Chloe has grown up a lot since the days when she had a helpless crush on Clark. In Hidden, she walks into the Kent kitchen to find Clark being dragged over the coals by his parents for having slept with Lana, Chloe’s closest female friend. Chloe handles herself with aplomb. Later in the episode Clark raises the fact that they have never talked about him dating Lana. Chloe quickly replies ‘We don’t need to: I’m a big girl now.’
It’s interesting to compare Chloe’s comment with Jonathan’s ‘There are some conversations we’ve never had, son, because I thought we didn’t need to…’ The Kent family have an unhealthy relationship with silence, and in this instance Jonathan had wrongly assumed that his son and he were in accord about what Clark’s behaviour should be. Chloe is not subject to these Kent behaviour-patterns. We know from experience that if she felt there was an unspoken problem between Clark and herself, she would raise the subject. The fact that she hasn’t is truly a sign that she doesn’t need to: she is finally over her crush.
In Season 5 we have seen how powerful Chloe can be. Her breaking and entering skills are confronting in their professionalism. In Hidden, she frees herself herself from her bonds, attacks her kidnapper and attempts to override the bomb system. Then Chloe becomes the second human in the episode to have Gabriel point a gun at them. Unlike Clark, she does not underestimate her opponent and moves quickly to disarm him. She is untrained, so she is not wholly successful, but she does manage to turn the gun away from her. Chloe is not a superhero and her human responses end in very human tragedy: the gun fires and Gabriel dies.
(It’s interesting to think about what this episode says about guns and assault: if you are naïve, you get killed yourself; but if you are more streetwise, you may end up being the one responsible for death.)
Despite how confronting Gabriel’s death must have been for Chloe, she is also able to be an emotional support at the end of the day for her friend Clark. Unwilling to open up to his parents, Clark has withdrawn to his private space in the barn’s loft. It is unclear how much he has discussed with Lana, but as the conversation with Chloe unfolds, we learn that Clark is still keeping Lana at a certain emotional distance. To Chloe, not Lana, Clark reveals the smooth skin beneath the bandage on his chest. This beautiful and rare intimate act from Clark is rewarded with a typically perceptive comment from Chloe: ‘unscathed on the surface’, she says. Rather than simply marvelling at Clark’s healing ability, Chloe is already thinking about the deeper implications: Clark may heal physically but emotional scars can’t be so easily removed.
One of the best things about Chloe’s character is that she is a free agent. As a non-canon character she is unusual in not having an established endpoint. The fact that her friendship with Clark is no longer romanticised frees her character even further. That their friendship has survived so much gives it a convincing strength and weightiness, at a time when Clark really needs a best friend to help him work through things.
Chloe’s view of Clark’s abilities does not conform with his own. She thinks they are a great gift and cannot imagine why he would give them up. She says as much to Gabriel, who responds by telling her that his father preferred to die than live with ‘special abilities’. In Hidden, Clark is ironically closest to understanding Gabriel’s point of view. Part of him, at least, believes he should not have come back to Smallville with his powers. The fact that Chloe disagrees with him might have been a problem for a younger Clark, but he is now able to appreciate her different take on things without feeling threatened by it.
Clark longs for what he would call a normal life. Chloe calls it a ‘bland, mundane, generic’ life. She shows Clark, subtly, that perception is nine-tenths of reality. His view of mortality is idealised, as Chloe gently points out.
Chloe is self-aware and articulate but not cynical or jaded. She can be emotionally vulnerable, but she always admits to her feelings. In Hidden, we are given a classic Chloe scene, when she reveals to Clark that being the only one to know his secret makes her feel ‘for lack of a cheesier word special’. Chloe’s honesty is one of her most defining characteristics. So is her fidelity as a friend: she follows up this admission by telling Clark ‘If you honestly think you can stay with Lana and not tell her you are kidding yourself.’ This is quintessential Chloe: assertive but self-sacrificing. She always makes sure that she gets an opportunity to voice her emotions, but at the end of the day her behavioural decisions are made rationally.
Chloe gives Clark a safe forum in which to work through his emotions. ‘I can’t expect her to react like you did’ he says, showing that he has finally realised that people’s reactions to his alienness will depend on their personal circumstances. ‘I don’t have a choice’ he says, an old Clark mantra, which Chloe challenges. Clark is ready now to match Chloe’s assertion that he owes Lana the choice with his belief that he simply can’t take that risk. Whether Chloe agrees or disagrees with Clark’s decision doesn’t matter. The point is that she, like us as viewers, is privy to his inner life.
The final lines of Hidden, spoken to Chloe, are some of the most intimate insights into Clark’s feelings that we ever get. ‘Why didn’t I listen to him?’ Clark asks, thinking of Jor-El’s threat. And, finally, ‘Chloe, I think I’ve made a terrible mistake’. The final scene of this episode shows us who Clark can be truly intimate with. It’s no longer his parents. Despite great passion and romance, it is not Lana. It is, of course, no longer Lex. It is Chloe. And she’s earned it!
(Final squee on this ep before I run to watch Aqua: I loved it that not only did Clark and Lana get caught by the Kents, they also got caught by Chloe, and Lana got caught by Lex! This goes down as my favourite TV teen-virginity-loss episode ever!)