It was fabulous to have Michael do the 'previously' voiceover given that this episode was the end of the Lex story. What I loved about Lex this week was how he was so one-eyed and driven about getting to the Arctic. Nothing stands in the way of Lex Luthor when he has set his course! Michael had perfected the steely one-direction-only gaze to convey that, and I loved the scenes where Lex was all 'we're going to the Arctic. No, we're GOING to the Arctic' to Male Minion. It also, of course, made his scenes with Jimmy completely hilarious and brilliant. I'm so glad we got to see Lex get his bitch snark on one last time. Always good value!
In many ways Jimmy was a great foil for Lex in this episode because he was behaving as if Lex was a 'regular' guy who he could reason with, someone who, the work-power imbalance aside, was an equal. Lex, on the other hand, viewed Jimmy as a rather annoying gnat to be squashed if he wasn't useful. Jimmy totally failed to see that Lex controls everything and everybody in his vicinity if you let him. HE calls the shots, he dictates what happens and he's not limited by any emotional or moral appeals, or even logic. Jimmy was so naive in comparison: 'so you want me to LIE?' That had me flailing in laughter. Um, yeah, hon. You're lucky that's all he wants you to do at this point in time. But in another way, I'm very glad that they played it as something so simple to begin with--to show that to Jimmmy, a normal guy, this is horrifying enough. I thought those scenes showed very well the way that Lex works on a completely different plane to everyone else these days. He's untouchable.
Just a machine
I have no idea what was intended with it, but Laura seemed to really play up the sexy in the Brainiac-as-Kara scenes. That gave me a giggle. But little else about that plot did. It was really obvious from the start that it was Brainiac. If the psycho behaviour hadn't given it away, the fact that Clark had been conveniently looking at his baby!self when Brainiac 'died' in the last ep was a good tip-off. Clark, honey, next time don't take someone's word on the death of a shape-changing supervillain unless you've seen it yourself. Oh, and while you're at it, I wouldn't mind you double-checking you really nuked him yourself. Because that electrocution scene didn't make a lot of sense to me (doesn't he LIVE on electricity? *blinks* *handwaves*).
I really wish there had been more of Fine!Brainiac in the ep though. James's acting skills are so far superior to Laura--it was a great relief to me when he was back on set and I loved his scenes, however brief. I thought it was cool that Chloe's powers backfired on him. And that his attack on her also resulted in Clark realising (at last!) that it was Brainiac. That was relatively neat plotting. Atmosphere-wise I thought seeing Brainiac stagger into a powerplant looking for recharge was cool. But the scene lost me at the point where Clark electrocuted him. Someone seriously needs to explain to me the logic behind that working because: HUH?! Also, some other parts of this plot didn't work for me:
- How is the Phantom Zone worse then death? How?! We already know that someone from the House of El just has to bleed on that stone to get out... I am in zero suspense about Kara.
- If Kara was put in the Phantom Zone in the past she would have been there when Clark was there. Bet they'll gloss over that one.
Finally, the whole 'you can't kill me' line held no suspense either because we know that Brainiac's a machine. We know Clark will have no qualms about killing him. And I'm fine with that. We've seen him kill other aliens and he's been more conflicted about that, which, I think, is also fitting. But the basic line in Smallville is that Clark will not kill humans. Machines, Brainiac, have always been fair game.
I found the scene where Brainiac!Kara set Lex's fireplace alight (conveniently one of the few times it wasn't already lit!) ridiculously hot. Especially with Lex's breathlessness and Kara taking his hands in front of the fireplace. They got a fireplace scene! Wow. Brainiac just became really slashy. I honestly don't know whether that was just him thinking that sexing up the Kara angle with Lex was the best way to get to him, or something more. Either way, it was surprisingly seductive.
Brainiac does play Lex perfectly though. In saying that the 'truth' is that the Traveller will not save mankind, but destroy it, I think he provided the perfect final motivation-confirmation for Lex. He has cast himself in the role of Earth's protector for a long time now, but to have this validated by someone else was, I think, very important to him. It would have resonated with him so much. As he says in the final scene, it feels like everything in his life led him to this point, as if he was destined to stand between the Traveller and the Earth. I have absolutely no doubt that Lex thinks he is doing something completely selfless in acting as he does.
Warning: my fangirling of Lois has reached OUT OF CONTROL EPIC PROPORTIONS with this episode. How much do I love how she rings the doorbell with increasing impatience, bangs on the door and then BARGES IN?! :D Eeee! Also, I love that Clark stubbornly refused to use superspeed to get to the door. In his mind I imagine him thinking 'normal people would have to walk, Lois! I'm not pandering to you!'
I know that many a fan will hate it passionately, but I love that Lois gets Clark his job at the Daily Planet. Ok, it hasn't happened for certain yet, but throwing the suggestion out there in the season finale definitely opens the door. And yay! At last! Reporter!Clark on the horizon! It totally works for me because we've seen that Lois is looking for ways to help Clark focus and deal with his grief about Lana. I can imagine her thinking 'hmmm, Clark needs a purpose'. And since she's such an opportunist herself, of course she would see the potential in an opening at the DP for him. She also, unlike other characters, wouldn't stop to think that Clark's lack of a college education might prevent him from getting the job. Her attitude is that if you set your mind on something, you can achieve it.
It's great that Lois's way of thinking about Clark's 'destiny' is completely practical. In keeping with the fact that she's oblivious to his Kryptonian powers, she thinks of it in real-world terms. Lois is Clark's friend now, she 'rates' him as a person in a way she didn't use to and she's seen his intellect and compassion in action now. Lois thinks the world of people she loves and wants them to achieve their best (e.g. the way she supported Jonathan and Martha in their careers), so I totally buy that she'd be all 'you could do so much more than work this farm'. Since Lex was Clark's trump card for why he wouldn't work at the DP, and since that obstacle will be removed next season, I feel certain that we'll see reporter Clark soon. :D
I reeled in both delight and shock when Lois asked directly about the Clex friendship. I love it. I find it completely in character that she would but because the show has never, NEVER once asked the obvious direct question about the nature of an intense friendship between a 22-year-old billionaire and a 14-year-old farmboy, I wasn't expecting the writers to go there. And I gather the original scripting was even more direct. Boy, would I kill to have seen that! But even so, I love that Lois has been digging into Lex's past and has become genuinely puzzled by their friendship. I can see her finding it hard to understand (not knowing about Clark's powers) and since Lois is someone who strives to understand everything around her, she needs a satisfying answer.
Clark's answer--'Sometimes people don't turn out to be who you thought they were'--gets him off the hook in the short-term. But it also resonates across the whole episode, with Brainiac masquerading as Kara, Jimmy mis-reading Lex and getting played, Clark revealed to Lex as the Traveller once and for all, and the Clana relationship ending with acknowledgment that who they thought they were or wanted to be in that relationship isn't all they are. It has other cute readings too: like the fact that Clark IS going to wind up that reporter after all. He's going to suprise himself!
Meanwhile, Lois challenges Clark with: 'if I didn't know better, I'd think you were worried about me' *pointed eye-narrowing*. Clark's reaction is so adorable. I think he's still trying to work out if Lois is actually flirting when she does this stuff. I think he concludes she's not really, but she could be. From Lois's perspective I think she doesn't think of it as flirting at ALL (she's big on denial) but in these pushy little challenges, she's definitely wanting something from Clark, even if she won't admit it to herself. She held his gaze for sooo long in that scene. I really feel they're ready for the next stage in their relationship journey. Her farewell line to him was such a 'call me when you're ready' line.
I love that Lois has a favourite drinking spot opposite the Daily Planet now! I am sure she'll get slagged off for drinking ACTUAL ALCOHOL but WTF-ever.
The line 'either he's planning a hostile takeover of Santa's Workshop' distracted me temporarily. Because Santa is an actual person in the Smallville universe. (Yup, it's two years later and I'm STILL NOT OVER THAT.) So I feel that they should never have mentioned him again if they didn't want us to read such lines literally! And of course reading it literally had me in stitches. My ribs ached from laughing. It made me imagine that if you panned left a bit from the Fortress there would be a little sign stuck in the snow saying 'Santa's Workshop' with elves and stuff. :) Maybe they drop by to ask Jor-El for sugar when they run out. :) Maybe they get misdirected mail... Maybe Clark helps feed the reindeer ... *rambles off into whimsical AU*
Jimmy lies really really badly, and I strongly got the impression that Lois knew that, but chose to give him the benefit of the doubt as a friend. Her reporter instincts were sending off alarm bells in her head, but she's too good a friend to just dismiss Jimmy if he's determined to stick to his story. She says she's been looking for a villain in everyone--but actually she's very generous/blind where her friends are concerned.
The Smallville Tragedy Part 1: Lana
And now we come to the bit of the episode that absolutely destroyed me emotionally. I was a wreck through this scene. The Clana farewell, which, for once, I DID buy as the final Clana farewell, absolutely broke me with its raw beauty. I have been so scared for Lana, so scared that she was going to end up voided forever. When Clark showed up and saw the empty bed I was terrified that she was died. And then I was confused by her departure. But when the nurse gave him the tape, I realised--just as Clark did.
Kristin's performance was just superlatively beautiful. She was so exposed and beautiful, ethereal and angel-like in the recorded video. And I felt like there was so much truth in what she said and in Clark's emotional response. I personally feel that it showed maturity on both their parts, that it showed how they have grown. This ending, as the end of the Clana relationship, is not without its problems (I'll get to them) but emotionally it hit all the right notes for me. Much earlier this season Lana came to the realisation that Clark was destined for bigger things, but she still always wanted him for herself. With Bizarro she lived an idyll briefly, which she ultimately realised was just that--an illusion. They've both known there were deep problems in their relationship that could not be overcome but they've been trying to stay together anyway. For this reason, I totally believe Lana when she says that she couldn't say this in person and still have the strength to leave.
I love Lana for the realisation she has reached and I respect her for leaving. However, I hope that she also finds her OWN life. I believe she will. I believe she needs this too, to be free of the past. I think the ending, while I loved it, was more satisfying as a close to the Clana relationship than as an end to Lana's journey. I hope that at the very least we will get to hear what she is doing next year.
As for Clark, I am helpless when he cries. And he cried, a great deal. I think he realises very early on what she's going to say, and why. But he's still so unready to hear the message, he still really doesn't believe there is anything greater for him to do, it's a very very hard message for him to hear--and the grief is overwhelming. In his own way, though, he's been reaching the realisation that they were 'fooling themselves' too this season. It's been quieter, and he doesn't articulate it the way Lana does, but for him Lana's darkness, the lengths to which she's gone this season were deeply troubling. He wanted to get past that, but there were also signs that he never really could. This day was coming, one way or another, and Clark on some level realises that and won't fight this. The fact that he went into true grief straight away (and didn't just decide determinedly to get her back) shows that.
So this scene worked for me for both characters. As always, the song choice for the big scenes was perfect. The lyric 'I'm paralysed, because you're perfect' could be the definitive Clana lyric. They are, in my mind, linked forever with the idea of capturing the 'perfect' moment: the freeze-frame image of them at the barn window against a sunset. Yet the relationship represents 'paralysis' for both of them. It's perfect, joyful, but static. They tried to grow in the relationship but ultimately they'll both grow more out of it. And yet, the loss of that 'perfect' is something they will both mourn deeply--and should mourn deeply. I don't care what the Clana detractors say. I'm a late convert to the ship and I sobbed.
But this scene didn't just work for Clark and Lana, it also worked for Lois. Having her enter behind Clark as he listened to Lana's message was amazing. Yes, he's grief-stricken now, but Lois is there waiting for him. Thankfully they played the scene so well that I didn't feel there was any war between the ships--it was in keeping with the way that Lana and Lois have always respected each other individually. It was a beautiful silent handover between the two women. Clark doesn't even notice that Lois is there, and Lois, for once, has remained thoughtfully silent, not imposing herself in any way and showing in her expression that she's both so incredibly sorry for him and sorry that she's there at this time. Clark is so emotionally exposed--as exposed as Lois was when she broke up with Oliver. The moment is one of reciprocity, since Lois is able to offer Clark here the silent support that he offered her in her moment of grief. She thought she couldn't do it but she could!
The second cut to Lois had her shaking her head slightly in disbelief, which I thought was a beautiful way of showing how she's really feeling for Clark in this moment. She never doubted his love for Lana--she knows he loves Lana with his whole heart--and she can barely believe it's over. She also knows what this pain feels like, and I like the way this scene builds on others this season. The season started with Lois hugging Clark awkwardly in sympathy about Lana's 'death'. They've come so far. That action was well-intentioned but awkward and comedic. This action is completely empathetic and grows from a friendship that has them connected emotionally.
The embrace was completely non-sexual and non-romantic and I'm so glad. I want Clark to have his space to grieve his first love, just as Lois needed her space to grieve Oliver. The fact that they are able to offer each other total support as friends at these times will make their future relationship stronger. But I'm also glad they're not there yet because it would detract from the purity of these moments.
Gah, Smallville gets the emotional big moments so right.
An unsuspenseful interlude
In complete contrast to this scene, however, was the crazycakes 'Jimmy proposes' scene. I can't help observing that Jimmy has a history of overreacting to Chloe's absences. Wasn't the first time he told her he loved her when she disappeared and he went nuts putting up 'missing persons' signs? Anyway... it seemed like a leap to me. She was actually dead once. This was just a coma. And I found that I just didn't care at all about them getting married. It felt like very forced end-of-season melodrama, especially with the DSS busting in and arresting Chloe (huahahahaha!). Well, they've left it open-ended and presumably Chloe WILL be back next year, but I'd kind of love it if Lex's last move was to get Chloe imprisoned. Sorry, Chloe fans: she lost me a long time ago and telling Clark to commit murder was the final straw. Sayonara, Chloe!
However, I do wonder how Chloe fans feel about these moves for her character. It doesn't seem like a satisfying character end (certainly not in comparison to Lex and Lana), and that's just one more reason why I think she'll be back next year. If she is, though, how do they feel about Jimmy proposing? The writers will have to wriggle out of that one, since he doesn't marry her canonically. So it seemed a bit unsuspenseful and silly to me but that might be because I wasn't in the characters' perspectives.
The Smallville Tragedy Part II: Lex
As I said, this ep was a bit scattered and all over the place for me. So we went from a scene I didn't really care about at all, to a scene of such immense beauty it left me speechless. Just the shots of Lex walking around the Fortress in wonder were enough on their own! Even before Clark showed up! I know I harp on about it but the spatial dynamics on this show are so incredibly strong. To have Lex in Clark's Fortress, to have him penetrate into the most alien part of Clark's 'self', was just the perfect ending. Lex himself makes the connection--he'd always been allowed access to the barn, that had always been Clark's emotional fortress. This is 'a big step up'. It's Clark's true Fortress, his hidden self. Lex's expression in entering the Fortress reflected both wonder and attraction to power--it was perfectly balanced and reflects his reaction to Clark all along.
He himself is such an iconic figure in these scenes, with his long black cloak and BLACK GLOVES. Eee!
And wow, where to start with the glowy phallic crystals and the corresponding glowy ball of power? I loved that it turned pink just as Clark arrived. And again, kudos on the direction of this episode--that shot of Clark superspeeding in behind Lex was magnificent.
I am SO glad they got around the whole 'who is the Traveller?' issue with it remaining unspoken that Lex knows it is Clark. We all know that he must conclude this by now, but to have him say it aloud is kind of too full on. It's too damning, and even for Lex I think he doesn't want to say it--even though all the signs have been there all along, this makes sense of all the strange patterns in his life and it has the air of inevitability. Clark in the Fortress looks so completely alien and powerful as he confronts Lex--it's perfect. It's easy to see things from Lex's perspective.
The dialogue said everything that needed to be said, I believe. Clark says he's never done anything to hurt Lex, Lex responds by saying that Clark didn't trust him. Lex asks if he'd ever thought about what they could have achieved together, saying he could have made Clark a hero (everyone wants to make Clark a hero 'their' way!). The two perspectives will never be reconciled because both make perfect sense from their own 'side'. As Lex experienced it Clark betrayed him, kept secrets, poses a great threat to the world. As Clark experienced it Lex is power-obsessed, controlling and incapable of unwilling to recognise and act on his capacity for goodness. Clark tries one last attempt to tell Lex to fight his fate--saying that in this moment Lex has a choice. True. But Lex has been so controlled and defined by his 'fate' that he his now embracing it.
The revelations for Lex recently about Lionel's manipulation of everything from the start, the feeling of coming second in his father's eyes for so long, all the pain and loss and frustration--all of this feels justified when he has the power in his hands. He can feel justifed, feel it was all worth it. The only way he can cope with the reality of his mad, horrific life is to seize absolute control of it, and that includes control of CLARK. It is in vain that Clark protests that he doesn't have the right to control another.
His justification is that he's doing it 'for mankind', being the hero that he thinks Clark is not. As I said above, he genuinely believes he is being selfless. From his perspective he is losing once and for all the Clark he loved, acknowledging instead the danger he sees lying beneath that surface in 'Kal-El'. He says 'I'm sorry, Clark' more than once and I think he does feel genuine sadness about what he's losing. But he thinks this action will justify his entire existence--and on a deeper, unexpressed level, he feels it is justified revenge.
The pose Clark and Lex are in in the closing shot, apart from the rampant gayness, is a really interesting choice. The position Lex holds Clark in is very close to being the Superman 'hero holding the heroine' pose. Lex has cast himself as hero. Clark looks up into Lex's eyes and seems to have nod in acknowledgment of his words, the inevitability of it 'ending' this way, despite their love. It evokes their beginning--a reversal of Clark lifting Lex out of the water and laying him on the riverbank; then Clark brought Lex back to life, now Lex 'ends' Clark's journey. It also evokes the Namaan-Segeth joining. The foreshadowing on that was very heavy last week and since this week showed involved the Ball of Power (what are we calling it?) and the Fortress co-joining to create.... whatever the hell is now happening... I feel that is probably what was suggested in the 'good and evil join together'. Visually Clark and Lex are joined together in the final shot.
It's problematic because we know Michael's not back this season and I really do wonder how they'll get out of the cliffhanger. I did not expect the Fortress to crumble around them (One day could they STOP killing the Fortress off please? It's getting so there's no suspense! We know it grows back!) and I think this is going to have some sort of twist and prove to result not in the absolute control of Clark after all. Because this plan makes little sense to me. Clark seemed to be getting immobilised, not controlled. And it seems counter-intuitive that the Fortress would go on self-destruct when the Ball of Power was activated, because surely the only way to control Clark is with the Fortress. If Lex knew that he was destroying a font of alien knowledge and technology I'm not so sure he'd be doing this...
Anyway, distracting plot stupidity aside, what a magnificent ending! I loved the whooshy empty Arctic sounds at the ending and when Al & Miles's names came up for the last time I felt I could almost hear them giggling to themselves about their final master-scene.
Waaah, show. You never get less cracktastically magnificent.