Monday, December 6, 2010

Smallville: Luthor

This week’s Smallville was a twisty, topsy-turvy one — an hour that only seemed like a novelty respite from the series’ recent story lines. By the end, however, the episode titled “Luthor” had deepened the season’s themes.

In an alternate-Earth, baby Clark had been found [SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY] in the cornfield by Lionel Luthor, and the kid grew up to be Ultra-Man, a super-powered murderer. Lois Lane and Oliver Queen were both engaged and united in their hatred for Clark Luthor and all he represented: greedy wealth and irresponsible power.

It all started in the “real” world of Smallville, where Tess discovered she’d inherited a mirror box, a Kryptonian relic. When clicked into place by Clark, it exchanged Clarks Kent and Luthor. “Our” Clark found himself at the mercy of his raging father, Lionel — John Glover, in a terrifically intense return to the series — and fending off the advances of his randy step-sister, the alternative-Tess. Meanwhile, back in the Smallville we know, Clark Luthor caused as much chaos and pain as he could.
The hour was all about the price we pay for trying to maintain family bonds, even when those we are bonded to harm us. For Tess, the dangers unleashed derived from the secret she’d been keeping from Clark Kent about the Luthor clone, Alexander, whom she thought was “the closest thing to family” that she’d ever have. For Clark, he saw in the alternate-Earth that the “Luthor blood is poison.”

All of this could have been ponderous — complete with a trite comparison to King Lear — were it not for the performances (especially Glover’s — his beating of Clark with a belt was powerfully painful to witness) and for Kelly Souders’ smart direction. Souders presented the alternative Earth in inky blacks and cobalt blues; menace hung heavily in the air.

By the end, the switch was reversed, Clark was back in the arms of his Lois, but in the final scene, we saw that Lionel had made the journey back with Clark. This leaves the door open for further misadventures with Lionel in Smallville. As the man said: Wouldn’t want to miss how it all turns out, do we?

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