Spoilers: Seasons 1-3
Email: maveness @ gmail . com
Fic Site: Maveness' Fanfic
Pete Ross: The perpetual best friend. In comics and on Smallville, this is the role he plays. He is the childhood best friend of Superman. He is the rock and source of support that every great hero needs early on in order to believe in himself and believe in others.
Pete Ross isn’t a sidekick in the traditional sense. The sidekick goes along with the hero on the adventures. The sidekick fights alongside the hero. No, Pete is the best friend, a role far more complex because of how the relationship reflects in his own life.
We first met Pete in the Pilot. There he was, joking and snarking with Chloe on the bus, mocking all things traditionally Clark. That moment right there set the tone for what we’d see from him. He didn’t see Clark through rose-colored glasses. Pete joked with Clark, mocked and teased, but above all, he knew Clark, knew who he was at his core. Pete knew Chloe the same way. To him, at least, their friendship was a sacred thing.
In the first few episodes it was shown that Pete was the most open and obvious of the characters. You knew who he was, you knew what he was about. It in no way cheapened his complexity, but of all the characters, he was the most normal and the most identifiable. He valued that which his friends valued. If Chloe had something she wanted kept secret, even from Clark, then Pete kept it secret. That would prove to be the defining part of his character: the ability to steadfastly abide by his friendships.
Pete’s biggest strength by far was his loyalty. Every person on Earth needs one friend that they know will stick by them, no matter what, through thick or thin. Those kinds of friendships will be tested, time and again, but they are invaluable and special. Pete provides that kind of friendship because it’s part of his character. Part of it may lie in the fact that he and Clark became friends at such an early age – children are far more willing to overlook any differences in establishing a friendship. But even with their growth from children to young adults, that bond has lasted. The biggest test is no doubt their current separation (as of the next to last episode of Season 3). It’s not a test of trust or loyalty, it’s a test of heart. Can time and space change their acceptance of one another, regardless of flaws?
Pete also had the strength of hard work. He was the youngest of five, fighting to distinguish himself. Of the three friends, he was the one without a defining identity. Chloe was the journalist, the troublemaker. Clark was the bumbling geek, the hero. Pete labored in their shadow, joining in the adventure and never fighting for glory. He was always the backbone, the piece of the puzzle required to hold it all together. The worker at maintaining the connection. In the future he’ll channel that into politics, where he will thrive and flourish and finally find his place.
By far Pete’s biggest weakness was the way he bottled up his feelings. From the beginning, whenever he was affected by Kryptonite, he became reckless, pulling a gun, getting violent, having major mood swings. How often did he display those types of emotions though? Nicodemus he did. When Clark revealed his secret, Pete (understandably) lashed out. In Velocity he vented and acted out by taking up his own thing – racing. And at the end, before he left, he lashed out at Chloe for digging into his family’s troubles.
All that time – three seasons worth – and we’ve him blow up so little. Other characters can have major mood swings in every single episode, but Pete was limited to maybe twice a season. Not because we saw so little of him, but because it wasn’t in his nature. He bottled things up, held it inside. Chloe had to tell Clark that Pete was jealous of the Lex/Clark relationship. Clark and Martha were nearly mowed down in the drag race before Clark found out about Pete’s resentment over being in Clark’s shadow. Chloe had no clue about Pete’s feelings until she made him tell the truth. And Clark wasn’t quite aware of how heavy a burden it was to have such knowledge of Clark’s alien heritage until Pete told him after being beaten up and having to leave town.
That bottling things up hurts Pete though, and tears him up from the inside. It’s nice for his friends, but for Pete’s own health, he needs to get it out and vent.
How we see Pete is through his relationships with others. All previous description has been about how he relates to his friends. And really, it’s through his friends’ eyes that we see him. We see him as Chloe sees him: the steadfast and true friend who’s cute and funny…but just a guy to hang out with. We see him as Clark sees him: the loyal and ultimately trustworthy friend who he can rely on for anything.
It’s really Pete’s friendship with Clark that defines him in this tale, though. For all of Clark’s declarations of “Lex is my best friend” or “Chloe is my best friend” or even “Lana is the girl I love”, Clark has reservations about his friendship with each of them, and how it relates to his secret. But not so with Pete. Because apart from the anger and confusion that came from the initial telling of the secret, Pete responded as we’d expect him to respond. He took the knowledge of Clark’s alienness and made it fun, through basketball, through teasing.
Pete’s own insecurities got in the way with that knowledge at times, but it was more a symptom of seeing Clark doing things for others with those abilities and wanting Clark to do the same for him. The thing was, Clark didn’t need to do anything special for Pete, because Pete stayed on the straight and narrow. An argument could be made that Pete’s foray into drag racing was an attempt to get Clark’s attention. And the resultant asking for Clark to get him out of trouble was a test of their friendship. His situation was different though, because it wasn't as dire and life or death as the teenage mind wanted it to be. It hurt their friendship, but it dealt with issues they needed to resolve. They ended up stronger for it.
In the end, the reason we all gravitated to Pete in some way or the other was because of unrealized potential. We know why he’s there. We know his role in Clark Kent’s life. We know, thanks to the comics, what he’s probably going to become. His role in Clark’s adolescence is about normalcy and establishing who Clark is at his core. Pete was a direct reflection of Clark Kent, not Superman. It’s through Pete’s eyes that we see the geek inside the hero.