there's just a point of no return, thus my obsession with the humorous and somewhat obsessive Knockout Count, which just this week will be adding two new categories for posterity (see the business section below).

    And if you look at it, maybe 50 in every 50,000 people is a crazy mutant Kryptonite freak that we've met, and who knows how many more are out there... do people see what's going on?

    I think they must. I mean, there's deniability, sure, but after a certain number of news stories... but ah, Chloe is not highly regarded, she's even almost lost her position for her freak stories, but ah, she's at the Planet now?

    So I'm asking you, henceforth, what makes sense. Should I knock down the reviews for the way that Clark consistently shows his powers off? Perry White was drunk, yes. They had a good explanation for the truck, yes. But this stuff happens AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN. So level with me, folks. As a viewer who doesn't take copious notes or maybe, gasp, misses a show every now and again, how does that come of? Can you just ignore it and have fun, or is it really taking its toll on the efficacy of the show? Next week, I'll throw about what comes up.

    This week, it's not a very big issue, though it is an obvious one. But they have the alcohol excuse to get you out of it. Still, it happened so many times this episode, I just had to make a point of it. I've been meaning to, and this is as good a time as any.

    That said, this show was almost as good as the Reeve one for me. It's right up there in the top five. And since people ask, my top five are: Rosetta, Hourglass, Red, Insurgence, Rogue...

    1. Rosetta (Reeve, nuff said)

    2. Perry (see review)

    3. Hourglass (Rain of blood... c'mon now!)

    4. Insurgence (leaping across the Planet building)

    5. Rogue (Clark meets the ultimate bad cop and retains his faith in humanity)

    If they change, I'll update it. Feel free to write to discuss.

    Why was this episode great?

    Take it to the basic level. No freak of the week. That alone merits a near five. It confronts a real and personal (for me) issue, alcoholism, albeit in stereotypical fashion. It involves a member of continuity, but it's handled in fine fashion, not like (cough cough) THE BORG IN ENTERPRISE. (For those of you who missed it, the Borg in Enterprise episode was so bad, it destroyed all continuity beyond belief, not just beyond belief of this geek. But then, I forgave them. It's still a meter stick for crapola in terms of inserting something for ratings and titillation). (I'm serious, man. It's like a hundred years before Kirk and these guys were taking out Borg from PICARD'S time. LAME!). Motion of character (LEX LEX LEX!). Progression of general plotline (The job at the Planet). Progression of power definition (solar flares) and, let's put it as bluntly as we can, I got the old Clark Lois Perry feeling with this episode. I love that. I miss that in this show, because of its continuity limitations.

    I had a family problem with alcoholism (not me, I don't really drink), and through belief, trust, and good deeds, the problem ended. All was well. I see threads of that in this, and I love that. It's real. It can work. Any of you dealing with alcoholism out there, I'm with you. They gave you some stereotypes, like the flask, but then, look... they kick Perry out of the bar at high daylight... that's good mise en scene and it's understated. Good stuff.

    Perry White could have been normal. He could have been. But what do we really know about Perry White? There isn't too much. We know he grew up in competition with Lex Luthor and that they were friends, then became fierce enemies, at least in current continuity. He's a harsh man, but only to get a story. He's a family man, because he's lost family. He's been through cancer for cigars. But before Metropolis? We know little, save his exploits with Franklin Stern.

    Here, we have a man who's at the end of his rope, an alcoholic lost in his own failures, turned around by Clark Kent, a man who he would later return the favor for by giving him a career. One might argue that taking away the competitive aspect of Clark being forced to go out and prove himself to Perry being taken away is a travesty. Eh. I don't think it's so bad, really. He'll still have to bust it to prove that he's better than Lois at getting a story, so the situation can still occur.

    Perry being a tabloid reporter allows him the angle the Planet will later need. They cover real news, but they're not afraid to do exposes on the Parasite if it makes sense.

    In short? I don't condemn this retelling. I expected nothing great with this show. I expected the Borg. I was very pleasantly surprised.

    In speaking with Rob, I also pointed out how truly sick of the freak of the week concept I am. How, starting of late, any review with a freak in it might have earned another point had it not held the repetitive theme. After all, there's a freak for almost every episode, period.

    I pointed out that though the freak concept makes sense, given the meteor content and established show, why not at least make the ratio 1:2 freak and concept. Concept meaning, Perry, Rosetta, Vortex, any show without a freak and with plot progression. That way, since we have four years to go say, twenty comics worth of material, we can stretch it out buy still move things forward and keep the people paying attention happy.

    And lo, my request is answered. Episode one had Pa Kent as a freak, but that's not so bad. Episode two, nada. Three, yep, four, no, five, no, and look. Next week, no, so it would seem.

    I think, believe it or not, they got the message. And though the Lana Clark relationship puts the show constantly on the shark jumping ramp (it all depends, I think, on the way they write this one in), if they keep the freaks out of the way, the danger is far less of show catastrophic failure.

    Don't worry... I'll get to Lex.

    Now, general comments...

    I think it's totally freakish that the solar flares occurred at the same time as this episode. I'm not sure, but I don't think we knew about the solar flares that took a lot of stuff out for a while this week before it happened, so it's just another World Trade Center event, like when 9-11 happened and they had a likeness to the World Trade Centers burning in the exact same places in a Superman comic, post "Our Worlds At War". Cool, freakish, it gives you goose bumps... spooky for Halloween. Nice.

    I do have to address the fact that it's what, three weeks since Clark RAN AWAY and his parents haven't even grounded him, and no one seems to remember? I promised big words if they didn't make an issue of the disappearance, and they have with Lex, but why is everything hunky-dory with Clark? Perhaps because he is a nice guy. I'll buy that. I mean, if I suddenly got drunk, went on a bender and crashed into a tree (probability's about the same for me as for Clark Kent), I might just be looked at as a freak, and if I started acting like my old self, people might blot it out. Still, I think it's cheap of the show. But not entirely relevant to the episode's rating.

    Perry asks for a settlement, but the man's driving drunk? He's even been cited for it. Well, that's not entirely plausible. But it is funny that Clark's such a dupe to go for it. Like Lana with the phone calling the cops to say Clark is dead. Ha!

    I didn't entirely get the reason Clark was just running down the road and not looking where he was going... that was just odd. And he caused an accident, destroyed a car, and didn't even seem upset? I don't get it.

    And seriously, Clark could have opened the door without ripping it off. And all of Perry's evidence questioned by his inebriation aside, he still has a door ripped off with bare hands. Lame.

    "Who are you?"

    "White. Perry White."

    If you hadn't read anything about the show before it aired, that was totally cool, and I have to give it the praise it deserves.

    I always love seeing Clark driving stakes and nails with his bare hands, but doesn't it just make him look like a complete retard for doing it right after running full bore using powers down the road and almost getting hit? I thought so.

    Perry seems to be the first reporter besides Nixon to notice the freaks... and he survived! Amazing!

    And just when you thought things were totally messed up, along comes a piece of continuity to fix business before it happens. Cort Chatagnier offered what was to be the centerpiece of my business this week... Lex came down with Malaria, but he made this big deal about being sickness free! But look, Dr. Foster,

    That's right, I said Dr. Foster.

    Reveals that he never had Malaria. He's just going flat out criminally insane.

    And then he takes Perry White, shoves him against the wall, and says,


    Well, maybe he didn't say all of that. But that's what I heard, I was so jazzed.

    It's like the time I was watching Troops in pretty heavy rotation, and a cop pulled up next to me for speeding (an accident) and said, "Look buddy, you want to slow down or I'm gonna give you a ticket... "

    But I heard, "Uh, you want to slow down there, buddy, or I'm ah, I'm ah gonna shoot you."

    Last obscure reference this week. Promise. But it's a good one if you get it.

    Lex lays down the law, and Lex does it on Perry White. Lex is criminally insane, and Lex is angry, and Lex can't control it, and...

    Freaks aside, progress aside, this development is the best sign for future Smallville success, period. I made a pact with myself to ask, in this review, before even seeing the episode, why the heck Luthor isn't turned more to the dark side by now. With two seasons after this one (apparently, according to sources) left to go, he needs to at least stop this "good son" talk and start developing the catharsis that will lead him to Gene Hackman and holding Ms. Tessmacker over the babies.

    Oh, come on. That wasn't THAT obscure. Check the deleted scenes of "Superman: The Movie".

    Buy the DVDs through this site. You won't regret it. I watch them all the time.

    I was going to tirade about how Lex Luthor would NEVER accede to a psychiatrist, not after the original five sessions. And that still burns me, see, because it's like this. Superman, Martian Manhunter, they go to see Foster because they are good guys. They know how to deal with emotional issues. Lex does not. Lex by nature needs instant gratification (even after a long patient planning stage for some criminal endeavor) and a therapist does NOT offer this. I still think he should break off treatment. I'll give them a chance. Actually, chances are he'll just forget Foster and the plot will move on, just like the principal, but I can hope, right? More on that next week.

    Lex is still in Metropolis, though his home is in Smallville. This is excellent. This is so crazy good... Lex is just the saving grace of the show. He really is.

    And Michael Rosenbaum... man, I sent him an SASE with a nice letter a long time ago, and I still haven't got a signed picture. LAME! I mean, it takes a lot of pride for a guy like me to ask someone for an autograph (I've never done anything like that before, but I was so pleased with his performance... sigh). Still, I stand by the fact that I believe this show, even if it all falls down into the tubes, will still be fine, so long as Lex is Lex.

    The Time Magazine was a low blow, but good reporting. You've gotta give Perry that. It teaches Clark what you have to do to find the truth at times. Though Clark might have found another way in.

    And last week, I was reading the websites on the Torch, and I came across an article on Gym mats. I wondered what the heck that had to do with anything, and how it would impact the show. They used it... it's Clark's article Perry finds. That's just crazy cool tie-in with the internet. It's so thorough, they must have a heck of a tie-in/internet department. Mucho kudos.

    Chloe says, "I have nothing to hide." Really fast. Anyone else laugh?

    Lex reaches with catlike reflexes to snare intruding Lana. If only, if only he had spewed some violent rhetoric, like he did with Perry. Alas, it was still cool that he's more and more paranoid. Man, I love seeing a man torn down. Clark Kent failing, again and again, Lex becoming more and more evil despite his good intentions.

    I'm a sicko. Sorry. But you're watching too! Tee hee!

    Lex had the same CD player that he destroyed a long while back. That was... I don't even know that that is.

    Lex hating Perry is just a great throwback to continuity... I just wish they could have grown up together. Still, their hatred (if you know your comics) is a great source of material. I hope they explore that more.

    Clark's in a bar, and he's underage. I guess they let kids drive and go into bars really young in Smallville. Especially bars they tear up... he DID tear up the Wild Coyote, right? I'll probably be pelted with beer bottles for that one, but that's how I remember it...

    Lex, silhouetted in the bar with the sun, calling Perry out...

    Gold. Just golden.

    Showing the same road out of town as was used in the season finale is a nice touch. Anyone see that?

    Lex throwing the bag, classic.

    I know this review's been going on forever. I do. But this episode, man, it's second ONLY to Rosetta. Only a few more paragraphs. Honest.

    You do want me to keep going, right?

    Well, if not, you're gone now, so on with the fun!

    Why do the Kents even own a jack? I mean, they have Clark. One thing I, as a semi-poor guy, always have to do is spend as little money as possible on tools. If I were a farmer with a super-powered son, I wouldn't own a jack. But evidently, it's broken, so hey, maybe that's why. Pa was working on it for hours, after all.

    Why didn't Clark try to catch the trailer? He could have, and he used his super-powers in front of Perry anyway. I would have.

    Second best moment in the episode, after Lex going insane on Perry (I love being able to write that phrase in this review): "Don't call me chief."

    Such cheese, but so gouda.

    Chloe seeing Lionel taking out another reporter is a good thing. It lets me see into the future when Chloe will ultimately try to confront the man, and it leads me to anticipate her success, or even more.her failure.

    Okay... this is a Neal Becomes a Scientist moment. Solar flares. That means lots MORE sun getting through, right, in strange and malevolent spectrums I can't possibly fathom without a science book? So Clark might get stronger, but why the heck does he get WEAKER? That makes no sense to me. The sun doesn't fluctuate. It gets stronger, or more intense... right?

    That said? It's great that he finds out the sun is the source of his powers. Now have Jor-El expound on it, and we're good.

    Okay. Clark runs across the nation, because his powers are out of control. Why doesn't he stop running? Well, you know, he'd just seen Forrest Gump, and he wanted to see how hard it was. I understand. Don't worry, Be Happy, Sh-

    This obscure reference has been cut short for impending vulgarity AND to honor my original agreement for no more obscure references.

    Perry offers Lex dirt on his father for information on Clark. Why not for a position on a great Metropolitan Newspaper, and his reputation? Odd, to me.

    After Pete's nearly set on fire, Clark turns to his parents and says, "I have to go... next time I could hurt you or mom."

    Pete, at this point, is about ready to lay the smack down on Clark. I'd be. I'd be like, man, you just set me on fire and you're worried about a couple of people including a member of the Dukes of Hazard and the wife of the drunk who's staking you out?

    Then I'd smack him and break my hand.

    Now here's a realm of speculation... why not have Perry get a new vice after quitting alcohol. I was hoping for this touch, but it didn't happen. Where's the cigars? I mean, if he's going to booze it up, why not be smoking the cigars that will eventually give him cancer?

    Perry pulled a "Bye, bye baby!" from Superman II, leaping to the falls. Very cool.

    Oh, come on. That's not obscure.

    Lana has seen Clark in suspicious situations a lot more this season. I think it's building for a Lois and Clark-esque I-knew-all-along type Lana answer. I would not like that, but they're setting it up well, despite the rope burns on his hands, which were a nice touch as well.

    The bottle of booze falling down past Perry is poignant.

    Perry jumps and falls, oh, 30 feet, and catches himself with a rope on his ankle. Perry is now absent one ankle, or at least has broken his ankle and leg very badly. He's just fine. Maybe attribute it to alcoholic relaxation that sometimes saves you in a car wreck, but still... this was really out there.

    I feel less pity for Pete being almost burned to death when he decides to raise up Clark and Perry with a bad winch job that would have gotten anyone not in a TV show killed. He should have lowered them down, right?

    The Kents have a new Dodge. Interesting. I wonder how high their insurance premiums must be?

    I think Clark and Lana dealing with Lana talking to her parents, something from first season, was tactful and made total sense. I'm pleased that they did this, even in the midst of all this other goodness.

    So tired... longest review I've ever written 3,765 words in, I'm looking at my notes, and they say:

    Chloe with a peg leg is better than Lana with no shirt on. What?

    I might just go out of my mind here, folks. I'm sorry, the absolute dominance of this particular show has just made me take so many notes and write so much, there's nothing to do now except to in true Hunter S. Thompson fashion (God, was that another obscure reference?) power through and make it work.

    As they say... buy the ticket. Take the ride.

    In thinking of how a good man can save hurting people from alcoholism, the song from the Crash Test Dummies, the Superman Song, occurred to me. When Perry says that he didn't believe a good man could exist, and Clark proved him wrong, the line jumped into my head:

    And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.

    (In reference to Superman). And that's just it. There's so much despair and sadness in this world. Last weekend, I ran over a cat. There was nothing I could do to help it, it just happened. I was driving safely. My father fell off a roof and broke his leg in four places. Truly. In a sad and lost world where there is pain and suffering, when your last hope is gone, all you can hope for is a good person to set things right again, or to be this person, and this episode was all about that. That's what it really means to me. Perhaps that's why this impacted me to the core.

    Here's a good way to bring Perry back. Helping Chloe take Lionel down for good.

    AND now! The conclusion of this review! Two more notes, and we' re out, folks, and into business, the wind down, the coup de grace!

    I just made a Dungeons and Dragons reference, and I didn't mean to. Too... many... references... must... stop.

    Now I've made a Super-Friends reference. Someone help!

    Note 1: Showing the next week's preview after the Millar/Gough Ink thing now throws me way off. STOP!

    Note 2: Next week, according to this preview, in the past, someone who looks like Clark (SPOILER: It's Jor-El) with someone who looks a lot like Lana. I'm guessing they're related. So that means Clark's dad did some physical stuff with Lana's relatives, meaning Clark and Lana is... well... kind of creepy.

    Fitting end for a Halloween review, no?

    5 of 5!


    This week, I'm moving, as I mentioned before, so I'll be slow to respond until the 7th. Nonetheless, I vow to get to all email before business next week. So it is said, so it shall be done! That said, it probably won't happen until Tuesday... no offense. Lots of moving to do.

    Rob Adams has four credits this week... he points out that there was no lifeguard on duty at the pool where Lana was, so even though the article indicated that the pool would be open, there should have been a lifeguard. Schools are paranoid about being sued... I know, because I trained to be a teacher. You can't even hug a kid any more. You have to "Side hug" them sparingly. And they think Grand Theft Auto is what kills kids. It's also why I didn't become a teacher, and why they would definitely have a lifeguard on that pool or the pool would be closed. Also, when Van McNulty (he's not a candy bar, really) takes his shirt off in August, even if Kansas were experiencing an Indian summer, it wouldn't have matter. A "Welcome Back" banner indicates that it is the first day of school, which takes place generally near August 31st of a given year. Further, Rob postulates that Metropolis is 30 to 45 minutes away, based on the visual distance shown in the show. I remember reading it as 3 hours... but Rob presents and interesting case. I mean, look at it! Anyone have an official source? And finally, Rob and Phil in Florida both point out that Clark was given a re-test on the test he missed while sleeping. Lana tells him.

    E.L. points out that Lana missed a chance to use her new mad Kung Fu when a bogart with a syringe approached her with intent. It was so bad, he had time to plunge without her doing anything. Le continuity? Thus I shall be making a new column... times Kung-Fu Lana wimps out. Numero Uno! He further inspired a second column, pointing out that since Sara Conroy lives right next door to Clark, and since people who live next to Clark become Lana, there's about as much of a logical chance of seeing her again as poor Lucas Luthor. So we have ANOTHER new category: Episodes since Sara became Clark's new neighbor and he saves her life until we see her again.

    Chad Stacey points out that my KO Count lists Clark at 6, but he's actually at 7. I can't verify that here, writing without the internet, but I trust him. :)

    Brad Richardson postulated that maybe I was thinking of Crystal Lake when I said Crater Lake sounds familiar... close, but I was looking for and exact correlation. Still, with the water, and the chase, it was very Jason. I have to hand him that.

    And finally, since Lex is not a sick Superman, the best business this week is from Patrick... he notes that the Wall of Weird is still around. It was part of the dream last week. Again, as a character, Chloe is redeemed.

    And that's all, folks! Keep writing, and I'll keep plugging away! Thanks for bearing with a long review, and thanks for reading all 4,723 words.

    PS, check the newly updated (as always) KO Count (4,732. Sigh. 33... )

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