Smallville (Season 1, Ep 2): Metamorphosis

Welcome to Smallville. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long plot recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can read that and just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Clark’s classmate Greg Arkin is bitten by a swarm of meteor infected bugs – causing him to become bug-like himself. Greg now has enhanced strength and an instinctual desire to kill, eat, and mate. As for the latter, Lana is the target of his mating desire. Meanwhile, Lana learns with some clues from Lex that her boyfriend Whitney strung Clark up in a field like a scarecrow. In some additional Luthor meddling, Lex gives Clark Lana’s necklace and advises him that giving it to her will win her heart away from Whitney for good.

Greg attacks Lana while Whitney is with her apologizing for what he did to Clark and for losing her meteor rock necklace. Greg easily beats up Whitney and takes Lana. Clark finds Whitney after the attack and tells him where Greg probably took Lana. Clark goes ahead on foot and Whitney drives. Clark finds and fights Greg.. and Greg ultimately accidentally kills himself during their fight. When Clark returns to get Lana after the fight, Whitney has already rescued her. Clark decides to give Lana her necklace back anonymously knowing that doing so face-to-face would have hurt her relationship with Whitney. He also gives it back knowing that being near it, while she is wearing it, makes him ill.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

After a two minute long “previously on Smallville” the episode begins at Lana’s house immediately after the homecoming dance. She comes home and changes clothes for bed. Before she does, though, she notices a small gift on her bed tied shut with a blue ribbon. When she unties the ribbon and opens the top of her present, butterflies fly out. This seems to delight her.

The camera shot changes and soon we see the scene through an unknown person’s video screen. After watching Lana – apparently from a tree outside of her house – he climbs down and dries away in a Volkswagon Beetle. When he returns home, Greg sees his mother watching another video he has made of Lana. His mother asks if this is what he does with his time now. Greg asks his mother where she got those videos and she replies that she got them from the hole he calls a room. He complains that she had no right to be in there which leads her to retort that he has a lot of nerve to talk about privacy.

His mother asks if he was out spying on Lana tonight and Greg tells her he was out collecting. She says that is another disgusting habit and tells him that this recent behavior is not him. Greg replies to her that people change. She tells him that she will be calling Claremont Military Academy on Monday morning. When he tells her “yeah right” she sternly tells him that she means it this time and that she is tired of his behavior.

Greg: Hey who’s gonna take care of my bugs!

We see in Greg’s room that he has a lot of bugs which glow green inside numerous glass enclosures. He puts them into several glass jars and tells the bugs not to worry as he is about to take them someplace safe. Later that night, we see him driving fast and recklessly with the bugs inside of his car. He eventually hits a bump in the road, causing some jars to break and some of the bugs to be freed. Loose in the car, they begin to swarm around him and bite him. His Beetle crashes into a post. The camera pans away from the car as he yells out in pain. The interior of the car glows green.

The following morning, Greg’s mother knocks on his bedroom door. We see Greg’s glasses lying abandoned on his bedroom floor. His mother looks for him but does not see him. She closes the door behind her. After she is gone, we see a waxy appearing Greg clinging to his bedroom ceiling like a bug.

♫Somebody saaaaaaavvee meeeee♫

Later, we see the camera moving through the air, depicting flight. It flies right in through Lana’s bedroom before turning around and revealing the flier to be Clark. She opens her eyes briefly.

Lana: It’s all your fault, Clark.

When she closes them again, we hear Mrs. Kent yell Clark’s name. Clark wakes up and finds himself hovering over his own bed. He then crashes down onto it, breaking it. His mother tells him from downstairs that they are leaving for the Farmer’s Market in fifteen minutes. She says that he has not done his chores yet.

At the Farmer’s Market, at the booth for the Kent Farm, Clark surreptitiously presses a nail into a post to hold up their sign. Just then Chloe, who is there separately, calls out to “all hail the king and queen” at which point Lana and Whitney walk up. Lana greets Clark and tells him that she did not see him at the dance the night before. Clark looks at Whitney and tells her that he was just a little tied up. Jut then, Jonathan Kent walks over and congratulates Whitney for how well he played at the Homecoming game. Clark excuses himself to go unload boxes from the truck. Whitney offers to help and goes with him.

Whitney: Hey, you realize last night was just a joke. Hey. I need that necklace back.
Clark: I don’t have it.
Whitney: Look, it’s Lana’s favorite, so…
Clark: So you better go out to that cornfield and find it.

They stare at each other and then Clark walks away.

Lana is looking at decorative butterflies. When she turns around, Greg is standing about six inches away. She remarks that she did not recognize him without his glasses. Greg tells her that the butterflies are beautiful and that the average one only lives for about eight hours.

Lana: Live fast, die young. The rock stars of the insect world.

Greg abruptly asks Lana if she can help him with his Lit paper. She asks if the assignment is giving him brain freeze and he says yes. He asks if they should meet at his house after school but she suggests that the library might be easier. Greg says that it’s a date. At that exact moment, Whitney walks up and tells Lana that her aunt is looking for her. Whitney then puts a hand on Greg’s shoulder.

Whitney: Hey, bug boy, do me a favor and quit tailing my girlfriend.
Greg: You afraid of a little competition, Whitney?
Whitney: We’re not in competition, Greg. But if I find out you’ve been leaving butterflies in my girlfriend’s bedroom you’ll know about it.

Clark watches from a distance as Lana kisses Whitney goodbye. He gets into his truck and leaves. While Clark is staring, Lex walks up behind him.

Lex: Can’t knock your taste in women.

Lex then changes the subject to ask Clark what happened last night.

Clark: Just a stupid prank.
Lex: You were tied to a stake in the middle of a field. Even the Romans saved that for special occasions. You could have died out there.

Clark tells Lex that he appreciates his help but adds that he just wants to forget it ever happened. Just then Jonathan walks up and asks Clark what the hold up is. Lex greets Jonathan and gets a handshake. He and Clark then leave but Lex comments that he at least got a handshake this time.

Whitney is driving his truck down the road. A short distance ahead of him, Greg is waiting up on a tree branch. When Whitney is within range, Greg jumps on his truck and begins denting its roof deeply. Greg jumps from the truck to the side of the road as Whitney’s truck crashes and skids along on its side.

A few moments later, as Whitney’s truck is leaking oil, the Kents follow him up the road. Jonathan slams on the brakes and stops. Clark jumps out of the truck, pulls Whitney from the cab, and then shield Whitney with his body as Whitney’s truck explodes. Clark’s coat is badly burned by he is not hurt and he manages to prevent an unconscious Whitney from being hurt, too. Jonathan and Martha look at Clark in amazemenet.

Later back on their farm, Jonathan tells Clark that Whitney woke up in the hospital with very minor injuries and no memory of what happened. Clark tells his dad that he thinks he really freaked Martha out. Jonathan tells him that he made her really proud, too. Clark tells his dad that something else happened to him that morning.

Clark: When I woke up, I was kind of floating.

Clark tells him that when he woke up, he crashed down onto the bed. He asks what is happening to him and his dad replies that once he begins breaking the law of gravity that they are in uncharted territory. Jonathan tells him to have faith that they will figure this out together. Clark says that he does but he adds that this is happening to him and he is scared.

At Lex’s mansion, he holds up Lana’s necklace and stares at it before placing it inside a box and closing the lid.

Lana is riding her horse on her aunt’s property. When she gets back to the horse stalls with her horse, Lex is waiting for her inside. Lex tells her that her form is good but the gait is off. He suggests that she check the horse’s shoe. Lana tells him Lex that sneaking up on her like that might get him kicked by her horse. Lex introduces himself as a friend of her aunt. She tells him that they have already met. He replies that he doubts he could forget meeting her. Lana replies that he was preoccupied at the time. Lex says that he gets the feeling he did not make a great first impression.

Lana tells Lex that when she was ten, she went to Metropolis for a riding competition. After, Lex’s father invited them over. Lana was told that the Luthors had an indoor pool.

Lana: When I went to check it out, I found you and a girl skinny dipping. I think you were teaching her the breast stroke.
Lex: That was you? Wow. You’re all grown up now.

Lex changes the subject by telling Lana that her trophy wall of riding competition ribbons is very impressive. He points at a picture of Lana in one of the pictures where she is wearing her meteor rock necklace and he says that it’s a pretty necklace. Lana tells him that it is her favorite. Lex asks why she is not wearing it and she replies that she lent it to her boyfriend. Lana tells Lex that her boyfriend is Whitney Fordman.

Lex: The kid the Kents saved?
Lana: I just came back from seeing him. Lucky Clark was there.
Lex: I know the feeling.

Lex says that it makes him wonder if Lana is with the right guy – one chucks footballs and the other saves lives. Lana fires back that for someone who just moved into town, he has a lot of opinions. Lex tells her that she just seems more interesting than that. Lex then suggests to Lana that she should ask her boyfriend what he was doing before the big game. Lana tells Lex that Whitney was with her and Lex asks if she is sure. He then instructs Lana to tell her aunt that he stopped by.

Greg’s mom returns home to find the thermostat turned up to 103 degrees. She goes to Greg’s room and finds webs everywhere. When she turns, she finds her son. She seems alarmed and asks him what has gotten into him before telling him to stop. Greg replies that two millions years of instinct has gotten into him.

Greg: First I’ll eat. Then I’ll molt. Then I’ll mate.
Greg’s Mom: You need help.

She tries to leave but he menacing thrusts an arm in front of her to block her exit. Then Greg begins telling his mother about a spider that kills its mother after it hatches. Then he opens his mouther unnaturally wide and spews.. something… out at her.

Sometime later, Lex finds Clark at his house.

Lex: Save any lives on your way over? If you keep it up, you can make a career out of it.
Clark: I’m just dropping off your produce.

Clark tells Lex that he is sorry his parents gave him a hard time. Lex says that if necessary he would have arm wrestled them for their produce. Clark sees a model castle on a table and comments on it. Lex tells him that Lionel gave that to him when he was nine. When Clark says it is a cool gift, Lex corrects him to say that it is a strategy tool.

Lex: My father equates business with war. Take the Battle of Troy. It started because two men were in love with the same woman. Kinda like you and the quarterback. That’s why he strung you up in that field, isn’t it?

Clark tells Lex that if they are at war that Whitney has already won. Lex tells him that losing a battle is not the same as losing a war. He adds that he does not think Lana is as infatuated with Whitney as Clark thinks. Clark replies that Whitney is the captain of the football team and the whole town treats him as a god. Lex tells Clark that if he had not pulled Whitney from the truck all of his problems would be over. When Clark looks shocked Lex tells him that he is kidding, of course.

Lex tells Clark that he has his Trojan Horse. Lex pulls the box with Lana’s necklace inside from the mantle and opens it. Suddenly Clark looks unwell – so much so that Lex asks if he is okay. Lex stares at Clark and again at the box before closing the lid. Clark comments that it’s a cool box and asks what it is made of.

Lex: Lead. My mother bought it as a Kasbah in Morocco. The little guy told her it was made from the armor of St. George – patron saint of boy scouts. She gave it to me before she died.

Clark tells him that he cannot take that. Lex somewhat angrily asks what it is about Kents and gifts. He tells Clark firmly that it is his. Lex advises Clark to give the box to Lana and tell her what happened. He promises that when Clark does, it will win her heart. He adds that the necklace gives him power.

At school, Whitney opens his locker. When he does, Lana appears beside him and asks where he was before the game on Saturday. Whitney tries to put off answering but finally tells her he was warming up for the game.

Lana: So you didn’t grab Clark and hang him up in a field?
Whitney: Lana, it was just a prank.

Lana then asks for her necklace back and Whitney tells her that he lost it. She walks away but runs into Greg in the hallway. Greg asks if she forgot that she was supposed to meet him. She apologizes, tells him somethin really important came up, and asks if they can do it another time. Greg then menacingly asks her if she is blowing him off for her boyfriend. Lana, irritated, tells Greg that she is not blowing him off but that she needs to see Clark. Greg then asks if Clark is more important than he is. She pauses and finally answers him nicely that she cannot talk about this right now and she says she has to go.

On the Kent farm, Clark is holding the necklace box he was given by Lex. He opens the box and winces in pain. As soon as he closes the box, he feels well again. When he goes inside the barn and climbs up to his loft, he finds Lana up there looking through his telescope. He stashes the box under a saddle blanket before she notices that he has it.

When Clark gets Lana’s attention, she tells him that his mom said she could wait up in the loft for Clark to get home.

Lana: This is an amazing place.
Clark: My dad built it. He calls it my ‘Fortress of Solitude.’

Lana tells Clark that she did not know he was into astronomy and she asks if he knows that her house is visible from there. Clark feigns surprise. Clark abruptly points out that they have lived a mile apart for their entire lives and she has never come over to visit before. Lana tells Clark that she found out about what Whitney did to him. Clark tells her not to worry about it and to forget about it but she says she cannot and points out that he had no right to do that to Clark. She adds that after Clark saved his life.

Clark tells Lana that she appreciates her coming over but he says she is not the one who should be apologizing. Clark asks who told her and she tells Clark it was Lex Luthor.

Lana: He dropped some bread crumbs and I followed the trail.

Lana tells Clark that Lex is a good friend and that she is glad she knows. When Clark asks what she is going to do, she says she is not sure. Lana tells Clark that she thought she knew Whitney and now she wonders what else she has been blind to in her life. She adds that Whitney even lost her favorite necklace. Clark glances over to where the necklace box is hidden and asks her if she can get it replaced.

Lana: It sounds kind of weird but it’s made from a fragment of the meteor that killed my parents.

Lana explains that her Aunt Nell had it made and gave it to her the day she officially adopted Lana. Her aunt told her that life is about change, that sometimes the change is painful, sometimes it is beautiful, but usually it is both. Lana announces that she better go. On her wa out, she tells him that she is glad that he is okay.

Later, Greg is showering… and molting.

[Eww.]

That night, Clark and his dad are in the barn. Clark offers his dad a hand when Greg jumps down on him from the rafters. Clark throws him off. Jonathan asks him if he is alright and Clark tells him that someone is up in the rafters. They both cautiously shine flashlights upward. Greg jumps out at Jonathan and throws him from the loft toward a piece of machinery below. Clark is able to outrun gravity and race ahead of his father in order to catch him and save him.

Jonathan: What the h*** just happened?

A short while later, Jonathan tells Martha that he has never seen anyone move like that. She asks if he got a good look at his face. He tells her no and adds that whoever it was came right off the ceiling at him.

Jonathan: It was almost as if he…
Clark: wasn’t entirely human? I saw his face. his name is Greg Arkin.
Martha: That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. You and Pete used to hang out with him in grade school.
Jonathan: Why would he want to hurt you?
Clark: I don’t know.

Clark tells his parents that Greg is a bug collector. His dad says that people do not just jump off ceilings and attack people. Clark shines a flashlight onto the ceiling where Greg’s footprints are visible.

Jonathan: I don’t know. It seems kind of out there.
Martha: This coming from a man who has been hiding a space ship in his storm cellar for the last twelve years.

Clark asks his dad if he ever wonders about all the weird stuff that happens in Smallville since the meteor shower. He tells his dad about the ‘wall of weird’ articles Chloe has been collecting. Clark tells his dad that this is all his fault. Jonathan pushes back saying that if Clark is referring to fifty pound tomatoes and two headed calves, Luthor Corp’s fertilizer is a better explanation.

Clark: Luthor Corp didn’t kill Lana’s parents.
Jonathan: Neither did you son. You can’t blame yourself for something you had no control over.

He tells Clark that no matter how many extraordinary gifts he has, he cannot change what happened. Clark asks how he can make this feeling go away and his dad tells him that he cannot. He adds that is what makes Clark human.

Back at school, Clark asks Chloe if Greg is still the science reporter for The Torch. She tells him that if being a reporter requiring turning in articles, then the answer is that he is not. She adds that she has not even seen Greg in a week. Clark tells her he needs to find Greg and says he will catch up with her later.

Chloe: I hate it when you do that.
Clark: Do what?
Chloe: Just shut me out. It’s like one minute you’re here and then you’re not. Clark you’re not outgrowing me as a friend are you?
Clark: Chloe I can never outgrow you [smiles’ other than vertically.
Chloe: [beaming] It’s amazing how far that Kent charm can get you.

She asks Clark what is up with Greg. Later they are doing internet research about people taking on insect traits after being bitten. Clark says that Greg’s family moved to Smallville after the meteor shower so he could not have been infected then. Chloe counters by reminding him that fragments of the meteors are all over the local environment and could be effecting Greg’s bugs.

Chloe: So when boy catches bugs, and bugs bite boy — you end up with, Bug-Boy.

They discuss how everyone in Smallville gets bitten by mosquitos so Greg would have needed to be bitten by a swarm. Clark tells her that he has tanks of bugs in his room and suggests that maybe the bugs got tired of the view and staged a revolt. Chloe points out that bugs have a short life cycle.

Chloe: So if he really has gone Kafka, let’s hope he isn’t in the mating phase.

Later, Clark, Pete, and Chloe are outside of Greg’s house looking through the window. Pete points out that the house is a mess and Clark reminds Pete about how much of a neat freak Greg’s mom used to be. He tells Chloe that one time in seventh grade he forgot to take off his shoes when going inside and she yelled at him. Chloe asks if that is what broke up their friendship but Clark says no. When Greg’s parents got divorced, Greg stopped calling. Pete says that sucked because Greg has a killer tree fort in the woods. Pete tells Chloe that Clark did not like the fort because he is afraid of heights. Clark fires back saying that he did not believe the fort was structurally sound.

The three of them go inside. They find shed skin from Greg’s molting and a video of Lana playing on the television.

Chloe: I think Greg’s found his mate.

Clark looks around a little more and pulls back some of the thicker webbing on the wall. The body of Greg’s mother falls forward.

Lana is in her barn feeding her horses. When she turns around Whitney is there. He tells her that when he saw her with Clark outside of her house last week, he freaked out. He tells her that he would give anything to take it back.

Greg: It’s too late Whitney. She’s mine now.

Whitney walks over to Greg – and is thrown across the barn for his trouble. Lana, panicked, asks Greg what is going on. He tells her that it’s time. Whitney wakes up when Clark enters the barn yelling for Lana. He explains that Greg threw him across the barn like it was nothing and then grabbed Lana. They go outside together and Clark explains to Whitney where he thinks Greg took her. Whitney looks away for a moment after getting into his truck, to drive, and Clark is gone.

Clark runs at super speed to Greg’s treehouse. He finds Lana inside, unconscious, and Greg watching over her. Greg tells him to get away. When Clark says he knows what has happened to him, Greg replies that he has been free.

Greg: I eat what I want, I go where I want, and I take what I want.

Clark tells Greg that he is not taking Lana. Greg challenges him, to stop him. Greg pushes Clark out of the treehouse, to the ground, and then runs away. Clark chases him into an old building with a lot of visible meteor rocks on the ground. Clark, weakened, looks around. Greg sneaks up on him and clubs him with an enormous steel pipe. Greg reminds Clark that he still gets sick around this building – just like Clark did when they were kids. Greg tosses Clark around until he lands in a corner with walls lined by lead. Clark’s sickness goes away. Greg finds Clark and attacks him. This time Clark is able to throw him across the room. Greg lands under a piece of equipment and pulls up on a lever. A several tons piece of machinery smashes him flat. Seconds later, hundreds of bugs crawl out from under the machinery.

In the treehouse, Whitney finds Lana. He peels away a buggy covering over her and she wakes up. By the time Clark gets back to the treehouse, he finds Lana hugging Whitney on the ground. That night, Clark is in his barn hangout. He seems panicked about losing his shot with Lana, to Whitney, and picks up Lana’s necklace box. He runs it over to Lana’s house and stands outside her door. He then opens the box and pulls the necklace out. Lana hears sound outside and opens the door, asking for Whitney.

Clark has super-speeded away. Lana looks around and finds her necklace hanging from the door handle. She smiles, takes it, and goes back inside.

REACTION:

This episode leans a little big harder in the horror genre direction than I was remembering or expecting. That dude… ate… his mother?!? (He appears to have done so in the way a mosquito or spider might.) He spewed something out of his mouth to incapacitate her… poison? He molted? Ick. And don’t spend too much time pondering on where all of those webs were coming from. Then when he gets smashed, a bunch of baby bugs crawled out from under the place where he was smashed? EWW, fam. EWW.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time wondering what he did to Lana before cocooning her in the treehouse. He was planning to… mate… with her. I hope Whitney at least took her to Smallville’s hospital for a thorough examination. She was back at home that night, seeming happy, not laying eggs, or anything, so I think we’re just not supposed to think about it at all.

This episode kind of sets the Smallville formula for the early seasons. Chloe, Pete, and Clark are the only ones who notice weird things going on in their town. They turn into teenage crime fighters. It’s extra-weird on this show when the villain is someone they know from school. “Greg” in this episode is their in their school grade (except he can drive so maybe he is a big older?) Pete, Chloe, and Clark all ride in a school bus. I think they are all HS freshmen. If Greg is a freshman, then what this episode just showed us was a 15 year old killing his mom and then accidentally killing himself. The aged up the actor so we did not feel so bad about the character.

Lana is in danger. That’s usually the formula, too, because even at 14 she is apparently by far the most desired girl/woman in this entire town.

Of course the show is intentionally fuzzy about the kids’ ages. The writers want to put the characters in kid situations sometimes (school bus, class, etc.) them in adult situations other times (sexualizing them, or endangering them), without it being spelled out just exactly how creepy that is. Case in point from this episode: Lex – who is 21 or 22 – was definitely flirting with Lana who is 14 or 15. Obviously Kristin Kreuk looks her actual age – which is 19 or so. But the character interaction is creeeepy.

We’ll see if I am able to ignore this aspect of the show, or not, going forward.

One thing I enjoy about Smallville is that the dialogue is relatively entertaining at times. Michael Rosenbaum’s Lex almost always gets the great lines:

Lex: You were tied to a stake in the middle of a field. Even the Romans saved that for special occasions. You could have died out there.

Clark’s mom got a great line in this episode, too:

Jonathan: I don’t know. It seems kind of out there.
Martha: This coming from a man who has been hiding a space ship in his storm cellar for the last twelve years.

I also enjoy a lot of the Superman Easter eggs – such as Clark telling Lana that his dad calls his barn loft his “Fortress of Solitude.”

As for the plot? Lana is rescued by Whitney. He probably doesn’t tell her Clark helped/did most of the work. Even though there is zero dialogue regarding his thoughts, it is pretty clear that Clark weighs not giving Lana the necklace back because he cannot get within a few feet of her while she is wearing it… but he also considers giving it back and taking credit to hurt her relationship with Whitney. He opts to give it back anonymously – denying himself credit AND putting green meteor rock wall between himself and Lana.

(My guess is that Clark eventually wins the girl over anyway.)

00s Music:

Everything – Lifehouse
Love You Madly – Cake
Last Resort – Papa Roach
I Do – Better Than Ezra
Island In The Sun – Weezer
Underdog (Save Me) – Turin Brakes
Damaged – Aeon Spoke
Wherever You Will Go – The Calling

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