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07 October 2006 @ 06:00 pm
Smallville 5.22/6.01 Vessel/Zod  

Since 'Zod' aired, I've been thinking about the way in which Zod's possession of Lex foreshadows future canon Lex, as Superman's opponent. Rewatching the double episode arc, this became even more apparent to me. We're encouraged to think about the parallels on a number of occasions.

Jor-El and Zod
We learn that Jor-El and Zod had a history together, and that while they became enemies, Zod retained a fascination/obsession with Jor-El, which extends to his son: 'You have your father's eyes.' In the struggle between old friends on Krypton, the future of that planet was at stake. Yet, Jor-El did not succeed in killing Zod once and for all. When Jor-El tells Clark he must kill Zod's vessel, he puts special emphasis on the words 'no matter who it may be'. The implication is that Jor-El may know that Clark is facing killing his Zod equivalent: Lex. What the audience knows is that he will face this again in the future, with his own world at stake, repeating history.

The scene in 'Vessel' between Clark and Lionel is also interesting, since Lionel is affected to some extent at least by his connection to Jor-El. Lionel says that the true test of a hero is knowing 'when the greater good will be served by an evil act'. Jor-El had referred to the Vessel as a 'sacrifice', and the challenge that is set up is for Clark to sacrifice his old friend for the sake of the world.

Zod/Lex
Before the portal for Zod is opened, Lex is prepared for him. During this period, Lex has super-strength and other Kryptonian powers, but in other ways he appears to remain 'himself'. It's as if he's been given a fast ride to the future--he has the power he covets and he consequently feels able to speak his true feelings to Clark, projecting his feelings onto Clark in the bitterest of terms. It's personal.

Once Zod takes possession of him, Lex appears to be completely subsumed. However, the parallel continues: this fight is personal for Zod--this is his final revenge on Jor-El. Zod needs a mate--he accepts Lex's choice of Lana, but reduces her to an object, a broodmare, and she's crucified by male desire in the horrible hand-penetration scene. This is the extreme end of the customary objectification of Lana within the Smallville universe. And Lex is complicit in that. Is this a hint than as he darkens, Lana will become more and more objectified for him? Merely a tool for procreation? I'm inclined to think so given the way parallelism has played out in SV before now.

Jor-El/Clark
Two people view Clark as near-identical to his father, though they have different personal images of Jor-El. Rayah adored Jor-El, and sees in Clark his most heroic aspects: she's blind to Clark's faults. Zod, however, sees Clark as 'an idealistic fool like your father': his reading of Jor-El is negatively skewed, and is his undoing. But Rayah's trust in Jor-El/Clark is just as damning, for she also dies. And the truth seems to be somewhere in between--Clark (and possibly Jor-El once too) has both positive and negative attributes. He may be idealistic and brave at times, but he also makes mistakes.

In the final conflict between Zod and Clark, we also get a glimpse of future canon Superman opposing Lex Luthor. Zod offers Clark a partnership, just as Alexander once offered him one. When this is rejected, Zod seeks to conquer Clark, yet it is their closeness that is his undoing. I feel this strongly foreshadows a future canon Lex who will try to capture, enslave and otherwise restrict Superman, but who's undoing will be his emotional obsession with Clark.


Coming out of the Vessel/Zod arc, both Clark and Lex experience, or at least appear to experience, guilt about the destruction wreaked on Metropolis. Clark works round the clock to rebuild the town physically and Lex pours money into it. But to what degree do either of them really need to feel guilt? Opinions on this will differ because of character sympathies. My personal view is that it's healthy for Clark to a certain extent in this instance because he never properly faced the degree to which he was responsible for the events in Season 5. However, I'm certainly not advocating that he wallow in guilt. But healthy responsibility-taking could move him forward as a character. Lex is more of a puzzle--he claims not to remember anything of what happened, in which case, how can he be held responsible? His actions seem more concerned with remedying his image in the eyes of others than true deeply felt guilt. And this is an indication that he's already quite far on the path to becoming capable of the type of duplicitous history-rewriting that Zod tried on Clark through Fine in Season 5.

I'd be very interested to hear what others think: to what degree did you feel the Zod arc prefigured future canon?
 
 
 
Becky: [SV] Lex is evil - happy shiny evilsadface on October 7th, 2006 08:52 am (UTC)
You are wise Boppy.

I am hoping that we will hear from assistant girl again, through flashback or oracle or annoying exposition from KryptoCriminals, I'd love to know more about where she fits in.

On the guilt money, I like to see it as a more human side of Lex, in the past we have see Lex deal with problems/relationships/whatever by doing the thing he knows best, buying presents and gifts. Personally if someone took over my body and tried to destroy the world, I'd feel terrible about it. Lex seems to be showing through his actions an almost blase attitude to the whole affair. Not that many people knew that Lex was responsible, and the ones that did are certainly not the people who would be impressed by his cash gift. I know that a good portion of the money was yes, to boost his public image, but I still like to think that he does feel terrible as any any normal person would.

*clings to Lex's humanity*

K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex villainbop_radar on October 7th, 2006 09:17 am (UTC)
I'd love to know more about where she fits in.
Me too! I'm glad someone else was so intrigued by her. I've seen lots of people say the Phantom Zone was boring--but it wasn't for me, largely because she was such a puzzle.

an almost blase attitude to the whole affair
Yeah, that's how I read it too, unfortunately. But it's interesting how fan opinions splinter: I've seen others say it makes no sense that he'd feel any guilt at this point in time. I'm kind of on the fence. Like you, I *want* to believe he feels real guilt (and I kind of bought it in his speech to Lana at the end of Zod), but I also fear that he may be a lot further down the track to Evol than it appears on the surface; if so, his lack of guilt makes sense.
random_seriousrandom_serious on October 7th, 2006 09:09 am (UTC)
I have only seen "Zod", but I think that yes, it was foreshadowing, for Lex, and for Clark and their relationship in the future. (In short: I agree with you, and you put the point beautifully.) But I think that his whole thing with Zod invadoing Lex gives Clark the excuse to further see Lex as an enemy (vs. Lana, who, when possessed may be the opponent, but never after the possession is over.)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Zodbop_radar on October 7th, 2006 09:19 am (UTC)
I think that his whole thing with Zod invadoing Lex gives Clark the excuse to further see Lex as an enemy (vs. Lana, who, when possessed may be the opponent, but never after the possession is over.
That's a great point. In the same way that Zod and Rya conflating Jor-El and Clark too much was damaging, Clark conflating Lex and Zod is also dangerous--it firms up the negative view of Lex he holds in his mind. Nice contrast with Lana who is able to separate out the experience. Though she may be endangering herself in another way--by being too trusting. It's hard to know how they'll play it exactly.
Cris: Lex - Zodduskwillow on October 7th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
When Jor-El tells Clark he must kill Zod's vessel, he puts special emphasis on the words 'no matter who it may be'. The implication is that Jor-El may know that Clark is facing killing his Zod equivalent: Lex.
*nods*
Exactly. That's how I saw it since Vessel.
And, Zod!Lex&Clark felt so much like future Supes&Luthor, it was such a joy to watch.
I think you made a very interesting point in your Zod recap - Lana tried to catch Zod off his guard, but he never was; it was Clark who managed to get close enough and fool Zod into believing him. Maybe it was Zod seeing Jor-El in Clark, maybe there were still parts of Lex in Zod, but the fact remains that Clex (as shown on the show) has a special bond and closeness, and nothing can change that, even when they are fighting each other. And that's how I expect them to be in the future too.
I must say, I do enjoy what they've done with The Rift so far on the show. :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: SV subtextbop_radar on October 7th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)
Clex (as shown on the show) has a special bond and closeness, and nothing can change that, even when they are fighting each other
Definitely! That's why that double layer works so well. Jor-El/Zod, it is implied, were that close--and now Clark/Lex are, and will always be.

And I'm also glad that someone else is a fan of what they've done with the Rift so far. So many people seem down on it... it baffles me--I don't really know what more the expected/wanted. To me, the show continues to emphasise the way Clark and Lex's destinies are intertwined, while working the tension between/with that.
Vicki: sandvossmyownghost on October 7th, 2006 02:12 pm (UTC)
>This is the extreme end of the customary objectification of Lana within the Smallville universe.

that's true, and i hadn't thought of it quite like that before. she's the object of desire always, and that's more important to the story than any actual agency on her part. chloe is overloaded with personality, and so lois seems. but lana? she's there to be looked at and wanted.

that's a minor point, sorry. i have nothing to add to what you've all said above about lex and clark and zod.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lana iconbop_radar on October 7th, 2006 11:58 pm (UTC)
he's the object of desire always, and that's more important to the story than any actual agency on her part. chloe is overloaded with personality, and so lois seems. but lana? she's there to be looked at and wanted
*nods* Yes. Once I had this breakthrough with Lana, it really helped me understand her a lot better. random_serious had a great post recently about the ways in which Lana is completely objectified on the show, and it is true, and feminist rage about that is completely understandable. However, i've moved past that initial reaction now, and I'm really fascinated by the ways in which Lana alternatively fights this or tries to use it to her own ends. Seeing her confront Lex about his secret footage of her was interesting in this way--because she was direct and angry about it, but will she end up staying? if she does is she implicated in accepting her objectification? It's a constant fascination for me... And we know she wants to be the viewer not the viewed--she took up photography for a while, she explored astronomy--looking through the telescope, rather than being looked at through it. Her destiny is tragic to me because she won't ever achieve this--she'll be eternally trapped in a prism-like existence. If you're interested, the Emily Dinsmore arc is a great metaphor for the ways Lana is trapped by others.

Sorry to spam you--but few people engage about Lana--I get excited! ;-)
Vicki: Bale as young lupinmyownghost on October 8th, 2006 12:07 am (UTC)
i'm glad to have spurred you to explain it fully! that's very interesting, especially in that you see her as trapped and tragic. i'll think about that and see how the insight influences the way i perceive her in the show and in fiction.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Kristinbop_radar on October 8th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
I defintely do see her that way. The first person to nudge me in that direction was duskwillow when I wrote a really embarrassingly off-the-mark essay on Lana being the perfect little pink princess. Since then I keep seeing ways in which the show indicates that Lana will never escape the fate of the traditionally objectified woman--to become a wife and mother and stay in a limited domestic sphere. Do you remember way back when Lana expressed her deepest desire to climb the windmill and see out of SV? Everyone laughed, me included. But I actually think that said something profound about her. She wants out--but she's trapped by both her own fear and her limited perspective (she can't imagine actually GETTING out yet). Then, of course, we revisited that windmill in Ageless, terrible ep though it was, and it exploded--coinciding with us seeing Lana as mother. I found that a profoundly chilling subtext on her destiny. (I'm not, btw, saying motherhood is chilling--just that Lana wants something more and isn't going to get it, and both men and motherhood will ultimately entrap her.)
tragicllyhiptragicllyhip on October 7th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
As always I love your insight, and I too noticed the parallel between Zod/Jor-el and Lex/Clark. Their relationships seem to be similar. And Zod destroyed Krypton quite literally, and Lex will attempt to destroy the world and reshape into his own vision in the future, but his obsession with Clark/Superman will remain and grow. I think both characters will be forever emotionally tied to each other, and this is shown in the SUperman and JLA animated series. I know Superman does not kill, but I'm not convinced that if the did, he'd kill Lex. Superman is shown to embrace any move toward redemption Lex may show, he is never willing to completely give up on him, and I think the same holds true for Smallville's Clark. Though right now until Clark fully reaches the maturity he needs to deal with Lex and their past, he needs to create an emotional distance, and I think Lex being with Lana forces him to do that. I do think Lex will grown to objectify Lana even more, I think him recording her without her knowledge is a glimpse of that. He said before inhabited by Zod but full of he bravado his powers allowed him to have, that he took the only thing from Clark that he could. So I think in that respect, it'll be interesting to see how Lexana plays out, and whether or not Lana truely only wanted to be objectified all along, to align herself with someone powerful as the only means to capture power for herself.
tragicllyhiptragicllyhip on October 7th, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC)
Oh and I wanted to add that I agree about Lex giving millions to help rebuild is definitely a nod to him saving face and his public duplicity in the future
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex villainbop_radar on October 8th, 2006 12:02 am (UTC)
Yeah, definitely! I think he's creeping very, very close to future canon self, and I wonder if we'll see him suddenly break out into that overtly at some stage this season. For now, it feels like a slow creep, one little nod at a time.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on October 8th, 2006 12:01 am (UTC)
Superman is shown to embrace any move toward redemption Lex may show, he is never willing to completely give up on him, and I think the same holds true for Smallville's Clark.
I agree. I'm always interested to hear about the JLA animated series and how it compares to the way the themes are treated on SV. One day, I'd love to get hold of it. So thanks for sharing your thoughts on that.

it'll be interesting to see how Lexana plays out, and whether or not Lana truely only wanted to be objectified all along, to align herself with someone powerful as the only means to capture power for herself
Definitely! I'm really interested to see how it plays.