Immensely long ramble from me after viewing S3 Smallville. For Cat.
Lex and Lana
At the most superficial level I enjoyed the airport scene because Lex smiles and we haven’t seen him smile genuinely, without bitterness or deceit, since S2. In Smallville Lana is a symbol of romance, complete with all the cliches. The airport scene is typical of a thousand romantic stories: here she is at the airport, alone, sure no-one will see her off. But Lex comes. It is significant that Lex does not make a grand entrance. Unlike Clark who appears with a rose, Lex brings nothing but himself. This is all the more powerful because Lex himself has told us that ‘the grand gestures have always come easier’ and his usual modus operandi is to come bearing gifts.
Lex has a physical type, as shown over and over again on the show, and Lana fits it perfectly. In S2, there is a scene between Lana and Helen where they look near identical, wearing their hair in the same way and similar clothes (pastel blue for Helen, pink for Lana). At that time, I was interested in the way Clark and Lex’s hetero relationships were paralleled and contrasted: Clark and Lana hide themselves in romance, Lex and Helen reveal themselves as adults, all be it destructively.
Lex and Lana is a totally different affair. Lana in Season 3 is deeply and permanently scarred by Clark, as is Lex. This is the first thing that draws them together. In a powerful scene Lex tells Lana ‘a person is not what they say in one conversation, they’re who they are through your whole relationship.’ Lana internalises this information and even quotes it back at Clark. Until now, Lana clung to the idea that the Clark who said he would always be there was the ‘true’ Clark. Lex is saying: no, look at his behaviour. And when she does that, the erratic, absent, destructive and cruel Clark is evident.
Lex gives Lana an open-ended ticket: she can decide when she goes and when she comes back. Essentially his gift is empowered adult choice.
The fact that Lana tells Clark it is Lex that has given her this insight is an indication that she is unaware or unconcerned at this stage that Lex’s interest in her may be more than just friendship. In fact, we learn by the end of S3 that Lex’s motivations are two-fold: on the one part he sees how hurt she is by Clark and for the first time protects her from Clark by empowering her to leave Smallville. This is a self-sacrificing move, since we also learn that he has feelings for her himself and would rather have her around. He sees it as more important that she pursues an independent life and he even uses his own affections to challenge her into doing so. The Lana of first season would have acted on the hints Lex drops, and jumped at the chance to play out her classic role as the supportive girlfriend. Instead, she looks him straight in the eye and tells him she wants to be ‘the girl that goes to Paris’. She tells him she doesn’t want anything pulling her back to Smallville
At the airport, Lex nearly lets Lana walk past him, just catching her sleeve at the last moment. Thus he gets to see the genuine look of surprise and joy on her face: a precious gift to someone who is used to scowls when he appears unexpectedly (particularly at the Kent farm). Likewise when he suggests he could visit her in Paris, Lana breaks into a wide beam that Lex can’t help mirroring. She didn’t expect him to offer himself as a gift, but this is the best gift she could be given. Lana is moving away from selfish, possessive love to a supportive love that sets her free.
She hugs him. Touch is so important for Lex that this scene is heartbreaking. The last time he was hugged with genuine affection was by Clark when he came back from the island. He has hugged Clark since then, but the gesture was initiated by him. This time it is initiated by Lana and it is warm and genuine. On her part, she is no longer the girl that plays games: there is no kiss, no flirty ‘like me’ looks. Just genuine appreciation for someone that is actually there for her. For Lex, this is the only spark of happiness on a day that will see Clark leave his life forever and step into his role as Superman. Lex craves appreciation for his generosity and here for once he receives it unconditionally. It’s all the more beautiful that his gift this time is simply himself.
Across the street, Clark of the empty romantic gestures, drops a rose, a perfect symbol for the failure of his romanticised love. He can be seen as partly responsible for pushing Lana into Lex’s arms when you consider that he nearly forgot to turn up at all.
Lex and Chloe
S3 is about transitioning identities. Clark becomes Superman, Lex is forced into his role as villain. But the women also go through a transition: from adolescence to responsible adulthood. Lex plays a key role in this.
As we’ve seen, he encourages Lana to take on an independent life. He also challenges Chloe and this relationship although at first sight less significant to Lex is more complex.
Prelude: Lex, impressed with Chloe’s persistent investigations and courage, takes her to the morgue to show her what a dangerous world she’s getting into if she investigates the Luthors. He is sincere: he wants to protect her. But Chloe is freaked and doesn’t know if she can trust him.
In the first key scene between Chloe and Lex, in Truth, Lex reveals that he knows Chloe is infected with truth serum. At first he appears to be selfishly motivated in this scene: he wants to get the seven weeks back and he knows Chloe can help him. In doing so he puts himself directly in her line of sight and holds her by the shoulders (intense Lex touching!). Is this the truth serum at work or is Lex comfortable revealing the depth of his need for Chloe’s help? Surely he is also putting himself in danger of exposure? He’s in Chloe’s hands. Just how big a risk Lex is taking quickly becomes apparent. As Lex would expect, Chloe asks about his role in her father losing his job. Here Lex has nothing to fear: Lionel was responsible, not him. But then Chloe presses further, as Lex is sure to know she would. She asks what he wants from his father and he admits, clearly against his will that he wants his love. The scene ends with Lex in shock and Chloe drawn into sympathy for him.
(Aside: If Chloe had asked Lex about his obsession with Clark, would the answer have been the same? At one level it seems absurd that she doesn’t—the writers couldn’t possibly have had that happen because that would have been Lex defining his feelings once and for all. At the same time, is it possible that Chloe doesn’t need to ask because she knows? Chloe reads Lex so well I find it hard to believe she is unaware of his obsession. They never ask each other for info on Clark: Lex asks for his missing seven weeks back (his own source of information) and Chloe goes to get the info for herself. They are so alike that perhaps they each respect the other’s friendship with Clark and their separate desires to have Clark finally come clean with them.)
Several episodes later, Chloe returns to tell Lex that she has retrieved a voicemail message incriminating his father in the deaths of Lex’s grandparents. Lex is self-contained in this scene but clearly moved. Once again they face each other. Chloe always approaches Lex at his own level. She’s already his equal. Lex tells her that it means a lot to him that she would do this. But he is concerned she is doing it for him: he respects her when she tells him that she has her own motivations as well. Multiple motviations are something Lex understands: Chloe shows herself as his equal here in a way Clark never will be because he never admits to his multiple motivations. The scene ends with Chloe telling Lex that she knows he won’t let anything happen to her. This is a nice echo from the morgue scene: until now we are not sure what Chloe thinks of post-asylum Lex. The subtext here is: you’re still the same Lex to me. Aww!
There is a final scene though. In this scene, Lex tries to scare Chloe into not testifying. Chloe calls him on it. He tells her he wants her to have all the facts. Again, Lex’s gift to the woman he interacts with is to give her free choice. Chloe embraces her choice and makes the same decision Lex does: that ridding the world of a tyrant is more important than putting yourself in danger.
The season ends with both of them paying the price of potential death. Will they also both lose their fathers? In a sense, Lex has already lost his. Chloe’s seems marked for death also. Chloe wears Lex’s colours through much of the end of the season. She does so intelligently: she is not in love, she is not manipulated, she is not doing so only for Lex’s sake. She, more than Lana, has truly moved into adulthood, and it’s Lex Luthor that has prompted the shift.