For me, the most interesting part of this episode was Patricia Swann. It was exciting to see Swann's legacy continued into Season 7, and I thought the actress chosen for the role had appropriate poise and presence. And wow, what an amazing reveal about the backstory of Veritas. There are a lot of questions to ask about this group (starting with how they found out about the Traveller in the first place and what their intentions, collective or individual, were). But the potentials it opens up are exciting. And it puts a very, very sinister twist on the way earlier seasons played out, dating right back to the Pilot.
Patricia alleges that Lionel is behind the deaths of the other Veritas members. She claims to have evidence to back the allegation up. She may or may not be correct, but I certainly believe Lionel capable of masterminding this, and I think he also had the megalomaniac motivation. Furthermore, the audience is primed to be sympathetic to the child of Virgil Swann, who, played by Christopher Reeve in such a moving fashion, played a significant role in revealing to Clark his true identity.
To be honest, I'm still reeling from the revelation that these four families--the Luthor, Swanns, Queens and Teagues--were connected prior to the meteor shower. Above all, I keep flashing back to Lionel reading about the deaths of the Queens in the newspaper the day that he and Lex flew into Smallville, the day of the meteor shower. It certainly explains the coincidence of them being there! And it also makes it less absurd, yet far more sinister, that so many millionaires have circled around Clark and his family!
Of course it also puts an interesting twist on the Luthors' tangled relationships with the Teagues in Season 4. And it sets up a frightening pattern. If Lionel is responsible for the deaths of (most of) the parents, Lex has been an active, potentially deadly, adversary of the children. At the end of Traveller, it's implied he orders the assassination of Patricia Swann. He also had a hand in Jason's death and in covering up the death of Genevieve Teague. More recently we've seen Oliver and Lex as opponents. In fact, Oliver comes out as the strongest of the surviving children of Veritas, other than Lex.
So the new symbol in the Luthor crest is the symbol for Veritas. And it seems like the constellation in it has to do with the day of the meteor shower. I'm still intrigued by the inclusion of a framing sun as well. For Lex it's a significant moment since he's uncovering part of his own memory again. One of the most interesting things to speculate about with Lex is to what degree he is driven by his unconscious--which in his case is vast. He's recovered partial memories before, but evidently those related to Veritas remained submerged. However I found his childhood painting similar to that which he drew in Asylum. Except in Asylum, there was a figure in front of the sun. I'm not sure it was deliberate, but it's potentially a sign that Lex has been subcconsciously drawn to these symbols and perhaps to the astronomical mysteries Veritas investigated.
Lex seemed aware that Patricia was very elegantly sending a signal to Lionel. He knows the language of manipulation well. He was happy to run with her plan, and it scared Lionel effectively. Yet from there his actions become somewhat incomprehensible. Why KILL Patricia? Why not try to gain her secrets? *baffled* Or did he try and she refused, seeing Lex as the threat he legitimately is?
It seems that the writers and directors went to give the audience some reasons to trust Lionel. Considering Patricia's message this was probably well needed to maintain some ambiguity in his character. For instance, they played Lionel as very distressed by the letter with the Veritas seal--this lends support to his claim that he thought he was protecting Clark. We also saw him lose his temper with Pierce for torturing Clark. In fact, I felt that Pierce was largely used as a contrast to Lionel, showing a more extreme attitude. His character construction, as ex-security from 33.1, was interesting--another strong effort to tie the episode into the overall mythology.
Yet despite these efforts I really can't extend a lot of sympathy to Lionel. Firstly he employed Pierce. (And there I was thinking it was only Lex who hired minions he couldn't control!) Secondly, he built the containment field--a very sinister construction that would only be required to hold Clark against his will. That's damning enough for me.
Lionel's actions are even more absurd when we see Patricia interact with Clark. Even if we believe Lionel didn't know what Clark could be facing, it was surely absurd overkill for him to hold him against his will as his first response rather than try manipulation and persuasion? I'm just grateful that this has pulled the veil back from Clark's eyes and let him see Lionel for the threat he potentially is.
Add to that the fact that Lionel lied to Chloe and Lana. He was also happy to pin the blame for Clark's disappearance on Lex. More than anyone else on this show (and that's saying something!) Lionel is capable of lying with confidence and in highly persuasive fashion. His intelligence network is second to none, though Lex is fast gaining on him.
Seeing Clark trapped in the Kryptonite cell was moving and dramatic. It was a very Lexian construction, not dissimilar to the device that Lex developed for entrapping the Flash. In fact, I at first suspected Lex of being behind the capture, before it quickly became evident that Lionel was at the reigns of this one. It is, however, the sort of thing we might expect from Lex in the future. And, as Chloe pointed out, Clark's worse nightmare.
Seeing Clark read Swann's diary was very moving. The 'Traveller' is a much friendlier concept than the 'rule them with strength' message Clark first heard. But he is still wary of the prophecies and worried about living up to them. I enjoyed the scene between him and Patricia. Her message to him was a powerful one. I particularly liked her saying 'Despite the presence of the sun, it's always night on half the planet. For all the good you will do, there will always be darkness.' This is something that Clark struggles with but will ultimately have to accept. It is a realistic message and it left me wishing that she could have stayed longer in his life.
By the end of this episode I was all ready for Clark to dangle Lionel out the window and pummel him senseless. But Clark is so mature these days. I loved the enigmatic restraint in their confrontation. While Lionel grasps at excuse after excuse, Clark let his quiet indignation speak for itself. Considering what had happened, he was extremely composed and had a firm grip on his rage. His response to Lionel saying he was a changed man was perfect: a simple 'no, you're not'.
Is Lionel a changed man? He is, perhaps, less murderous currently than he has been in the past. It's possible that his intentions are slightly more protective towards Clark than they would have been had he not been used as Jor-El's avatar. But that's about as far as I'd go. His interests are still personal and he's deeply possessive about Clark, treating his own son as a deadly adversary. I do not trust him and am glad that Clark is no longer naively putting his faith in him. I know that Clark has preferred to go to Lionel than Jor-El in the past, but I'm hoping this will mean he's forced to deal with the Fortress directly more often now.
Even if we believe that Lionel has modified his behaviour somewhat lately, there is a deeper issue here for me--his complete lack of remorse. He didn't even attempt to apologise for his actions--either currently or in the past. He's the most chilling of villains: one that believes their actions are completely justifiable.
After the build-up of last week, this week was a bit anticlimactic where Kara was concerned for me. In retrospect the melodramatic burying of the bracelet seems a little pointless since the whole issue was resolved without conflict in the following episode. I wasn't that engaged by Lana and Chloe flailing around trying to save the day, and while it was good to see Kara save Clark, it all felt a little too straightforward. The reconciliation between the two cousins was remarkably cheery and uncomplicated as well. But perhaps Kara is not as ready as Clark to write the Luthors off... it'll be interesting to see what her response to Lex is from now on.
It was not a surprise to see Lex keeping such close surveillance on Kara. After Lana's experience, it would actually be a disappointment if he didn't! And he will be very frustrated that she's escaped his clutches.
Overall a bit of a mixed episode for me. Some fabulous reveals, but as a single episode it felt a bit underdeveloped.
ETA: My concentration span is really shot to pieces at the moment, so I apologise in advance for slow responses and slowness getting to the many interesting posts that have appeared on my f'list in the last few days. Thank goodness it's a long weekend--I just might catch up!