I’m typing this Wednesday night, in the midst of packing for a trip to South Carolina to one of my best friend’s wedding. Although I probably should be focusing on making sure I have everything packed, the truth of the matter is that I simply CANNOT let this article wait until Sunday. The fact of the matter is, last week’s episode of Smallville was so phenomenal that this really should have been written immediately after the episode concluded.
Appropriately titled “Descent,” this episode really exemplified how much the series would be hurt should Michael Rosenbaum/Lex Luthor be written out. I’ve already stated this, but Lex is just as integral to Smallville as Clark is. As I’ve noted, the series is just as much about how Lex Luthor devolves from humanitarian to villain as it is about how Clark becomes Superman.
I’m really glad that the episode kicked off with Lex killing Lionel. Truth be told, it was much more powerful having the episode revolve around the aftermath of the murder than it would have been if it had built up to the big event.
Unsurprisingly, Michael Rosenbaum was absolutely fantastic in his portrayal of Lex. I LOVED the expressionless look on his face when he realized that he had basically murdered his father for nothing, as he didn’t even get the key after he tore the necklace off of Lionel’s neck. You could tell by the tearful look in his eyes that he was asking himself “what have I done?” but at the same time, wasn’t remorseful.
The murder scene itself was phenomenal. My favorite part was when Lex told Lionel, “Nobody will even remember your name.” What an absolutely appropriate and cruel thing to say. Despite Lionel’s visions of grandeur, in the end, the actions of his son completely eclipse his entire existence. The fact of the matter is, according to the Superman mythos, Lex Luthor is a household name, while Lionel Luthor is an unknown entity. The direction was also brilliant. It was great how Lionel’s fall was seen through a reflection in Lex’s eyes. I loved the symbolism of Lionel’s image simply vanishing. Once again, it was a great indicator of how, ultimately, Lionel is insignificant and nothing.
I’m going to miss Lionel – I mean, I had frequently referred to him as one of the most complex characters on television – but I’m also glad that this happened. If you think about it, it NEEDED to happen. In order for Lex to cross the line into super villain, he needed to do something unforgivable. As we’ve seen, deep down, Clark has a soft spot for Lex. If he ever feels like he CAN save his soul, he will try. Something needed to happen to make Clark feel like Lex not only cannot be saved, but he’s not even worth TRYING to save. Along with that, this event also acted as the perfect finale to the Lex/Lionel relationship. Throughout most of his life, Lex was told by his father that he’s weak. However, in the end, Lex was able to do the dastardly deed that Lionel was never able to. Despite all their differences, Lionel never could kill Lex. Even if he had arguably tried (was it ever confirmed that he was the one who had poisoned Lex?), he could never do it directly. Here, Lex actively shoved Lionel out of the window. While we always knew that Lex would become his father, who would have guessed he would prove to be even more evil?
Speaking of Lex….what a monster he has become. Here he had just murdered his father, and he actually has the nerve to compare his loss to Clark’s….right to Clark’s face! Wow. And while Lex throwing the childhood version of himself into the fire was a little heavy handed, it effectively showed the audience “there’s no going back now.” When this episode ended, all I could think about is how much I want him to be a part of next season (and that means the WHOLE season – not just 11 or so episodes!)
The funeral scene was quite powerful, and I’m thrilled that they made the scripting choice to avoid any dialogue between Lex and Clark. Once again, the direction should be complimented, as I loved how you could see the Daily Planet building in the background. Along with that, the decision to make the funeral a closed one provided a sensible explanation as to why Martha was absent. My only one MINOR complaint about the scene was how Clark poured dirt onto Lionel’s grave. It was an obvious allusion to what he had done at Jonathan’s funeral – and that’s my problem. While, in the end, Lionel did turn out to be “good,” the fact remains that he was no Jonathan Kent. I do truly believe that Lionel cared deeply for Clark, but when it comes down to it, it’s only because Clark had abilities. I’m not saying that Lionel was using Clark, but if Clark was just some ordinary farm boy, he wouldn’t even be a zit on Lionel’s ass. On the other hand, Jonathan would have unconditionally loved Clark no matter who he was or what he could do. I’m glad the episode gave Lionel’s character some closure by explaining that he was indeed a changed man, but it almost felt like they were anointing him for sainthood, and Lionel was no saint.
That very small quibble aside, I believe this was the definitive episode of the season. I’m very intrigued to see where things go from here.
Some other quick notes…
I still love any scene between Lois and Jimmy. Actually, without Lana and Lionel, this episode was a bit of a sneak peak of what next season will be like. Perhaps it’s a good sign that this will likely be remembered as the highlight of the season.
What was the deal with Chloe not hiding the key when she saw Lex coming? She obviously knew it was from Lionel, and could deduct that Lex wanted it. So why just stash it in the desk, where he could easily find it (it was, after all, the first place he looked)? It seemed very out of character.
With Lex now officially the big bad, my only two hopes for the remainder of the season is that Clark flies in the finale (this HAS to happen, you hear me?) and that Clark and Lana break up, for good. Lex is now LEX LUTHOR. Lets start making Clark Superman.