Smallville (Season 1, Ep 17): Reaper

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.


Tyler is resurrected from death by meteor rock and believes he has been brought back to help people die. He does this by touching them with his bare skin and watching them turn to ash. He sets his sights on Whitney’s father, who has jut had another heart attack, and is on the verge of death. Clark is able to track him down – using help from Chloe – and convince him that the decision to help people die belongs to them, and is not his to make on his own.

Meanwhile Lex and his father duel over accounting at the Smallville LuthorCorp plant. In the process of that accounting, Jonathan learns from an employee sent by Lionel to investigate the Smallville plant, that Lex had their family investigated, that Clark knew about it, and did not tell him. This causes a rift but the two Kents eventually reconcile by the episode’s end.


In a quiet and dimly lit Smallville hospital, a young man named Tyler visits his mother who is wearing a breathing tube and is lying own on a hospital bed. She tells him that she missed him and he reciprocates. As she starts to cough, and he offers to get a doctor, she tells him to wait and explains that she wants Tyler to help her die. He rejects her offer but she continues saying that she wants to be buried back home in Smallville.

Tyler’s Mom: If you love me, you’ll do this for me.

He quietly stands up and closes the door to her room. When he returns to her bedside, they tell each other that they love one another, and then he places a pillow over her face until she dies. As the nurses rush in, yelling for security, a sobbing Tyler explains that she was in pain. A struggle with security ensues and Tyler is accidentally pushed through a glass window on the upper floor of Smallville’s hospital.

Later, as his autopsy is being conducted, the doctor speaks into a recorder that the subject has multiple broken bones consistent with a fall of more than twenty feet and that Tyler’s neck is broken just below the axis. While the coroner is doing his report, he sees an unknown green rock fragment, from a piece of Tyler’s jewelry, embedded in the skin of his arm. He pulls the fragment out and is about to open Tyler’s chest when suddenly Tyler wakes up and grabs him by the wrist. The coroner stops, suddenly dies, and then turns to ash.

♫Somebody saaaaaaavvee meeeee♫

Martha and Clark arrive at a senior assistance center. Clark is not excited to be there as he believes there is nothing they can do to save these people. Martha agrees that they cannot save them from sickness and old age but she reminds Clark that the point is to save them from loneliness. They bring flowers inside with them when they run into the manager of the center, an older man with a bushy mustache… and Tyler, the previously deceased, who is now apparently a new volunteer.

Tyler: Hank tells me you grow the best organic produce this side of Metropolis.
Clark: [as Martha beams] You just made a friend for life.

Martha asks Tyler what brings him to Smallville and he replies that he is here to make funeral preparations because he recently lost his mother who is from here. Martha, Clark, and Tyler set off to deliver things and the first person they visit is an older woman named Mrs. Sykes, who has a dog named Pepper. Pepper barks furiously at Tyler and Clark suggests that maybe the dog is just hungry.

In the old woman’s room, she exhibits a lot of pain and asks Tyler to give her a bottle of pills. Tyler smiles at her and gives her one of Martha’s irises. She smiles back and admonishes him never to get old and sick. He promises to bring her another Iris tomorrow, causing her to reply somewhat mischievously that she likes roses. He tells her that he will get that instead and she looks over at Martha and tells her that she likes this one (meaning Tyler.)

Lex walks into his mansion office and finds Dominic already there, playing pool, and immediately informing him of his father’s disappointment in him. He tells Lex that an internal audit of Lex’s division has uncovered accounting irregularities and that he has been authorized to come and do a thorough examination. Lex suggests that this is payback for turning down his father’s offer to join him in Metropolis. Dominic replies that his father has always been tolerant of Lex’s excesses but that since Lionel knows Lex is not spending money on partying and sports cars, he wants to know where Lex’s money is going. Lex launches into a story about how he was raised and concludes by warning Dominic to remember who raised him and to tread carefully.

Later, Lex finds Clark reading a magazine about fishing, and notes that it looks like a real pager turner. Clark shares that he and his father are going on their annual fishing trip soon. Lex sarcastically notes that of course they have an annual fishing trip and then tells Clark about the one fishing trip he took with his father. He explains that they flew to South America, went into a cave, and got up close and personal with a Great White shark from behind a cage. Clark asks why Lex went and he replies that he went because his father did not think he could. He adds that when you are rich and untouchable like his father, you do things to make yourself feel alive. Clark says that he wishes he and Jonathan could do something other than go fishing, so Lex offers him two tickets for the skybox at a Metropolis Sharks game. Clark is excited and says his dad has been following the team all season. He thinks he will not even have to twist Jonathan’s arm to get him to go.

After Lex goes, Clark looks up to see Lana sobbing from behind the barista bar at The Talon. When Clark checks on her, he finds out that Whitney’s father just had another heart attack.

Dominic approaches Jonathan at the Kent family barn. He asks an uninterested Jonathan if he can help answer some questions related to a research project he is conducting for Lionel. In the course of explaining, Dominic mentions that Lex has invested considerable capital in studying the car wreck incident involving himself and Clark. Jonathan brushes that off as a non-story. However, Dominic next tells him that Lex has also commissioned an in-depth profile of the entire Kent family. This gets Jonathan’s attention and after a long pause he tells Dominic that he has no idea why Lex would do that. Dominic dismisses himself but Jonathan asks him what Lex’s findings regarding the crash were as he goes. Dominic does not answer.

Later, Clark takes Lana to visit Whitney’s father in the very dimly lit Smallville hospital. Mr. Fordham asks from his hospital bed if it’s Whitney visiting but Lana tells him that it’s herself and Clark Kent. He seems relieved to see Lana but asks her where Whitney is, sharing he has not seen him yet. Lana whispers to Clark that Whitney was supposed to have been there already.

After the hospital visit, Clark returns home and finds his father sitting at the kitchen table. The elder Kent asks how Whitney’s dad is and Clark reports but is quickly then handed a fishing rod. Jonathan asks him if he remembers and Clark gives a halfhearted smile and tells him that it was his first fishing rod. Jonathan remains oblivious to Clark’s feelings and recounts fondly that he used to pry the rod from Clark’s hands just to get him to go to bed at night. Clark pitches to his dad the idea of attending a Sharks games instead of fishing and Jonathan asks if Lex arranged this.

Jonathan explains to Clark that this morning he had a surprise visit from a LuthorCorp employee and that at the meeting he learned Lex has been studying the crash and their family. Clark tells Jonathan that he knows and that Lex told him the investigation is all in the past now.

Jonathan: You knew and you didn’t tell me?
Clark: Because I knew you’d react like this.

Jonathan asks Clark how he is supposed to protect him when Clark won’t share with him all of the facts. Clark replies that he doe snot always need his father’s protection, which is met with a firm reply that he does when it comes to his secret. Jonathan adds that maybe when Clark is older he will come to understand his apprehension regarding the Luthor family. Clark erupts at his dad and tells him to stop treating him like a kid. He tells his dad that he is not seven years old anymore and that he does not even like fishing but he does it only because it makes him (Jonathan) happy.

After a moment of shocked silence, Clark apologizes and says that did not come out right but Jonathan tells him that it did.

Mrs. Sykes is alone in her bed when her door opens. Her dog Pepper jumps up and begins to bark furiously. Abruptly the dog whines and then becomes silent. Mrs. Sykes looks alarmed when she hears that sound. She looks even more alarmed when Tyler enters the room holding a white rose. He kneels down by her bed and asks if she ever wishes it would just end, given the pain she is living with. She replies yes and that she cannot go on as she is. He promises that it will all be over soon, and then places his hand on hers. She blackens and then turns to ash, leaving only a pile of ashes on her bed.

The next morning, as Clark descends his family’s staircase, heh asks Martha where his dad is and she says he left early to go work. Clark states that Jonathan is avoiding him and she replies that she will not play referee and that they need to work things out. Clark assures her that they will, beginning with a week of uncomfortable silence followed by conversations on something trivial. Martha tells Clark that she does not want to see him drift apart from Jonathan the way that Jonathan drifted apart from his own father. Clark is surprised and says that he thought they were close. Martha says that they were but that they grew apart and kept things from each other, adding that Jonathan really regretting not getting to say thing to him before he died.

At school, Clark and Chloe discuss Mrs. Sykes’ death. Clark remarks that he is surprised as he saw her just the day before. Clark asks what happened to her and Chloe tells Clark and Pete – who is also there – that the official story is that there was a fire but the unofficial story is that she spontaneously combusted. Pete is skeptical about Chloe’s theory so she tells them both the story of Joyce Maslow, a woman from New Jersey, who abruptly burst into flame in 1978 in front of witnesses at a disco. She plans to look into this as a cause of Mrs. Sykes’s demise.

In the Kent barn, Jonathan is throwing bales of hay from the loft down to the floor below. Lex enters and calls out to him, telling him that he is here to see him rather than Clark. He asks if they are going to the game on Sunday and Jonathan replies that he is going fishing and has no idea what his son is doing. Lex tells him that the tickets were meant as a gift and Jonathan sarcastically replies that he is sure that Lex’s intentions were entirely noble. Lex tells him that this is not fair and says Jonathan does not understand his regard for Clark and their entire family. Jonathan replies that he does understand.

Jonathan: We’re just pawns in your eternal chess game with your dad.

Lex asks Jonathan if he has a family photo. Jonathan, surprised, tells him that he has lost of them. Lex tells him that the only photo he has of himself with his father is in the LuthorCorp annual report. Jonathan asks if he is supposed to feel sorry for Lex and the younger man replies no before adding that if he feels anything toward the Kent family it is envy. Jonathan asks him, if he is so envious of their family, why he feels the need to investigate them behind his back. Lex tells Jonathan that he had a theory about the accident that turned out to be false and says he was completely up front with Clark about it. He sees Jonathan’s reaction and expresses an understanding, out loud, that Jonathan’s reaction is because Clark was not up front with him. Jonathan tells Lex that Clark is a good kid and that he does not want that to change, causing Lex to firmly agree with the sentiment. Lex walks toward the door of the barn, to leave, but as he goes he tells Jonathan that since the day they met, he has been unable to see anthing about him except for the name Luthor, to which Jonathan replies that so far Lex has not given him a reason to see anything else.

At school, Clark is playing basketball by himself as Whitney walks by. He calls out the quarterback and asks if he saw the Kansas State game last weekend. Whitney asks him if Lana put him up to talking to him, causing Clark to laugh and explain he told Lana that he would see the ruse coming a mile away. Whitney points out that he is not mad and asks if Clark is here to find out why the heartless son has not gone to see his dying father. Whitney explains that his father is the strongest person he has ever known, and that for almost all of his life, his dad told him that he would be there to see him throw his first pass for the Metropolis Sharks. Whitney says that his father said it so often I believed him.

Whitney: When I see him there in the hospital so… weak… it kills me because that’s not my father.

He continues on and tells Clark that whatever happens, he will have his father for a long time to come. He says that he will only have a memory and that he does not want his memory to be of a sick man lying in a hospital bed. Clark tells Whitney that he gets it, but that he’d take the man over the memory any day of the week.

As Clark leaves the basketball court with Whitney, he runs into Chloe, who has an article from a Metropolis newspaper to show him. The article concerns a body that disappeared from the morgue and a coroner who disintegrated into ash.

Clark and Chloe visit Mrs. Sykes’ house whereupon Chloe takes pictures. They notice no signs of an actual fire, other than the ash, and Clark suddenly realizes that Mrs. Sykes’s dog Pepper is missing. He looks around with his X-Ray vision and finds a small separate pile of ash away from the bed and with Pepper’s dog tag in them. As Chloe takes pictures of Pepper’s ashes, Clark notices the white rose at Mrs. Sykes’s bed side.

Clark: What happened may have been combustion but I have a feeling it wasn’t spontaneous.

Martha, alone, visits the center where she and Clark are volunteering. She carries produce into the warehouse and runs into a disheveled Tyler inside. He offers to take the basket from her, but when he does, the fruit inside all turns immediately to ash.

Martha: Mrs. Sykes… that was you.

Hank, the manager, hears commotion between the two of them. Martha tells him to call the Sheriff. When Tyler tries to run away, instead of calling the police, Hang tries to stop him. When Hank grabs hold of Tyler’s arm, Hank turns into ash and dies. Tyler looks down at his own hands, horrified, as Martha backs away from him with her hands covering her face in terror.

Clark jogs up outside and sees through X-Ray that his mom is backing away from Tyler. He speeds into the room and gets between the two of them, telling Tyler not to touch her. Tyler touches Clark on the face and Clark’s skin blackens. He is able to throw Tyler across the room and hard into a wall. Martha looks at her son in amazement as his skin returns to a healthy status.

Sometime later, Clark is in his barn loft when Jonathan approaches him from the stairs. He reports that Martha is pretty shaken up but that she is resting and will be fine. He adds that the police are looking for Tyler. Clark who has been silent finally turns around and tells his dad that he does not think the police will stop Tyler and he reports having looked at the other man’s heart and seeing that it was not beating.

Jonathan: How can he move around if he’s dead?
Clark: How can he turn people into ash?

Clark explains that when Tyler touched his face that it felt like the life as being drained out of him. Jonathan reaches out a hand to his son, to check to see that he is okay, but Clark brushes him away. The tension from earlier has not been lifted by this incident. Jonathan gets up to leave and as he goes, Clark calls out to him, but when Jonathan answers, Clark tells him it’s nothing. After a long pause, Jonathan leaves.

Later, Clark finds Lana at The Talon. He updates her on his mother and warns Lana to not let Tyler touch her if she sees him. Lana tells Clark that Whitney called and she thanks him for whatever it was that he said. Lex walks up and asks Clark about whether his dad is going to the game. Clark tells him that he does not know, and Lex replies that it is funny, because when he asked Jonathan about going, the elder Kent was adamant about not going. Lex rescinds the offer of tickets and tells Clark to go spend time with his dad. Lex tells Clark that he has no idea how lucky he is.

Lex: When my father dies, kings will come to his funeral but when yours does, his friends will come.

Lana finds Whitney at the local cemetery and tells him that Nell saw him come out there. He is standing in front of her parents’ tombstone. Whitney tells Lana that in all the time he has known her, he realized he ha never been there before. She tells him that it’s okay but he replies firmly that it is not.

Whitney: It’s just that the thought of losing my parents is so awful I didn’t want to think about it.
Lana: That’s why you need to talk to your father.

He tells her that he is going to go to the hospital and offers to walk her home first. She tells him that she is going to stay and that she has not been out here in a while. After a few moments in front of her parents’ tombstone, Lana is surprised by Tyler. He holds up his gloved hands and tells her that he will not hurt her – and that he does not want to hurt anyone, only to bring them peace. He shares that he overheard her conversation with Whitney and says he can help. She turns her head after hearing a bird chirp but when she turns back Tyler is gone. Lana then sets off toward her house at a dead run.

Lex and Dominic are having drinks together and going over his accounting records. Lex requests that the work stop and explains that this entire investigation is the result of his father realizing that Lex is no longer a screwup, he is now competition. Dominic replies that something are better left between patient and therapist. Lex suddenly tells Dominic that in ancient Persia, kings would kill messengers who delivered news he did not like. He quips that a sword in the chest, in modern times, might be considered too extreme so more subtle measures must be taken. He asks Dominic if he is enjoying his drink. The other man looks down at his glass and is highly alarmed.

Clark, Chloe, and Pete are having an after-hours meeting at the Torch. They discuss Tyler’s situation and what Chloe has learned of it. She tells the other two that her friend at the medical examiner’s office share information about Tyler with her – namely that he died with an abundance of painkillers in his body and an unknown rock fragment in his skin. All three of them realize aloud that the rock fragment is from a meteor rock. Chloe also shares that Tyler’s mom survived her son’s attempt on her life and recovered enough from her ailments to be sent home. Just then Lana runs into the room and tells them that she ran into Tyler and that he said he could bring Whitney’s dad peace after overhearing her talk with Whitney. Clark asks if she called the police and then runs out of the room. Lana yells out askign where he is going, gets no answer, and is confused so she looks over at Chloe and Pete.

Chloe: Don’t look at me, he does that all the time.

Whitney is in the dimly lit Smallville hospital, with blue paint on the walls and a checkerboard patterned floor. He enters his father’s room not realizing that Tyler is already inside. Whitney tries to speak with his dad but Tyler answers saying that he cannot hear him.

Whitney: Who are you?
Tyler: I came to help your father, and you. [throws Whitney head first into a sink knocking him unconscious]

He looks down on the unconscious Mr. Fordham and tells him that he knows his pain and how much it hurts and offers to make it all go away. He then takes off his glove. Clark speeds into the room and throws Tyler against a wall. The dead man gets up and explains that he can help both Mr. Fordham and Whitney, and when Clark tells him that it is not his decision, he replies that Clark is wrong. Clark throws him through the doorway, across the hallway, and into a wall. Tyler tells Clark that he cannot stop him, that nobody can, and he reasons with him that it is better this way. Tyler explains about doing the same thing with his own mother and Clark tells him that his mother is alive and that she recovered from that night in Metropolis. He tells Tyler that she is home in Smallville and offers to take him to her.

Later, in his mother’s home, Tyler remarks upon seeing her that it’s a miracle. Clark replies that it’s life and that as long as we have that, there’s still hope. Tyler looks down at his hands and comments that his mother looks so peaceful. He tells Clark that he thought he was brought back to relieve the pain of others but says it was his own pain all along.

Tyler: What have I done? I just want it all to be over.

He puts his two hands together and turns himself into ash. He is gone before Clark can realizes what is happening.

Lex meets with Lionel, in front of a car parked just outside LuthorCorp tower. He asks why his father sent an accountant after him, adding that he has squandered more on a weekend in Hong Kong than the amount they are looking at in Smallville. His father tells him that this is about corporate finance and not his pocket money. Lex smiles and tells Lionel that it must bother him that he is doing well and making friends in Smallville. Lionel replies that he is of curse happy for him but Lex argues and tells his father that he must be worried Lex will not need him anymore.

Lionel: You will always be my son and you will always need me, Lex.

Lionel turns to walk away but before he goes, Lex asks if he is going to ask about Dominic. Lionel begins to mutter “what has he done, whathas he done” as Lex pops the trunk of the car, revealed a bound Dominic inside. Lex pulls the tape away that is covering Dominic’s mouth and tells his father that if he wants to ask an accounting question to just call him next time. He adds, to Lionel, that the next time one of his drones bothers the Kents that he will be lucky to catch a ride home with the spare tire.

Lex turns to walk away but his father calls out to him. When Lex turns, Lionel tells him simply “well done.” Lionel smirks and closes the trunk lid on Dominic.

Whitney’s father, wearing a breathing tube, and sitting in a wheelchair, watches from the sidelines as Whitney plays football in the home stadium of the Metropolis Sharks. From the stands, Lex stands next to Jonathan as Jonathan remarks on what a nice thing Lex has done for the Fordman family. Lex thanks him and says he wants him to know that he has closed the book on that day on the bridge. Jonathan asks him why he investigated it in the first place.

Lex: That day was a miracle. Haven’t you ever wanted to find out why things like that happen?

Jonathan just smiles at him and says no, and that he just accepts that sometimes they do. He adds that you don’t need an explanation for everything. In the bleachers, Lana and Clark are talking, and she comments that all this time she thought Lex did not even like Whitney. Clark tells her that Lex likes to think he has become a part of all of their lives. Lana looks shrewdly at Clark and states that Clark asked LEx to do this.

Clark: Being friends with Lex Luthor can be complicated but it has advantages.

She kisses him on thte cheek and when he asks what that was for, she replies that it is just for him being himself. She goes and Clark spies his father standing some distance away and goes to join him. He apologizes to his dad for what he said and Jonathan explains that the fishing trips have nothing to do with fishing – they are abut spending time with his son. He tells Clark that he and his own dad saw each other every day but never really talked. He tells Clark that he does not want history to repeat itself. Clark tells him that makes two of them, then.

They hug and Clark tells him that he knows how they can catch more fish this year.

Jonathan: New lures?
Clark: X-Ray vision.


Smallville gets back on formula in this episode with a “meteor freak of the week” and it’s a pretty good episode.

The episode really tackles two themes: 1) euthanasia, and 2) father-son relationships.

As for the first? Tyler’s first two attempted human kills are with the consent of the person who will presumably die. In fact, the first attempt – which fails unbeknownst to him – is done after his own mother begs him to do it. In the second, he breaks in, but Mrs. Sykes does not resist him at all. She seems to welcome what he is doing.

At this point in the show, Tyler seems creepy but sympathetic to a certain extent. However, the show continues on and ultimately decides against Tyler’s approach. Why? Sometimes the victim in pain might not be the best person to evaluate their own condition. As we learn, Tyler’s mother recovers enough to be sent home. As Clark tells Tyler that life is a miracle and that as long as we have it, there is still hope. It’s a difficult and can be an emotional topic and I thought the show was relatively even-handed with the presentation give the limitations of the “meteor freak” format.)

There is something macabre about all of this though. Tyler’s mom is going to learn – if she hasn’t’ already – that her request led to her son’s own premature death. She may also learn that he died a second time and ended up a pile of ashes in her room. Yikes.

As a side point, it was fun to see Clark survive a touch that was instantly killing everyone else. It’s a nice reminder that he is “super.”

The other big theme of this episode is the father-son relationship. Three are presented in three different forms of difficulty. Clark-Jonathan have a fight over Clark’s lack of interest in attending a fishing trip with his dad. They come to an understanding at the end. Lex and Lionel’s relationship grows more combative but Lionel continues to heap praise on Lex as he seems to the audience to be growing darker and more sinister. (It’s hard to view Lex favorably when he puts a relatively innocent guy bound into a trunk.) Whitney and his dad struggle with the likely impending death of the elder Fordham. Whitney does not want to remember his dad in his sick state but is ultimately convinced to do so.

All three of these father-son dynamics are well-written, well-acted, and are each interesting in their own way. This is Whitney’s best episode in the series so far.


  • I think a lot about how Lex and Lionel speak and how odd their historical and literature references feel. Then I am reminded of how British my internal speech is while I listen to the Harry Potter series on audible. I suppose if one constantly consumes the classics, then one sounds like the sort of person who constantly consumes the classics.
  • Smallville Hospital is ludicrous. It’s dark, the floors are checkerboard, the walls are dark blue. Every U.S. hospital I have ever been inside is bright and mostly white. Are there really hospitals that look like this one?

Anyway, this felt like a back to form episode that was really solid. I enjoyed it.

3 thoughts on “Smallville (Season 1, Ep 17): Reaper

  1. Yeah, gotta love the buildings that look like they were made in the backyard of somebody’s hobby boyfriend 😀
    I especially love it when they are in the ER, take 2 steps, are in the isolation ward and then go through 1 door and are suddenly in the hospital cafeteria. I guess even isolation ward people need jello 😉

    1. Yeah. TV hospitals are usually pretty funny. It just struck me while watching how little effort Smallville put into it even by TV standards.

      Alternatively, maybe there’s some kind of hidden meaning in all of the decorate choices that I’m just missing.

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