I thought this wasn't the most brilliant episode overall but the Clark plot was fantastic. While the Zoner was a step up from a meteor freak, this was essentially still a FoTW episode and he wasn't that interesting in his own right. (Although admittedly the actor was hot!) It's interesting that Smallville's clearly trying to show that Clark's circle of influence is expanding out from Smallville, and even from Metropolis, to the whole world. Having said that, I'm kind of disappointed that this Zoner came from no more exotic a locale than Oakland, CA (though they did make a big effort to show how it really is a different world to Kansas). I guess I'd held out hopes that Clark might have to go to Australia to find Raya. But it seems that the Zoners will come to him instead. I hope we get a few more scenes outside of Smallville at least. The opening sequence, with such a different aesthetic, was very well shot. So for superficial reasons alone I think it would be fun.
Speaking of that Zoner, the poor lad who got inhabited is going to have a nasty shock when he returns home to find he killed his best friend! And in the hospital scene, I got the impression that Clark was checking out what he could remember--perhaps to suss how true it is that Lex doesn't remember anything? Will this change his suspicions of Lex at all?
Time to stop running
There were so many big reveals about Kryptonians in this episode. I loved learning that the high-pitched noise is the beacon for a family. The Zoner mentioned the effect of the 'yellow sun'. And they finally said 'Brainiac' on the show!
I adore Raya--I think she was brilliant casting. She looks so Kryptonian, with Clark's big eyes and similar facial structure! What I loved about the two of them together was the sort of serene, restrained contentment that Kryptonians show around one another when they connect. When she appeared in the barn, Clark was obviously delighted to see her, but his mouth barely twitched into a smile. And even when she tells him 'you're not alone any more: I'm here' he responds with no more than a deep stare and a slight smile. Their connection may appear passionless on the surface, but it also speaks of destiny and acceptance, which gets to the heart of Raya's message for Clark. Raya herself is a good role model for these qualities--she is far from angry about what happened to her--she accepts the joy of seeing Earth but also the pain of dying and not seeing Kal-El's future. And in doing so she plays a crucial role in his destiny.
I'm also glad Clark told Martha about Raya's significance to him. It shows that he still loves and respects her. And in pointing out that he is different, that he's reminded of that every day, and that it's only with Raya that 'I didn't feel alone any more', he is not rejecting Martha. He is simply admitting the truth to himself and to her. It did look as if Martha still felt threatened and conflicted, though I found her expression hard to read. But she is not losing a son--he's just growing into the man she would want him to be. I loved that scene between them at the end and was deeply moved by Clark's line: 'I don't think I ever really thought about what I'd lost'. Oh, Clark! *sniffs*
I love that Clark finally asked about his father. And Raya describes Jor-El in terms that Clark associates with Jonathan--'brave, strong, with the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known'. Clark has come so far--he acknowledges that his view of Jor-El was very different and that he hasn't been the best son. And he confronts the harsh but true message that Raya brings: 'pain is a part of anyone's journey, Kal-El, you can't escape it'. This has been the problem with the Kents approach to Jor-El from the start--they spent so much time blaming him and fighting the inevitable. Clark needs to learn acceptance of life's hardships if he's to be a successful hero, and he has finally begun that journey.
The parallels between Jor-El and Clark himself are striking. We learn that Jor-El was very hard on himself too. And the Phantom Zoners mirror the meteor freaks that Clark 'banished' to Belle Reve and who come back to wreak vengeance on him. Raya also describes Jor-El's determination, and by the end of this episode we see Clark demonstrate similar determination. Raya points out that the one thing he hasn't tried is the training his father wanted for him, and with the Fortress regenerating, he embraces this and vows to begin his training.
However, the other lesson for Clark this season is one of responsiblity-taking, so his vow to rid the world of the Zoners first fits emotionally with that. (At another level, it seems a bit daft, because surely the training would help him defeat the Zoners?!) There's a sense that Clark feels he has to atone for his inaction in the past. And since he's not overly defeatist or self-pitying about this, that's something I can get on board with. He's journey into action now, rather than staying stuck in his fear and pain. It's wonderful!
Lies and Ambiguity
I'm finding Lana fascinating at the moment. I loved the framing of her clandestine meeting with Dr Groll, and it's startling how quickly Lana has had her illusions of honesty with Lex stripped away. She is covering her back very well, but even so finds the news that Lex has begun military testing without telling her shocking. She controls herself very well though and is extremely composed. She lies to Lex smoothly, and she challenges him in saying that she's playing on his level. That comes back to bite her in the hospital when Lex implies that she might have had something to do with the box getting stolen. Lana is shocked--she may play Lex but she wouldn't let him get hurt. But Lex thinks she might--the disturbing implication being he'd be prepared to risk Lana getting hurt if the payoff was worth it.
Lex says he doesn't like playing cat-and-mouse games, but I think to some degree he gets a kick out of the tangled web that is his relationship with her now. It does, after all, follow the blueprint for intimate relationships in the Luthor household. He also appears genuinely frustrated at times (I love that he had to say 'please' to get the box back--hee!). It was hilarious that Lex was the one to pull the 'after all your talk about honesty' line on Lana, instead of vice versa. And again Lana was so composed--no hysterics from her, she just says 'we're even'. And she calls Lex on his egotism--'the human race has survived this long, it doesn't need Lex Luthor to save it'.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of their relationship now is that Lana's found a way to be with him but not agree with him. When Lex plays the 'aren't we in this together?' line she says 'we still are, just not on the same side'. I don't think he expected that. That he can be intimate with someone who disagrees with him and frustrates his objectives possibly hadn't fully occurred to Lex. I suspect he thought he would win more control over Lana than this.
I love that Lana is annoyed he's working with the military and she makes an excellent point that it could just mean 'a new way to destroy ourselves'. And she's not afraid to give him an ultimatum. Lex's eye-roll when Lana reminds him that they've been through this before with the ship implied that he would not have chosen her. And Lex is obsessed. I think he would have found a way to keep both Lana and the box--burying the box even further in secrecy. 'I guess we'll never know' says Lana, hiding behind her cloak of hair, comforting herself with a hot drink by the fire. Either way, she's going to stick this out, though Dr Groll's line may be foreshadowing what's to come: 'when you're in as deep as we are with the Luthors, they won't let you just walk away.'
The most difficult part of this episode, for me, was the Chimmy plot. In the past Chloe has been defined by her insatiable curiosity and throughness. And we were reminded of this in this episode--'hello, have you met me?' But increasingly her curiosity and thoroughness are used purely for Clark. (I do find it super-cute that she made a flowchart for Clark of the Zoner-related incidents! 'Chloe, these attacks form a straight line!' 'GENIUS, Clark!')
Jimmy is incredibly naive, it is true, but his enthusiasm is charming, and I found Chloe's dismissiveness of the photos a bit out of character. I thought they would at least trigger her curiosity to investigate further, but I guess we're supposed to understand she's busy tracking down Zoners for Clark. Jimmy rightly points out that he was being proactive, and while his journalist skills are definitely below par, he had hoped they would collaborate. I didn't find her line about 'I've dealt with the Luthors before' to be convincing at all, especially as she has such a cartoonish view of Lex ('I think Lex Luthor getting out of bed in the morning is suspicious'). If that was really her main concern for Jimmy, it didn't come through very well.
Her shrug-off resulted in Jimmy approaching Lex himself, and thus playing straight into Lex's hands. Lex claims that Chloe is 'very close' to Lana, but we know this is not really the case any more. And if Chloe was really worried about Lana, she might have shown a bit more interest in the story herself.
Chloe's true agenda nowadays is covering for Clark. She only kicks into gear when she discovers Jimmy's unearthed something related to Clark. Naive Jimmy (with his amusing 'Lex is working with the Egyptians!') says 'that's my girl'. But the truth is that she's Clark's girl. Increasingly we're seeing the sacrifice that this means for Chloe--a Pulitzer, a front page story, an honest relationship--all of these are going to be hard for her to achieve while guarding Clark's secret is her number one priority.
Furthermore she lets Jimmy walk into a meeting with the Editor and get humiliated and demoted, nearly sacked. However she's right that Lex making the phonecall is a compliment, and of course we know Jimmy does have a future as a photographer, but I'm worrying now that Chloe's not good for him. And I can't see a way around this for Chloe--she's bound to Clark by sharing his secret, and it seems that this may mean she's stuck in the basement for longer than she would be otherwise. *frets*
- Lex was great fun in this episode, I thought. Although I didn't like his bitchy line about Chloe landing a boyfriend--that tack was always below par for Lex, he shouldn't have revisited it. However I did find his silence with Jimmy very amusing.
- Clexana scene! So amusing! Clark knocked! Lana's expression throughout their bitchy exchange 'we had an uninvited guest--we're used to that kind of thing' was most amusing. And I really enjoy Lana and Clark's exchanges now that they're not a couple.
- When was a picture of Clark published in the Daily Planet? *confused*