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12 November 2005 @ 03:05 pm
Smallville 5.06 Splinter (part 1)  
For me this was one of the most layered episodes of Season 5 so far. The direction and photography were beautifully controlled and Tom’s acting was superb. I have a lot I want to unpack from this episode, but I’ll start with one of the most powerful scenes.

Clark’s confused identification
Clark watches Lex kiss Lana. This scene is relatively simple, yet there is a lot to unpack in it. Lex and Lana stand before the fire, which has long been linked in Clark’s mind with his romanticisation of Lex: in Slumber we saw his idealised image of Lex sitting before the fire with a goblet of wine in his hand. Clark has walked in on Lex and Lana in front of the fire before (Forsaken). And he’s also stood there with Lex himself. We also know that Clark uses fireplaces as romantic locations himself: he and Lana made love in front of a fire at the Talon apartment. So it is confronting for him to see Lex and Lana in front of it.

He also hears them discuss a secret, a spaceship, and the implication is that they are keeping secrets from him. Clark is a habitual liar himself but also fears being lied to. He of all people knows how powerful lies can be. If he can lie to Lana, she could lie to him. It erodes his trust in the relationship. In the same episode, we saw how desperately he clings to Lana as the last person he can trust, because she doesn’t know his secret. That she might have her own secrets is threatening. He wants to keep all secrets locked away so to hear them discussed is confronting.

Lex reaches out and touches Lana on the upper arm, an area of the body that is heavily eroticised on Smallville, particularly where Lex is concerned. We have seen him do this to Clark when he really wants to connect with him. We have seen him do it to Chloe in a moment of rare affection when she offered to testify against Lionel. We have seen him do it to lovers. Clark knows the intensity of that gesture. The cut away to Clark’s face reinforces that. He is shocked and I suspect that at this moment he confuses who he is identifying with: Lex as the seducer of his girlfriend, or Lana as the object of Lex’s intense gaze and gestures.

When we cut back, we see something that doesn’t usually happen: Lex’s hand moves from Lana’s upper arm to her neck and they kiss. Clark is effectively seeing what can happen after the upper-arm gesture, the truth beneath the coded surface of the gesture. It’s threatening to him not just because Lex is seducing Lana, but because it implies that this step could be a natural extension of the gestures Lex has made to him in the past.

The kiss itself is more romantic and sensual that sexual and Lana collapses against Lex’s chest. It is a scene of emotional comfort. The kiss was not chaste, but it implies that sexual and emotional comfort can be found in the one source. Clark finds it in Lana, but here he sees that Lana finds it in Lex. It enrages him.

In the confrontation with Lex, Clark reveals that he has conflated Lex’s intensions and desires with his own. He suggests that Lex is not obsessed with him, but with Lana: ‘it’s always been about Lana’. The scene in front of the fire has confused Clark because he both identifies with Lex and wants to be him (as we’ve known ever since Red) but he also wants to be the object of his desire. The accusations he throws at Lex are absurd to an intelligent audience and demonstrate just how far gone in paranoia he is. We know Lex is more obsessed with Clark than he is with Lana and within this very episode he’s shown that Lana is just another way of getting to the truth of Clark: he asks her to help him investigate the aliens. Clark claims the actions Lex has taken with him (‘those things you do to me, Lex’) are really about a Lana. The opposite is true: Lex’s actions with Lana are all about Clark.

Protecting or hurting the one you love
Clark says to Lana ‘you know I would never do anything to hurt you’ and yet he has hurt her both physically and emotionally beyond repair. Lex says to Clark ‘I don’t want to hurt you’ and yet Clark reveals that he has been emotionally hurt by what he perceives in his paranoia as Lex ‘testing’ him. Clark himself reveals that he wants to hurt Lex. This is a fundamental difference between Clark and the others.

Both Lex and Lana have been deeply and permanently scarred by Clark in the past and they continue to be abused by him. While both of them have had moments of rage against him, neither of them has demonstrated a vindictive need to hurt him in return. Yet Clark tells Lex that he wants to hurt him. Setting aside the heavy sexual overtones in this scene, this statement is revelatory. To get to this level of vindictiveness, Clark would have had to move through the emotional states of shock, denial, pain and anger. It suggests a deeper residual anger than that triggered in Splinter by paranoia.

This is backed up by what we have seen of Clark’s recent actions with Lex. He is triggered into anger by relatively minor actions and he continually assumes the worst about Lex: as he shows at the end of the episode in conversation with his parents and Chloe about the ‘evil dynasty’ of the Luthors. And he has taken his anger as far as wanting to hurt Lex phyiscally before, when he punched him in Mortal.

Clark has not acted out this level of vindictiveness with anyone else. Lex is the object of Clark’s abuse because he is the fallen object of Clark’s desire. When Clark tells Fine that he will ‘always believe in his friends and his family’, he no longer includes Lex in that list. Yet he once trusted Lex. Lex is a splinter in Clark’s subconscious: he can no longer truly believe that everyone he loves will never betray him and that’s why his statement to Fine reads as naïve and defensive. He still desperately wants to believe in everyone else, but he has been betrayed once and could be again.

Nevertheless, you do not need to have angered Clark to be hurt by him: all people close to him are hurt simply by encountering him in this condition. Lana hides from him in the same way that she would from a serial killer or a meteor freak. Clark borders on insanity, and words that should have affection behind them (‘we were meant to be together’) now read as threats.

At the end of the mansion sequence, Lex and Clark run to Lana’s aid. Clark gets there fast and lifts her in his arms. He stands in hero pose, cradling her in his arms and looks across at Lex. It’s a pose he should be triumphant in. Yet Clark looks shattered, his face creased in an expression of pain, near to tears. Lex says ‘what have you done?’ which surely echoes Clark’s internal voice at this moment. Yet despite this shared moment of painful understanding, neither of them can bridge the distance between them. The figure of Lana as unconscious victim works as a metaphor for what creates this distance: Clark’s continual abuse of those he loves.

Open doors
Lana and Clark are paralleled in this episode. Lex tells Lana ‘some doors can’t be closed once they’re opened’: Fine opens a door for Clark when he tells him ‘I’ll be here when you’re ready for the truth’ at the end of the episode. Lex shows Lana the spaceship and invites her help to uncover the mysteries that have ‘haunted her’ since the first meteor shower. Both Clark and Lana are haunted by their pasts. This episode used many horror movie and haunted house cliches: the empty rocking cradle, the lights flickering out in the mansion, the sound of frightened breathing and running footsteps, disembodied voices, etc. As a way out of the maze of horror, Fine repeats to Clark ‘just remember whatever happens, we’re in this together’. This implants the idea that Fine is the only one that can rescue Clark from his troubling subconscious. Lex has a similar message for Lana, telling her ‘you’re my partner now’ and acting as an ally in getting to the bottom of what’s affecting Clark.

When the episode ends, neither Clark nor Lana tells anyone the full story about what has transpired. Lana doesn’t come clean with Clark about having seen the spaceship. This effectively makes their relationship more equal, because Clark continues to lie to her about his true nature. Assuming that neither of them has confided in Chloe, which seems likely, the decision that each will face (whether to step through the open door to further knowledge) will be taken alone. Without being able to exorcise their fears in discussion with loving others, their subconscious fears will continue to dominate them. It seems inevitable that both of them will eventually seek further information.

Current Mood: enthralledenthralled
CapnZebbie: ladydoom-ckcapnzebbie on November 12th, 2005 04:23 am (UTC)
This was fascinating. I appreciate your giving me a different view of Clark's hair trigger temper where Lex is concerned, because I've been finding it annoying. This makes it much more understandable.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark secrets and liesbop_radar on November 12th, 2005 05:07 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad it helped. I find his temper very annoying too, but it's also interesting, and I've been really fascinated by Clark's development this season, even while I squirm at what he's doing.

Your icon there sums him up! ;)
Kate: Kristin I'm not Lanamskatej on November 12th, 2005 04:33 am (UTC)
I adore you, Boppy.

I'm starting to find Clana fascinating. Their relationship is disintigrating before our eyes but in an interesting way (WEIRD). Her lies to him aren't the same as his lies to her though. She now has two big secrets (the murder of whatsherface and the spaceship) that she's outright lied to his face about. Clark withholds the truth about being an alien for so many reasons, many of them good. Mostly, he's afraid of losing her, and he justifies his lying with the reasons he was raised with. It's dangerous for Lana to know.

But Lana's lies? These are about specific things that she's either done or she's doing, which isn't the same as not telling someone you're an alien. Clark's lies about who he is, Lana's are about what she's done. I find her more duplicitous.

He hurts the people who care for him but there's still a greater good going on with Clark. He's young still and he really doesn't know who he can trust (and trusting people in the past with his secret has not always worked in his favour: Pete). He WANTS to do the right thing, but Clark is full of self doubt and fear. He'll grow out of this.

Lana, on the other hand, clearly doesn't trust Clark. This is understandable, given their history, but it signifies the hopelessness of their relationship. What I got from this episode was that Lana cares for Clark but she's not particularly committed to him. She'll help him, protect him, do what she can for him when he needs her, but she's more interested in other things.

Lex? Maybe. I don't like that Lex seems to be more into her than her into him, but hopefully SV will rectify that (I ain't holding my breath though). Certainly the spaceship project will be her main focus, and possibly her feelings for Lex will become more predominant, eclipsing her bond with Clark. WHO KNOWS.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: I'm not Lanabop_radar on November 12th, 2005 05:22 am (UTC)
YAY!! Yes, isn't it great that the Clana is actually interesting? I'm surprisingly drawn in. Or maybe I shouldn't be surprised, because their relationship is so dark now. If it was still sugary and sweet I'd hate it!

What you say about the difference between Clark's lies and Lana's lies is true. It's really important to remember that Clark's lies to her are just part of the bigger picture in his life. Also, I do agree that he HATES lying to her and is quite tortured by doing so. We haven't yet been shown so much regret on Lana's part. Although she has had moments of trying to open up to him.

The sense I get now is that she's closing herself off even further from him, getting deeper and deeper into the lies. And she's adopted lying late in life, not as a conditioned response for necessary protection, but as a fear-driven flight from reality.

It's intersting that you say you felt she wasn't very committed to him. I agree that this episode showed an imbalance in their relationship. But I think these two both ebb and flow in terms of neediness for and dependance on each other. At the moment Clark is more desperately committed to her than she is to him. In the opening scene where she was studying astronomy, there seemed to be some distance between them even before Clark scratched himself. I think Lana's actually very introverted, as you would expect of an orphaned only child. And while she's not always exactly strong, she does have a kind of desperate self-preservation tendency, that I think would always mean that she could leave Clark if she felt she had a better option elsewhere.

Lex being into more into her? Interesting. I don't think so. I think lex is attracted to her, but I think he's totally in control of it, in a way that Lana, if she falls for him, will not be. For example, I found the scene where Lana walked in when he was on the phone really telling: he hung up, just as he used to do for Clark. Yet, unlike with Clark, he felt the need to *state* 'anything for you'/'you're not interrupting'. This strongly implied to me that it was a calculated act on his part. If his emotions were genuine, as they were with Clark, he could have conveyed this in his body language. His tone was also kind of awkward and over-controlled: the same tone he uses when manipulating people. And yes, this could just be how he IS with people now, but I don't think so... Maybe I'm just in denial because I can't believe Lex truly loves Lana, but I honestly just read it as him seeing her as a means to an end - a means to get to Clark (get inside the alien!), a means to win a powerplay battle with Clark, and a way to change the way people view him (if he can win Lana's affections, he can win other peoples', that sort of thing...) Hm. Time will tell I guess...
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K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Jor-Elbop_radar on November 13th, 2005 04:12 am (UTC)
This is really interesting. Lana's lies centre on one person, Lex, whereas Clark's lies are abstract. That's one reason Clark will feel (justifiably) betrayed when he finds out.
roxymissroseroxymissrose on November 12th, 2005 04:39 am (UTC)
This is very interesting. I hadn't thought about the episode in those terms. It certainly gives me something to think about.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 12th, 2005 05:23 am (UTC)
Thinkings are good! :-) (regardless of whether people agree or not, I'm happy if my ideas are thought-provoking!)
Tom is my Clark: CLARK_teh_sex_Amandajane5_Rose_ettaprim_rose_etta on November 12th, 2005 05:19 am (UTC)
I liked that a whole bunch and am gladly hanging around for more.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 12th, 2005 05:24 am (UTC)
Thanks! :-) I'm rather long-winded about this ep... It's had my head in a spin!
Enderenderwiggin24 on November 12th, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC)
I applaud you for being to refreshingly different from all the other reviews i have on my -flist :)
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex Fallen Virtuousbop_radar on November 13th, 2005 04:33 am (UTC)
Thank you!! Sometimes it makes me laugh how different my reactions are to most of fandom. I'm glad you found it refreshing rather than frustrating! ;)
rumpuso on November 12th, 2005 03:41 pm (UTC)
I have been waiting for your review. Clicking on my LJ, searching for YOU. Obviously I somehow missed your first post, but I am caught up now with both your review posts and I must say that my wait was well worth it. You have once again captured the intricacies and depths that Smallville interjects within each episode. It is always refreshing to me to come into your LJ to read your thoughts because you see the layers, you reach beyond what is shown on the surface and you understand the intimate message from each plot.

This week has been difficult for me to enjoy my LJ friends list. It appears that so many are focused on one tiny aspect ... Clark not apologizing to Lex for hurting him; and for that, I too was disappointed that it was glossed over. Yet, in my own personal opinion, in this episode it was not important to show how Clark can rectify the wrongs he caused, it was of greater importance to showcase Braniac's incredibly brilliant manipulation of Clark, Clark's reactive consequences from that manipulation, and finally the repurcussions and lasting distrust left behind. One of Braniac's goals is to have Clark question Lex in all things...to suspect him, to distrust him. And this had been masterfully accomplished in this episode. It is only a tiny piece of the episode that Clark wasn't shown going to the mansion and apologizing, but I strongly suspect that TPTB have other intentions rather than to make Clark appear uncaring. I feel that Clark is still under the guise that Lex sent him the rock and had nefarious intentions. He does not know what we as the audience know about Braniac manipulating the cirumstances to make it look like Lex's fault. It was more important from a storyteller's standpoint to drive home the fact that Braniac is in full control of Clark and the surrounding circumstances. They adequately and very successfully showed that with the final conversation between Fine and Clark in the loft, and the ending scene of Fine going back to his ship. That's what is so brilliant of Smallville. They continuously move stories along, sometimes at an aggravatingly slow pace, but always with the intention of showing us the tragic ending that they have alluded Smallville will end with between Lex and Clark.

Anyway, I am rambling...I, like you, LOVED this episode. It was smart as hell and the actors delivered a new level of believability.

Thanks again for the review. I always come away from your thoughts with a greater understanding of what was put forth each week.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Lex consequencesbop_radar on November 12th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was late in posting this week! Sorry! A combination of a slow torrent and my timezone meant a day's delay and then it took longer than usual to process my thoughts on the ep.

I sooo know what you mean about having it tough on your f'list! Being in Australia means I'm effectively a day behind the airing in the US so every week on Friday I enter the long wait until I get the ep ... until then I can't go on my f'list at all as everyone's posting their reactions. Then I write my review and run to see what everyone else thought and so often I find that people are caught up on a minor aspect: Clana hatred or Lexana hatred or Clark's an asshole or whatever... I understand that kind of emotional reaction: I have those too. But I don't like fixating on them because it makes for an incomplete and limited enjoyment of the show.

Thanks for the comment. I could not agree more with your reading of this episode as centring on Brainiac's masterful manipulation of Clark. It was an incredibly well executed plan, which makes Brainiac a believably powerful intelligent force. And I, like you, can understand why Clark is not shown apologising to Lex here. It works from a storytelling point of view.

We saw that he deflects a lot of blame onto Lex: it simplifies things in his mind to do so. It's not NICE but he's really struggling to come to terms with how his mind has been unsettled, and attributing blame to Lex who he distrusts for other reasons as well, is one way of reaching a quick resolution.

The last scene with Fine and Clark was incredibly powerful. Fine is literally inside Clark's space (the loft representing his internal world). I wanted to write about that but I don't think we know the full meaning of that scene yet. As events unfold, I suspect we'll look back on that scene with greater understanding. For example, they played the Superman theme and Clark was in Superman colours, yet Fine/Brainiac is a dark force deceiving him. It was a very unsettling scene, but a very powerful one.

I was deeply moved by Clark's expression when he faced Lex with Lana in his arms. For me, the pain expressed then was partly for Lex... those two communicate physically as well as verbally. Clark has a lot of pride and anger caught up in him right now: I don't know how genuine an apology to Lex would seem. But that shared moment of agony said more: it said 'I'm hurt, I'm out of control, I can't believe what I've done, I can't bridge this gap, I'm sorry, I'm in pain, I'm trapped by forces outside of my control, I wish I could say something to you right now, You hurt me, I hurt you, This is all too much for me to cope with... etc.' And that's enough for me as an audience member, because it's driven Clark and Lex further apart - against their wills. And closer to their final destiny.

I'm so glad you enjoy the show and if my reviews help, that's even better!
(Deleted comment)
rumpuso on November 12th, 2005 07:07 pm (UTC)
Very inciteful response. I really enjoyed your views on how to perceive Clark's intent while paranoid. I hadn't thought of things that way. Very good!
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark secrets and liesbop_radar on November 12th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks, LaT! I appreciate your comments.

I agree it's hard to discern which of Clark's actions while in crazed paranoia stem from true feelings and which do not. More than most episodes, Splinter is going to create mutliple possible readings - mine is just one. And I respect that you don't agree with the idea that I drew out here.

It prompts me to question why I felt so strongly that there was a difference in his violence with Lex than his violence with the others (Lana, Martha, Jonathan). It's really because Lex is the only person he shows pleasure in hurting. He is angered by all other three, but even at the height of paranoia he doesn't seem to enjoy hurting them: it's more as if he feels he has to because they have hurt him. This feeling is heightened with Lex, perhaps just because he's wronged him more deeply. And so the drive to violence under the influence of paranoia is stronger. Also, we've seen Clark hurt Lex while completely sane. Whereas, he hasn't done this to Lana or his parents. So his actions against Lex seem closer to being 'real'. Anyway I take your point that we're treading on dangerous territory trying to work out what's really him and what's not... I'm still glad like you that his paranoia was built on fears we know he really has.

Oh - it was the actual cradle - that's great! Continuity! I found that scene really really chilling: it felt like we were really IN Clark's subconscious and it was a terrible haunted place. It also reminded me how similar Clark's and Lex's fears are: they both have guilt about the loss of a younger sibling.
nerodinerodi on November 12th, 2005 11:57 pm (UTC)
It's the same cradle Jonathan made for Martha back in S2 when she was pregnant.

Ahhhh excellent call LaT. I didn't get why that was there, but you hit it on the head.
rhiannonhero: SV Clark Lex (B'Lane)rhiannonhero on November 12th, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
Clark claims the actions Lex has taken with him (‘those things you do to me, Lex’) are really about a Lana. The opposite is true: Lex’s actions with Lana are all about Clark.

And perhaps Clark's actions with Lana are about Lex? Especially the sexual actions. *waggles eyebrows* Or is that just the slasher in me talking?
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!bop_radar on November 12th, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC)
Hee! Definitely possible to go there...! Poor Clark - he was so lost and confused in that scene. I rewatched it last night and Lex's line 'listen to what you're saying, Clark' cracked me up. The implication is 'this shit about it being all about Lana is just crazy! you couldn't possibly think it wasn't about you!' Loved that scene!
rhiannonherorhiannonhero on November 13th, 2005 02:43 am (UTC)
There were so many slashy implications throughout the whole episode! I was bored tonight and typed up a long, crack-pot post about it all, partially inspired by these posts of yours. :D
nerodinerodi on November 12th, 2005 11:58 pm (UTC)
loved this review0--- and especially your comments about clark watching lana and lex infront of the fire and not knowing who he identified with, very insightful.

Anyway, i LOVED this episode, thought it was the best one in over a year. I'm very very happy with it.
K, Bop or Boppy--take your pick!: Clark Love Lexbop_radar on November 13th, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
Absolutely! I loved it too! I'm glad you liked the part about the fire scene - I've thought before about Clark's romanticisation of Lex/fireplaces and so I flipped out when I saw how they framed that scene! I'm glad someone else was really happy with the ep. I think it would be in my top ten favourite episodes from smallville: there's just so much going on in it.