Superman on Television

Smallville: Episode Reviews

Season 3 - Episode 6: "Relic"

Reviewed by: Neal Bailey

Main Points:

  • Jor-El visited Earth as a punishment from his father in 1961.
  • While there, Jor-El got mixed up in the murder of Louise McCallum, Lana's Great Aunt.
  • Lachlan Luthor was the real killer. Lachlan is Lex's Grandfather.
  • Lachlan died with his wife in an arson explosion, possibly at the hands of Lionel.
  • Hiram Kent, Pa Kent's father, saved Jor-El, so Jor-El chose the Kents for Clark.


    Okay, folks. Tell me how this happened.

    I started off this season gung-ho to rip into this show. I did. I wanted to point out the glaring errors of the fact that Clark is gone for three months, then suddenly back. That he blew up a farm and got away with it. And most especially, that the freaks of the week were about to make the show jump the shark.

    Well look here. I've been cheated.

    No freaks for the last two weeks, and we're already to the start of mid-season. What's going on here? Stories that move the continuity forward, like Perry, and Relic? Come on, now!

    That said, there WERE some problems with this episode... where did it fall in the big scheme of things? Read on:

    The first thing I noticed in this episode was the Verizon Smallville tie-in. Now, don't get me wrong... I'm the first to praise Smallville's big use of multiple mediums, but those moments, the "Hey, Lana! Check this song out from my TALON MIX!", they just throw you out of the story no matter how closely you're paying attention. DOWN WITH CELL PHONES AND DOWN WITH VERIZON AND DOWN WITH THEIR INFIDEL TIE-INS WITH SMALLVILLE.


    Clark sure is finding a lot of stuff in that cave randomly. He pushed on a wall, and out comes a pendant, he puts a peg in a hole, he learns a language and blows up a farm... if I were him, I'd be spending some more time in there... Kawachi Caves... the most underrated mystery of Smallville. And to think I didn't like them at first...

    Okay, maybe I'm a pervert, but look at Lana in the 00s, then look at 1961 Lana. Lana's hotter in the sixties. I've been struggling to put my finger on it, but then I came up with it. In the 00s she seems like an airhead with no chemistry and a lot of make-up, and in the sixties, she seems like a down-to-Earth girl who might get a little physical... with a lot of make-up. Minus the make-up, you have my ideal gal... thus the finger be putteth.

    When Clark is explaining his theory about the dreams to Pete...

    WAIT! I said Pete! Yes, folks, Pete is IN this show. Just barely, but he's there. Keep your fingers crossed, he might come back. If they keep the cool lack of freaks going, they could make Pete a female Mongolian Zoroastrian who spouts cheeky catch phrases like "Where's the idol, Ferris?", for all I care. Though I like Pete.

    Now anyway, when Clark's explaining his theory to Pete, he's talking about Jor-El, the caves, and having powers, all in a loud voice while people pass by. That was just lame, and obvious.

    And Pete's dubious of Clark's ESP, though Lana's saved Chloe's life? I don't get it.

    Now we enter Lachlan Luthor (anyone with a Scottish joke here? Raise your haggis!). All I know about Scotland is the wondrous old military guys I know who go drink lots of beer and build trebuchets. They're crazy, and hilarious. Oh, and yeah, I go to the Scottish Highland games and buy a sword every year. Never know when you have to plow a big knife into a finkish friend with super powers who didn't tell you about them...

    But Lachlan is a cool name, and he was evil in a very 60s comic book kind of way... give me the purse, lady... I have a GUN!

    A GUN! I've never SEEN a gun before! Oh, my!


    I like Lachlan. I want to know more about what he did before Lionel pulled a Fight Club on his prestigious Suicide flat.

    The Lex and Chloe scene was great.Lex and Chloe are adversarial, and not because Chloe is prying, but because, dare I say it, I think it's happening...


    Sorry. Geekgasm. Must wipe spittle from lower lip.

    I hope we see more of this... I really do. It's about time for Clark to start putting on glasses, and Lex to start acting a little odd, a little cruel to children, small animals, and the world at large. And somehow, he should start tinkering on a few devices, maybe even in the Kent farm, just to be particularly deviant.

    All right, wait a second. Jor-El is on Earth, visiting as an alien from another planet. He's from a culture that (usually) is aesthetic, where the people aren't physical with one another, and where kids are born in test tubes. Or, barring that, he's just like us. Pick one. But either way, you've gotta wonder what he's doing there, and I lament that it's never really explored. And what about Lara? Is she not in his life yet? Likely not, as it's some 24 years pre-Clark, but then, what, he had Clark at 44? Or near 40? That's kind of... well, there's nothing wrong with that. Okay. I've explained myself away. But it still doesn't account for the fact that Krypto wasn't with him!

    And before someone emails me and tells me that Krypto won't come around for another 24 years either, that was a joke. THPPT!

    A great myth that I always cringe at is that things were better and more wholesome in the 50s and sixties than they are now. For instance, people still had sex. Really. They did. There were fights in families, just as many as there are now, and all of the teenagers were rebellious. Honest. I learn this from talking to people, reading books, and examining human nature day by day. The only difference between now and then in general terms is the television, and that's actually expanded social awareness, all idiot box criticisms aside. Who'd seen Paris before television. Only the rich! And the French. But anyway.

    My point? Lana was physical with Jor right off the bat, and it wasn't played off as, "Oh, we're in the 60s, we can't do this!" And I mean early sixties, folks, not summer of love. There were kids born out of wedlock, drug use, abusive parents, and kids thrown down wells. They just didn't talk about it like we do now. I think that's an improvement, myself. But see, my point here is that it was historically accurate and made a statement, perhaps without trying.


    Lana, or rather, the actor who plays Lana, is Asian. Maybe half-Asian, I don't know for sure, but she's Asian.

    And what happened when a black man and a white girl got together, or a Mexican girl and a white man, or a space alien who looks like a white guy and an Asian gal... in the 60s?

    In Kansas?

    Well, let's just say Hiram Kent aside, the rest of the town might have been getting a rope. So this struck me as inaccurate, or at least not addressed. An interracial (or interspecies, if you want to get down to it) relationship, and no one notices? Of course, careful editing doesn't show the whole relationship, so they avoid the criticism neatly, but it's still there.

    My entire third book, Madly, focused on love and modern relationship. And two songs that were in constant rotation in my playlist were Earth Angel and I Only Have Eyes For You. In a decade where most songs (IN MY OPINION) stank their way in precursor to bigger and better rock, there are many exceptions which stand the test of time, and these two songs are some of the better romance songs, to me. Particularly the Flamingos. I put my two lovers in a Ford Fairlane, sent them shooting in madness across California, and when these songs came on, good memories of writing a fun book came back. Maybe that's not relevant to you guys, but it did wonders for this show to me... call it bias, but I'm honest about it.

    The best part of this episode is simple the continuity role reversal between Lex and his father. Talk about having to become your father... now folks, if you know your Luthor, Lex in current comics continuity got rich by killing his parents for their insurance... much as it would seem Lionel did here. Lex grew up poor, in Suicide Slum, you see, so he had to strike back at his abusive parents to become the rich and respected man he was. So Lex in Smallville continuity CAN'T do that, but he can be responsible for sanctioning and becoming the man who did. Excellent way to weave that in, even though it might never have hit the series, and I admire such a blatant nod to the fans. I want to see where this goes, badly.

    Lachlan sees Jor-El dodge bullets. Any chance Lionel is paranoid about Clark because old dad told him ghost stories of a man who could stop bullets?

    Now one more screw-up. Jor-El comes from a planet with high technology, and he has ships which can, and do heal Martha and Clark. Why couldn't he save Lana? Maybe he had no tech... maybe. But maybe he could have saved her. I wondered about that.

    Clark tells Lana and Chloe that he's experiencing the past. And they take it as a matter of course. This would have been bad, had the execution not been so funny. Chloe starts blustering, trying to give it the old Lois and Clark... OH! There are frogs falling from the sky because Metamorpho ate lunch with Lex Luthor... the ONLY POSSIBLE EXPLANATION! Right, Clark? Yeah, Lois! Then Chloe just shuts up, and it's timed perfectly. It's almost like the show is holding its hand out to us and saying, yeah, we did some ridiculous stuff like this, but we're working on it, okay?

    And they are. Things are getting better, amazingly enough.

    Jor-El talks to McCallum a lot... but then, he doesn't have a British accent! All of the bad guys in Star Wars do, and Jor-El did when talking to Clark... all of this can mean only one thing.

    Kryptonopolis is in Krypto-England, and when Jor-El moves home, he goes from Small-Krypton to Kryptonopolis, lives there from 1961 to 198-well, whenever Kryptonopolis blows to smitheroonies, and over the time develops a British accent and Zod's good Looks. You know? Split down the middle pleather? Meow!

    Just kidding. I do not advocate or condone using Terrence Stamp as a sexual object. But he is a royal @$$ kicking dude in The Limey, ain't he?

    Look, folks! Flight! I do the dance of joy to see it. But I have to point out that they said NO FLIGHTS, NO TIGHTS. And here is now the sixth time we've had flights. Still, it was pretty cool, eh? But now Clark knows he'll ultimately be able to fly, and that kind of spoils the discovery, right?

    We need more tights. Put them on Lana and Chloe. Please.

    My next note reads: EVIL DEPUTY NEEDS TO DIE. BAD.

    Jor-El is shot up, but his coat and shirt is just fine... odd.

    You know, Hiram did a lot for Jor-El, you'd think he could just kind of do the squint down at Mrs. Kent and say, "Hey, buddy... it's a boy!"

    But NOOOO!

    Dig the Matrix dodge from Clark... he's an agent. The Cigarrette Man has emptied whole clips at him and hit nothing but air...

    Not that I'm bitter I don't get to see Revolutions until Saturday or anything.

    I AM!

    Paying attention has its rewards sometimes. In the last ten minutes of the show, where the writers put Lana and Clark together with little chemistry and bad dialogue to explain why they have to put off the relationship for a few more weeks or seasons (the worst part of the show right now, in my opinion), Lana made an astute comment about how love not lasting is not really the point... it's what you have that counts. Which is really relevant, given that Lana gets ditched for the big city and Lois, ultimately.

    I also enjoyed that this is the penultimate theme for the aforementioned third book, and took joy from that. Full circle!

    This is completely irrelevant, but that Ratchet and Clank commercial with the fun that blows up yards was AWESOME.

    Okay... so Jor-El chose the Kents. What does this do to continuity? Well, potentially bad things... what about the luck of finding Clark? What about the whole fact that it could have been anyone, but fate lead Clark to the Kents? What about the fact that if Jor-El could visit Earth 40 years earlier without a meteor shower, he could have just sent Clark via the same intergalactic pony express? Still, it's not so bad, and it fits in with Smallville continuity well, with the line: "We didn't find him... he found us."

    All in all, brisk rubs aside, this episode was amusing, had NO freaks... that's NO freaks, and moved the story forward. Clark knows what Jor-El looked like, and Lex knows how he got his cash.

    5 of 5. Solid! (with fist in the air)


    Last week was a longer review, and thank you all for bearing with it. A few people were ticked off, but I tried to tone this one down a little. Let me know if that's cool.

    I have a lot of eagle eyes out there busting hump for me, and you guys found some really good stuff this week... I am moved in and should have the internet tomorrow, for reals, so keep the stuff coming! It's been great this year so far.

    Rob Adams chimes in with a theory about the blood boiling and the Kryptonite strapped to Clark's chest not killing him. First, the blood had been out of Clark's body for a while, and might have weakened. I further submit that it was in the dark, in a box, so it probably lost its sun power. Good call. So when the rock was on Clark's chest, maybe in this continuity it's less dangerous, generally. That still doesn't explain why sometimes he just passes out and other's he's just got to talk... a... little... slower.

    Rob also challenges me to prove that Mrs. Conroy is still the neighbor... she never indicated that she was staying, and after a coma, maybe she picked up stakes. I might have. I'm still keeping the column though, just in case, and because it's funny.

    Finally, he submits that the jack the Kents have is to keep up appearances.for the same reason Pa Kent works the fields when his son could do it in a day. Because when you drive stakes without tools, Perry White asks questions.

    Cody Sadler finally solved the mystery of how I knew Crater Lake! It's a lake in Southern Oregon. One time, in my younger and more formative years, I went to Ashland on a shoestring 40 bucks and saw four plays, the California border, and ultimately, Crater Lake. I'd just forgotten the name. So good call, Cody.

    Barry Freiman points out something I didn't know... Perry was directed by the director of Supergirl... interesting! No Phantom Zone?

    Adeylan Dyos, through an exploratory email, gave me the most business I've ever pulled from one week (Stop reading into that sentence, you pube humor starved geekoids! I'm the only one allowed to be adolescent here!)

    First, she notes That last week, Perry got in his accident, but Clark let the electrical lines fall. Where's the super speed? And what's with all the fences being built on the Kent farm? And why the heck is the Chloe situation with Lionel glossed over? And how are busses running through small towns in Kansas (Adeylan lives in Kansas, and verifies that busses don 't run through small towns. I'd verify with proof through greyhound, but I have no internet)? And where's Pete? Why did Clark go out to do his chores with a wallet with enough money in it to get a bus fare... who does that? No one! She also noticed, better than me, Bo Kent running the vehicle like a Duke of Hazard. Further, why the heck didn't Lana see Perry tying his ankle off for the drop? And why cover Walking in Memphis when the original is just fine?

    That's 10, folks. Give her a hand. She's now officially banned, in an effort to stop her from noticing more things than me and taking my column... just kidding. Thanks Adeylan. Well played... well played. Excuse me while I call a minion. Yeeeeees.


    Okay... now that that's been taken care of, Bill Albanito reminds me that what was thrown is a tractor, not a trailer. My mistake. I was tired.

    He also lends a great joke about the Kent Family life. He wrote this, not me:

    Insurance Premium: an extra $300 per month.

    New Tractor: $6000.

    Knowing that if you weren't Superman, you'd get a severe butt-whupping from dad: Priceless.

    Good stuff!

    William notes that Clark's hands were miraculously healed the next day, and Lana could see it, big as daylights, and didn't care.

    Cory Green reminds me that I didn't tell everyone that the guy who played Perry is Ma Kent's real-life husband... cool, huh? He also noticed the Bo Kent driving... YEE HAW!

    My buddy Jerry Newingham, who does the World's Finest Serial and other fine work for the Superman Homepage, draws well my attention to the Clark Kent/Superman paradigm even further. For instance, it's getting pretty darned close to college time, now. If you saw Clark now, and Clark ten years from now, even, you'd recognize him if he were Superman. I mean, I look at myself at 16, and I'm almost 24 now, and if I kept my hair the same way I did then (holy cow, I do!) and hadn't gained a good 15 pounds (all Pepsi), I might be the same person, practically. I even make the same fart jokes.

    God, that is terribly, terribly sad. I'm not going to talk about that any more.

    But, of course, I was a sex machine at 16... uh, yeah! I played football, I wrestled (I actually did!) and asked no less than 27 girls out before one said yes. Now if I started flying around, all 27 of those girls would raise their hands pointing and say,

    "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird!"

    "No, it's a plane!"

    "No, it's a writer. He must be gay. Let's hit the Gap."

    Which goes towards Rob's theory that folks in a Small town would not notice the madness unless it was right upon him. I'm leaning his way... ;)

    Sean Berhan has several good tidbits. First, he puts the visual cues from Smallville to Metropolis to be the same as his view from Long Island, NY to Manhattan, and that is approximately 30 minutes away. BUT, they say that Metropolis is 3 or so hours away. So the ultimate decision? It 's really about 3 hours away, but whenever it's convenient for the story, like, say, for a really cool vista with Clark on a motorcycle, we'll pretend it's 30, okay? If not, well, who cares. We've worried about this too much!

    Still, Sean has a great explanation for the whole solar flare thing, far beyond my area of expertise. So I'll just print what he wrote, because he's much better about it than me...

    He starts here:

    About the solar flares, and Clark temporarily losing his power as a result: first, solar flares are normally caused by disruptions of the magnetic fields inside the sun that cause sudden explosive bursts of energy on the sun's surface. I don't think a comet impact would cause the same effect, but it looked cool SFX-wise (didn't it?), so I'll give them a pass on the bad science there. Like you said, I don't think solar flares cause fluctuations where the solar radiation will decrease after the sudden increase (as far as I know), but there are other factors that might explain Clark's powers weakening: there are 2 main components to the energy released from a solar flare - electromagnetic radiation (infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays, etc), and bursts of charged particles (mostly high-energy protons). The particle bursts are what wreak the most havoc on Earth, because when they hit the Earth's magnetic field they cause geomagnetic storms that can cause sudden electrical power surges and disrupt power lines and communication systems. Now I don't know what the exact scientific explanation for Superman's solar-based power is in the comics - I always assumed that he only absorbed solar energy in the electromagnetic spectrum; however, if he absorbs *all* forms of solar energy, including the high-energy charged particles (which are always emitted from the sun, but reach a fever pitch during solar flares), then maybe there can be an explanation for Clark's powers getting shorted out from that: maybe the charged particles interact with his bio-electric aura in a similar fashion to how they interact with the Earth's magnetic field, and sudden violent bursts of them during strong solar flares disrupt his aura and short-circuit his powers like how they disrupt the Earth's magnetic field and short out power lines and such. So lets assume that the 2 components of solar flare energy are acting in opposition with Clark's powers - the extra bursts of electromagnetic radiation causing energy surges that kick his powers into overdrive, while the charged particle bursts disrupt his bio-electric aura and short-circuit his powers. This would also explain the time differential between his power surges and short-outs, because these 2 different forms of solar energy travel at different speeds; electromagnetic radiation travels at the speed of light, while the charged particles travel extremely fast but nowhere near light-speed - light takes 8 minutes to reach the Earth from the sun, while the charged particles take many hours to make the trip. So when there is a solar flare, Clark will get hit with the electromagnetic radiation that boosts his power 8 minutes after the solar flare erupts on the sun, but he will not get hit with the charged particle bursts that disrupt his aura until hours later. Now if there is a big solar storm like in this episode, where solar flares are erupting on and off for a couple of days, Clark will be getting hit on-and-off with waves of power-surging electromagnetic radiation and power-shorting charged particle bursts - that would explain why his powers go into overdrive one minute and then short out the next. I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here... but that sounds like a plausible enough explanation for a pseudo-scientific comic book phenomena, doesn't it?

    And he ends here... a good explanation, no?

    And now, the business of the week. There's three of them, actually, and they get top billing for being so in-depth and beyond my level of uber geek! (no offense, folks... that's meant as a complement):

    Jason Tavares points out that as Perry boards the bus, they're playing walking in Memphis. Duh! But then, what's that song about. Elvis! Great shades of Elvis! It's an IN joke, get it! Hilarious!

    As a side note, he also reminded me of something I was going to say in that FAR TOO LONG review last week... that a more apt song might have been Marc Cohn's great song about alcoholism, Ghost Train. But then, it's about a girl, and there's no joke. So hey, I retract.

    Keith Heacock points out the obvious that I just should have seen... REM, the band whose name means RAPID EYE MOVEMENT, is the soundtrack for an episode called slumber. So THAT'S why they used REM. DUR! It's so good and obvious, I place it in the big three.

    And my fave, read late but not too late.Willaim points out that Van McNulty (The assassin, not the candy bar), when he's pouring his bullets, uses a GREEN LANTERN to light his darkest night.

    Mwu ha ha!

    See you guys in the pit...


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