In Lexmas we saw Lex resolve to act against Jonathan Kent as a statement of his absolute desire for power and wealth. In the very next episode he fails to carry out this plan and this is pointed out to him by both his father and his fanatic follower. ‘You’re slipping, Lex’ is Lionel’s catchcry as he thrusts The Art of War into his sons hands, and it’s a possibility that Lex is left to ponder. It must be galling to Lex to be seen as weak by his father when he is more determined than he has ever been.
Similarly, in this episode he is offered a benchmark of extremism to judge his behaviour by and it comes up short. In the extent to which Lex’s student fangirl modelled herself on him, both physically and behaviourally, she represented a potential more extreme self. Her behaviour is neither practical nor successful, and that is at least partly why Lex would never act in this way. Yet this episode seemed to suggest that there was still some deeper reluctance on his part, some genuine revulsion at the violence and brash behaviour. Whether or not this is a ‘weakness’ may prey on his mind … combined with Lionel’s words, he may indeed wonder if he is ‘slipping’. Does he, in fact, need to be more brutal still to be successful? Or will he find a way of integrating restraint and determination?
(On a more flippant note, Lex really needs to get a grip on who he hires. He cracked it on the phone to Griff episodes ago and yet Griff is still the one he entrusts with the job of bringing down Jonathan Kent. Griff was so easily fooled by Lionel! Lex needs some better minions!)
The brief scene in the hospital with Clark was wonderful because it had so many echoes of conversations past. This time they both cut each other off swiftly, going through the same patterns almost in their sleep. Clark intercepts Lex before he reaches Jonathan’s room, Lex quickly denies all involvement. There is a sense of tiredness in both of them that they are here again, having the same old conversation. The lovely coda was Clark asking Lex how far he would go/what he wanted and Lex replying ‘you already have everything you want’. That, as we have seen, is what Lex believes. He believes he’s still striving to ‘live happily ever after’ but that Clark already is living that dream. Ironically, in the same episode, we learn the reality is quite different.
We’ve come a long way…
I could not have been more delighted with the Clana scenes in this episode. I feel like the potential of this plot arc has finally been realised. I’m very glad that the writers have textualised what we’ve suspected for some time: that Clark hasn’t slept with Lana since he regained his powers. The scene between Lana and Clark was well written and well delivered. It was built out of the development of both characters this season and showed a more adult side of their relationship than we often see. I felt compassion for both characters. Lana was dignified and restrained in her approach and Clark’s journey has been made so sympathetic and comprehensible this season that I sympathised with the position he was in. He is not the same person as he was before he came back from the dead. I particularly liked Lana calling Clark on his ‘deflection’ of her concerns. That interaction had a very Clex flavour to it. Clark has learned well how to deflect inquiries, but he forgot that Lana too has been burnt by such behaviour in the past and she’s past the point where that’s enough to appease her.
In the final scene, Clark enters the barn loft, his private space, to find Lana there, looking through his telescope. This scene almost gave me shivers, for we have come a long way from Season 1 Clark Kent using the telescope to spy on Lana. By placing herself back in Clark’s space, Lana reached out to him. She revealed in their conversation there that she feared she had been partly responsible for the tension between them: by burying herself in her studies, and particularly astronomy. By returning to the loft, she ostensibly returns to a site of sentimentality and intimacy for the two of them. However, the framing is wrong. She is there before Clark, and she’s the one looking at the stars. She’s the one that reveals a secret about aliens, not Clark, and it understandably unsettles him.
The theme of ‘fanatic’ is interesting to explore in relation to Lana’s fascination with astronomy. It has something of the fanatic element about it, and for Clark it relates to a desire to penetrate his secret, his true self, even if Lana herself has not yet made that leap. He fears the intensity of her interest, as he’s seen where it can lead with others, with Lex. Clark already fears losing her to Lex. In this episode, Chloe suggested to him that Lana will ‘start asking all the wrong people all the right questions’ and I suspect that more than ever, this possibility will prey on Clark’s mind: Lana may turn to Lex. I am very glad the writers have chosen to have Lana confess the subject of her obsession to Clark before or without turning to Lex for help. It makes it more individual to her, and her own immediate experience with the aliens. As Lex might say ‘this might seem like it’s all about you Clark, but actually it’s about me.’ The first meteor shower was as defining an event for Lana as it was for Lex and Clark and just like Lex she is drawn to explore its hidden significance.
Duplicity and secrets
An eternal theme of Smallville, secrets were again raised in this episode. Martha decides to act behind Jonathan’s back to obtain money for the campaign. It is a serious decision to make that I think represents a major problem in their relationship. To some degree Jonathan’s own ‘fanaticism’ about the campaign has created a distance between them. Lionel successfully preyed on Martha’s fear that she will be responsible for holding Jonathan back for her own selfish reasons. As the traditional selfless wife, it is believable that this would be unacceptable to Martha.
Interestingly Martha entrusts Lois with her secret. Lois has subtly become part of the Clark family through engaging with Jonathan’s campaign. She is more active, more loyal, more engaged than their own son, for he has his own worries, whereas she has adopted the campaign as a way of giving purpose to her life. She looks to Martha as a friend and interacts with Jonathan as an equal. She is becoming an adult and engaging in politics and real issues in a way that Clark is still not ready for. Martha’s trust means a lot to Lois, but this secret will embroil Lois deeper in the Kent family politics than ever before.
I was sad that there was not more Lois in this episode, although it’s wonderful to see her back on screen.