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While much of Season 4 didn’t work for me, it succeeded in positioning Lex closer to being Clark’s enemy than ever before. This post is a bit of a recap and reflection on Lex’s path throughout this season. Spoilers ahead.

Lex levels the field

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Self-seeking Lex

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Lionel and reversal

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Sibling love and animosity

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Everyone’s a player

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Ok, so there I was trying to write something insightful about S4 SV because there is a *lot* to be said... but instead I keep bursting into giggles remembering the sound clips of MR from the 'Exile' commentary.

Spoilers for SV commentaries

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Let me say it once. ‘Ageless’ was my single most hated Smallville episode ever. I understand that it was Al&Miles’s love-letter to the Christian Right. I understand that the Christian Right puts them on TV. If that’s what it takes to keep Smallville on TV, then I will live with it. But, dear god, don’t make me watch it ever again! Ever.

It was an absolute tragedy that Tom Welling developed acne during the filming of ‘Ageless’. It meant I couldn’t even completely zone out on his superbly inhuman beauty. And the make-up team really didn’t pull their weight.

By halfway through this episode, my viewing-buddy and I had resorted to the Internet Age’s equivalent of putting our fingers in our ears and singing ‘la, la, la!’: I was reading out a sarcastic review of the ep simultaneously as we watched it. So bad was this episode that this improved it only fractionally.

Two marginally interesting moments: Clark saying he’s not sure he can have kids and Lex saying he doesn’t want to. Ha! You guys *have* a kid canonically. The usually subversive Smallville failed me here.

If anyone cares to refute this and make this episode better in my memory than it was on first viewing, please… feel free… otherwise some small part of my soul is going to be off in a corner writhing in pain.

I promise I'll get back to the Clex after this! ;-)

Lana essay

Sep. 28th, 2005 09:38 pm
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I'm sorry. I had to get it out of my system. If you put yourself through reading this, you should totally go and watch the vid 'Company of men' by Talitha as therapy afterwards. :-)

The pink wonderland of Lana

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Early in my SV-watching, I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to respond to Lana as a character. However I have sometimes been able to appreciate her role in the show (when I remind myself to look past the pink clothes, tiaras and headbands). In Season 4, Lana plays an important role, whether we as fans like it or not. I *hated* the witch-plot and all its absurdities, but I found Lana’s own characterisation convincing. In this essay I want to explore what we learn of her by the end of Season 4 and what she says about the Smallville universe.

 

Character establishment

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Often we focus so much on the way that the meteor shower defined the Lex, Clark and Lana that we forget what defined them before it. In the pilot we got to see brief flashes of each of them in their pre-meteor-shower forms. Lex is a frightened child dominated by his father and told that he is responsible for things that are actually not within his control (the helicopter landing). Clark is a cheery alien child desperate to bond with a family. Lana is dressed as a princess and is waving her wand over some stone frog statues, trying to turn them into princes. These three retain these defining characteristics in the show and I don’t think we should ignore the importance of these establishing scenes.

 

Turning frogs into princes

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Lana is always the princess character in the dramas that she creates in her life. She is a fantasist, a reality-escapist, a romantic and a nostalgic. This is what traps her as a victim of her own nature. The meteor shower robbed her of her parents who could have shaped her into a different woman. She is destined to forever be the little girl in fairy costume trying to change the ugliness of the world into a romantic ideal.

 

Lana’s expectations in the romantic arena are all derived from classic fairy-tale romance. She likes being rescued, she likes being idolised, she likes romantic gestures like roses and candles. With Whitney then Clark then Jason she hopes to gain fulfilment of her romantic ideal. They all fit her mould of potential princes in both their looks and their apparent one-dimensionality and willingness to play at romance. I don’t think Lex ever fully fitted this mould for her, although she engages with him when he acts as a hero-saviour figure for her.

 

The ultimate ‘froglike’ characteristic for Lana is secret-keeping. She is badly scarred by her relationship with Clark and is at her most sympathetic for me when she rails against him. However, I do think Lana’s reactions to secrecy stem from a very self-centred part of her psyche. She can’t stand not being the central defining figure in her romantic partner’s life.

 

Lana’s cycle when faced with a lying boyfriend is first to try and regain their attention (e.g. offering to sleep with Jason) and then to enter righteous indignation. In the indignation phase, she expresses desires to escape the relationship. She seems frustrated by her own behaviour patterns, and this comes to a head at the end of season 3 when she takes the ultimate step in fighting her destiny and moves away from Smallville, even abandoning the home of her nostalgia-obsession: the Talon..

 

Lana in Season 4

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Lana’s path matches that of the other major characters in Season 4; Clark and Lex cannot escape their destinies and neither can she. It’s particularly creepy that in trying to escape from the limits of romantic love, she travels to Paris, the capital of romance. And sure enough she reverts to type, falling in love with another clean-cut American boy-hero and trying to live out her romantic ideal.

 

Her pattern of needing male saviour-figures is shown to be not confined to her romantic life. Men define and control Lana’s entire world. Without their approval, she is emotionally destroyed. Without Clark’s physical protection, she would have died. Without Lex’s continuing financial aid and support, she would not be able to pursue her romantic goals in life: the only goals she sets.

 

**pause while I scream around the room about how much she abuses and takes advantage of Lex emotionally*

 

In Season 4 Lana accepts that she cannot escape her destiny. Jason, whom she had hoped would forge a new healthier relationship with her, turns out to be both duplicitous and dangerous. In what reads as resignation to me, she returns to Clark.

 

What is more interesting is that she chooses to remain in Smallville, reversing the decision she made at the end of Season 3. In doing so, she faces the other defining force in her life: her death-fear. In the episode ‘Scare’ we got to see that Lana’s worst fear is that everyone around her dies. This is a convincing and justifiable fear. Not only has she lost her parents, her first boyfriend and her childhood best friend Emily, she’s been forced to face death again and again throughout her adolescence as the victim of meteor freaks.

 

Psychologically Lana has a guilt complex that she survived and her parents died. She idealises them to a massive degree. She is also afraid that there is something in her that attracts death. She faces these fears directly when she kills Genevieve Teague. I think in this moment she subconsciously accepts how trapped she is, lost to the fear that deaths will define her existence. Physically and emotionally shaken, she tries to wash the blood from her hands but cannot get it off. For Lana, the bloodstains of those who have died will stain her for life.

 

In her shock, Lana again looks to men for protection. But this time she does not opt for a single saviour figure. Hedging her bets, she gets Lex to fly her out of Smallville but delivers the stone (and murder weapon) to Clark. She trusts neither of them completely but is prepared to get what she can from each of them, at a time when Clark and Lex are lining up as opposing forces. Lana will be caught between them, but having learnt that she can never have the pure single love affair she longs for, she may yet be able to struggle between them, retaining what she can of her romantic existence.

 

The character of Lana ultimately works to reinforce many of the recurring themes of the Smallville universe.

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Some thoughts and meanderings on the episode 'Scare' (Season 4 spoilers in place!)

Lex as hero

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Clark and self-sacrifice

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Lex as sufferer for both of them ... 

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If anyone has thoughts on the fear sequences of any of the characters in this ep, I'd love to hear about it.

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So in order to process the episode 'Bound' (SV S4 Ep9), I had to write this essay. It's long and self-indulgent, so proceed with caution! And your Clex-fan hat on ;-) Obviously, spoilers for this episode abound.
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Essay: Maternal forces in Lex Luthor’s life (Spoilers to Ep2 of Season 4 Smallville)

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Lex Luthor crashes his car off a bridge and would have died had the boy he hit been human. The boy he hit was not human and he brings Lex back to life: he breaks him out of a confined watery space and throws him onto the brightly lit riverbank. As Lex coughs up water, he stares into the first face present in his new life with all the wonder of a lover – or a newborn child. Clark has given (re)birth to Lex and in this sense is a mother figure to him.

 

Lex’s relationship with his biological mother Lillian was deeply scarring. We know she was victimised into deep depression by Lionel. It’s likely that she suffered from physical post-natal depression following Julian’s birth and possibly when Lex was born as well. Lillian killed Julian, believing this was the best way to protect him from Lionel. This could have turned her into a monster in Lex’s eyes, but he doesn’t see her this way. He could also legitimately resent her for the rejection of him that her depression must have created and for the fact that her mental illness forced him to ‘parent’ her at a young age. Rightly or wrongly, he deflects all of the blame onto Lionel. For Lex, a mother is a figure to be loved, revered, protected and idealised. Mother is also someone who withholds approval and who is ultimately out of reach.

 

There is something so creepy about the fact that Lex’s first words to Lillian on seeing Julian dead in his cot are ‘What about dad?’ In this moment, Lex is about to move prematurely into adulthood by unhealthily ‘parenting’ Lillian, protecting her from Lionel, and displacing his own father. The question also implies that the son and mother already understand that Lionel will disrupt and abuse this new turn of events. So even before Lillian kills Julian, I suspect Lex and Lillian have been saving each other from Lionel’s anger and abuse.

 

The relationship that Lex develops with Clark after his rebirth is one in which he helplessly replays these mother-son patterns. He craves Clark’s appreciation, giving him gifts to get the beaming approval of this new parent figure. He also monopolises his time and attention. His love is unconditional in its initial phase, just like that of an infant.

 

It makes sense that Clark’s ‘secret’ would disturb Lex at a subconscious level, because it has much the same affect as his mother’s mental illness had: it excludes Lex and gives Clark a darkness and mystery that Lex cannot control or access.

 

He desperately wants to ‘parent’ Clark, as we see in repeated scenes where Lex delights in giving Clark advice or helping him solve problems. Lex’s repetition of the pattern of parenting his mother-figure indicates a continuing need to be appreciated and needed in his primary relationship. The act of parenting a sick parent, while inappropriate, feels empowering and is no doubt a source of Lex’s self-sufficiency.

 

Clark’s secret also gives Lex a reason to protect Clark, and Lex’s need to protect his mother was overwhelming. We see Lex replay this pattern with the female figures in his life: particularly at Club Zero where he takes responsibility for the shooting. But for Clark, in killing Nixon, he not only kills in the eyes of others, he physically pulls the trigger himself for the first time, protecting Clark’s father and his secret. In doing so, Lex is again tainted in the eyes of a father-figure: this time, Jonathan Kent.

He is also tainted in Clark’s eyes, as we discover when Clark flings this act back in Lex’s face: ‘It’s not like I haven’t seen you kill before.’ This must hurt Lex so deeply because it taps another subconscious fear: that one of the reasons Lillian kills only Julian is that Lex is already tainted.

 

The children of depressed parents frequently channel and express their parents’ emotions, and they are likely to experience mental illness themselves. Following Lillian’s death Lex continued to live in a corrupting and abusive relationship with his father. The fact that Lex suffers from recurring mental illness is therefore no surprise: in fact, it’s convincing that he would be more insane, had his physiology not been changed by the meteor explosion.

 

Lex must have abandonment fears. Not only was his mother an absent figure in his early childhood due to the sick family dynamics, she died in his adolescence. Lex was old enough to feel this second loss deeply, but he rarely discusses it. Anger is not an emotion that he often displays. However, when Clark refuses him in Asylum, his rage is frighteningly intense. We know it’s not drug-induced because he hides the prescribed drugs in his paints. So could this rage be displaced grief and anger at his mother’s final abandonment of him?

 

If it is true that ‘a mother’s love’ is the only thing that can save Clark from submitting to his dark side (see Ep2, S4), it is equally true that a mother’s love, or Clark’s love, could have saved Lex. Lex is doomed to lose Clark without once receiving the approval he needs from a mother-figure.

 

Clark and the Kent family introduced Lex to healthier parental figures for the first time. But it was too late: Lex could only replay his old behaviour patterns because he didn’t value his own innate goodness (sacrificing it a second time) and he idealised Lillian and Clark too much. Lex’s offer to be the ‘bearer of darkness’ mentioned in the Naman/Seget myth, is the same gift that he gave Lillian: he internalised the darkest parts of her and externally took the responsibility for her ‘evil’ act until it didn’t matter any more. It’s beautiful that he sees how heroic an act it is and I truly agree that it is heroic. But it is also tragic: as tragic as a little boy who hopes to gain love by protecting his mother and ultimately loses everything.

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