Final Season: Smallville & Manipulation

Myers-Briggs has ruined my life. Forever. But more on that in the “Mastermind” section beneath the cut!

Midwinter hiatuses are no fun. Most of my shows are taking a month or more off after this weekend. I’ve become used to it, but still… six weeks without any of my shows sounds a tad depressing (unless of course you fill the rest of this month with Christmas movies!). In this post I will get a little nostalgic, discuss an important engagement on Smallville, and reveal my surprising new insights into my favorite bald-headed villain. The plain fact of the matter is that I’ve started rewatching this series from the beginning and am picking up on things that weren’t evident to me ten years ago, before I learned about personality types… but first, last night’s midwinter finale.

The Story This Week:

In a beautiful and romantic (even for a cynic like me) scene, Clark Kent proposes to Lois Lane and she accepts him outside “their” phone booth, amid a snowstorm of falling rose petals (awww). Tess arranges an engagement party with friends, Chloe sends Lois a mysterious amulet and her well wishes, and … then all hell breaks loose. The government is cracking down on heroes, Captain Tigh… err… some dude from the military is trying to eradicate them all, and riots are breaking out on the streets due to paranoia. Olivier tries to stop a man from mugging a woman on the street and winds up getting a beating from a mob. Tess, Lois, and others are arrested by the military and held for questioning, but Lois escapes — only to nearly lose her life and be saved by Daniel Jacks–err, Hawkman, who dies as a result. The episode ends with Hawkman’s funeral and a glowing orb going off in his tomb, leaving all of them unconscious.

My Thoughts:

If there is one thing Smallville does well, it is proposal scenes. Even though part of me will always hate Clana, the proposal in the Fortress of Solitude between Clark and Lana was the high point of the 100th episode. Lex’s proposal to Lana surrounded by ten thousand red roses was equally stirring. It seems fitting that Lois would be proposed to on a chilly evening outside a particular phone booth in Metropolis with rose petals instead of snowflakes. So yeah, proposals in this show are amazing… the actual weddings, not so much. (Can anyone say Chloe’s wedding? Yikes.) Nevertheless, I kind of hope the series finale includes one because I think that would be an amazing way to end the series, with Clark and Lois tying the proverbial knot and promising to love, honor, and keep one another forever. Because in spite of my protests, deep down I really am just a sap at heart.

This season has had a lot of ups and downs for me — overall, it’s been marvelous with one or two sticking points. I think the concept of Darkness invading just as the heroes are being forced to rise is a really good plot device, and I loved Hawkman’s line about having seen this kind of hatred and fear before — during the Spanish Inquisition (Isabella, I love you to pieces, but… really?) and then again during the Holocaust. It’s an interesting concept that humans can be horrible on their own but there are times when evil is more frankly much more prevalent (ancient Rome, anyone?), and while I do not agree with many of the series’ concepts, I do believe the worst evil is “controlling” other people. That is what has marked dark civilizations for centuries — powerful governments oppressing the public, and in a way that seems to be seeping into the show’s message this season — ironic when you consider the mood of the public at the moment, and the fact that many Americans are starting to resent our government becoming ever-bigger and attempting to control more of our lives. The irony of having Lois wanded as she went into work was not lost on me, given the recent airport security controversies. “It’s all for your own good,” my foot. The show generally trends liberal but in this respect has surprised me — pleasantly.

I think that in spite of the marvelous proposal scene that my favorite moment, however, was the shot of Lois being propelled out the window and falling — twisting, and turning helplessly, toward her demise — and an instant later, Hawkman plunging after her, with his outstretched wings aflame. I have always been a sucker for symbolism and references to Roman history and Greek mythology, so the intentional nod to Icarus was beautiful. (Icarus is a myth about a man who attempts to escape an island on wings made of wax, but flies too close to the sun and they melt, plunging him to his death.) I rather suspected that particular character would die at some point, in keeping with this season’s concept of death and rebirth, but it was sad nevertheless… yet when he unfurls his wing and reveals to Clark that Lois at least has been saved… well, that was even more touching.

It is going to be a long six weeks… made less so by revisiting the original episodes.

Masterminds:

I have had a lot of people ask me what my deal is in loving this show so much — it’s a bit corny, it’s kinda lame, and the writing at times is downright atrocious (let’s not even talk about season nine… or how Lex/Lana ended… because I really do not need to rant this morning). But the truth is… this show was there for me during a hard time in my life. It allowed me to escape and fall in love with these characters and believe in heroism. And every single time I get depressed, which for a melancholy individual like me is quite often, this show can bring me back up — even the episodes that frustrate me resonate in my soul, because it means something to me. I can stick one of the early seasons into my machine, sit down, and for a few hours it’s not about me, or my concerns or fears, it’s just about finding happiness. I cannot explain it, but this show means an immense amount to me and always will. That’s just how it is.

Rewatching the early seasons has reminded me how good the series was in its childhood. It was much more simple and character-based than it is now. The stories were fun and independent of one another, revolving around the antics of teenagers. Clark and his adorable fondness for Lana (hey, it only started to annoy me when they got older and entered a never-ending cycle of angst! I liked it at the start!). Lex learning to be friends with Clark. Lana attempting to figure out who she is as a person. Chloe and her Wall of Weird. In a way, I really miss how it used to be, before it got complicated and mature and involved. When it was just about relationships and friends and family and occasional financial woes, it was very impacting and uplifting and stunning — the contrast between the Kents and their love for Clark, and Lionel’s hatred and contempt for his son, particularly struck all the right chords. Yet in some ways, I’m glad the series did grow up — because I grew up with it, and many of the situations faced by the characters in terms of emotions and changes in their lives happened in sync with me (even though I am a couple of years older than Clark).

The older you get, the more you learn; the more life experience you have, the more you begin to see things differently — and I am now noticing things in particular about Lex. Six months ago, my life changed incredibly because of one simple thing — I took the Myers Briggs Personality Test and discovered what “type” I am. That opened my eyes to why I do certain things, why particular situations and relationships drain me emotionally, and why my motivations, interests, and obsessions are what they are. My type is extremely rare among the general population — I think we comprise something like 2% of the surveyed population… which explains why throughout my life, I have always been something of a mystery to people. I am an INTJ, which means I am very introverted (I scored quite high on that portion of the test), I have keen natural instincts about people, places, and things, I internalize my emotions and do far too much serious thinking for my own good, and I make my decisions based on logic rather than emotion. The plus is that we are highly reliable, easily intellectual, and very creative — the down side is that we can come across as cold, calculating, and manipulative if we “go bad.” My personality type is nicknamed the “Mastermind,” because to be quite frank, most literary and cinematic villains are INTJ’s. (Yeah!! rock on, awesome villains! … oops, sorry.)

Among the famous individuals (real and imagined) that are classified as INTJ (including Thomas Jefferson — no wonder I love him!) is… surprise, surprise… Lex Luthor. I wasn’t sure that Smallville‘s Lex would fit in with that, but as I rewatch the series… he does. Lionel accuses him of making too many decisions based on his emotions but I disagree; he is emotional, and at times that influences his choices, but most of his business and personal decisions are utterly logical and in some respects, that is why they fail to resonate with other characters, because they are emotion-based personalities that cannot figure out why Lex is doing these things. (He knows what he’s doing. We usually do. You just fail to appreciate our genius.) ANYWAY… what I have noticed is that Lex is not nearly as innocent as I remember. My mind recalls early Lex as being rather innocent and the victim of circumstances out of his control (yeah, yeah, I bought into that liberal philosophy — shut up), or being accused of doing bad things that he did not actually do.

Uh… yeah… not so much. Looking at him as a potential Mastermind, I am reading so much more between the lines. Was his gift of a truck to Clark in thanking him for saving his life really just gratitude, or a hook to become friends with someone who interested him? Did he really want to help Jonathan Kent with his financial situation just to be nice and as an investment, or did he want a reason to be around the Kent farm more often? He even manipulates Lana a bit in the first six episodes — albeit, in Clark’s favor, by dropping hints about Whitney’s behavior (thus encouraging her to find out the truth about the cornfield) and inferring that she has chosen the wrong boyfriend. I used to think him pushing Clark to steal Lana away from her boyfriend was just out of caring about his friend, but now I’m not so sure… and I also suspect that Lana winding up without a date to her birthday party has everything to do with Lex. Whitney instead goes to a tryout for a state football team the same night as her party, and we learn later that mysteriously, someone dropped out, permitting him the chance. Lex threatens to erase a reporter’s identity and blackmails him into digging up dirt; he also threatens a notable “mad scientist” with outing him for sleeping with his college students, unless he does research for Luthor Corp. And does anyone really know for certain that Lex knew nothing about Level 31?

Thanks, Myers-Briggs… thanks a lot. You’ve opened this Mastermind’s eyes enough that she can tell when another Mastermind is at work, and cannot pretend his bad childhood and lousy parents had anything to do with how he turned out anymore. See, I used to search for emotional explanations for my behavior too and now know there aren’t any; it’s just the way I am. Lex has no excuses! And… I am finally seeing why a large portion of people never trusted him and why they could not comprehend my fondness for him. I must admit, however, that it has not diminished, just increased my respect for him as the smartest character in the show. Hey, it takes brains to be manipulative!

Hmm, in that respect maybe Jonathan Kent’s paranoia is even justified…

4 Replies to “Final Season: Smallville & Manipulation”

  1. Well, you can always look at the story as continuing on even if we are not witness to it. But I know what you mean about being sad when a favorite series ends.

    Eventually, God willing — you will be able to add another four or six hours to LotR with “The Hobbit”! I haven't seen LotR in YEARS simply because I know it will re-spark my obsession with it. πŸ˜‰

    Anytime you want to discuss Lex, Smallville, etc — just drop me a note through the contact page of my website (charitysplace.com) and I'll e-mail you back. I don't want to post my e-mail here on the blog for obvious reasons. πŸ˜‰

  2. Fandoms ending kind of leaves me with a sense of displacement in a way, because it almost feels “wrong” in a way for me to continue on with life while characters and stories so dear to me decide to end. It hearkens back to the dyspepsia I endured after the end of Lord of the Rings – to this day I can't read or watch the end of Return of the King without immediately watching/rereading the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring to keep myself “immersed” in the world. Dorky, perhaps, but I'm a writer, so there you have it. And yes, talking with a fellow story-lover and Mastermind would be fantastic if you ever have the time! πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for commenting! It's nice to know someone is actually reading these entries, but even more so to discover I am not alone in adoring this show and getting something out of it. It's true that rewatching it does bring back memories of things I was dealing with at the time — in a way, it's kind of surreal to look back and realize how much I have matured since the early seasons.

    Although I like all the characters, Lex has always fascinated me the most — like you, I have spent enormous amounts of time “figuring” him out. And yes, I do admire his intelligence. It's… well, as an INTJ, it's hard not to. πŸ˜‰

    I hate fandoms coming to an end. I have adapted all right to the 11th Doctor, but I'm not looking forward to “Smallville” ending. Still, I hope the series finale is mind-blowing amazing. =)

    Merry Christmas to you too! If you ever want to rant / gush / reminisce / talk to another Mastermind, let me know. πŸ˜‰

  4. I always love reading your Smallville posts, because they express EXACTLY how I feel about the show – especially since I, too, am using this final season to review the series again. Ahh, nostalgia! It's difficult for me to put into words the…bond…I have with Smallville. I feel as if I grew up with these characters, and I might even go so far as to say that certain episodes /helped/ me mature. Why I can put in a disc from season three and suddenly rexperience the emotions and struggles that I had during that time is more bewildering to me than the male infatuation with Lana Lang (which, by extension, is less believable than Smallville's entire Meteor Freak collection…but that's another inexhaustible rant). I really can't explain it.
    It's also kind of astounding that you mention your personality connection with Lex regarding the INTJ – I just took the same test for a college course and recieved the exact ranking. I've always felt very hesitant to admit that I relate so much to Lex's struggles and plights, because it makes me feel vulnerable to assumptions that I'm some latent villian. But it's true – I spent so much time trying to crack into his thought process and wrestled with far too much admiration of his cunning to deny that we share some traits, but the test definitely makes this easier to confess.
    Anyway. Sorry for the rambling – it's just refreshing to hear from someone who appreciates Smallville (and Lex, for that matter)–despite its sometimes ebarrassing faults–for the lessons it's taught us and the characters we've come to love for so many years. I cannot wait for the end of this season, but am also intensely sad and even a little scared to think about how life without it will be.
    After all, they've already taken away both my Lost and 10th Doctor, with the Harry Potter films teetering dangeroulsy close to completion. Aargh – I feel as if I deserve some compensation for the morosity that continues to afflict my poor mind thanks to the ending of much beloved stories.
    Merry Christmas! I hope your Smallvillathons are filled more with happy reminiscence versus painful nostalgia.

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