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My brother just went back to college tonight. But before he left, we managed to spend quite a lot of time together - much of it parked on the couch in front of the television. In fact, in his last week home, Nathan, my parents and I blazed through the entire fifth season of Smallville, bringing us only half a season away from actually being caught up. It could possibly happen before the sixth season is over...
Season five is an important one. Interestingly, while the cataclysmic pilot episode aired a month or so after 9-11, this season's opener, which shows the immediate aftermath of yet another colossal meteor shower, aired about a month after Hurricane Katrina. The second-episode scenes of a community barn raising take on added meaning in that context, demonstrating the resilience of ordinary citizens under trying circumstances. If Smallville can be rebuilt - twice - maybe New Orleans can too.
In one respect, season five opens on a happier note than most; Clark's (Tom Welling) Superman training continues in the glorious Fortress of Solitude (though you'd think Jor-El (Terence Stamp) would've told him everything he needed to know when he abducted him for three months the year before), while Chloe (Allison Mack) is the awestruck bystander in the story of a lifetime. Only it's one she refuses to tell. And oh yeah, it's darn cold for a Kansas gal in a winter wonderland with no coat. So that beautiful scene is shattered when Clark insists on cutting his training short to get Chloe someplace where she won't die of hypothermia, to which Jor-El reluctantly agrees... conditioned upon Clark's return before sunset to continue his lessons. As soon as the words escape his lips, we know Clark will break his promise, whether out of forgetfulness, preoccupation or outright defiance. But his actions have grave repercussions, as he will come to realize as the season wears on...
Most inconveniently, this meteor shower brought another spaceship, a black, ominous-looking thing containing the Disciples of Zod. Lana (Kristen Kreuk) sees it land and is sufficiently traumatized; Lex (Michael Rosenbaum), who's on just about everybody's bad side at the moment, claims not to believe her, while swooping down with all his resources to take the ship for himself. But there still are those pesky disciples to deal with, and they cause as much trouble as possible, casually shooting fire out of their eyes at whoever happens by while searching for Clark. Who they find, or who finds them, and saves the day, with time to spare... and sticks around to see Lana regain consciousness rather than high-tail it back to his big bad dad, who made himself pretty clear, if you ask me. Of all the choices Clark made in the season, this very early one probably maddened me the most because it should have been a no-brainer. Lana's out of danger; he needs to go finish his eddication, dagnabbit!
Smallville is a mess, but it cleans up nicely, and Jonathan (John Schneider) and Martha (Annette O'Toole) once again manage to claw their way out of the surrounding rubble, though what ever happened to Jason Teague (Jensen Ackles) nobody seems to know or care. Even Lana doesn't raise any questions; maybe she's so unsettled by certain end-of-the-season revelations and events that she doesn't particularly relish another meeting with Jason. Nonetheless, it seems there should be some reference to finding his body under a once-hardy Kent table... or not finding it, leaving the possibility for his re-emergence at a later date. I'm guessing they just wanted to close the book on that whole season-four storyline, though, and I guess I can understand that. And they slip a reference to Pete (Sam Jones III) in the second episode, so maybe there's always a chance of a throwaway explanation of just what happened to Jason in, say, season seven, when everyone's forgotten him entirely...
Because who needs Jason when Lana and Clark can finally be together? The whole end-of-the-world thing has thrown things into perspective, and Lana realizes Clark is her true love, and since he rather conveniently (so he thinks) loses his powers after failing to return to his Fortress in the allotted time, he doesn't have to worry about hiding things from her anymore. Well, as long as she doesn't ask what he's been up to for the past 18 years... Chloe, meanwhile, finally knows just about everything about Clark that there is to know, and Clark knows she knows, so it cements their friendship even as she wistfully witnesses the renewal of his romance with Lana. And then Clark gets his powers back, as we knew he had to, though the circumstances are most unfortunate and don't bode so well for his and Lana's relationship. Chloe sure comes in handy as his wingman, though...
I continue to love Chloe in this season. She's pretty much done pursuing Clark, but she relishes her exalted place in his life, one of only four people who knows his secret - and one of them is quite out of the picture. There's a calmness and maturity to her here that comes out physically in her cessation of changing her hairstyle every episode. Maybe that has something to do with her not trying to get Clark's attention anymore; she really doesn't need to since he turns to her for help more often than ever, though when it comes to matters of the heart, one might suspect she'd rather not be the one to dole out advice.
Lana isn't so bad the first half of the season, though once her relationship with Clark turns physical - can we say ick? - she's suddenly all hormonally charged and coming on to Clark in practically every scene they share. Which is a problem for Clark since his abilities return soon thereafter, and he doesn't want to accidentally hurt Lana in the heat of the moment. And it's a problem for me, too, because... well... call me a prude, but ick once again. Plus, I'm still a hopeless Chloe and Clark shipper. The real problem with Lana here, though, is that Lex and Clark both get a glimpse of their respective perfect futures with her. And then things go horribly awry, leading both Lex and Clark to make tragic choices. Because in their blind adoration, it turns out they're both willing to give up anything and anyone for Lana's sake. Silly boys...
The Lex and Lana pairing grows increasingly plausible after she gets over her fury with Lex over his psychotic end-of-the-season antics and his subsequent implication that Lana's apparent spotting of the spaceship was all in her head, a result of post-traumatic shock. Because Lex decides to tell her the truth. Actually, ironically, as deceitful as he is, he's always been more forthcoming than Clark, and the fact that he is willing to share so freely with Lana here makes her question why she would want to stay with someone who's constantly lying to her. The thing of it is, I really want Lex and Lana to end up together. Because I really want Lex to be happy... and good, which I think he would be if he ended up with Lana, at least under a certain set of circumstances. And Lana would do all right, I think; he's obsessed with her and has endless resources with which to pamper her, so it's a needy girlfriend's dream. And, just as important, Clark could finally realize how perfect Chloe is for him... But none of those things can happen, and it's times like these when I hate the fact that the destinies of most of these characters are set. And then I'm grateful that at least nobody - perhaps, ominously, even the writers - knows where LOST is going...
But romances weren't my foremost concerns going into this season. Rather, there's the matter that certain characters seem unlikely to survive the series. Could this be the year one of them goes? Lionel (John Glover) starts off the season in an uber-creepy trance, sketching and etching Kryptonian symbols on any available surface. When he comes to, though - his lustrous hair nearly back to its full former glory - his first appearance is downright congenial. Soon, he still seems to be cooking up a few secrets in the shadows, but to what end? And when he offers to fund Jonathan's campaign for senator - against Lex, and behind Jonathan's back - can we really believe that it's not so he can strong-arm Jonathan if he gets into office, forcing him to make any number of decisions compromising his integrity? I cautiously believe in Lionel, knowing his manipulative skills are strong. I'm never sure just what he's up to, but the one constant, I think, is his deep, sincere regard for Martha, leading to some of the most moving scenes in the season, and as long as she is in his life his redemption seems to be within much easier grasp.
But Jonathan's opinion of Lionel certainly hasn't changed. In fact, his deep-seated prejudices against the Luthors frustrate me to no end, just like Samwise's refusal to embrace the glimmer of good in Smeagol, though in both cases there are very practical and compelling reasons for them to feel and act the way they do, far beyond sheer jealousy. Jonathan enters the senatorial race largely to keep Lex from getting the position, because a Luthor with all that power can't possibly be a good thing for all the hard-working middle class folks. What's more, he has a chance to crawl out from his son's shadow, to do something significant quite apart from Clark, and his pride embraces that possibility. But is it really a good idea to enter what's sure to be an ugly race with an enormous secret to keep quiet, not to mention a weakened physical condition? And what will happen if he learns where all that campaign money really came from? Jonathan is a hard-headed soul, and his attitudes poisoned Clark's relationship with Lex from the beginning, but he really is a man worth admiring, a role model absolutely instrumental to Clark's development. Hard-working, fiercely dedicated to his family and his values, he may just walk away with my vote for favorite character of the season.
Lex is on pretty shaky moral ground, but he hasn't turned into his father yet. He still resists the dark side, though his relationship with Clark is on the rocks, much to Lex's consternation. Clark's righteous indignation is a bit much to take, and the desperate attempts at reconciliation eventually give way to more and more bitterness. Of course, Lex is hiding a lot, as evidenced by the fact that he's always on his laptop, and he quickly closes it whenever someone walks in the room. But that doesn't mean he's past the point of no return, and this season affords him a couple of very heavy-handed opportunities to see the error of his ways and do something drastic to halt his gradual but relentless march toward super-villainy.
Lois (Erica Durance) continues to inject some much-needed humor into the proceedings, and the hints of romance between her and Clark are practically nonexistent here, aside from his general over-protectiveness whenever a potential love interest for her pops up. She, meanwhile, acts as a rather abrasive older sister, giving him a hard time whenever possible but also admitting her regard for him on certain occasions. More important at this point, she's utterly devoted to Jonathan and Martha, and she throws herself into supporting Jonathan's campaign with such fervor that he makes her campaign manager. Cool points to her for that. I'm actually really starting to like her...
A few new-but-familiar characters pop up this season, my favorite of which is Arthur Curry (Alan Ritchson), environmental vigilante extraordinaire who sweeps Lois off her feet, though Clark is right to suspect there's something "fishy" about him. Most significantly, though, we meet a gentleman named Milton Fine (James Marsters), though we know from the get-go what Clark doesn't: he's not really a history professor. He's a Kryptonian artificial intelligence, and he's bad news. But it looks like he's going to be around for a while...
Season five is pivotal: no more high school, no more Torch (though the Daily Planet keeps Chloe pretty busy), precious little camaraderie between Lex and Clark. Luthors and Kents both are caught up in the dangerous, exhilarating politics game, while a dark Kryptonian force looms as a threat bigger than even Clark can imagine. The hundredth episode rolls around; in honor of the occasion we get one of the most thrilling, devastating, emotionally charged episodes in the whole series. Major changes are about to occur, and many of them aren't particularly encouraging. It's nice to see Smallville cave at last and give us a warm and fuzzy Kent family Christmas before their down-home farm existence is thrown into a tizzy.
Most of the hints of Clark's grand destiny are rather grim, but there are also warm and wonderful moments of affirmation from both fathers and interaction with youngsters, for which Clark continues to demonstrate a remarkable aptitude. This is a season to tug at the heartstrings as events set into motion with decisions made long ago finally come to fruition and the days of dawning the fabled tights draw ever nearer. Though how Clark is going to explain the glasses to Lois, and more importantly, how she's going to fail to recognize him as Superman, I have no idea... I don't want the show to end. But I suspect the halfway point has passed; the epic scope of the season five finale will be hard to top, and how much longer can we keep Lex in check? I'm not sure. I am sure that it was a serendipitous day when Nathan toted home the first season eleven months ago, and I'm seeing this thing through to the end, marveling every step of the way.
A Luthor is a Lion
A Father's Love
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Rhymes and Reasons
Leaves That Are Green
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