Wow! Everyone was so on form tonight! MR rocked, Tom was amazing, Kristin was stonily perfect, the cinematography was gorgeous, the premise was out of fanfic, even the guest actress was powerful... I'm blown away!
I loved so much about Tom's and Michael's performances in particular. I love the way you can see Lex thinking in Michael's facial expressions. His reaction to seeing Clark bleed was perfect--the surprise was evident, not just the shock of seeing someone else injured--more than that. And only Michael could deliver the line 'the answer must have gotten lost in the dark abyss we call my soul' and make it NOT laughable. Tom was also amazing--he plays sick, woobie and tortured so well. I felt his pain in the tunnels and was wincing at the shrapnel, the rubble, the green K. I particularly loved his tortured speech to Lex where he mentions seeing Lana on the day of their wedding--he had that edgy slightly out of control feel to him, reminiscent of Splinter.
And OH MY GOD the hot! Lex pulling the shrapnel out of Clark? Lex ranting at him while tying a bandage round his arm?! GUH! *dies of hot*
And within minutes of them being stuck in a tunnel together, these two are having it out about their biggest issues. The chisel! Circa Season 2, Lex would have built a cone of bitter but reverent silence around such a piece of concrete proof of Clark's incredible abilities. He would have hinted, tried to get Clark to open up--but he would never have just thrown mention of it casually out there. I LOVE that he does so in this episode. He's happy to admit that he knows quite well that there's something 'special' about Clark Kent. He's just angry as hell that Clark didn't trust him enough to tell him. Lex owning that rage, instead of just snarkily fishing for a response from Clark, feels like a new stage for them.
And could there be anything more beautiful than the scene of Lana touching Clark's (healing) wounds, watched, through the dust by Lex? Eeeep! The WOOBIE! And the way her hand lingered on his chest, saying 'I must go to my husband, but...' And then Lex looking at Clark as he hugs Lana, the pain evident, despite the steely gaze and the little twitch of an 'I won' smile. How Tom managed to pull off furrowed brow, teary eyes AND flaring-nostrils-of-anger all at once, I have no idea, but it was magnificent.
The heart sometimes lies
This was an episode with a fanfic-premise plot: Clark and Lex trapped in a tunnel together. Who could believe it?! :-) I realise everyone's probably been spoiled for this ep for ages, but I was squeeing at seeing all the cliches--right down to the meteor rocks in the walls that conveniently rob Clark of his powers.
Wes Keenan's wife played an interesting role. It was incredibly obvious that what she had to say about love (and death) was meant to reflect on the main characters--particularly Lex. She says she knew that her husband was still alive. Smallville supports the idea of a connection between lovers, though Lex insists that 'the heart lies'. The end of the episode proves Ms Keenan right and Lex wrong, as her husband was still alive (though possibly only in some strangely evolved form). In similar fashion, Lex may tell himself that the heart lies, but he's still prey to his own heart.
Lex's own marriage stands in stark contrast to the picture Ms Keenan paints of connection between lovers. Lana appears willing to let Lex die--it is Clark she wants to protect. The analogy works far better for Clark and Lex who are unwilling to turn their backs on each other in this episode.
Ms Keenan also says 'When you love someone, really someone, you know when you've lost them'. That line works on multiple levels. Does Lex know that he's 'lost' Lana? It doesn't seem so--he knows she's conflicted but he still thinks he's won. Clark, on the other hand, does know that he's 'lost' Lex and is confronting whether or not it is his fault.
As for 'Haven't you ever done anything crazy for love?' Oh, what a question to ask Lex Luthor! Let us count the ways...
Ms Keenan has an accusatory tone when she says 'when you meet someone that can pull you out of the trenches, you don't just give up on them'. The analogy to Clark and Lex in this episode is incredibly obvious--not only are they literally pulling each other out from under rubble, they have already metaphorically done so for each other multiple times in the past. They have saved each other and protected each other, even when they're fighting. Lex replies that 'it's not that easy'. But maybe it is... that easy. And that hard.
Last week I squeed over seeing Clark hesitate before saving Lex from Chloe's bullet. At this point in time I am glad that Clark is hero enough to think about that--to consider it--and to still make the choice to save him. I'm happy to see him make that choice, but of course it is also chilling to see him hesitate. In 'Nemesis', Lionel provides Clark with a lot of reasons for going into the tunnels after Lex--no-one else can find him; Lex may really die; Lex has set something in motion that only he can stop. Clark absorbs all of these, but in discussion with Chloe it's the fact that Lex may really die that he mentions as his primary reason for going in. While Chloe's comfortable admitting she'd see Lex dead, Clark can't face that--and he doesn't even fully repeat Lionel's threat that Lex has set something in motion--he just says that there may be proof about Luthorcorp in there. It's good to know that Clark is now more interested in justice than vengeance-by-default. And above that, interested in saving lives. We truly saw the hero in Clark Kent in this episode.
It's part of the heroic journey to recognise and take responsibility for one's mistakes. This has been a key part of Clark's development in Season 6. But until now Clark has averted his eyes from one particular area of his past--Lex. In the tunnels, Lex accuses Clark of never trusting him and Clark replies 'would it have mattered?' That's a question every SV fan has to ask themselves--if Clark had confided in Lex, would it have changed their history? But what's new in this episode is that we see Clark ask himself that question. Not just fling it out in an accusing tone to Lex, but really deeply reflect upon it later.
Clark questions the very existence of their friendship: 'were we ever really friends?' Lex's reply is not comforting, though he does call Clark his only real friend. The question mark is very firmly placed over Clark's feelings. However, Clark's reflection later in the barn--saying he saw 'his friend' again--leaves us with no doubt that Clark did see Lex this way. Of course he did--that's why everything about Lex hurts so much.
Smallville's barn scenes are famous--especially those between Clark and Lex, and I've discussed before the evolution of these over the years from the shining light that they bathed in in early seasons (all that promise of the 'friendship of legend') through the lengthening shadows and into the dark, dark scenes of 'Bound' and 'Trespass'. This scene did not have Lex in it, but it felt like a continuation of those scenes. Clark confides in Martha in Lex's absence and reflects openly on his friendship with Clark. He stands in total shadow as he does so. The lighting on this show is so deliberate. That shot construction alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
The following conversation between Martha and Clark perfectly reflects the sense of absolute darkness surrounding the idea of friendship with one's nemesis. Clark openly parallels Martha's friendship with Lionel with his friendship with Lex (*coughs* yeah, and neither of them are sexual at all! *coughs*) Martha offers no real hope, no light at the end of the tunnel for Clark--she says noone can change who they really are. But the point is that despite that, a relationship remains between them. She remains present in her connection to Lionel, just as Clark is still as connected to Lex as ever.
It's Lex's return to dig Clark out of the rubble that prompts this introspection in Clark. He says that he saw 'his friend' in that moment. I thought this was an incredibly moving way to bring Clark to this point, a way that works perfectly in Smallville psychology, where someone saving your life brings a special connection. Personally I was not at all surprised that Lex returned to dig Clark out, because we know that killing Clark is not what Lex wants--at least not what he really wants, just as killing Lex is not what Clark really wants. Even if both of them toy with that impulse on occasion. But it shows just how far Clark has grown that he's able to ask 'what if part of who Lex is is because of me?' This is momentous! I'm sure many other fans felt as I did at that moment--if only Clark could have considered this earlier, considered his impact on Lex? But the tragedy is that he was a child. He is only now reaching emotional maturity and he has grown so much that he's able to look this darkest of horrors in the face: the loss of his friendship with Lex and Lex's descent into darkness. The two are connected, but which came first? And Clark's growth into a hero is connected as well. Smallville's fate is absolute and unavoidable.
Lex and ambition
'Nothing's ever enough for you' Clark says. And he is right. Lex's drive used to be (or seemed to be) purely about getting proof about Clark but it has evolved into so many other things: the desire for power, the desire for unconditional love, the desire for wealth, the desire for absolute loyalty, the desire to be trusted. Lex is playing to win. But will he know when he's won? He's already 'won' Lana. He said it was what he wanted more than anything: to have Clark there on his wedding day to see what he'd lost. And he got that. But we know now that he had other schemes in place too--plans which won't come into fruition until later. He's setting up conflict with Clark at multiple levels, and they'll keep getting bigger and bigger in scale.
I can't believe we're in Season 6 and Lionel is still pulling strings and manipulating everyone--even his own son. It was exciting to see him reveal some of his hand in Promise, but we've obviously got more layers to unpick. In Nemesis we saw a Lionel who played each person perfectly--telling Clark that Lex has set something dangerous in motion, telling Lana that he's protecting Clark. Without that added threat, the Clark that hesitated before saving Lex from a bullet might have been inclined to leave Lex to find his own way out of the tunnels.
So what is Lionel's endgame? I have a hunch that Lionel may be telling the 'truth' when he says that he is (still) protecting Clark. And as I think there's still more to the pregnancy that we've heard, I'd love it if Lionel actually had had more of a hand in that. The question to ask about Lionel's protection of Clark, if it's 'true', is to what degree it is self-serving. Is he still being influenced by Jor-El in some way? Or is he playing his own chess game with Lex? He may genuinely be trying to protect Clark from the consequences of Lex's 33.1 experiments, but he's also still playing the Luthorian game of manipulating his son's intimate affairs.
Lana playing to win
I love this new determined, dark Lana! She's becoming a master manipulator: she milks the doctor's sympathy to get time alone with Lionel; she threatens and tortures him; she insists on a warrant from the policeman; she masks the sound of the gunshot (to open the briefcase) with classical music... She knows all the villain tricks! She's got the confidence and the determination--it's brilliant! She may have just been made the ultimate victim, but she's going after her own goals with more initiative than ever before.
It was a very nicely played scene between Lana and Chloe as well, with Chloe having to admit that Clark has a weakness in order to convince Lana that Clark was genuinely in danger. I really liked it that Lana was the one to get to the blueprints, not Chloe. And those two were totally playing the Lex and Clark roles in that scene--Chloe all morally outraged that she'd kept the blueprints to herself and Lana all steely and determined ('I thought you said there wasn't much time'--doesn't that sound like a Lex line if ever you've heard one?).
Lionel recognises this shift in Lana--she has become a real 'Luthor', willing to blackmail Lionel by using his own soft spot (Martha). And it's strange to say, but I get the sense that she may 'best' Lex at an emotional level. He's vulnerable where she is concerned--I think he's sincere in saying he does trust her. I think he believes he has a handle on the degree to which she spies on him and lies to him. But he doesn't know that she knows the pregnancy was faked. She lies to him with confidence about that--and she does so in such a Lexian way--using her own anxieties about the baby to cover the full truth. Lex seems to really respond to this, and in their embrace, it is Lana who the camera lingers on--as the chilly 'villain'.
Oh, the melodrama!
When it's on form, Smallville delivers a very special kind of crack humour. The over-the-top-camp melodramatically juxtaposed image and text. Some examples from tonight's episode:
- the crackle of welding sparks behind the zoom in close-up on Lex following Lionel's 'and what area will be host to Project Aries' (da-DUM! for a moment I thought they were purely for added melodrama--but no! there was an actual RANDOM WELDER--ok, kidnapper-to-be--in the tunnels! *lolz*)
- The little vignette film of the Zoners (remember them?!) was like a mini b-grade slasher flick. Hilarious!
- But the piece de resistance had to be Lex saying 'somewhere along the line you turned your back on me' as HE turned his back on Clark, only to have an enormous pile of rubble fall on Clark. HAHAHAHA! Is this the lesson Smallville holds for us? Don't turn your back on someone, kids--or a big pile of rubble will fall on them. So to speak. ;-) Lex should have known better--he'd already turned his back on Lionel only to have the rubble fall on him. Hee!
Finally--Project Aries! Great name! And hellllooo Helo (from Battlestar Galactica)! I killed myself laughing because Tahmoh must find it very funny that he's now played TWO guys who get experimented on by Lex. He played Vince in Resurrection, right?! So funny. Clearly the SV casting agents feel Tahmoh's Lex's 'type'. Those little silver shorts?! GOLD! :-)