Accidents and Responsibility
In the comic that Lex and Duncan are reading at the start of Reunion, Warrior Angel and Black Diamond are fighting because of an accident, a death, that occurred when Warrior Angel confronted Black Diamond's father, a supervillain. The most obvious parallel here is to Lex as Black Diamond and Clark as Warrior Angel. The issue at stake is one of responsibility--Black Diamond calling Warrior Angel on his responsibility for the 'accidental' death, we assume. So from the start of this episode the theme of personal responsibility is established. Three characters--Clark, Lex and Oliver--confront their past actions in this episode and deal with their guilt and/or responsibility in different ways.
After the confrontation with Oliver and his thugs, Duncan says 'one day we're going to get those guys'. The camera pans up to the statue atop Excelsior. I could be wrong, but it looked like a statue of Justice. And in the present day, we see the sword of justice fall on the first of the three bullies, killing him. Helpless to Lionel Luthor's experiments, Duncan has been turned into a 'meteor freak' who acts on his basest instincts--vengeance. Of all the meteor freaks we've had, he's one of the most sympathetic. Had he lived, he may have exercised true justice as a lawyer, but instead he is poisoned and corrupted. Three characters--Lex, Clark and Oliver--face the choice between justice and corruption in this episode.
Lex's memory of his school, symbolised in the school crest which he clutches, is stained with blood. He is haunted by the memory of his friendship with Duncan and its tragic end--and this memory comes to life in this episode.
Lex and Duncan talked of working as partners, lawyers working pro bono on behalf of the disadvantaged poor. This is the type of real-life heroism that Lex could have embraced, though he initially jokes with Duncan about it 'better hit the gym--spandex is hard to pull off'. Even as an adolescent, Lex's dreams were grandiose. It is Duncan whose down to earth practicality could have offered Lex the grounding he needed. But Lex is not motivated by altruism; he embraces the idea of working with Duncan not to do good, but to piss of his father.
Duncan's response to the discovery that Ollie and his mates are cheating is starkly different to Lex's. Duncan follows straightfoward rules and morality, regardless of the personal consequences. Lex thinks of the personal gain first and foremost. He also demonstrates a capacity for deception that Duncan finds abhorrent--'you don't pretend to be friends with someone Lex: you either are or you aren't.' This young Lex is not so different from the Lex we see in the present day, hiding his true self beneath layers of deception and denial for personal gain in terms of power, money and prestige. They have very similar world views as well. Lex still identifies as 'outsider'. Duncan is an interesting contrast to Lex, telling him that he never felt like he was 'on the outside'--'not when you were my friend'. Friendship is acceptance enough for Duncan, but not for Lex, who pushes for more, ambition being part of his nature.
Oliver throws Lex into stark relief in this episode. He has a certain view of Lex: 'poor little Lex, always blaming someone else for all of his problems'. There is truth in this. There is also truth in Lex's retort 'only when they're the cause'. For Lex may have a tendency to blame others, but he usually has a fair case. He frequently blames Lionel (accurately), Clark (sometimes accurately), and here he blames Oliver (also accurately), but unlike Oliver he's not ALSO prepared to share the ownership of responsibilty for them, and he doesn't take responsbility for his own actions. Lex continues to thrust the blame elsewhere--and it's easy to blame a dislikeable group of bullies. 'He finally got what he deserved' he tells Lana, still casting Oliver and the crew as the 'bad guys' and himself as blameless. Though through his dream we see that he still recalls his own actions and that those actions frighten him.
Lex initially refuses to open up to Lana, but he does do so at then end. She tries to comfort him by telling him that it's not who he once was that matters but who he is now. But Lex is still trapped in his old identity--there are a lot of similarities between young Lex and the Lex we see today who hides beneath layers of denial and deception. Lex tells Oliver he regrets ever wanting to be friends with people like him, yet Lex still turns up to his reunion. He may claim it is good for 'business', there may genuinely be no emotional need to fit in at a personal level any more, but Lex's excuses seem weak--he hasn't really moved on.
Lex sits in the shadows in the mansion and Lionel tries to offer advice. Lionel says that the best way to deal with memories that haunt us (an echo of Excelsior's motto) is to 'leave them behind us, bury them where they belong--in the past'. But Lex is already burying his emotions beneath alcohol and sarcasm. He's not working through his problems constructively. The only emotional shift he makes in this episode is from wallowing to swallowing, which is not much of an improvement.
Lionel hid the truth about Duncan's death from Lex in order to push Lex in a certain direction. Lionel would have hated his son being friends with the poor scholarship kid and he certainly wouldn't have wanted him to shoulder responsiblity for Duncan's death since that could have led Lex down the path of fulfilling Duncan's dream to make up for it--the last thing Lionel would have wanted. But Lionel also stood to profit personally from the experimenting on Duncan, and it was therefore extra chilling to see Lex adopt this same position at the end of the episode.
This was not an easy episode to watch from a Lex perspective. While I can understand how he came to project his own self-hatred onto Duncan and turn on him, I cannot condone it. Nor can I empathise with Lex in this. He is finally an unsympathetic character--although that doesn't mean that I don't have some sympathy for him. But things have shifted. In the earlier seasons, we had rose-tinted glasses where Lex was concerned. And with good reason--for the door to redemption still stood open to him at that stage. The door has closed, and it's cold and painful and lonely on the other side.
Oliver is a very interesting character in the Smallville universe because he breaks the mould. He proves that who you once were is not who you will always be. And for this reason, he's the perfect role model for Clark at this stage in his development. He also casts a shadow over Lex, who has stood at crossroads more times than we can count.
Oliver's defined in this episode by the degree to which he takes ownership for what happened, telling Clark 'Lex and I killed Duncan'. Although we learn in the flashback that Duncan's death was accidental, Ollie acknowledges that the circumstances leading up to it were the direct result of his actions, as well as that of his friends and Lex.
Although we've seen Oliver be bitchy to Lex, he doesn't like seeing his school pals use Duncan as emotional ammo against Lex at the reunion. I can imagine that Oliver would feel resentment towards Lex--while Lex was off partying and then taking over Luthorcorp, Oliver was reinventing himself as a champion of the downtrodden. He may like one-upping Lex on a personal level, but he's not buying in to group bullying any more.
Clark is transferring some of his behaviour patterns with Lex onto Ollie. Excluded from the mansion and, in this episode, from visiting Lana even when she's in hospital (more-neutral ground), he bursts in to Oliver's apartment instead. Oliver doesn't respond with anger, but he does make a point of remarking on Clark's poor manners: 'or you need to learn how to knock!' In a similar manner, Oliver draws a clear line when Clark asks how he managed to keep his satellites working on Dark Thursday ('trade secret'). Clark is presumptuous in his friendship with Oliver in a way that implies he's directly transferring emotions/behaviour from his relationship with Lex. It must baffle Ollie!
But in this episode we see their friendship settle and deepen. Ollie sits on the barn stairs while Clark does chores. This is the first scene between them that does not include discussion of or line-drawing about boundaries. They are comfortable with one another--they are friends and they can relate to one another. And the bond that links them in this episode is taking responsbility for bad things that they've done. This is perfect for Clark right now, who is just facing up to his own responsbility vis a vis the Zoners. And it must be good for Ollie too to have an equal. Since distancing himself from his school circle and reinventing himself as a secret hero, Oliver must have been very isolated. So I'm not surprised to see him settling down in a friendship with Clark. It's also nice that he's not pushing the boundaries there too much--he hasn't pried into Clark's own secrets, even though he must suspect something after Chloe fumbled about the Dark Thursday article. Clark finally has a healthy male friendship! *squeee* I also loved his reaction to Chloe's 'in person, he's really...' Clark's little smile and nod indicated, 'yes, yes, he IS'--there was ownership and fondness there--Oliver isn't just Lois's hot new boyfriend! :-p
Wall of Weird goes global
The world is opening up to Clark--the Zoners are going to take him all over the world, even Australia perhaps! The final reveal about Raya was very exciting. But what was even more exciting was seeing Clark continue to take responsibility for the results of his actions. The matter of the village in India is of great concern to Clark. He wants to know if he is responsible. Notably he doesn't sink into emo-guilt-trauma as he might have in first season ('The meteor shower was my fault'), but he seeks to find the truth objectively ('I need to know for sure') and is prepared to shoulder responsibility if it is his. In this he speaks against both Martha and Chloe who seek to comfort Clark and reassure him of his own 'goodness'. This was useful at an earlier stage of his development but is redundant now. Clark's moved past them in their thinking and is looking at the bigger picture. Chloe and Martha both focus on the potential murder of Lex, but I doubt that's Clark's focus--he's thinking much further back--if he had worked with Jor-El from the start, finished his training, heeded his warnings, Zod's arrival could have been averted in a different way. And he's learning not to shy away from the big picture, less direct consequences of his actions.
My hot boyfriend
Lois and Oliver's relationship has clearly deepened. He not only takes her to the reunion but is also still with her later in the aftermath of his friend's death. Lois calls him 'my hot boyfriend' to Clark, the first real sign from her that she acknowledges they are dating.
Lois's journalism career is also developing, still growing organically out of her own life. She undertakes this investigation not only to get a juicy story but also to save her boyfriend. And while she is frustrated that he doesn't open up to her, she doesn't waste her time demanding that he do so or being self-pitying about it. She simply expresses regret about it and gets on with doing what she can. I loved Clark's ever-so=earnest attempt to explain Ollie's perspective to Lois. Lois is rewarded for her patience, which stands in contrast to Lex's and Lana's behaviour under similar circumstances with Clark. At the end of the episode Ollie says it may be 'time for me to do some talking' and we assume that he is going to open up to Lois about Duncan. Though not about his secret identity, which, I assume, will be this couple's final undoing. I just have one wish with that--that they make out on screen at least ONCE before they break up! Please!!
I'm still enjoying Lois's growth a great deal. It was good to see her drop the story as in bad taste. Again, Lois's morality is growing out of her personal relationships, in a similar way to Clark's. But once firmed up, these lines that she's drawing will serve her well as an ethical journalist in the future.
Final squee notes:
- Oliver has hero reflexes--shielding both Lois and Lex from the impact of an explosion.
- supacat tells me the 'boxing glove arrow' is from Green Arrow comic canon.
- The shooting-an-arrow-with-his-eyes-closed sequence was ridiculously hot. As he shot it, I exclaimed 'this could not get any hotter!' Oh, how wrong I was! ;-) With Clark catching the arrow mid-air! *flails*
- The final interaction between Lex and Oliver had echoes of old Clex--Lex thanks Oliver for saving him, Oliver says 'you would have done the same for me', Lex says thank you--but this time that's all he says. Pointedly. No more excessive gratitude and devotion from Lex!
I'm loving this new mature Smallville and new grown-up Clark!