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18 February 2006 @ 01:05 am
Smallville 5.15 Cyborg  
Oh joy! A fast torrent and a brilliant episode.

Reflected selves
The casting of Victor, the cyborg, was brilliant. He was hot and he could act! Joking aside, he worked really well as this week’s reflection of Clark. The parallels were neatly drawn: superhuman strength, football player, milk drinker (cute!), physically perfect, good-natured and courteous. It’s unsurprising that Clark identified so strongly with him.

Furthermore, Victor revealed that he had a girlfriend he wished to marry, before he was killed in a car accident. Victor asks Clark if he thinks his girlfriend will accept him now that he is super-human (or part ‘bionic’). Clark replies ‘I’m not the best person to be asking about that.’ I loved this wry self-aware comment from Clark. Having recently experienced the death of his own girlfriend as the result of revealing his secret to her, and having lived through his own ‘death’ not so long ago, Clark is too close to the situation to comment objectively. The parallels are too real for him to be able to give an encouraging response.

Instead, it is Lana not Clark who allows Victor to realise his romantic ‘destiny’. Catherine and Lana are also paralleled. They are of a similar physical type and the first person Victor runs into on exiting the hospital is Lana. She becomes emotionally intrigued and moved by his story. Victor asks her ‘what would you do if you had one last chance to see the person you love?’ Lana recognises someone with a similar romantic temperament to her own. She also sees in Victor the qualities she used to love in Clark—particularly his desire to place her first above his own life. There is even more to the investment in Victor for Lana, as he experienced the death of his family and has survivor guilt, something she knows a lot about. In helping Victor reunite with Catherine, Lana is living out her own fantasy of reaching a loving and honest connection with someone else.

At the end of Cyborg, Victor is reunited with Catherine. As they embrace, Lana and Clark watch. Each of them show in their expressions that they recognise themselves in Victor and Catherine. Lana shares these thoughts with Clark later, telling him that they reminded her of their ‘glory days’ together. Clark does not share his thoughts, but his expression reflects the bitterness of understanding that the happy ending will not be his. The audience, privileged to Clark’s journey, knows he is holding himself back in order to protect Lana, to do what he thinks is right. This scene, beautifully constructed, combines two main themes in this week’s episode: the reflection of oneself in others and the sharing or hiding of secrets.

Villainy
For Clark, the emotional investment in Victor is not about romance, but about his own darkest fears. Victor has been experimented on and turned into a vehicle for potentially dark purposes. Clark admits he has ‘a thing about being experimented on in labs’. Again, I loved the self-awareness from Clark. He’s clearheaded about what he’s identifying with and why he takes up Victor’s case with such enthusiasm. Clark would, of course, save anyone, but in Victor’s case, there are subtle suggestions that he’s more personally invested than usual.

Chloe and Clark uncover that Luthorcorp owns the lab where Victor was created. No surprise there, as we can tell from Chloe’s tone of voice. She expected it to be Luthorcorp, and probably so did Clark. He rushes to confront Lex.

Lex is revealed to be the ‘vilain of the story’ in this episode. We’ve finally reached a place where Lex is shown to be lying outright to Clark. What’s wonderful about the construction of this plot, is that Lex still appears as the victim of Clark’s assumptions to begin with, as he is eager to point out. He calls Clark on his abrupt entry, impolite behaviour and presumptuous allegations. We’ve seen this behaviour from Clark in the past when the course of events did not justify it, when Lex was proved innocent. Later Lex and Clark both find themselves at the ‘scene of the crime’, Dr Hong’s suicide. Clark immediately suspects the worst of Lex: ‘why else would you be here?’ Lex argues that he is trying to remedy the situation, just as Clark is. It’s a believable argument, because Lex has often shown this sort of initiative in the past.

Lex plays his final card: an appeal to Clark to bring Victor to him. But Victor is trapped, not by Clark’s betrayal of him, but by going to Catherine. That’s a neat reflection on the fact that Clark’s own love interest is a weakness for him. Lex will exploit that in the future, for he has learned, in the most direct way possible that ‘the heart has a way of clouding one’s better judgement.’

When confronted, Lex claims that his intentions have been misconstrued. Clark replies that ‘that seems to happen a lot to you’. Oh what a bitter echo that is, since it is Clark who so often misconstrued Lex’s genuine intentions in the past.

Clouded judgement
The secondary plot this week centred on Martha and Lionel. In this plot we see another demonstration of how true Lex’s words on the heart clouding one’s judgement really are. Martha is exposed to an attempted blackmail scenario. Without Jonathan constantly building a wall between his family and the Luthors, Martha falters. Lionel appears in the doorway of the Kent kitchen, framed in light, but no less of a sinister character for that. He is polite and excessively obliging, and puts Martha on the spot when he suggests that it’s not seemly for her to be seen with him. The reverse psychology works: she replies ‘I’m not the sort of person who turns her back on her friends because of what people think.’ Martha’s warm heart leaves her open to Lionel’s manipulation.

Unlike with the Lex plotline, where the construction suggested that Lex was not the villain, the construction of the Lionel plot suggested from the start that Lionel was behind the blackmailing. We know he is capable of it and we know he gathers evidence about Clark. What a lovely twist was in store though! In the final scene we see that while Martha burns the evidence, Lionel pays off the blackmailer and obtains another copy of the video footage. He watches Clark saving Lana from the warehouse explosion and reveals ‘Your secret is safe with me … Kal-El.’

I admit I squeed with glee. Finally we have evidence of a far more direct connection between Jor-El and Lionel. In fact, it seems most likely that Jor-El is using Lionel’s body permanently. If so, fantastic! This puts a different spin on Lionel’s interest in the newly widowed Martha. He is aiming not to win her heart but to protect his son and he can best do this by staying close to the family. One father usurps the other’s position: does this mean we need to reinterpret Jonathan’s death? Did Jor-El/Lionel have a more deliberate hand in it than first appeared? Oh, what exciting possibilities!

Profound miracles
Lex also delivers another important message in Cyborg: “Some miracles have a price but that doesn’t make them any less profound.” In the context, this appears at first as simply the argument of a supervillain: he has created the ‘miracle’ of Victor at great expense. This parallels Lionel’s purchase of the blackmailer’s information (the secret of Clark’s true nature) at a high price. However, the truth of Lex’s statement also reverberates in deeper ways. This season’s arc has been about the price that Clark pays for his powers, the loss of Lana, the death of his father. The cost in human terms has been huge. There have been many ‘miracles’ this season, not least of which Clark’s idyllic proposal in Reckoning and Lex’s dreamscape in Lexmas. Each resulted in a huge emotional cost but represent moments of profound revelation.

Rumours of the death of clex have been greatly exaggerated
Last week latxcvi posted about having lost interest in the clex reading of Smallville. She pointed to the apparent indifference that Clark and Lex demonstrated towards each other, and to a large degree I agreed. I held out hope for its return though, since episodes like Splinter took the slash subtext to an extreme degree. So I was amused to find this week rife with clex-slash undertones. They don’t really need spelled out, right? Oh, hey, it’s fun…

I admit to enjoying Clark and Lex’s catty fighting in this episode. Clark walks in to find Lex in front of the fire (romance) but won’t be drawn into amicable conversation, despite all Lex’s prodding about the lack of ‘small talk’. Lex’s lip-suck when Clark left the room was very funny. He’s getting a kick out of the irony of the situation! And despite all Clark’s bravado, Lex’s words still touch him at some level, if the long stares are anything to go by! ;-)

Lex and Lana have been strongly paralleled this season, and this continued in Cyborg. Lana confronts Clark about hiding his feelings and Lex says that he knows Clark is angry. Clark himself is distant with both of them. He acknowledges neither of them. Though the talk of glory days reminds us of the time when he held hope for happiness in his relationships with each of them. That time has passed but the echoes are strong. However Clark can’t state the truth and have it accepted by either of them. His declaration of love to Lana sounds hollow, just as any words to bridge the gap with Lex would. I don’t believe Clark wants to bridge the gap there, but I do think he’s hiding how much it tears at him.

Um… and did I mention the fact that Lex created a (very attractive) cyborg with Clark’s strength and speed!? Oh, Lex--you and your toys!
 
 
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
 
 
 
Lola L.: lex drinking scotchlola_thursday on February 17th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I didn't enjoy this episode much while watching it--I was upset about the representation of Lex. But your analysis has pretty much convinced me that my reaction was more emotional than rational. Because you're right--it is compelling development for Lex, and the potential of Jor-El being Lionel is really impressive. If they really have gone for that, then SV has done us proud.

Anyway, thank you for this analysis, because I think you at least partially salvaged an episode that I was going to give up for lost.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex mischiefbop_radar on February 17th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
Hee! Then my work here is done...
Personally I get a kick out of villain!Lex. And hey, not every ep's a winner for everyone. But I'm glad you were interested enough to read my thoughts. Thanks for the comment!
(no subject) - lola_thursday on February 17th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on February 17th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - lola_thursday on February 18th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kate: Clark - You want to do WHAT?mskatej on February 17th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)
Obviously I haven't read this yet but this?

Rumours of the death of clex have been greatly exaggerated

Made me squeal with joy!! I can't wait to see this episode. I'm just DYING OF EXCITEMENT. *faints*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on February 17th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
Heee! Well I hope you get to see it soon, my dear. *bites back the spoilers*
tragicllyhiptragicllyhip on February 17th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
You know whats funny, It never occured to me that Lionel was paying off the blackmailer for the footage (I need to rewatch) I thought he hired the person to pose as the blackmailer, but your assumption makes more sense.
Again, brilliant analysis. And though I accepted long ago that Lex was the villain, it stung like hell when his baldness appeared at Victor's girlfriends house all smug. I realized if you remove the two scenes with Victor, we have the same scenario thats been played out in the past..Clark accusing and Lex proclaiming his innocence, and Clark not being right in the end...but what if Clark has been right all along.
Welcome to villainy Lex, its time you arrived:)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex mysterybop_radar on February 17th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
I went either way on the Lionel plot--at first I assumed he had paid the guy to pose as the blackmailer. Then I realised it wasn't necessarily clear either way. And ambiguity has been there in a lot of Lionel's actions this season: we have no idea of his motivation. It's so *frustrating*!! But a really great hook. I could be wrong! But that's my hunch. It's supported by the reversed reveals on Lex and Lionel: so typically Smallvillean to mirror everything light/shade.

Oh, yes, the villainy stings! Even though it also makes me squee with delight. SV is an emotional roller-coaster that way.

It's a fascinating structure: Clark projects hist distrust onto Lex for years, but in the end is proven right. Which came first? The seed of 'evil' or the distrust? The formation of a villain is very interesting.

I love the possiblities that villain!Lex raises--if he is making cyborgs, what else is he already doing?! Whee!
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(no subject) - tragicllyhip on February 17th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rumpuso on February 17th, 2006 04:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
rumpuso on February 17th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
I was supremely happy with last night's episode; especially after last week's travesty. This week I felt as if I was watching Superman vs. Evil Lex Luthor and it rocked. Clark was more definitive in his statements/actions/decisions and Lex was one kick ass villain. This show has truly stepped up in season 5 (with only one or two boo boo episodes). When Smallville is good, it's GREAT! (A little Tony the Tiger there for ya! lol). And thank you once again for the amazing review. So fast this week! My head is reeling! :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: MR joyousbop_radar on February 17th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
Yes! I was very happy with last night's ep too. It really had the feel of future identities--complete with the Metropolis opening and with the rooftop chase (Victor and Clark jumping off the roof was such a great shot!) And we've had so many hints that Lex is, by now, up to no good. I'm glad he really has kicked off villainy--on a pretty big scale with that lab! Wheee lab!
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex neckbop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)
Re: part I
Oh, your Clana theory sounds really interesting. I skimmed over my irritation with their continued dating this week. I've already grr-ed about it and I was enjoying this week's ep, so I put it out of my mind. However, in general, I am not happy about this trickling on dating each other thing--and yes, Lana's own irritation with it is annoying. I really wanted to see her break up with him. That would have been good Lana character development. But no.

how you (general 'you') treat people, even people you know are bad, is *still* a reflection of your own moral/ethical character
SO TRUE. And so you are right--Lex is right to call Clark on his behaviour. Which makes those scenes between them great. Because I think someone needs to be calling Clark on his pissy behaviour. He's a teeny bit more restrained now than at the start of the season, but he's still uncivil, and as you point out, this doesn't even do him any good in reaching his own objectives. A more subtle approach would be more successful.

I'm really interested to see Munich, which has just come out here. Even more so after your comment!
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:20 am (UTC)
Re: part II
Oh I *love* your reading of the line as a direct reference to the bridge meeting. I started thinking about all the ways that line could be used to reflect on different events and it sent my head spinning, but I didn't reach that, and it's obvious when you say it! Yes, in the big scale, it's so true that Lex must be thinking, at least occastionally, about what it would have been like if he'd never come to Smallville. It's beautiful that he says that line to Clark. Lex has always paid such a high price for his 'miracles'.

I told myself the trade-off of saying it out loud would be that the very next episode would be chock full of slashy Clark/Lex interactions
Hee! Yes. Always the way. I seriously thought of you and the ironical timing while I was watching.

Yes: I loved Lex putting Clark 'on notice' too. The writers are showing us that to some extent, we were blinded in the earlier seasons to just how unusual Lex's acceptance of Clarks antics was. That his tolerance continued for so long sustains a slashy reading.

But you are absolutely right that we are entering enemy-slash territory now. And if that's not your thing, then I can totally see why the Clex ship has sailed for you. I don't think it has for me. Enemies slash can be ok for me, if, and only if, it comes with a complex relationship. And Clex has that. For so long the Clex has had that tragic edge of knowing that they were going to become enemies. But that wasn't really real until now. Seeing them as enemies now is poignant because they were once friends. And in retrospect seeing them as enemies now, deepens the tragic undertones of the earlier seasons (and I'm a sucker for the tragic). The show reflects forward and back. I personally am going to enjoy the shift to 'enemies but with momentary echoes/shoutouts about how they were once friends'. One difficulty with Clex at this stage though, I think, is that we're much closer to comic canon. So it's harder to imagine the slash at this point in time (for me at least!). Even for me, it's either retrospective, or AU, if that makes sense.

(I think I should drink my morning coffee before replying to comments! It's quite possible that made no sense at all.)
amandajaneamandajane5 on February 17th, 2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
You're so smart!

I came into Smallville with very little sense of the comic book world surrounding Superman, and I thought Lex being actually evil was awesome. But then, I've always been a Clark fan, and it's his journey that I'm interested in and invested in, so I don't have the woobie!Lex mentality that I see around fandom a lot.

I really loved how much spark they had when they were arguing, too. So lovely!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Bop_radar TWbop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for the comment! It made me grin.
I too think evil!Lex is kind of great. And while I woobied the hell out of Lex for a while there, I didn't find it sustainably interesting. It's much more fun to see him move out of victim phase and try and kick some butt!

Let the sparks fly! *g*
blowjobs for jesus: crazy for youkristiinthedark on February 17th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
Yay! Your recap is already up! This is one my favorite parts of the week.

I love what you say about Lex being "the villain of the story" this week, and how Clark responds to that. One of these things I've always thought about Clark and Lex's relationship on SV is that they are such a catalyst to each other's future. I think that in this world, Clark's reactions to Lex's behavior (be they right or wrong) ends up pushing Lex into being evil. And Lex's evilness pushes Clark into being Superman. So I thought this ep was a serious lean in that coming to fruition.

And yes! The Clex was in full force. Touching! *squees*
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex lovebop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:26 am (UTC)
Yes! Touching there was. Wheeee!! I forgot that bit. Interestingly it wasn't one of their classic 'touches': not a hug, not a punch and not the upper-arm grasp. Any of those would have been too intimate for that moment. The upper-arm grasp in particular has only ever been used when Lex is trying to connect on an honest level with someone. But I like this use of other touches. ;)

Yes. I think what I enjoyed most about this episode was the jump into future identities. You are right that they respond to each other--Clark will be even more valliant in his attempts to save people from Lex after this, and Lex will be even more keen to have his plans succeed next time. They are defined in opposition to each other. Good comment.
(no subject) - kristiinthedark on February 18th, 2006 01:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 03:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 11:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on February 17th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
Victor asks Clark if he thinks his girlfriend will accept him now that he is super-human (or part ‘bionic’). Clark replies ‘I’m not the best person to be asking about that.’ I loved this wry self-aware comment from Clark....Instead, it is Lana not Clark who allows Victor to realise his romantic ‘destiny’....But Victor is trapped, not by Clark’s betrayal of him, but by going to Catherine. That’s a neat reflection on the fact that Clark’s own love interest is a weakness for him.

Although I do think they are dragging the Clark/Lana breakup on for way too long, I did like these parallels a lot, too. I did wonder, though, if Victor being captured because of his desire to reunite with Catherine wasn't just a lesson for Clark but also for *Lana*. It's true that she couldn't have stopped Victor from leaving--but by encouraging him to go after Catherine earlier she was actually encouraging him to put himself--and Catherine--in danger, and I think this was a foreseeable trap. And although Victor and Catherine seemed to have a happy ending, did they really? Lex clearly knows Catherine can be used to get to Victor, so that reunion was *really* ill-advised on Lana's part.

We’ve finally reached a place where Lex is shown to be lying outright to Clark. What’s wonderful about the construction of this plot, is that Lex still appears as the victim of Clark’s assumptions to begin with, as he is eager to point out. He calls Clark on his abrupt entry, impolite behaviour and presumptuous allegations. We’ve seen this behaviour from Clark in the past when the course of events did not justify it, when Lex was proved innocent.

Yes, I loved how they played with our expectations in this episode, both with Lex and with Lionel, as you pointed out. I was *completely* fooled by Lex.

Lex also delivers another important message in Cyborg: “Some miracles have a price but that doesn’t make them any less profound.” I had the same thought that latxcvi says above, that the miracle with the biggest price was Clark saving Lex (which he actually referred to as a miracle in that episode where he brought the Sharks to Smallville so Whitney could play them). But I like the parallels you raised about the other miracles this season.

Um… and did I mention the fact that Lex created a (very attractive) cyborg with Clark’s strength and speed!? Oh, Lex--you and your toys!

Yeah, I commented in [Bad username: khohen1"]'s journal that there clearly was a deleted scene right after the scene with Lex and Victor in the lab where Lex was having sex with Victor and saying how much he wanted to be doing this to Clark!
Nora Norwichnorwich36 on February 17th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
Bad username above is kho
(no subject) - bop_radar on February 18th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
sail_sail_ on February 20th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
Joking aside, he worked really well as this week’s reflection of Clark. The parallels were neatly drawn: superhuman strength, football player, milk drinker (cute!), physically perfect, good-natured and courteous. It’s unsurprising that Clark identified so strongly with him.
It’s also unsurprising that Lex found Viktor to be a nice material from which to create himself a mechanical replacement Clark. He planned to have a robotic fucktoy, brainwashed and free from all asshattish tendencies, thank you.

Lex will exploit that in the future, for he has learned, in the most direct way possible that ‘the heart has a way of clouding one’s better judgement.’
Lex is really bitter at Clark now, isn’t he? Being the spurned lover and all…

Finally we have evidence of a far more direct connection between Jor-El and Lionel. In fact, it seems most likely that Jor-El is using Lionel’s body permanently. If so, fantastic! This puts a different spin on Lionel’s interest in the newly widowed Martha. He is aiming not to win her heart but to protect his son and he can best do this by staying close to the family. One father usurps the other’s position: does this mean we need to reinterpret Jonathan’s death? Did Jor-El/Lionel have a more deliberate hand in it than first appeared? Oh, what exciting possibilities!
Exciting possibilities indeed! And I definitely think we have to reinterpret Jonathan’s death. Jor-el has been trying to get rid of Jonathan since early season 3. this is very juicy material. *bounces with excitement*

Um… and did I mention the fact that Lex created a (very attractive) cyborg with Clark’s strength and speed!? Oh, Lex--you and your toys!
Yes! This is exactly what I was thinking. Lex is preparing for a life completely without Clark, only he can’t let go, and needs a substitute. What did he say to Viktor? Something about taking the edge off his (Viktor’s) loneliness? Slashy indeed.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clex strollingbop_radar on February 20th, 2006 10:05 pm (UTC)
a robotic fucktoy, brainwashed and free from all asshatish tendencies, thank you
Heee. Yes. Exactly. He chose well! You can so see his thinking... It was very very slashy. It's very Lex to just create his own version when things don't go his way. He's all 'well Clark won't play with me, and I can never expect any better from him, but I can sure as hell make do on my own, thanks very much!' It's also a nice echo of Aqua, when he was all pissy about Clark's new 'boyfriend'! I guess he figured he'd get one of his own!

I'm glad someone else is excited about the Jor-El/Lionel connection. It's all so mysteriously convenient... I want more!! But the show will probably tease us with ambiguity for a while longer.