I love adult Clark. Ok, he’s not completely adult yet, but Season 5 has a Clark who is developing his human identity independently of his parents and I find that refreshing. I’m not going to focus on Jor-El here, because I think others on LJ have already written well about this. However, I will just mention that I do think it’s significant that while Jonathan no longer has much power over his son (Clark is a stone wall in the face of Jonathan’s anger at seeing him sleep with Lana), Jor-El exercises omnipotence.
When confronted by his parents about sleeping with Lana, Clark defends himself in a new way. First of all, he reminds them of his newly adult status: ‘Just remember! I am 18.’ In response, Jonathan pulls the classic ‘you’re still under my roof’ routine. The Kents have discussed sex with Clark before, in Heat, but then, although Clark was awkward, he was also voluntarily turning to them to help him in his development. In this scene, we see from the face he pulls when Martha asks him if he’d been ‘at least safe’, that he no longer thinks this is an area his parents should be asking about. It’s a different type of embarrassment, focussing not on the sexual act itself, but on having to discuss it with his parents. With Jonathan, he also takes a more adult tack, throwing ‘like you didn’t do it’ at him, and thereby winning the exchange to Jonathan’s frustration. Clark is increasingly confident about drawing his boundaries with his parents.
The demonstration of classic teenage development continues in this episode. The Kents are displaced from being the primary figures in Clark’s life. They even learn of Clark’s death at one remove, through seeing Lana’s grief. And when their son returns to them, he is a silent, stone-faced figure who confides no details of his conversation with Jor-El.
Certainly entering his first adult relationship with Lana is one of the major causes of this evolution in the family dynamic. However, it’s not the only cause: Clark has another confidant now, in Chloe, and he chooses to confide more in her than the Kents. I personally applaud this writing, as it captures eloquently that Clark is a normal teenager who, despite all the restrictions placed on him and the love lavished on him, would rather confide in a close friend than his parents. Chloe offers him a different sort of support and it’s one that the adult Clark needs.
Notes on Clark’s sexuality
Clark thinks his parents haven’t talked to him about having sex ‘because you guys always think I’m not normal.’ He resents this. I’m always intrigued by the way Clark’s sexuality is portrayed on the show, because the affect his Kryptonian part plays on his sexuality is ambiguous. There were some interesting new hints in this episode. Clark himself seems to assert that he is ‘normal’, not just now, but in the past. The implication in Clark’s comment is that he thinks his parents thought he wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) have sex.
I can see why the Kents would have been confident when Clark had powers that he wouldn’t be sexually intimate with anyone, but why did they not confront the possibility when he lost the powers and started dating Lana? Martha says ‘no, it’s just because you’re so much more vulnerable now without your powers’. But for Clark, the powers themselves were not the barrier: the secrets were. I’m not convinced that sex for Superman is as easy (Kal never had sex – why?) but it’s interesting that Clark thinks it is, thinks it will be, or at least needs to assert to his parents that this is so.
Clark’s mishandling of human power
In ‘Mortal’ we saw Clark revel in his capabilities as a human. He was able to rescue his family, confront Lex and win Lana without powers. At first, in ‘Hidden’ Clark seems to be similarly capable: it’s him, not Chloe, who comes up with the idea of finding Gabriel by using Chloe as bait. But in the ensuing scene he tragically mishandles the situation, demonstrating that his faith in his abilities to handle conflict as a human is not justified.
In the confrontation with Gabriel, Clark acts as if he still has his powers. He directly challenges Gabriel, asking him which of the silos the missile is in. Gabriel thus learns, at one remove, that Chloe has betrayed him. Chloe herself does not get a chance to reason with him, even though this would potentially have been their strongest card. Instead, Clark has already angered a dangerous opponent. He then twists the knife in further with ‘Whatever your reasons for doing this, killing everyone is not the answer’ That’s a superman line if ever I heard one: it assumes that Gabriel’s moral compass is the same as Clark’s, it assumes that Gabriel will listen to ‘reason’, and it assumes that Clark will ultimately win the battle and can therefore afford to belittle and lecture his opponent. Of course it doesn’t work with Gabriel, because killing everyone is exactly the answer he wants.
This argument of Clark’s in fact escalates Gabriel’s conviction to the point where he instantly shoots him. Clark has moved within dangerous range without checking who he is up against, assuming himself to be the more powerful figure. Gabriel shoots and Clark pays the ultimate price for his naïve misunderstanding of human conflict.
Lana and fear
Lana is a character driven and haunted by fears, most prominently fears of death, loss and secrets. She confronts these in Hidden with courage and conviction, and ultimately with no-one there to support her who is not intimately linked to the fears themselves. For this reason, I feel that Lana deserves our respect and she’s won mine.
In Lana’s first scene in Hidden, she is caught sneaking out of the Kent house. Lana wants to be accepted by the Kents, so for her to step forward and accept mutual responsibility for their actions is brave. I’m glad she didn’t sneak out the window and I was glad that Clark had found a girlfriend who would stand by his side and not leave until he signalled to her to do so.
Lana’s relationship with Clark has, no doubt, bolstered her courage. We see that she will fight for him when she returns home and finds Lex at her apartment. Although Lex deliberately plays on her fear that she is not able to share the darkest parts of herself with Clark, she gives him no ground and makes him leave.
Of course, the ultimate and most important test of Lana’s courage comes when Clark is shot and she faces her greatest fear: that he will die. We have seen before that Lana hates to be around sick people: she avoids hospitals and it was Chloe not Lana who sat with Clark the last time he was sick. This time though, Lana’s love for Clark gives her the strength to be there, yet it results in her living through her worst nightmare.
It is a nightmare that proves to her that intimacy results in loss. Lana says ‘All those times I pulled away, it’s because I knew this day would come’. Clark looks at her from the pillow (an echo of the opening scene in which they woke up beside one another) and then dies. The link between sexual intimacy and loss is made so strongly here that I would not have been unconvinced by a full mental breakdown on Lana’s part. Her worst fears have come to pass. Even the nurse telling her ‘you’re not supposed to be in here’ would haunt Lana.
But Lana has yet more fears to confront: Clark disappears and in seeing the empty hospital bed and then his return at the Clark house, battered but intact, Lana comes as close to seeing proof of his alienness as she did on the day of the tornados. In her final scene, we see Lana defend Clark’s normality to Lex. ‘Do you really believe that or is that what you have to tell yourself to stay in a relationship with him?’ Lex asks her calmly. She has no reply, but she leaves. She has done everything she can to protect both herself and her boyfriend from Lex on the day that has thrown more obstacles in the path of their love than any other.
Lana has earned her hero stripes, but there is only more loss ahead of her.
I also have a lot I want to write about Chloe, but I'm going to make that a separate entry.