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More thoughts on splinter

Smallville: Splinter: Some thoughts on continuity and discontinuity this season, behind the cut. Spoilers only through this episode, though some speculation about the future.



I really loved Splinter, though I can see why some people are disappointed with it (Lexana, Chloe's strange trust in Lionel over Lex), but some of the criticisms made me think about the issues of continutiy and discontinuity so far this season

--Clark's awful behavior toward Lex is the most frequent complaint about this episode (or this season). I agree that Clark has been a total jerk to Lex most of this season, though as I have argued in previous posts, I think that is actually intentional on the part of the writers. (This was mecurtin's theory last year, and I realize that season 4 was enough to make any reasonable fan convinced that almiles couldn't sustain a plot arc if their life depended on it, but I think this year they're actually doing quite well on plot arcs, if not always on character arcs.)

Basically, I think that though Lex is much further down the road to evil than he was last season, he isn't fully there yet, but Clark's continued suspicions and accusations --conveniently fostered by Professor Fine-- are going to help drive him there. Last year, the only sustained plot arc was the Lanafu one, but this year they seem to be building to a long, complicated conspiracy with Fine that is going to (A) push Lex and Clark further and further apart and (B) give Lex a serious enemy to practice against who is not Lionel, and who will therefore push him toward darkness in different ways. So Clark's suspicions are not going to go away, even if that does mean sacrificing a (certain amount) of character continuity in service of plot continuity.

That's the only way to explain Chloe's suspicions about Lex, which I do agree with everyone are seriously problematic, at least when she's trusting Lionel--who tried to kill her--over Lex, who saved her life. This is at least consistent with her attitudes from mid-last season on, but they never justified why she changed her mind about Lex: secret research into Luthercorp activities? Failed romance where she didn't even get the earrings? Lex's failure to get her dad a job after she risked her life to take down his dad? I think any of these could be sufficient reasons for her suspicions, I just wish they had given her some!

--Lexana: I don't happen to think this is as much of a major retcon as some people are suggesting, to hint that Lex actually has cared about her for a long time--I don't for a minute think he's been pining for her, or waiting for her to be old enough to sleep with, but we get hints of real affection for heras far back as Precipice, and throughout much of season 4 she was the only person who treated him like a friend. It's not surprising to me that he would be drawn to someone who still treats him like a friend.

I don't think the Lexana hurts the Clex, either. For one thing, I think Lana represents for him what he's lost in Clark, and the fact that she is in some way Clark's is an added attraction. What's interesting is that Clark seems to see that, though sort of reversed; that was so clear in Splintered in the confrontation in the hallway, where Clark's major complaint is that he thought all along Lex was obsessed with him when really it was Lana he wanted. That's not the reality, that's just Clark's biggest fear: that Lex isn't really in love with him but with Lana! And since Lex is smart enough to see that, what a better way to get back at Clark for his hostility and abandonment than to pursue a relationship with Lana?

I know lots of people hate Lexana purely for the hatred of Lana, and I can understand that, but I really think this is going to be interesting, precisely *because* Lex has a certain amount of affection for her. That's not going to stop him from using her: to understand the ship, for revenge against Clark, for revenge against Smallville, just as she seems to be using him to understand Clark's strangeness, to learn about aliens so she can conquer her fears, for the true security Clark can't give her, as he so amply demonstrated tonight. The fact that there is some mutual feeling beneath the layers of manipulation will, I think, make this relationship deliciously fucked up and fun to watch--already with her scenes with MR this season I think KK has done the best acting she's ever given on the series so far.

And I know we've been spoiled by the blatant homoeroticism of this show in early seasons, but really, trinagulation of desire between two men through a woman they both desire is a classic slash trope--which Splinter definitely demonstrates, not only in that scene between Lex and Clark, with Clark so obviously jealous not that Lex desires Lana, but that Lex's desire is no longer at him, but also in the way Lionel's speech to Lex at the end is so clearly about Clark. (I think I've actually read that speech, more or less verbatim, being made by Lionel about Clark in any number of stories).

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
norwich36
Nov. 11th, 2005 09:21 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, I forgot a whole section of this (and am too lazy to edit): the continuity in Clark's hallucination in Fine's office. The cradle Jonathan made for Martha--there's some continuity that could really, really use revisiting. I really wish we had gotten a Martha-Clark conversation out of that, sometime. Maybe they're foreshadowing a conversation that will happen next week, when (from the previews--I am otherwise unspoiled) it looks like it will be a Martha-centric episode, for a change?
becs1024
Nov. 11th, 2005 12:22 pm (UTC)
I agree that Clark has been a total jerk to Lex most of this season, though as I have argued in previous posts, I think that is actually intentional on the part of the writers. ... I think that though Lex is much further down the road to evil than he was last season, he isn't fully there yet.

I'm one of the voices against Super!Asshat!Clark. I agree that the writers are making Clark a jerk "noble and straightforward" an asshole on purpose, however ill-advised that may be. But what they haven't done to counter this pattern is make Lex more evil on-screen. The obvious exception to this is the torture scene in Aqua, but we don't know how Lex got from misunderstood to well on the road to Evil. From the beginning, Fine's been telling Clark things about Lex that seem completely unfounded at first, based on what we've seen of Lex, and then they inexplicably turn out to be true.

It's like the writers realized, "Damn, we're in the fifth season, and we only have twenty-odd episodes to make Lex evil. We need a headstart." In the past, they have had no qualms about making Lex sympathetic - especially in episodes like Heat, Bound and, of course, the Crazy!Lex arc and Memoria - but now he's started to descend into cartoonish villainy on occasion, which is completely inconsistent with the character. Just telling the audience that he's now a bad guy (a chief example would be Fine's lecture informing us that LuthorCorp is suddenly a weapons contractor) is not convincingly making Lex a bad guy.

Which makes Clark look like a total asshole, because in the mind of the audience, he has no (or very little) reason to distrust Lex, let alone continue to blindly accuse him and denounce him as an important part of his life. Good job, writers.
norwich36
Nov. 11th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC)
Just telling the audience that he's now a bad guy (a chief example would be Fine's lecture informing us that LuthorCorp is suddenly a weapons contractor) is not convincingly making Lex a bad guy.

I agree with that, but I'm now wondering if the reveal that Fine is a bad guy is actually supposed to be making us (semi) sympathetic to Lex, and question the information Fine's been providing Clark. I go back and forth on this, really. Like you said, we have little textual evidence of Lex's villainy other than the torture scene in Aqua, and I have hopes that the fact that Clark's suspicions about Lex were proven completely unfounded last week--and the fact that Fine clearly set Lex up this week--are supposed to get the audience to think maybe Lex isn't as cartoonishly evil as the other characters on the show have been suggesting.

Which makes Clark look like a total asshole, because in the mind of the audience, he has no (or very little) reason to distrust Lex, let alone continue to blindly accuse him and denounce him as an important part of his life. Good job, writers.

Clark is still convinced that Lex set up the events in Mortal as a test, and although I think they left that slightly ambiguous for the audience, there's enough evidence that I can see why Clark doesn't trust Lex anymore. I'm more bothered by the fact that, having broken off the friendship, he still thinks he's entitled to burst in on Lex whenever he wants and demand information and favors. But I think we're in basic agreement that he's acting like a jerk--I'm just holding out hope that there's an actual reason for this beyond the descent into comic book characterization.
becs1024
Nov. 12th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
...but I'm now wondering if the reveal that Fine is a bad guy is actually supposed to be making us (semi) sympathetic to Lex, and question the information Fine's been providing Clark.

This is really interesting. But the way they've been writing Fine - which I believe is, for once, spot-on for who he's supposed to be (I don't know if you know who) - seems like we're supposed to believe him. He makes those cheesy proclamations that are supposed to exposit his world view as someone observing the human race and its history with the eye of a scientist and outsider, but I don't think he's wrong. For the writers, making us sympathetic to Lex at all now would be step backward, especially if this is the last season. And I don't think they trust the audience to reevaluate everything he's ever said, regardless of how morally black and white the show seems to be. But maybe that's just me being cynical.

I'm trying to use my comics knowledge to guess how they're going to go, and it's probably going to blow up in my face. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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