The casting of Victor, the cyborg, was brilliant. He was hot and he could act! Joking aside, he worked really well as this week’s reflection of Clark. The parallels were neatly drawn: superhuman strength, football player, milk drinker (cute!), physically perfect, good-natured and courteous. It’s unsurprising that Clark identified so strongly with him.
Furthermore, Victor revealed that he had a girlfriend he wished to marry, before he was killed in a car accident. Victor asks Clark if he thinks his girlfriend will accept him now that he is super-human (or part ‘bionic’). Clark replies ‘I’m not the best person to be asking about that.’ I loved this wry self-aware comment from Clark. Having recently experienced the death of his own girlfriend as the result of revealing his secret to her, and having lived through his own ‘death’ not so long ago, Clark is too close to the situation to comment objectively. The parallels are too real for him to be able to give an encouraging response.
Instead, it is Lana not Clark who allows Victor to realise his romantic ‘destiny’. Catherine and Lana are also paralleled. They are of a similar physical type and the first person Victor runs into on exiting the hospital is Lana. She becomes emotionally intrigued and moved by his story. Victor asks her ‘what would you do if you had one last chance to see the person you love?’ Lana recognises someone with a similar romantic temperament to her own. She also sees in Victor the qualities she used to love in Clark—particularly his desire to place her first above his own life. There is even more to the investment in Victor for Lana, as he experienced the death of his family and has survivor guilt, something she knows a lot about. In helping Victor reunite with Catherine, Lana is living out her own fantasy of reaching a loving and honest connection with someone else.
At the end of Cyborg, Victor is reunited with Catherine. As they embrace, Lana and Clark watch. Each of them show in their expressions that they recognise themselves in Victor and Catherine. Lana shares these thoughts with Clark later, telling him that they reminded her of their ‘glory days’ together. Clark does not share his thoughts, but his expression reflects the bitterness of understanding that the happy ending will not be his. The audience, privileged to Clark’s journey, knows he is holding himself back in order to protect Lana, to do what he thinks is right. This scene, beautifully constructed, combines two main themes in this week’s episode: the reflection of oneself in others and the sharing or hiding of secrets.
For Clark, the emotional investment in Victor is not about romance, but about his own darkest fears. Victor has been experimented on and turned into a vehicle for potentially dark purposes. Clark admits he has ‘a thing about being experimented on in labs’. Again, I loved the self-awareness from Clark. He’s clearheaded about what he’s identifying with and why he takes up Victor’s case with such enthusiasm. Clark would, of course, save anyone, but in Victor’s case, there are subtle suggestions that he’s more personally invested than usual.
Chloe and Clark uncover that Luthorcorp owns the lab where Victor was created. No surprise there, as we can tell from Chloe’s tone of voice. She expected it to be Luthorcorp, and probably so did Clark. He rushes to confront Lex.
Lex is revealed to be the ‘vilain of the story’ in this episode. We’ve finally reached a place where Lex is shown to be lying outright to Clark. What’s wonderful about the construction of this plot, is that Lex still appears as the victim of Clark’s assumptions to begin with, as he is eager to point out. He calls Clark on his abrupt entry, impolite behaviour and presumptuous allegations. We’ve seen this behaviour from Clark in the past when the course of events did not justify it, when Lex was proved innocent. Later Lex and Clark both find themselves at the ‘scene of the crime’, Dr Hong’s suicide. Clark immediately suspects the worst of Lex: ‘why else would you be here?’ Lex argues that he is trying to remedy the situation, just as Clark is. It’s a believable argument, because Lex has often shown this sort of initiative in the past.
Lex plays his final card: an appeal to Clark to bring Victor to him. But Victor is trapped, not by Clark’s betrayal of him, but by going to Catherine. That’s a neat reflection on the fact that Clark’s own love interest is a weakness for him. Lex will exploit that in the future, for he has learned, in the most direct way possible that ‘the heart has a way of clouding one’s better judgement.’
When confronted, Lex claims that his intentions have been misconstrued. Clark replies that ‘that seems to happen a lot to you’. Oh what a bitter echo that is, since it is Clark who so often misconstrued Lex’s genuine intentions in the past.
The secondary plot this week centred on Martha and Lionel. In this plot we see another demonstration of how true Lex’s words on the heart clouding one’s judgement really are. Martha is exposed to an attempted blackmail scenario. Without Jonathan constantly building a wall between his family and the Luthors, Martha falters. Lionel appears in the doorway of the Kent kitchen, framed in light, but no less of a sinister character for that. He is polite and excessively obliging, and puts Martha on the spot when he suggests that it’s not seemly for her to be seen with him. The reverse psychology works: she replies ‘I’m not the sort of person who turns her back on her friends because of what people think.’ Martha’s warm heart leaves her open to Lionel’s manipulation.
Unlike with the Lex plotline, where the construction suggested that Lex was not the villain, the construction of the Lionel plot suggested from the start that Lionel was behind the blackmailing. We know he is capable of it and we know he gathers evidence about Clark. What a lovely twist was in store though! In the final scene we see that while Martha burns the evidence, Lionel pays off the blackmailer and obtains another copy of the video footage. He watches Clark saving Lana from the warehouse explosion and reveals ‘Your secret is safe with me … Kal-El.’
I admit I squeed with glee. Finally we have evidence of a far more direct connection between Jor-El and Lionel. In fact, it seems most likely that Jor-El is using Lionel’s body permanently. If so, fantastic! This puts a different spin on Lionel’s interest in the newly widowed Martha. He is aiming not to win her heart but to protect his son and he can best do this by staying close to the family. One father usurps the other’s position: does this mean we need to reinterpret Jonathan’s death? Did Jor-El/Lionel have a more deliberate hand in it than first appeared? Oh, what exciting possibilities!
Lex also delivers another important message in Cyborg: “Some miracles have a price but that doesn’t make them any less profound.” In the context, this appears at first as simply the argument of a supervillain: he has created the ‘miracle’ of Victor at great expense. This parallels Lionel’s purchase of the blackmailer’s information (the secret of Clark’s true nature) at a high price. However, the truth of Lex’s statement also reverberates in deeper ways. This season’s arc has been about the price that Clark pays for his powers, the loss of Lana, the death of his father. The cost in human terms has been huge. There have been many ‘miracles’ this season, not least of which Clark’s idyllic proposal in Reckoning and Lex’s dreamscape in Lexmas. Each resulted in a huge emotional cost but represent moments of profound revelation.
Rumours of the death of clex have been greatly exaggerated
Last week latxcvi posted about having lost interest in the clex reading of Smallville. She pointed to the apparent indifference that Clark and Lex demonstrated towards each other, and to a large degree I agreed. I held out hope for its return though, since episodes like Splinter took the slash subtext to an extreme degree. So I was amused to find this week rife with clex-slash undertones. They don’t really need spelled out, right? Oh, hey, it’s fun…
I admit to enjoying Clark and Lex’s catty fighting in this episode. Clark walks in to find Lex in front of the fire (romance) but won’t be drawn into amicable conversation, despite all Lex’s prodding about the lack of ‘small talk’. Lex’s lip-suck when Clark left the room was very funny. He’s getting a kick out of the irony of the situation! And despite all Clark’s bravado, Lex’s words still touch him at some level, if the long stares are anything to go by! ;-)
Lex and Lana have been strongly paralleled this season, and this continued in Cyborg. Lana confronts Clark about hiding his feelings and Lex says that he knows Clark is angry. Clark himself is distant with both of them. He acknowledges neither of them. Though the talk of glory days reminds us of the time when he held hope for happiness in his relationships with each of them. That time has passed but the echoes are strong. However Clark can’t state the truth and have it accepted by either of them. His declaration of love to Lana sounds hollow, just as any words to bridge the gap with Lex would. I don’t believe Clark wants to bridge the gap there, but I do think he’s hiding how much it tears at him.
Um… and did I mention the fact that Lex created a (very attractive) cyborg with Clark’s strength and speed!? Oh, Lex--you and your toys!