It's funny. I don't feel like anything's been missing from my life, but the second I press play on a new episode, it all comes flooding back to me... the special place that Smallville (in all its madness) has in my heart.
This eppy was so good I didn't even miss Lois! And boy am I glad I wasn't spoiled for it. *blows kisses at the cut-taggers*
'Using DNA from the cord blood of your deceased son...' *Boppy does a triple-take* I just... I... I have no words. HUAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I don't want to think about how Lex possibly obtained that. *baffled*
So Grant IS Julian, ie. he's DNA-related to the Luthors. Well he proved his Luthor credentials in attacking his life head-on and believing stubbornly in freewill and independence despite all evidence to the contrary.
Lionel saying he wants to get to know Grant was way more creepy than Lionel flinging him out would have been. The interaction between Julian and Lionel in this episode highlighted to me something that has actually been obvious for a long time: how incredibly deluded and blinkered Lionel is when it comes to his own children. I think he really believes what he says when he tells Lex that Grant is his opposite. Yet, to the audience, this is patently not true. 'Insightful', 'courageous' and 'direct' are all compliments that even this most adamant of Lex's critics would grudgingly agree could be attributed to Lex. He certainly doesn't lack courage, he has shown a lot of intuition and he's absolutely direct: when he hides things he does so absolutely--when they're revealed, it's with a flourish that is almost blunt. So Lionel's words are nonsense... and yet I don't think he was game-playing here. He believed them, and, what's more, they affected Lex. Lex is still invested in Lionel's opinion of him.
Where does Grant/Julian stand in this dynamic? Well 'Persona' answered that question fairly decisively, ending, as it did, with Grant's demise. Grant is far from Lex's opposite--Lex's inferior, maybe, but he's on the same sliding grey scale that Lex has been on for some time. He's just not so close to black. There's a naivety to Grant, despite his brash newsboy attitude... this naive brashness is reminscent of Lex in early seasons. Remember all the bravado with which Lex swaggered into Smallville? Determined to prove his father wrong and win him over with his clever management of the fertiliser plant? That's a scenario not so different from Julian and Lionel leaving the steakhouse together...
Lex ordered Julian's termination. And yes, I'm aware, I'm jumping straight to the climax of the episode, but it was so powerful it's hard not to. What does that mean? SO MUCH. I know latxcvi's discussed before now how long we wait sometimes for the pay-offs in Smallville... well this was another one. Lex, when he receives the message that Julian is dead (for a second time, at Lex's hand) he is drinking and playing pool against an absent opponent. The pool represents his competitive nature, which has been there since the beginning. The heavy drinking, however, has grown over the years. Lex is drowning his sorrows, even as he adds to them.
He steps out onto the balcony and screams to the night sky, just as he screamed as a young child tortured by memories of his dead brother, and just as he screamed more recently when those memories still haunted him. In cloning Julian and then killing him again, Lex has stepped into his past (I'm in love with the shot of his foot stepping out onto the rainsoaked balcony--an echo of Julian stepping into Lionel's study earlier in the episode, as well as symbolic of the fact that Lex put himself here). He's taken control of it and made it his. His scream has desperation in it, yes, grief maybe, but also maniacal control. His arms may be outstretched but he is aching for release of another sort--the release that comes from absolute power, from not having to win anything from anyone any more.
It's fascinating that the minute that Lex felt at all threatened by Julian in terms of Lionel's affections, he opted to relive his most scarring childhood experience rather than live out a nightmare of a different sort.
Lex is in an incredibly dark place now and I know that will probably be hard for a lot of fans. He still holds my sympathy to some degree. Lionel calling Lex on boundaries?! *runs around room making flappy indignant arm gestures* Dear God! In fact, the fact that Lionel STILL has not acknowledged ANY responsibility for making Lex the man he is today really bothers me, and gives me a lot more sympathy for Lex than I might otherwise have. In those terms, it's good storytelling. It leaves Lex in an incredibly lost place.
I'll admit that Julian's death came as a shock to me. I should probably have seen it coming, but I didn't. I was shocked enough that he was in this episode at all--I had rather anticipated him vanishing Lucas-like into the night. It came as a shock and it was highly effective. when I was able to gather my wits about it, I realised how specific a method Lex had chosen for assassinating his rival. Lex was shot and nearly died in a mugging in Lexmas... this was a very similar set-up. But this one had his father on standby, so that Julian died literally in his arms. There's so much going on there I don't know where to start! Firstly, Lex kills himself symbolically by killing Julian. Julian is an embryonic Lex, he stood on the brink of a different future, protected and loved by his father in a way that Lex never was. Secondly, Lex puts Lionel in a very similar position to the one that a young Lex found himself in when he watched his mother smother his baby brother. Revenge and self-annhiliation go hand in hand here.
I've discussed the theme of Rebirth in Smallville before... in this episode I saw Lex Luthor take control of his own rebirth process in the only way he knew how. He gained absolute control over his destiny, yes, but at the expense of his humanity and his self at an incredibly deep level (for Julian is buried deep in Lex's heart). It demonstrates what I've seen Smallville moving towards for some time: the idea that the cost of exercising power selfishly is a loss of self. Lex takes this step willingly (but painfully) because the alternative is even more painful to him. What a fascinating construction of a villain that is!
Phew. *takes breath* Yeah, some other stuff happened in this episode too... :D
FINE! Fine is back! \o/ Yeah, I know... most people were probably partying more at the return of Bizarro!Clark. And I'll admit that he was awfully fun, especially with Lana (is it wrong to kinda ship them?!), but I was even more bouncy about Fine. While his return has been foreshadowed for some time, I was not spoiled officially for James Marsters appearing on the show, and I'd deliberately not got my hopes up. But yay! He was back and he was AWESOME. Ohh, and they finally abbreviated to 'Brainiac' officially on the show!
I love Brainac--he's so zen and understated about everything. And the Suicide Slums set was impressively dingy and menacing--hee! The Bizarro/Brainac interaction was gold, and line of the episode definitely goes to 'Lying to you would be like lying to a mollusc--there's no point'. Ha! There's a line that would only ever get delivered on Smallville... and it was delivered brilliantly. (Only Michael Rosenbaum might possively have had more fun with it.) Bizarro's ego got in the way of him heeding Brainiac's warning... Brainac IS a lot smarter than him, and it was obvious that he was playing his own game. And what a great game it was to watch!
Clark made me LOL with his entry into Lionel's office. Geez, don't bother about the niceties, CLark--get straight to the point! There was one major nitpick with that scene though: why wouldn't Jor-El have given Clark this information if it was necessary? It was Jor-El who deliberately woke Clark up again to get him to defeat Bizarro. Hmph. It shouldn't have been necessary to go to Jor-El's emissary to obtain that info. Sigh. But it let Clark fall straight into Brainiac's trap and that made for exciting twists so I shall handwave.
Bizarro in the Fortress was so cheeky and WRONG, and he was SO MEAN to poor Jor-El! He twisted the knife with 'what are you going to do? Lecture me to death?' Waaah! Poor Jor-El, for lo, that is all he can do! And it hasn't worked! In fact he had to resort to Isicle!of!Doom as a fallback tactic. No wonder that Fortress shook with rage. *giggle*
To return to some interesting meta, the shot construction in the Clark/Lionel!Brainiac scene was very interesting. There was a shot with them back to back together at one point which was reminscent of the double-headed monster, Namaan-Segeth, and the idea of twinned selves that Smallville returns to on occasion. Both Lex and Clark have had split selves (Lex and Alexander, Clark and Kal/Kal-El). And in terms of shot construction, they've occasionally used this shot for Clark/Lex, indicating that they're two split halves of one whole. So it was interesting that they chose to use it with Clark and Brainac-in-Lionel-guise. I think it was meant to signal the fact that Brainac is the true enemy here, but Clark's blind to that at this stage. Of course, it's also fascinating that they played with the twinned-selves idea in an episode where Lex Luthor kills his cloned younger brother who, in personality at least, uncannily resembles his younger self.
And I really should talk about the girls... I'm not sure I'd quite call Clark's mind 'a titanium trap' but I was impressed that chloe clued on faster than Lana. Impressed but not necessarily comfortable with the implication that Chloe is more clear-sighted about the true Clark. But when I got to thinking about it, it makes sense within the show. Traditionally, love has made one blind in the Smallville universe. We can start with Lex idolising the young Clark, or young Clark putting Lana on a pedestal, or we can look far more recently at the way Clark's avoided facing the full truth about either Lex or Lana.
Things haven't been easy between Lana and Clark, despite the fact that they're 'together'. And when an alternative is offered, an alternative that exactly matches what she's longed to hear, it's hardly surprising to see Lana leaping at it. Imagine if Lex was suddenly offered a Clark that was open and honest, lighthearted and uncritical, and amenable to every request? Even the astute Lex would struggle to look twice under those circumstances. So I really felt for Lana in this episode.
I was kind of sad to see it turn into a territorial struggle between Chloe and Lana. Lana seemed faintly annoyed at finding Chloe already in the house when she came home, and from there the confrontation devolved into a 'I know him better' competition. With Chloe winning.
What redeemed that altercation for me was the scene where Lana confronted Bizarro and voluntarily destroyed him. I found Lana really compelling in this episode and I felt in touch with her character in a way I rarely am. I anticipated that she would destroy Bizarro to save Clark but I suspect she had conflicted feelings about doing so. In saying that she'd been more in love than ever in recent weeks, she was telling the truth, and she was doing so for her own sake because it was important, if painful, to acknowledge it. Clark may sweep her straight into a hug and think there's no further need to discuss the matter, but Lana carries the truth in her heart... she was fooled. And she was happy. That is only going to make her think more and more about the disparity between Clark as he is and Clark as he might be (in her dreams). It's a disparity she's familiar with and clear-eyed about now (more so than Clark, I believe), but it's not any less painful.
I thought it was a great act of love to destroy Bizarro, who for Lana represented the idealised lover. And so the final shot of Clark and Lana side by side, yet alone, in their chaste bed, was incredibly poignant.
(Aside: wow, Placebo track... pulling out the heavy guns there at the end!)
ETA: radioreverie, I really need to make that Lex vid, don't I? You know the one. Hmm.