Fine played Clark so perfectly it was painful to watch. He exploited very real weaknesses in Clark’s psychology simply and powerfully. The cracks showed where that Clark is not yet prepared for a life fighting powerful adversaries.
Clark has reached the stage of adulthood where he no longer confides everything in his parents. He now confides in Chloe for some things, keeps other things entirely to himself and turns to an authority figure such as Fine to help him with some of his big questions. When trouble strikes, Clark is forced to reveal more of the truth. Yet he makes some bad judgments on what to tell people and when. His most fatal mistake is trusting Fine too completely. Yet he also misjudges by not having shared his fears about Jor-El with Chloe earlier, or having confided in his parents about Fine sooner.
Having missed the opportunity to discuss his emotions with someone else, Clark is driven in emergency by overwhelming emotional responses. This works in Fine’s favour. He exploits Clark’s fear of Jor-El perfectly. When Fine tells him that Jor-El was a dictator, Clark accepts it because it fits well with Clark’s own surface understanding of Jor-El, who has appeared as an abstract omnipotent force in Clark’s life, surrounded my pain, loss and confusion. He has no time to question things further, as he needs to save Martha.
While Fine is revealed as an enemy and Clark now knows his statements about Jor-El were false, it is evident that Clark harbours lingering anger and resentment towards Jor-El. Jonathan tries to talk Clark into a more general understanding of life’s pain. Loss is a part of life and Clark will have to face it. Yet Clark is trappped in child-like rage at life’s unfairness and he places all the blame at Jor-El’s feet. This is understandable from a psychological point of view: Jor-El is the perfect abstract force to blame. He pronounces painful truths without offering comfort or compassion, he is unforgiving and in a sense soulless. But Clark does not really listen to what Jor-El has to say: it is fate and destiny, not Jor-El himself, who will rob Clark of a loved one. And Clark’s own actions precipitated that, not Jor-El himself, who merely stated what would happen. It’s infuriating, certainly, but Clark cannot afford to remain in fury. He needs to reach a more mature place of understanding, or his actions will continue to be fuelled by anger and his retribution could be damning: as seen in this episode, he hearly destroyed his last link to Krypton. Until Clark is able to bring his emotions under control, he will be exploitable by powerful opponents such as Fine.
One of the most interesting things for me about the Fine versus Jor-El battle is that Fine drew out Clark's passionate defence of the human race. I believe he did so to galvanise Clark's anger against Jor-El even further: Fine tells him Jor-El wanted to recreate a Kryptonian utopia on Earth, wiping out humanity. He knows this will anger Clark and it does. Fine shapes Clark into articulating his beliefs in humanity in a way that he hasn't had to for Jor-El. Jor-El's own beliefs about humanity remain ambivalent and unclear, but Clark's battle with Fine has pushed him further on the path to becoming humanity's 'guardian angel'.
Lionel and Chloe
The real mystery of this episode lies in Lionel’s motivations. He set Chloe on the path to alerting Clark about Fine. His motivations for doing so remain obscure. He continues to take a playfully deceitful approach with his son as well. Mysteriously he knows about both Fine and the spaceship, but his true purpose is not yet clear.
I was charmed to see Lois getting her own canon development in this episode. I am even more delighted that her prompt to become a reporter stems from her own story. Her run-in with Lex worked perfectly for me. She is a passionate defender of those who she adopts as friends and family. She thinks of Martha as her ‘new best friend’ and she defends her more than Jonathan or Clark in the scene with Lex at the Talon. Lex himself is amused by her until she presses him one time too often. Then he retorts in true Lexian fashion with a call that is both true and cutting and is fair at a stretch considering the provocation.
Lois can’t walk away from an argument and it’s convincing to me that she would get drawn in to battle with Lex this way. He affronts her personally but he also represents many things she dislikes. Lex may be the catalyst for Lois to explore her political stance and sense of injustice, and if that’s what sets her on path to journalism, that would be wonderful.
Some light observations
No Lana! Wow. Being Clark’s girlfriend is evidently the best way to write her out of the show.
I love Lois and Chloe as an investigative team. Clark’s going to be a real let-down for Lois after Chloe!
The more evil Lex gets, the funnier he is: his temper tantrum at the loss of his spaceship was a comedic delight.
Photocopy room at the Daily Planet! Look, people! Photocopy room! Clark and Chloe were there! (ok, that's just me ...)
I may revisit this episode later in the week when there is less pain! (actual pain I mean! the ep itself was bearable!)