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I still need to develop a better resistance to amazon's you save X% offers, but at least I don't entirely regret buying the Smallville dvds, especially S3. OTOH, sadly so little of this show stands the test of a second viewing; I browsed through S2 with the finger on the fast forward button, stopping only (or almost only) for Lex, because while both Lana and Clark are perhaps slightly less annoying than their German dubbed versions, once is still more than enough, as far as their scenes together are concerned. One thing is a constant, though, almost since I started watching SV. I've never seen another tv show that manages to powerfully intrigue and frustrate me so much at the same time.

I don't even know what exactly irritates me so about this show and for long stretches makes me wish it was... different, better, edgier, tenser, more complex.

The characters' development and psychology aren't bad at all, the philosophical issues addressed are interesting, as as for the mutant-of-the-week plots, they're not so different from Buffy which for some reason on average I like a lot better. Yet so much feels dull and too obvious; boring. Is it the dialogue? Are the characters too one-dimensional, too much defined by their relationship to Clark? Perhaps in the end it comes down to the fact that I never managed to really like any of the characters except Lex. And here I blame the writers for never really making me see Clark's and the Kents' dilemma: While - intellectually - I do understand how they came to be so tied up in this protective shield of reflexive lying that it's near-impossible for Clark to break through it, emotionally I never could sympathise with any of them. Too much lying, entirely too much hypocrisy, and they're much too comfortable on a moral high-ground that not only they never worked for but that is shaky at best. Clark has no moral standing whatsoever to complain about Lex's lies, and his utter failure to see this is infuriating at times. The same goes for the entire Kent family, who is never above using Lex, and lost any claims to judging him when they happily agreed that it was a good thing he shot Nixon so that Jonathan's hands could remain clean and his ethical principles undisturbed.

And there's another thing that has bugged me since the beginning: It has never become entirely clear to me how the producers want us to see CIark, the Kents and Lex. Not that it isn't satisfying to hear them ponder the question of whether the Kents' and Clark's constant rejection ultimately pushed Lex over to the dark side in the DVD commentary, but I'd actually like to see a little more awareness of this issue in the show itself. Instead I have the feeling that much of SV's moral complexity is reduced to the level of subtext, which you're free to see or not see, much like the homoerotic overtones, which, again judging from the DVD-commentary, everyone is aware of, while on a more superficial textual level the Kents, whatever their flaws, are 'good' by definition. Period. To me there is no clear indication that the writers want us to see the enormous hypocrisy of a line like 'It's a good thing that Lex was there.'

There's just entirely too much lying going on this show for my taste, and too much of it is done by the alleged good guys.

Perhaps Michael Rosenbaum is just too good, creating such a complex, likable character, whose descent into darkness nevertheless is already pre-scripted. As far as the viewer is concerned, he is already doomed and it's only a question of 'how', never 'if', which, while Lex's arc is intriguing, is just sad.

Lex is one of the most compelling characters I've seen in any tv show, and his arc is amazing in its psychological complexity, consistency and inner logic. And MR and JG are doing a wonderful job portraying the constant battle that is Lex and Lionel's relationship.

I love the harder, grown-up S3 Lex., even while watching him is often painful at the same time; his evolution from the still relatively innocent person who drove off the bridge in S1, who thought Clark could give him a new start with a clean slate, an ideal to live up to, and didn't know that his idol was flawed. Trying so hard, but ultimately only good enough to kill for them, but never good enough to be trusted. S2 Lex, hell-bent on winning this war with his father, desperately trying to lose his weaknesses, trying to be hard enough and unscrupulous enough to beat his father, and maybe also prove that he's good enough and win his love by beating him, and yet still has some innocence left to lose, can still be shocked and disappointed, and probably hates himself for it. S2 Lex, who finds Clark wanting as it becomes glaringly obvious that he is constantly being lied to (Aliens, Lex? You're crazy, Lex.), and while still intrigued, sets up Helen as an ideal, a chance for a change, in his place, trying to be worthy of her -- and being disappointed again.

Helen's betrayal and the months on the island getting acquainted with his darker side burned away most of the innocence still left in Lex. Early S3 Lex uses his vulnerability not as a weapon of defense but of offense, and I think for the first time manages to rattle Lionel and even make him just a little afraid of his son. He obviously is at a loss how to take Lex's offer at the end of Phoenix, wondering if he's being played like Helen was. It's not something he's used to feeling and his subsequent extreme reactions are born out of fear of this child who turned out to be a better pupil than he ever expected. It culminates in Lionel' genuinely baffled 'Who are you, Lex?' in the face of a totally inscrutable, to all appearances merely concerned Lex.

The evolution of Lex's relationship with his father is great tragedy... In S2 Insurgence there was Lex, flailing, hectically trying to resolve the mess he made by attempting to play a game he wasn't quite fit for yet. S3 we see for the first time Lionel Luthor who notices that the initiative has been taken away from him, that he no longer acts, but reacts, and Lex, who not only pretends to be impervious to Lionel's emotional manipulations, but truly doesn't care (or allow himself to care) any longer about lost possibilities. Lionel doesn't realise that the problem isn't so much that Lex believes he's lying about his illness, but that it no longer makes a difference to Lex. To see the balance of power shift between them throughout the season is a really quite awesome to watch, and again, great acting.

When Lionel is being arrested, and Lex just stands there in the office, alone, after a victory he desperately wanted, but can still take no pleasure in, his dilemma becomes apparent. There's no one left to fight. He's always used his father as a negative image, something not to become, but doesn't know how to define himself in a positive way. Left in his father's office, you can almost sense the inevitability of him stepping into his place, and for once Clark was right - by accepting tha challenge and deciding to see it through he's gone a long way into turning into Lionel.

I like Clark and Lex's relationship in the first half of S3, because for the first time they're on something like an equal standing: Clark can say ''I guess we all got to take a look at our dark side sooner or later." and mean it, because he's seen his own. There's a moment of perfect understanding, and even if Lex doesn't exactly know what happened, he senses that something has changed. And Clark is still sufficiently shaken by his summer on red K to realise, at least subconsciously, how badly he fucked up with Lex (Slumber), which perhaps is why in Shattered and Asylum he for once shows more loyalty, moral fibre and honesty than either his parents or his friends and isn't willing to see yet another person conveniently committed in order to have his secret protected. I love it when Lex says "You're either with me or against me Clark. Choose right now.", and Clark, with barely a glance at his parents, turns and walks off with Lex. And then the one and, so far, only moment of complete honesty between them, when Clark tries to break Lex out of Belle Reve, without even attempting to disguise his powers. Sweet. The one last moment where things still could have turned out all right. Sadly then Lex gets conveniently mind-wiped and Clark conveniently chooses not to tell him, and the lying starts again. It's painful to see the barriers go up again, after for one brief moment they'd disappeared entirely.

The real rift between them isn't in Covenant, when Clark declares the friendship to be over. As far as Lex is concerned, the break happened in Talisman in Jeremiah's office when Clark didn't say a single word that wasn't a lie, accusation or evasion. This is the breaking point, where for Lex the balance finally tilts and he's no longer prepared to accept outright lies in the face of evidence, even to maintain a relationship that still means something to him.

The rift is Lex telling Lana not to hang on to something that's over. desinas ineptire, et quod vides perisse, perditum ducas.

The Lex who comes to Clark's barn and explains with a serenity that is curiously at odds with the incredulous, disappointed near-contempt with which he'd spat 'term-paper?!' at him, what his place is going to be in the greater scheme of things. It won't be the friendship of legends he'd dreamt they'd share, but he's going to be part of the legend, and part of Clark's life nonetheless, one way or the other. He'll be a hero, too. Lex has enough information by then not to be believe that this all is merely an analogy, and he's created himself a new identity. He's probably still willing to give Clark and their friendship a chance if Clark should prove himself worthy, but as far as Lex is concerned, the burden of proof is now on Clark. Either way, he's found himself a place. So when Clark walks out, slamming the door behind him in Covenant, it probably doesn't hurt Lex as much as it would have before, because he's already planned another future, another way to be part of Clark's destiny.

Perhaps Lex felt the dagger crumble under his hands. Perhaps he merely believed it did.

I like Lex and Lana bonding, because to me it was always clear that whatever complaints Lana had about Clark and his lack of openness ruining any chance for a relationship is at least equally true where Lex is concerned; more so, because whereas Lana mostly got evasions, Lex got the blatant lies even when he knew (and Clark knew that he knew) them to be lies. And for Lex being who he is, there was always more at stake.

When Lex tells Clark that the only thing Lana had wanted from him was honesty, it's a frustration he shares, even if he's not consciously speaking for himself at the moment.

But subtle isn't Clark's strength and because he rarely ever goes beneath the surface value of words he hardly ever hears what Lex is telling him, and he never understands Lex, how his mind works. Lex didn't pretended to be his friend for three years just to investigate him. Lex was his friend and would have protected him, no matter what. Lex did care for him. But for Lex it's very nearly impossible to have any kind of relationship and not also see it as some kind of power game, and he dislikes being at a disadvantage. He may truly care for someone, but at the same time part of his mind is running through every possible move of the game. For Lex genuine friendship (or love) and the obsession to find out what is being withheld from him aren't mutually exclusive. Knowledge to him very literally is power, if only power to protect himself. The only time I think he even tried consciously changing that was with Helen, who'd betrayed him. As for Clark, he'd forfeited any claims to complete honesty with his own lies.



solitary summer

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