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14 January 2006 @ 12:58 am
Smallville 5.10 Fanatic  
This was a solid episode (though not a standout for me), with several very interesting scenes in it. Spoilers for this ep beneath cuts

Slipping
In Lexmas we saw Lex resolve to act against Jonathan Kent as a statement of his absolute desire for power and wealth. In the very next episode he fails to carry out this plan and this is pointed out to him by both his father and his fanatic follower. ‘You’re slipping, Lex’ is Lionel’s catchcry as he thrusts The Art of War into his sons hands, and it’s a possibility that Lex is left to ponder. It must be galling to Lex to be seen as weak by his father when he is more determined than he has ever been.

Similarly, in this episode he is offered a benchmark of extremism to judge his behaviour by and it comes up short. In the extent to which Lex’s student fangirl modelled herself on him, both physically and behaviourally, she represented a potential more extreme self. Her behaviour is neither practical nor successful, and that is at least partly why Lex would never act in this way. Yet this episode seemed to suggest that there was still some deeper reluctance on his part, some genuine revulsion at the violence and brash behaviour. Whether or not this is a ‘weakness’ may prey on his mind … combined with Lionel’s words, he may indeed wonder if he is ‘slipping’. Does he, in fact, need to be more brutal still to be successful? Or will he find a way of integrating restraint and determination?

(On a more flippant note, Lex really needs to get a grip on who he hires. He cracked it on the phone to Griff episodes ago and yet Griff is still the one he entrusts with the job of bringing down Jonathan Kent. Griff was so easily fooled by Lionel! Lex needs some better minions!)

The brief scene in the hospital with Clark was wonderful because it had so many echoes of conversations past. This time they both cut each other off swiftly, going through the same patterns almost in their sleep. Clark intercepts Lex before he reaches Jonathan’s room, Lex quickly denies all involvement. There is a sense of tiredness in both of them that they are here again, having the same old conversation. The lovely coda was Clark asking Lex how far he would go/what he wanted and Lex replying ‘you already have everything you want’. That, as we have seen, is what Lex believes. He believes he’s still striving to ‘live happily ever after’ but that Clark already is living that dream. Ironically, in the same episode, we learn the reality is quite different.

We’ve come a long way…
I could not have been more delighted with the Clana scenes in this episode. I feel like the potential of this plot arc has finally been realised. I’m very glad that the writers have textualised what we’ve suspected for some time: that Clark hasn’t slept with Lana since he regained his powers. The scene between Lana and Clark was well written and well delivered. It was built out of the development of both characters this season and showed a more adult side of their relationship than we often see. I felt compassion for both characters. Lana was dignified and restrained in her approach and Clark’s journey has been made so sympathetic and comprehensible this season that I sympathised with the position he was in. He is not the same person as he was before he came back from the dead. I particularly liked Lana calling Clark on his ‘deflection’ of her concerns. That interaction had a very Clex flavour to it. Clark has learned well how to deflect inquiries, but he forgot that Lana too has been burnt by such behaviour in the past and she’s past the point where that’s enough to appease her.

In the final scene, Clark enters the barn loft, his private space, to find Lana there, looking through his telescope. This scene almost gave me shivers, for we have come a long way from Season 1 Clark Kent using the telescope to spy on Lana. By placing herself back in Clark’s space, Lana reached out to him. She revealed in their conversation there that she feared she had been partly responsible for the tension between them: by burying herself in her studies, and particularly astronomy. By returning to the loft, she ostensibly returns to a site of sentimentality and intimacy for the two of them. However, the framing is wrong. She is there before Clark, and she’s the one looking at the stars. She’s the one that reveals a secret about aliens, not Clark, and it understandably unsettles him.

The theme of ‘fanatic’ is interesting to explore in relation to Lana’s fascination with astronomy. It has something of the fanatic element about it, and for Clark it relates to a desire to penetrate his secret, his true self, even if Lana herself has not yet made that leap. He fears the intensity of her interest, as he’s seen where it can lead with others, with Lex. Clark already fears losing her to Lex. In this episode, Chloe suggested to him that Lana will ‘start asking all the wrong people all the right questions’ and I suspect that more than ever, this possibility will prey on Clark’s mind: Lana may turn to Lex. I am very glad the writers have chosen to have Lana confess the subject of her obsession to Clark before or without turning to Lex for help. It makes it more individual to her, and her own immediate experience with the aliens. As Lex might say ‘this might seem like it’s all about you Clark, but actually it’s about me.’ The first meteor shower was as defining an event for Lana as it was for Lex and Clark and just like Lex she is drawn to explore its hidden significance.

Duplicity and secrets
An eternal theme of Smallville, secrets were again raised in this episode. Martha decides to act behind Jonathan’s back to obtain money for the campaign. It is a serious decision to make that I think represents a major problem in their relationship. To some degree Jonathan’s own ‘fanaticism’ about the campaign has created a distance between them. Lionel successfully preyed on Martha’s fear that she will be responsible for holding Jonathan back for her own selfish reasons. As the traditional selfless wife, it is believable that this would be unacceptable to Martha.

Interestingly Martha entrusts Lois with her secret. Lois has subtly become part of the Clark family through engaging with Jonathan’s campaign. She is more active, more loyal, more engaged than their own son, for he has his own worries, whereas she has adopted the campaign as a way of giving purpose to her life. She looks to Martha as a friend and interacts with Jonathan as an equal. She is becoming an adult and engaging in politics and real issues in a way that Clark is still not ready for. Martha’s trust means a lot to Lois, but this secret will embroil Lois deeper in the Kent family politics than ever before.

I was sad that there was not more Lois in this episode, although it’s wonderful to see her back on screen.
 
 
Current Mood: calmcalm
 
 
 
Melissa: Alex Greyradioreverie on January 13th, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC)
I wonder, though, if Martha told Lois all the details? Or just that she had a "way" to obtain more funding that, while not illegal, Jonathan would disapprove of? I can't imagine Lois being all hunky dory with illicit Luthor campaign funding.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lois adorablebop_radar on January 14th, 2006 02:22 am (UTC)
Well it will be interesting to see how Lois reacts if she's put in a position of choosing between loyalty to Martha or to Jonathan... I can't see her being completely comfortable with it either, but I do think she has a lot of time for Martha. I get the sense that what happens with this plot could be quite defining for Lois.
(no subject) - norwich36 on January 14th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Becky: Clex secret truthsbeeej on January 13th, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
I love how you break it all down and find the common threads. :)

Is Jonathan keeping secrets of his own? First there were the threatening phone calls that he kept to himself. Then we see him popping a pill - I'm assuming for his heart, but I think those were way too big to be nitro glycerin. Does Martha know he's taking meds? You would think she would, but no one was around when he took it, leaving me to believe he might be keeping it a secret.

And just what did Griff find? Clark's adoption information?
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex bitter endbop_radar on January 14th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Good questions! I agree that Jonathan seems to be keeping secrets of his own. The Kent family has become very fractured. They have always had secrets but they used to be more often common secrets than secrets kept by individuals from the family. It potentially sets up a situation where either Martha or Jonathan will find out about the other's secret and will appear to have the moral high ground until their own truth is revealed.

Griff's info? I hope we find out, but it's possible we will never know. What's interesting is that Lionel knows but Lex does not.
(no subject) - beeej on January 14th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 03:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
Fleegull: CK Scoop by lucidity_0fleegull on January 13th, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
Awesome analysis as usual!

I've seen a few people saying that Lana's "flip" from being originally leery at the prospect of aliens to a fascination as a retcon that is paving the way for her to accept "clark". I don't think that's how this is being played out. I see it as her trying to look her fear in the face and learn about it rather than allowing it to control her. Sometimes when people try to over come a phobia, they can go to an extreme (I don't see Lana at that point yet), someone who is afraid of heights takes up rock climbing, a person trying to get in shape, eventually turning into an exercise fanatic. Clark sees it as another person looking into his secrets, but Lana doesn't actually know that the meteor showers have a connection to Clark. Sure, she has her suspicions about him, but she hasn't made that final leap. She never came out and said "Aliens are cool1", she stated with some wonderment, that it was possible that there was alien life living on earth. She's taking control of the situation in an academic way, which fits with what we've been told about her character - she's supposed to be a smart girl and someone (at least how I see her) who goes after what she wants (that's where I think her so called "selfish side" comes across to some viewers but that's another post).

Lois! Lex's crazy gal was right about one thing, Lois' sudden promotion out of the blue from houseguest/muffin peddler to campaign manager would absoltuely be seen with suspicion by the voting public., especially in a state like Kansas. Lex would be an idiot not to exploit that fact. Now, if she had gone the truly sneaky route and tried to insinuate that Lois and Jonathan were having an affair and casually leaking it to the press - that would have demonstated a worthiness to be one of Lex's minions.

Nora Norwichnorwich36 on January 13th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC)
Lois' sudden promotion out of the blue from houseguest/muffin peddler to campaign manager would absoltuely be seen with suspicion by the voting public., especially in a state like Kansas.... Now, if she had gone the truly sneaky route and tried to insinuate that Lois and Jonathan were having an affair and casually leaking it to the press - that would have demonstated a worthiness to be one of Lex's minions.

Yes! I've seen some people commenting that Lexfan out-Lexxed Lex, but honestly I think subtle sabotage, like suggesting an affair, is *much* more Lex's style these days.
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark dreams dyingbop_radar on January 14th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! I found what you had to say about Lana very interesting: her development was one of the best things about this ep for me. I agree with your suggestion that Lana's trying to confront her fear and I agree that she hasn't said 'aliens are cool'. It's a conceptual/intellectual fascination that has deep emotional resonance for her. And I agree--Lana has got stronger as the show has progressed. She stands up for herself and seeks out what she wants in life. She contronted what selfishness there may be in that in the scene with Clark in the barn. I liked Clark's line to her (I can't remember it exactly) about how he hurt her and blamed her and yet she still accepted him back openly. However Clark, unlike Lana, hasn't yet been fully open with her. I like the positioning of the two of them. They are both absolutely genuine in their approach to the relationship, yet they each have their secrets and their baggage.

Yes--minion was stoopid! If she had the naus to notice the spin that could be put on Lois, why not use it. Daft girl!
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on January 13th, 2006 05:45 pm (UTC)
I always love reading your reviews, because you find so many themes beneath the surface of the episodes. I really liked your reading of the hospital confrontation between Clark and Lex as "echoes of conversations past."

I read that confrontation between Lex and Clark at the hospital as having two layers. One level is the rather hamhanded foreshadowing of Lex's reaching for power leading to his final crash and burn, a la Icarus. But the other is the way that Lex's ability to deceive others is tied to his own self-deception. I think that's the way they've decided to explore his "path to evil" this season while still making him somewhat sympathetic: on some level he really believes what he tells Clark, just as he really believes what he tells Samantha about never condoning hurting the Kents. I agree with fleegull below: he's still distinguishing between blackmail, which he definitely will use, and violence, which right now he won't, even though Lionel (and to a degree Lexfan) are both pushing him in that direction this episode. I expect when he *does* turn to violence, it will first be directed to Lionel.

I also like the way you have used the "fanaticism" theme to explore Lana's new attraction to astronomy and uncovering the reality of alien life. I hadn't thought of how symbolic the telescope was in that scene: Clark has always used it to peer voyeuristically into Lana's life (from the outside, not really understanding her, imagining her to be something she is not) and now she is (unconsciously) doing the same thing to Clark. Like you, I am *very glad* they are making this exploration of Lana's something organic to the character, not just something to turn her toward Lex, though I hadn't thought about how Clark's fears of Lex would play into the situation.

You are so right--post Splinter, Clark is naturally going to fear Lana turning to Lex, and now like Lex Lana is investigating things Clark doesn't think she should. (You are also so right that the Clana had a very Clex overtone--in fact, Lana here basically *is* season one Lex: she genuinely cares for Clark but is enraptured by a mystery that is in her mind all about her, but in Clark's mind is dangerous to her secrets. And my god, the way they left that scene in the barn is just like the setup of about a thousand Clextales, right before the revelation scene.)


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(no subject) - norwich36 on January 13th, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - norwich36 on January 14th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - norwich36 on January 14th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lana death giftbop_radar on January 14th, 2006 03:08 am (UTC)
Thanks, hon. I'll have to go over and read what you've written at your journal next.

I think it's interesting that you've raised the issue of Lex's self-deception. That's a fascinating new thread in SV for me, as Lex has previously been defined for me as a character who looks the truth about himself in the eye. I need to think further about this.

Yes--I'm so so glad Lana's development is organic to her and not just designed to thrust her into Lex's arms. This gives me hope that the simple resolutions will be avoided by the writers.

I think what I was really trying to untangle about the Clana is that the Lexana genuinely exists more in Clark's fears than in reality. And yet it's so so real and human of Clark to have those fears--there are natural connections to be made with Lex. As you say, the Clana barn scene was very much the Clex barn scene of old in many ways... (as well as fanfics!). The old: 'you're right, Clark. I haven't been completely honest... but now I will be because I love you and trust you completely' (pregnant pause).
rumpuso on January 13th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
Great ponderings on this episode, once again. I found myself surprisingly pleased with Fantatic. Other than the fact that it was a new episode, there wasn't much about its description that appealed to me. I love it when they make it more interesting than I assume it will be. Fanatic showed me that season five Clark and Lana work. I loved them in Mortal, Hidden and now Fanatic. I love that the writers are showing continuity and touching upon subjects that were brought up then dropped, i.e., their sexual relationship. I loved how Clark was written into their intial scene as more relaxed...plopping himself on the bed. Lana reacted and laid down on top of him. Now that's very realistic, as opposed to the continuous stiffness that I identify with Clark when he talks to anyone. Tonight he appeared more human, more open, more vulnerable, and I loved that.

Chloe proved again that she is a wonderful best friend for Clark. The sex conversation that they tried to have is what I wished for when Pete was on the show. I love her friendship with Clark. She wasn't too in-your-face this episode and I adored her.

Lois was refreshing tonight too. She showed that she genuinely cares for the Kents' well being and that was a nice tender side to witness. She did a very believable job as campaign manager and I'm happy to see the writers came up with a legitimate purpose for her character on the show right now.

I actually expected Lex to show a more evil side after his declaration in Lexmas. Apparently he is still fighting his internal demons and wants power and wealth, but has boundaries. He will be forever seen as a tragedy, but the writers are handling his fall very artfully, in my opinion.

Martha was interesting tonight. She clearly doesn't want Jonathan in the public eye dealing with stressful situations on a regular basis. Maybe some of her fear stems from her remaining paranoia of the public finding out Clark's secret. But going behind Jonathan's back to accept Lionel's contribution towards Jonathan's campaign will come back to haunt her soon. A friend of mine mentioned that the precedent has already been set for her to behave this way, since she took money from her father to help out with the farm without Jonathan's knowledge.

Very good episode. It moved the players closer to the inevitable Reckoning in 2 weeks.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark dreams dyingbop_radar on January 14th, 2006 03:00 am (UTC)
Oh, I agree--Clark is far more human, more vulnerable and more natural and relaxed than ever before. I've loved him this series. As someone who didn't naturally respond to his character immediately, I am amazed at how sympathetic and complex a character he is to me now. I really felt his pain about keeping secrets from Lana in this episode.

Chloe seems to have found her niche within the show as 'best friend' to Clark and that sex conversation was wonderfully comic and yet still tender.

Lois fascinates me so I would have loved more of her in this episode, but, as you say, it is at least good to see her integrated into the show with a real role. I also like the campaign manager thing for Lois's development, because I think since Lex called her a 'muffin pedlar', she's wanted to prove him wrong. She actually has great drive, but she doesn't have personal ambition at this stage. She's motivated for other people, not herself (at least she's not self-aware about her own ambition). I think that's a fascinating character trait: she is deeply loyal to the Kents.

Yes--good point that Martha has acted this way before. I think the fact that she does this (takes/gets money behind Jonathan's back) indicates a certain level of frustration with the limitations of their lives that Clark also shares. It's partly what fuels Jonathan's defensive anger about himself/his life. He feels like he's failed, and any time Martha acts like this it undermines him. Can't wait for the fallout from the developments in this ep!
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(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
blowjobs for jesus: fangirlskristiinthedark on January 14th, 2006 02:49 am (UTC)
Wow. This is the first time I've read one of your meta essays, and I'm very impressed. I really liked your comments on the Clana. Lana irks me like nothing else, but Clark's dodginess put me firmly on her side with this. It was an interesting and fully-formed conflict. I highly approved. And the scene where he jumps out of bed, saying "did I hurt you?" was one I had played out in my head many times. It was perfect.

Well, you're awesome. Thanks for posting this and making me think!




K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: EssayGirlbop_radar on January 14th, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
Hee! It's my thing. Jen and Bex and co. called me 'EssayGirl' before they really knew me. I embraced their nickname! I love exploring the themes of the show, especially when people comment with different ideas I hadn't thought of--so thanks for the comment.

I love Clark's sexual anxiety. I think it's fascinating. And, yes, no matter how unfond of Lana you are, I think as a woman you can't help but sympathise with her when faced with a locked-off, avoidance-seeking man--especially when she's making a genuine attempt to forgive him and reach out to him.

In the scene with Chloe, Chloe asks Clark what's so different about sex to other interactions with people where he could hurt them. There's a long pause which implies that something is very different about sex with powers for Clark. And I'm so glad. It's what I've suspected for a long time. This show is so great with the sexual anxiety theme! *g*
(no subject) - norwich36 on January 14th, 2006 07:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mkitty3 on January 14th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 10:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 14th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - norwich36 on January 15th, 2006 08:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on January 15th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - norwich36 on January 15th, 2006 11:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)