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SV: "Reckoning" foreshadowing in "Solitude"

As I continue in my quest to compare "Reckoning" to every single episode of the whole series (just 98 more to go!) here are some thoughts on foreshadowing and parallelism between "Reckoning" and "Solitude", focusing especially on Clark's choices and his moral culpability.

Spoilers through "Reckoning"

Edited to add a conclusion

There have been a lot of great discussions so far about the extent to which Clark's decision to save Lana made him responsible for Jonathan's death. I talk about it here; kho talks about it here; sabershadowkat talks about it here; and there are several other essays I am forgetting and will link to when I remember them. I wanted to explore this a little more further in light of "Solitude."

Solitude (if you're like me, and always have to look up the episode names) is the one where Fine almost kills Martha, leading Clark to think Jor-El is behind her illness. And how does Clark respond to this? By almost destroying the last remainder of his biological father and his patrimony. True, he is provoked to this action by Fine, who is deceiving him into thinking this is the only way to save his mother, but it is telling that he is willing to sanction the death of his father to save the life of someone else he loves. This obviously foreshadows Jonathan's death as a consequence of Clark's attempt to save Lana in Reckoning.

There are also explicit parallels between the conversation Clark has with Jor-El about Martha and the conversation he later has about Lana. Here's the conversation from "Solitude":

C: "Please--do whatever you want to me, but leave my mother alone."
J: "I have caused your mother no harm."
C: "Don't lie to me. If I had known someone close to me would die I would have given up my life in a second."
J: "It was you who chose to give up your powers and turn your back on me."
C: "Please let her live."
J: "I am sorry, my son. The wheel of fate has already been set in motion. Even you cannot alter destiny."

And here's the conversation from "Reckoning":

C: "How could you take her away from me?"
J: "Human life is fragile, my son. You knew a life would be exchanged for yours."
C: "Don't maker her pay for my mistake....You have to let me fix it....This is not her destiny--and you know that. There has to be a way to fix this."
J: "The tide of fate is impossible to stop. Even if you are able to alter one course of events, the universe will find a balance."

Obviously there are differences between the two scenes--for one thing, Jor-El isn't actually responsible for Martha's illness, while he may or may not have played a role in Lana's death. (I would say no, but I think that's more a matter of interpretation). And Clark is somewhat more insistent when it comes to Lana than Martha--but I would say that is because Lana is already dead, whereas Martha is still alive, when the conversations take place. And Clark has told Fine "There's got to be a way to save my mom--I'll do anything." At any rate, my point is that in both cases, when the life of someone he loved was threatened, he went to Jor-El. (Apparently, according to some deleted scenes from Reckoning, he also went to Jor-El after *Jonathan* died.) So he clearly isn't favoring Lana over his parents, as some folks have complained.

And I also don't think his appeal to Jor-El for Lana's life is the appeal of a teenager so blinded by love that he isn't fully contemplating the consequences of his decision--I think it''s a natural outgrowth of the Kent philosophy of life. When Jonathan has just found out that Martha's illness may have been caused by Jor-El, who demanded a life in exchange for Clark's, what does he tell Clark? "You're the only one who has a chance of stopping this, so go on, do something." Again, if Jor-El *had* been the one causing Martha's illness, that might have meant Martha's life would be traded for Lana's life, or Jonathan's, or Chloe's--but Jonathan and Clark both thought that it was better to act, in the present, to save the one who was immediately threatened, even if it meant facing future consequences.

(Whether the Kent philosophy of life is adequate for a future superhero is another question. I think Clark is going to have to synthesize the lessons from Jonathan and from Jor-El to truly become a superhero--and I agree with latxcvi and kho that it's a damn good thing that Jonathan's death is going to bring home the true consequences of acting impetuously and without thought, and teach him to carefully weigh and balance his decisions in the future).

"Solitude" also parallels "Reckoning" is Martha's "dying" speech to Clark, which is not only specifically echoed in some of Jonathan's last words to Clark [about how Clark is a man now, and doesn't need Jonathan any more], but also susbtitutes for the dying speech Jonathan wasn't able to give Clark:

M: [Your father told me about the deal with Jor-El]. "I want you to know I'm more than ready to give up my life for the life of my child."
C: " Without me, none of this would have happened."
M: "Don't ever feel guilty about this, do you hear me?" [Something like I wouldn't have it any other way/I chose this life]. "You're a man now Clark. A wonderful man. My job is done."

And of course, the last way "Solitude" parallels ( or really foreshadows) "Reckoning" is in the final conversation between Jonathan and Clark in the barn. You can almost read that scene as Jonathan knowing he was going to be the one to die--wasn't there a lot of speculation right after that episode first aired about that deal Jonathan made with Jor-El way back at the beginning of season 3? At any rate, that's the scene where he tells Clark something like no one knows how much time they have left and there's no point in worrying about it--the important thing was to spend as much time possible with the people you love.

Edited to add:

Both Martha and Jonathan are aware that Jor-El is demanding a price for Clark's resurrection, and both have indicated (tacitly or explicitly) that they're willing to pay it. That makes their situation different than Lana's. I assume, in whatever brief explanation of his powers and heritage that Clark gives Lana offscene in "Reckoning," he doesn't actually get around to telling her that because he's in love with her, there's a chance that his biological father is going to demand her life. (I could be wrong, but there's no textual indication that she knows). She hasn't given informed consent, so to speak. Now, I'm not saying that just because Martha and Jonathan were *willing* to die for Clark that that justified him putting their lives at risk to save Lana's, but I do think that it would have been especially unfair for Lana to be the one to die in the episode because she hadn't *consciously* assumed that risk.

Clark should have told her, of course, just as he really should have told his parents a lot earlier. In fact, I think he's more morally culpable for withholding information that was vital to all of their lives than he is for making the choice among the three of them, because that choice was a forced choice. I really think that had it been Jonathan or Martha who died in the first part of "Reckoning," Clark would have done the same thing for them he did for Lana.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 31st, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
Great argument and great comparative analysis. Some thoughts, in no particular order:
- I do wonder what the story is with Jor-El and Jonathan's 'deal' in S3? Perhaps Jor-El really *wanted* Clark to change time so it would be Jonathan after all. I can understand that Jor-El would want Jonathan out of the way most of all. And maybe he was sympathetic to Clark because of his own human romance all those years ago! Who knows?
- Really liked your exploration of the ways in which Clark's decision stems from Kent philosophy. I guess both Clark and Lex have grown up being told they have the power to control things of enormous scope. What do you do when you're told that but yet experience daily your lack of omnipotence? You rebel (teen!Lex/RedK!Clark); you blame others (your father!); you make decisions out of desperation and you experience immense guilt.
- So happy Martha got to act out the dying speech instead of Jonathan. I might have thrown things at the screen! Though may I say that I did find Martha's line about Jonathan having made Clark a man he could look up to, a man who 'knows right from wrong' was a bit chilling for me. Yes--you guys have given him black-and-white thinking, prejudice and a sense of moral superiority. Fab, guys!
- I so hope that Clark *does* weigh his choices more in the future. It seems like a really constructive event in his development.

Ok, enough rambles, I must get back to work. *groan*
Jan. 31st, 2006 04:58 am (UTC)
I so agree with you on Martha' dying speech. (It was much more effective coming from her, anyway). And you know I agree with you about Lex and Clark's delusions of control--I think one thing that will separate Clark from Lex, in the future, is that Clark will (I hope) realize he can't control everything.

By the way, did you see this? http://tragicllyhip.livejournal.com/28185.html?style=mine
It has a really good insight on that very issue.
Jan. 31st, 2006 05:57 am (UTC)
Ha! Great post. Makes me kind of glad I've been avoiding all the crazyness on this ep. I was seriously *shocked* to hear that half of fandom hated it apparently...

I scrolled up after commenting on the post and noticed you and I had started our comments the same way: Word!

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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