These are the Best Times of
Our Lives, says the spirited maiden/the devouring crone.
thoughts on Redux Ė Smallville
Eighty years in high school
and Krissyís never read A Tale of Two Cities. Well, thatís the problem.
Sheís frozen herself in high school and never went onto college. Never
struggled through her twenties. Never came into her own in her thirties.
Never, well you get the picture.
been mulling on Superman recently. Thinking about the graphic novel Kingdom
Come. The Fleisher cartoons. The Adventures of Superman.
Lois and Clark. The movies. The evolution of an American hero. Elements
that are different. Elements that have stayed the same.
I like Superman. Heís one
of my favorite heroes, as may be apparent from the title
of the website.
More than that, he is an
interesting hero. All surface boy scout writ in primary colors. Truth.
Justice. The American Way. He stands up straight. He smiles. He spends
half his life ďdisguisedĒ as a mild mannered reporter. Still waters run
deep. He could be angsty, but he isn't, because Life am Good if you let
So, yeah, I like Smallville.
Okay, Iím secretly obsessed with it. So, secret that I can only fully articulate
it on the internet. Obviously, Iím as silent as the grave. Or perhaps,
Iím better at expressing myself to myself, since really this is what this
is. Rambling until I hit upon the idea at the heart of my mind, that unquiet
I digress. I ramble. I get
to the point. Watching the episode was like watching a series come into
focus. Four plot lines, weaving, interrelating, delving towards a theme.
1) Krissy the non-kyptonite
mutant (sheís been up to this since the 20s).
2) The attempted reconciliation
with Marthaís father
3) Lanaís desire to discover
the truth about her mother
4) The introduction of the
new principal. How he relates to Clark and Lex.
At times, Iím not sure if
the writers of Smallville intend the complexity of the story that
that I am seeing. Is it is on purpose or it is the alchemical result of
my gaze interacting with flashing RGB lights. Actually, I think it may
a bit of both. I think they got lucky, because theyíve hit on that classic
story, the story of becoming.
Where will you be in five
years? What a stupid essay to give a teenager. Teenagers, on the whole,
have no clue about where they are going to be in five years. I didnít.
Could 17 year old Martha have imagined the life that she now leads? Would
she even have wanted it? How can Clark know? How can Lex?
We, the viewers, know the
future. The writers mention it every week. Pulling the viewers into the
complicity of that secret. A secret that we canít share with the characters,
no matter how much we long to do so. No matter how much we long to save
them from what is to come. To freeze them in this moment, the best time
of their lives. When they were innocent, even Lex, and young and beautiful
and had a whole lot less baggage. Well, thatís what fan fiction is for.
Where will you be in five
years? What a clever essay to give a teenager. They can be earnest. They
can quip. By writing, they can begin to think about the internal truth
of themselves. Really, the point is to get them thinking. Since, growing
up (at least for me) wasnít about becoming something different, it was
about growing into my own skin. As old friends will say, I havenít really
changed. Iím just more me.
As Clark is already Clark.
Lex is already Lex. Everything that they will be is already there, they
just need to see it. Figure out how to get at it.
In Clark we have a boy with
a tight nuclease of a nuclear family. Denied a grandfather because his
parents were afraid that heíd reveal his true self. A bright boy not living
up to his full potential. Not allowed to. An outsider, who always holds
a little bit of himself apart. A slacker who dropped out of football with
very few extra curriculars, because each extra curricular is just another
point of possible exposure. A boy who is tired of secrets, but is afraid
what opening Pandoraís box will bring.
never really occurred to me what becoming Superman means. Clark so longs
to be open and honest with the world that he is going to crack himself
into two. Create an alternate identity that he will gift with all the good
things in his life. Superman will have all the abilities and all the difference.
Superman will be clothed in Clarkís preferred primary colors, while that
future Clark will fade to black and gray costuming suits. Superman gets
all the glory. Superman will save the world over and over. Superman will
admit to the alien and he will be loved for it. Lois will love Superman.
The world will love Superman. Clark will become a hidden byline. An anonymous
face in the crowd. A normal guy. The man behind the masking glasses.
Not that being Clark isnít
important. One of my favorite episodeís of Superman: the Animated Series,
The Late Mr. Kent, plays with this idea. In this episode, Clark Kent,
investigative reporter, discovers evidence that will clear a man on death
row. Since Clark never gets any of the glory, he decides to drive to see
the relevant authorities. All of this is told in flashback, because he,
his car and the evidence blew up before careening into the ocean. Superman
is attending Clark Kentís funeral. Clark/Superman spends the rest of the
episode in a bit of a quandary. He is Clark and he needs to be Clark. A
small town man who is not Kal-el, Superman, Last Son of Krypton, yada,
yada, yada. However, the only way he can save the man on death row is to
reveal that Clark is Superman, but how then to save Clark from being Superman
full time? Thankfully, Lois gets to save the day, but the issue remains,
who is Clark/Superman/Kal-el? How can Clark find validation as Clark?
Whatís clear is that Clark,
not Superman, is the secret identity. Clark is a man with secrets. Always
longing for someone to take off his glasses and say, ďWhy Mr. Kent. I never
realized how beautiful you were without your glasses.Ē And perhaps a little
angry. One of my favorite episodes of Lois and Clark is the one
where the villain Tempus rants to Lois, ďWhat are you stupid?Ē Puts on
the glasses. ďIím Clark Kent.Ē Takes off the glasses, ďIím Superman. Clark.
Superman. Clark SupermanĒ Itís a pathetic disguise. Although, in all fairness,
at least Clark has pockets.
Of course thatís not all
that lies ahead. The tragedy that really gets me as I watch Smallville
is Lex. In Redux, once again he turns to someone that he admires
only to be slapped down. Only to discover that his gesture of friendship
replicates his fatherís actions.
Iím inclined to think that
Lex isnít going to go evil. That he is as evil as he will ever be. That
Lexís weaknesses are his strengths.
His willingness to do anything
for his friends. Need someone investigated. Sure. Kill to protect the ones
that he loves. All unknowing that he is only following in Clarkís wake.
Pay attention. In this episode, Clark racks up another, well, hard to call
it a dead body, dead enemy. Perhaps, one shouldnít mess with Lex, but really
Clark is the wide eyed smiling dangerous one.
||But, I digressÖ
Lex hungerís to be great,
i.e., to beat his father. To be better than his father. For Lionel to be
known as Lex Luthorís father, rather than Lex to be forever Lionel Luthorís
Lex reaches out over and
over in an attempt to be known. Understood. Yet, he fears that understanding.
He lies to Clark because he fears loosing his friendship, just as heíll
eventually hide half the aspects of his life, the shadow Lex Luthor, his
own secret identity.
Although, that Lex will be
more Portrait of Dorian Gray.
||No wonder Lex is not really
pushing Clark for his secret any more. How Lex must fear that knowing,
instead of bringing them closer, will cost him the thing that he most requires.
That moment in the café,
Lex refers to the new principalís censure as the price of their friendship
and Clark smiles one of those megawatt smiles. A smile that Lex tries to
repay with protection from censure. And perhaps he wants a little
display to an admired father figure that he, Lex Luthor, can have a friend.
That unlike Lionel, Lex stands by his friends. Ooopps. Still Lionel like
Quite a bit about familes
in this episode. Lionel who paid off a school board to keep Lex in school.
Marthaís father who didnít want this life for his daughter. All of a sudden
I understand Jonathanís reactions to Lex and his money a bit more. They
must have some roots in his altercation with Marthaís father. And finally,
Lanaís revelations about her parents.
Briefly, I consider Lana.
It seems that her parents were killed by meteors. Ever since sheís been
frozen in that moment of tragedy. Waving the flag of her grief. Perhaps,
itís because she doesnít want to leave the concept of the perfect family
moment behind. Does she really remember or does she just remember the sanitized
stories that her Aunt has told her? Now pay attention. Nell, her last living
relative, never reveals the secret. Just as Clarkís parents donít tell
him the truth about his grandfatherís attempted reconciliation until he
Clark determines to ignore
his parents fears and reach out to his grandfather. Lana has the same choice.
To reach out or to continue her life as a memento mori. Face the fact that
that eternal grief may well be a lie.
Or is it? Now Iíve never
minded Lanaís constant references to her dead parents, killed by a meteor
donít you know, because blank mournful eyes and misty tomb wanderings point
at the tragedy at the heart of the text. Or put another way, Lana interests
me not because she is interesting, but because she reflects something interesting.
For awhile I saw Lana as
Clarkís Beatrice. Beautiful. Blank. A focus for heroism.
However, she isnít Beatrice
at all. She is that woman in the Vita Nuova, who upon seeing Danteís
sad eyes, begins to weep. Seeing her weep, causes Dante to weep and express
his sorrow. In time, the cause of the grief becomes irrelevant as they
loose themselves in the ecstasy of weeping.
Lana expresses the grief
that that Clark cannot. Does not even know to express. The meteors that
killed her parents werenít just rocks. They were tomb stones from a planet
that literally tore itself apart. If she grieves every day of her life,
tears welling in her Madonna like eyes, she cannot grieve enough for such
a monumental loss.
No wonder Clark feels guilty.
Constantly works to expiate his sin of survival. He is the last living
representative of an entire people (depending on your universe). He just
doesnít know it yet. He feels the loss without understanding. He is the
same age as Lana, but he doesnít know. Doesnít remember his parents or
the world in which they lived.
His only real weaknesses
are the last remnants of his world reaching from beyond the grave like
some maddened Cronos to kill itís last living son.
A boy, crucified in the first
episode, for whom a lifetime of sacrifice lies ahead. A lifetime of schism.
Perhaps, Lana grieves for what is to come.
But all that lies deliciously
ahead. Because these characters wonít be frozen as teenagers. Forever their
most beautiful unwritten on selves.
Doesnít matter anyway. Really
every character is a palimpsest. They look clean, but if you look closely
you can see the remains of previous writing that has only been scraped
off of the surface, so that the writers can now write anew.