Superman on Television
Superboy: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 11: "The Invisible People"Reviewed by: Scotty V
Our show, directed by one Jackie Cooper (for those of you who remember who that is), opens with a shot of the beach. The camera then follows a man with a boogie board who enters a fenced in Beach Club. Meanwhile Lana, T.J. and Clark walk through and examine a beach camp. There are people, homeless people living there on the beach and they are in very close proximity to the Beach Club, which we're soon shown, through a deal in progress, is for sale. Problem is, the interested party says he won't buy "until you take care of the contingency," as he directs our attention to the beach camp. Suddenly, a buggy with two thugs in it speeds by. One of the hooligans throws a Molotov cocktail into one of the tents and a fire breaks out. The camp leader barks out orders, telling folks to gather water from the ocean and get the fire out, while T.J. yells at the private Beach Club "somebody call the fire department." Our seller smirks and calmly announces that someone should call the F.D. and "ask them to drop by, if they're not too busy."
Clark makes sure no one can see him, and then, as the wind is blowing, he puts out the fire with super-breath. The camp leader consoles Alice (Cynthia Ann Roses), who is crying over their destroyed food, saying that the sudden wind saved most of the tents and that everything will be all right. T.J. complains that the Beach Club owner wasn't much help and the camp leader calls him by name. "Gerald Manfred," he says. And: "He's the reason we're here homeless." Manfred (Sonny Shroyer) calls out that the camp people should move elsewhere and Clark asks if he can quote him. Lana wonders if Manfred can give the people some food since he has so much and he scoffs at her, saying she doesn't look like she belongs here and that she should take them all back to the class she's writing a paper for and feed them there.
Manfred mockingly begins throwing his food to the seagulls and the camp people riot. They all rush the club and begin grappling with the security. Clark tells camp leader Damon (Greg Morris) that he needs to do something because his people are getting out of control. Damon runs along with them, pleading with them to stop, that they're playing into his hands and that they can't do this, but very quickly, the out of control crowd is subdued by security and police. Clark, who probably handed out the worst of it, throwing a security guy across the patio and through a table, is left alone by the cops when they arrive. He exclaims: "Why arrest them? They're just hungry!" The comment only makes Manfred smile.
Later, Damon forms a "hunting party" in order to locate items they can make pegs out of, in order to stake their tents. Lana goes with him at first, so she can discuss possible solutions to their dilemma, but when Damon suggests they spread their search to the road because they might have better luck, Lana groans. T.J. jokes about how they hate exercise and Lana laughs, remaining alone as the two guys go off toward the road. As T.J. and Damon search the road, a black van approaches and two men dressed as police officers assault them. "You!" One of them says. "Come with us!" As they struggle, T.J. is knocked unconscious and thrown into the van while Damon is hauled off. T.J.'s arm clips the drive shift as he's thrown in and the van begins driving off out of control. Damon points and screams that they need to "Help him! Help him!" But the men simply drag Damon away and ignore the van.
Lana, seemingly thinking her friends have been gone too long, wanders up to the road around the same time this is happening. She appears to watch it happen, then picks up T.J.'s camera and looks at it. All the while Damon is still screaming and the van is driving further and further up the road with no one in control. Finally, Lana calls out: "T.J.!" and Clark, down on the beach, hears her and flies in as Superboy. Superboy stops the van as it approaches the ocean and takes T.J. back to the beach. The people tell Superboy they want to help find Damon, that they've been all over the city and know it better than anyone, so Superboy tells them to release a balloon if they find anything, for he'll be flying above looking too. Lana pouts that Clark's always disappearing and that if he were here, he'd have money to buy the balloons, then she steals the cash from the unconscious T.J. instead.
After the gang leaves, T.J. awakens and tells Lana that he remembers the fake cops uniforms said Irongate Protective Services on them so Lana heads off and finds the place. Inside, Manfred and a tied up Damon have a chat. Damon chastising his captor for having no heart, and allowing all those people to starve, while he put them out of work in order to make business deals. Manfred can't believe Damon would dare talk about business because he's just a "beach bum," and what could he possibly know on the subject. Damon begins listing his resume. He's been V.P. of three corporations and has his MBA from the University of California. The men are interrupted by one of Manfred's thugs, who caught Lana snooping. Manfred tells the thug to put her in the back office, but on the way, Lana manages to trip her captor and makes a break for it. She runs right past Manfred who only stands there and yells for his man not to let her get away after she's already gone past.
Lana runs outside and is recaptured, but not before the woman who earlier cried over the destroyed food sees her. The woman releases a balloon into the sky, and Superboy heads in for the rescue. Still inside the warehouse, Manfred tells Damon he can have ten thousand tax-free dollars to move his people away and Damon refuses. Too bad, says Manfred, because now Lana will have to go down with Damon. Thinking of the girl, Damon reconsiders and says he'll accept. But Manfred has reconsidered too, he now says Damon would simply forget about their deal once Lana was free. Then, just as the two fake cops from earlier are about to shoot Lana and Damon, Superboy crashes through the roof and shields them. Heat vision disarms the thugs and Superboy frees the prisoners. Damon says he'll press no charges if Manfred re-opens the factory and gives everyone jobs. Superboy feels that he needs to turn him over to the police, but for the greater good, agrees that so long as Manfred does what he promises, they won't tell the authorities of his wrongdoings. Manfred pleads with them that he'll do anything and so they make the new deal.
In the end, Damon heads off, saying that taking a job at the factory is "not my style," and that he's got some other things that need doing. But before he leaves, he tells his people that Manfred will be giving them a place to live while they wait for their jobs. Damon then thanks Clark, Lana and T.J., telling them that they took the first step in solving the homeless problem by noticing they exist. Damon heads off like Bruce Banner at the end of every episode of The Incredible Hulk, and Clark plays ball with Alice's daughter, telling her all about how great things will be now that her mom has a great job and they have a new place to live.
Rating - 1 (out of 5): I have a number of problems with the episode from its outset. By the end, sure, it's clear that Manfred is a skunk and that he's possibly the cause of the people being homeless on the beach in the first place, although we're not completely sure of that either. Let's break things down. First of all, at the very beginning, before we know anyone's at fault, Lana and T.J. both look upon the Beach Club with disdain. It's as if, because the people who would be members or owners there need to have some money, that makes them bad guys. Furthermore, even though Manfred does turn out to be scum, that doesn't mean it's anyone else's fault the beach dwellers are poor.
I sort of have a fundamental problem with the idea that because one person is more financially stable than another that makes him responsible for the other's pain or misfortune. It's one thing to say that it's a nice gesture to support charities or help out when you can, it's entirely another to blame someone who has made a way for themselves just because you haven't. Take me for example. I'm a fairly poor man. I mean I have a house and a car, which is certainly a lot more than many people have. But I can't afford to stop working or join an exclusive Beach Club or go to lots of expensive dinners. So on one hand, I could be hated by lots of people because I have slightly more than they do. On the other hand though, I could look at those with more than I have as evildoers - as Lana, T.J. and, to a certain extent, even Clark does in this episode.
I live in America. That means I'm in a capitalist society. That also means that everyone who struggles to come here or is trying to make their way knows that in this country, more than many others, they can actually do just that and more. In this country we can make more than the next guy. We can free up more spare time by doing better in our careers or managing our finances better. Does that mean that the ones who succeed in doing that should be looked at as scum by the ones who don't? I certainly understand some bitterness in those who have failed at life. Heck, I have a bit of that myself. But it's really no one else's fault. I'm not saying every person born here can become a billionaire, but you can certainly make your own way. And if you've been fired and are in desperate need of money and food, maybe you should...oh I don't know work? Oh sure, I understand you may not immediately be able to get the dream job you want. Or that you may not even be able to get as good a job as you had, but there are always jobs.
At one point Alice actually says: "We've been all over this city begging for food, jobs..." C'mon lady. You can go into any sub shop or fast food joint and get a job right now. Especially an adult they know to be mature and ready to work to support a child. And clearly they have no expensive mortgages or cars so a minimum wage, or slightly more than minimum wage job would be enough. Perhaps not forever if you wanted to grow and make your life better, as a lot of people do, but certainly as a start and it's a hell of a lot better than being homeless. You can afford a child and a small apartment on fairly meager wages. I'm not talking about people who are disabled or really can't work. But all the people I saw on this show were able bodied; most were young and all I saw could most definitely work.
Okay then, enough of that, on to other things.
So next we have the goons who throw the Molotov cocktail. It's implied, sort of, that these guys are associated with Manfred and that he set it up so the beach camp would burn down. There's no proof of this and it's never covered so I have to chock it up to coincidence that it might have worked out in Manfred's favor had the beach camp burned down. In other words, since they don't cover it in the writing and it's never addressed, the whole scene is really kind of worthless to this plot. If they're trying to show us that it sucks being homeless or that there are certain "elements" out there that will act as bullies and pick on you for being destitute, well then I guess that's something, but I think we already know there are jerks in the world. Although, if I'm being honest, I don't think I know anyone who'd want to be a member of that Beach Club or even go to that beach if there was an entire camp of homeless people living there. So once again, I can empathize with people who'd want to see them move along. By the way, wouldn't the authorities clean them out of there?
Then Manfred, who we learn fairly quickly is a bit of jerk, taunts the crowd by feeding the gulls in front of them and flaunting it. Clark makes a weak attempt at telling Damon to stop his people and Damon says they should stop, but they both wait until it's already under way before they do anything. Plus Clark and friends actually begin the altercation by verbally assaulting those at the Beach Club. Again, would you want to be a member there? Being angry with Manfred and his associates might be acceptable if you knew he was somehow keeping these people down and/or trying to burn them out of their tents. But since we don't know that yet, and Clark and friends don't learn that till later, their actions are unjustified. Unless you agree that it's okay to berate others for living a better life than you do.
So Clark throws a security guy through a table at the Beach Club, huh? Yep, that's right. Let me ask you this. You own private restaurant, or resort, or Beach Club or whatever, okay? So one day, because you decide to feed the sea gulls while some hungry people are illegally camping nearby, the hungry people rush your place of business and begin assaulting you and your members. Are you then at fault when the police come and arrest the interlopers? Should your security not grab people and just let them attack your patrons and members because they're hungry? I realize there's more going on here, but the characters in the show don't. And Clark, who is to be Superman, would need to protect everyone in this situation. And since the beach campers are the ones that started the attack, they would be the ones at fault. Again, we do find out that Manfred's behind an attempt to get rid of the campers, but that doesn't mean the beach peeps should have stormed a Private Club.
So then we find out that the reason these people don't have family or friends that could help support them in their time of need is because they're not from around here. So? Does that mean there's someone else to blame that you're here? Oh wait, apparently it does. Because there was a possibility that Manfred might have opened a factory in these parts, all those people came from all over and then were let down because Manfred, a businessman, decided to do something more cost affective for his business. Does that make him a nice guy? Well maybe not but I don't know that it makes him evil or any more wrong than millions of other business owners that do what they have to to cut costs. And in some cases (not the case here) those business owners actually close factories and workplaces effectively putting people out of work. This Manfred didn't even have a factory yet. These people came here on the promise that there would be one. How do you move from all over the country before there's a deal in place or even a building built? It's just absurd and the dilemma here as written is preposterous.
If there's an atom bomb about to be dropped on you and you've had fair warning... get out. Don't try to cry about it later. What I mean by that is that I don't think people who don't do what they can to help themselves deserve our sympathy. There's a joke that goes something like this: One day there was a horrible flood. A man climbed out on his roof to avoid being drowned. Before the water was too high, a woman came by in a jeep and said she'd take him to safety. But the man shook his head saying: "God will save me." Then when the water was higher, a man in a motorboat stopped and said he'd take him to safety but the man said: "No thank you, God will save me." When it was last resort time, the military came by in a helicopter and said they'd take him to safety. The man refused, only saying: "God will save me." The man drowned and when he met God in Heaven he said, "Dear God, why did you forsake me?" God said: "Look buddy, I sent you a jeep, a guy in a rowboat and the armed forces to get ya', what more do you want from me?!"
Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't help out when we can or that we should support those less fortunate than us if we desire to. I'm just saying it's not anyone's particular responsibility to make sure your child doesn't starve or that you make the right moves in life. We can give advice or offer assistance but ultimately a person's mistakes need to be owned up to and taken responsibility for.
I seriously thought, when the cops came bursting onto the scene at the club, that Clark was going to be the first arrested because they came in his direction but they just passed him over. He deserved to be arrested too, since he threw that guy through a table for doing his job. Then, when the cops start taking people away, Clark actually asks why they'd be arrested. They were just hungry, he says. That doesn't excuse them from rioting through a fence of someone's privately owned property and attacking people. So yes, they should be arrested.
Next, Damon is kidnapped and T.J. thrown into a moving van as a distraction. Lana comes up from the beach, seemingly sees what's going on, but doesn't yell for help until after T.J. is careening away and after Damon's been taken. I'm sure that's not what it was meant to be, but it was just cut and edited and/or filmed so poorly that's what it looks like. Then, by the time Superboy gets to T.J., the van's been driving so long that it almost runs into the ocean! Somehow it managed to stay on the road straight all the way down to the beach. Absurd. And also, the van had actually slowed to almost a complete stop before Superboy did anything. T.J. didn't need rescue, at least the way it was shown.
Something I wanted to mention about Lana in this episode. She's the one gallivanting out here talking about homeless people's rights, right? Okay, so why then, when Damon forms a hunting party to go find pegs to stake the tents with, does she whine after two seconds of walking that she can't go any further? I'll tell you why. Because the writers only wanted T.J. and Damon to be attacked and Lana needed to be available to be captured later. It makes no sense and if I didn't know it was just a poorly pieced together story; I'd say Lana was really insensitive. Especially since she's the one with the vested interest. Then she pouts about Clark being gone and not being here to give the homeless people money for balloons. How is it Clark's fault that they don't have money and she doesn't have money? In this case, it would probably be safe to assume that Clark joined the others who were looking for supplies.
So from this point on, assuming that we hadn't arrived where we are by the horrible means that we have, I'd say the rest of the story is fairly solid. There's another capture and a Superboy rescue, and the "bad guy" makes good. It would have been better had Superboy smashed through the roof as the men were firing and we'd gotten some deflected bullets off his chest, but that was probably out of their budget so it's cool. In the end though, the biggest problem is that, Manfred hadn't broken the law (at least not that it was shown) until he captured Damon. Manfred agrees to open the factory, which is a nice happy ending theme, but then again, he was really forced and coerced. What he had was a bunch of squatters bringing down the property value of his resort and what we eventually have by story's end, are two groups of adversaries who are just as wrong. Sure, you can't kidnap someone and try to force his hand, but you also can't live on a beach and attack private citizens at their club just because you're hungry.
This was definitely my least favorite episode. It was pandering, wrongly righteous and simply unbelievable in too many ways. I also love that Clark tells the little girl at the end that her mother now has a "great job." I don't know about you but, some tiny, 40-something single mother working in a hypothetical factory that hasn't even been built yet doesn't sound all that great to me.
Oh well, perhaps things will be better next time when "Kryptonite Kills."
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