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21 May 2006 @ 03:25 pm
Smallville 5.21 Oracle  
Old habits die hard... even when you've been on holiday!

A brief note on Smallville 5.20 Fade
I watched Fade at mskatej's place over a period of around 3 hours, I believe… I kept sneakily pressing the space bar to pause it, mystifying Kate with my magic ability to freeze frame the 'OMG!' moments (I fessed up eventually). But the excitement of fangirling in person got the better of us, and our analysis of Fade not only exhausted toadstoolsmiles so much she fell asleep and infuriated Kate's flatmate so much he had to come down and tell us off for squealing, but also sequed unexpectedly into an impassioned Buffyverse conversation. Subsequently, Fade has somewhat, er, faded from my memory. I remember finding it very slashy and finding that week's freak almost too obvious as a Lex substitute. I also squeed a lot about the Lexana, and Lex's manipulation of Lana, but if you want anything more thorough out of me on this ep, you'll have to poke me to watch it again, as I've forgotten most of the details.

Now on to Oracle...

Truth and memory
Since Reckoning, we have seen the ways in which Clark has memorialised Jonathan as a sort of talisman of goodness. Whether through an object (his watch), a photograph or video, or simply the ways in which Clark describes his father, it's become clear that Clark carries with him a memory of Jonathan as the man who 'made him who he is' and who stands for 'truth' and 'justice' and (ironically) restrained action. Ironically, since Jonathan had an angry hothead quality in real life, that at times endangered his son (eg his aggressive mishandling of Nixon). To me, there is a clear, if understandable gap between the 'real' Jonathan, and the one that Clark holds in his memory.

So when Jonathan 'showed up' in this episode, encouraging Clark to murder Lionel, I was clued on to it being Fine, not so much because this was out of character for the real Jonathan, but because it was out of character for Clark's idealised memory of him. Having said that, there was also something very cold and artificial about Fine-as-Jonathan, particularly in the Martha scene, which was unlike the real warm, if fiery, Jonathan we knew. I believe Jonathan would have been capable of killing Lionel in a rage, if given sufficient provocation. But to stand by and coldly and calculatingly manipulate his son into doing so was out of character.

Of course, the framing of Jonathan's visitations in this episode, compared to those in Void was also a clue-off that this was a different experience, despite Clark's conviction that the two experiences were both 'real'. Whereas in Void we saw Jonathan surrounded by rays of light and in his traditional space (the barn), in Oracle he appeared in a graveyard, seated in the living room (unusual--Jonathan was so often on his feet) and always in heavy shadow.

I should mention that I don't disapprove of Clark's idealisation of Jonathan--Smallville has established that the memory of absent parents can be good influences or negative ones depending on the individual character in question. Clark needs to remember his father as a good man, in order to model his own behaviour on an ideal, rather than a tarnished reality.

In bed with the devil
I giggled through the Lex-Lionel confrontation about Fine. Lex's raised-eyebrow retorts to Lionel's sensationalism of their relationship was very amusing. The 'not knowing who you're in bed with' exchange was particularly enjoyable. However, I was relieved to discover later in the episode that Lex was not being quite as duped by Fine as initially implied. I'm not even going to get started about the implausible vaccine, because it served its purpose in the end, so I'll forgive the plot-writers (just) on that score. Let's just say that if I had been Lana, I'd have had a few more questions than she had…

Far more implausible to me was the need for Chloe to scan Lionel's scribbles into a computer before Clark could read them. Huh?! This was one of the most ridiculous ways of writing Chloe into the plot that I've seen yet, and it's getting kind of tired… Chloe-as-extension-of-Clark is bugging me. Although I did find her 'hand me a cloak and call me Horatio' line cute.

Betrayal and redrawn alliances
Chloe's betrayal of Lana continued in this episode. Finally we are seeing the negative consequences for the unusual situation of 'shared space' that was set up this season with Chloe and Lana sharing a room. It allowed Clark easy access to rummaging in Lana's things, with the excuse that he was looking out for her as well. Inevitably, Clark got caught redhanded, and I'm very glad he did. I just wonder whether Lana will ever call Chloe on her role in the information-leaking. Perhaps not, although it's also a nice reverse of Lana's invasion of Chloe's space way-back-when in second season when she found the deleted prom photos on Chloe's computer.

The Lois-Lana friendship may have surprised some people (I'm guessing), but I found it a convincing and interesting plot development. Lana, sans Clark, is a far more interesting character. She's liberated in more than one sense, and I think this is demonstrated in her being more open to a friendship with Lois. In defending Lois to Lex, she is one of the few people to see past Lois's abrasiveness to her underlying good intentions. Of course it was threatening to Lex--apart from distrusting Lois herself, Lex has a vested interest in limiting Lana's interactions with people outside his sphere, if he's to draw her thoroughly into his life.

From a purely slashy point of view, I loved Kristin's delivery on the line 'You're annoyed that I'm involved in it, or that I'm involved in it with Lex?' Yes, is it really about Lana, Clark? Lana's pissiness that the tension is not really about her continued with her request for a 'moratorium on the Clark subject' with Lex. Just how much of their time do they spend talking about Clark? Clark's shadow is cast over their entire relationship, not just because of the timing and circumstances, but also because they are both out to prove just how different from Clark they are--truthful, open, trusting, loving--ah, Lex, you played her so well with that 'confidential' folder!

Surprises
There were a lot of 'surprises' in this episode, starting with the surprise birthday party. Most of them were less of a surprise on second glance. For example, Lois's rum cake was a lovely symbol of both her loyalty and good intentions, and her clumsiness with 'normal' human (family) life. Likewise, Jonathan's present to Clark said a lot more about him than it did about Clark. As Martha pointed out, Jonathan would have liked nothing better than to watch the baseball with his son. So this present was more for Jonathan than for Clark, and the fact that Clark 'returned' them, served to highlight this fact. Yet Clark was completely comfortable with the idea that a present from Jonathan was him saying that he admired and loved his son more than anyone else and enjoyed his company.

The uncovery of Fine's manipulation was another non-surprise; however, what was truly hidden from the audience at this stage was how much this episode foreshadowed the events to occur in Vessel. Hooray!
 
 
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Nora Norwich: Lionel deceptionnorwich36 on May 21st, 2006 06:44 am (UTC)
Chloe's betrayal of Lana continued in this episode. Finally we are seeing the negative consequences for the unusual situation of 'shared space' that was set up this season with Chloe and Lana sharing a room. It allowed Clark easy access to rummaging in Lana's things, with the excuse that he was looking out for her as well. Inevitably, Clark got caught redhanded, and I'm very glad he did. I just wonder whether Lana will ever call Chloe on her role in the information-leaking. Perhaps not, although it's also a nice reverse of Lana's invasion of Chloe's space way-back-when in second season when she found the deleted prom photos on Chloe's computer.


I have to say that most people were angry with Lana for not trusting Clark that Clark had Lex's best intentions in mind. I myself agreed with you that it was a big violation of privacy--I actually got into several arguments about this. (I've been defending Lana all over the place lately, not because I necessarily think her behavior is laudable in the last 2 episodes, but because I really think it's understandable, given where she is vis-a-vis Clark, and now Chloe.

I like what you had to say about Jonathan Kent in Clark's idealized memory v. Jonathan Kent in "Oracle." One of the things that struck me a lot about this episode is what an *amazing* manipulator Fine is. Not only did he almost get Clark to kill Lionel, he was also an excellent manipulator of Martha.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex and his crazy fangirlbop_radar on May 21st, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)
Oh I definitely think it was a violation of privacy. He's her ex! And with the spatial politics of Smallville, he should have respected her space more. A direct approach to her would have been better. I found Lana's behaviour completely understandable and in character. She's cut off--both from Clark and from Chloe. Although she turned to Chloe briefly and expressed her fears about Lex, she knows Chloe can't give her unbiased support.

Yes, I was delighted that Fine proved to be a TRULY good manipulator--I feel that for once we weren't just told of a character's attribute and expected to believe in it, we were shown it fully demonstrated. He is a convincingly dangerous opponent. I loved the Martha scene! So creepy!
Nora Norwich: Lexana dreamynorwich36 on May 21st, 2006 06:58 am (UTC)
Of course it was threatening to Lex--apart from distrusting Lois herself, Lex has a vested interest in limiting Lana's interactions with people outside his sphere, if he's to draw her thoroughly into his life.

I didn't actually read Lex as being *threatened* so much as surprised by this, but it's been a while since I watched it. And Lois did have it in for him in a major way in the election. I think you're right, though, that Lex wants to draw Lana into his sphere--but she's also being pushed by circumstances to no longer find Clark or Chloe trustworthy. I assume they're setting up a friendship with Lois so that next season she will have an interlocutor who has not chosen sides in the Lex v. Clark battle they seem to be setting up for next season.

I have not, in any way, been refreshing my friends list all day to see if you have posted anything. Oh no.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex Fallen Virtuousbop_radar on May 21st, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
Hee. Awww... you are cute! Sorry to keep you waiting!

I should correct that--I don't think Lex felt threatened--it was pretty much water of a duck's back to him. But I do think it IS a possible threat to his control and manipulation of Lana. Of course, now things have taken a different turn, so it's less important, but I would have liked to have seen whether Lana would have been allowed to continue a friendship with Lois, had Lex and Lana been given longer together. As you say, it's an interesting door to leave open for next season. And yes, the lines are drawn pretty clearly for next season. Whee!
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Yay!bop_radar on May 22nd, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
Re: part I
Yes, yay to meta discussions!

I'm glad I'm not alone in being bugged by Chloe. I'm definitely not enjoying the Chloe-idealisation that seems to be going on within the show. I used to really enjoy Chloe as a character--as an interesting, intelligent girl, with human failings, but good intentions. Now, she seems rather holier-than-thou. Her pronouncements are always exactly what Clark needs to hear, always echo his own thoughts or help him confront his fears--and she's not held accountable for any of her less than noble actions. And yeah, I'm getting really sick of her just being a plot device. It feels so forced. I feel let down by her (lack of) development as an independent character. And Clark's over-reliance on her is also bugging me. Glad I'm not alone!

And I definitely agree that Lana is ill-suited to the role of Secret Keeper. She's too trusting of Chloe--leaving confidential documents in their shared room is, as you say, very short-sighted of her. And she's still emotionally vulnerable, though she'd like to think she isn't. I did find it fascinating to see how quickly she let things slip--I loved Lex's expression when she showed him the Green K. It was a real 'oh yeah? you found out how exactly?' look. I agree that this season has shown us that Clark made the right decision not to trust her.
(Deleted comment)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lois Daily Planetbop_radar on May 22nd, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)
Re: part II
Yeah, you're right--Lois is biased when it comes to Lex. However, I also think she's capable of putting aside her personal feelings to listen to someone. She should have fessed up, but said something like 'my prejudices are irrelevant--how are you feeling?' And I agree that Lana's savvy enough to hold certain information back, but also enjoy a good girl chat about things.

I had a slightly different interpretation of the scene with Clark--I read Lois as knowing more about the Lex situation than she let on to Clark, but feeling it wasn't appropriate for her to make any comment since Lana had shared that information confidentially. I also liked the way this conversation served the best interests of both Clark and Lana--Lois was being a good friend to both of them, and I couldn't help but compare her balancing of those conflicting interests, with Chloe's, which was far less successful. Lois ain't perfect, but she tries harder than Chloe to protect people's privacy.

I was interested in the Lex-Lana conversation about Lois because it made me really wonder if it might be a cause for conflict between them in the future. Lex has good reason to dislike and distrust Lois, and Lana has good cause to defend her friendship with Lois, especially if as you say, she exercises mature judgement in it. Lex supposedly supports Lana as an adult capable of making her own decisions, yet I think he'd be a very controlling boyfriend longterm, so I liked this little glimmer of discontent already from him.