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Just finished watching 5th season SV. After spending most of the season totally WTFing at Lex, because it initially seems like he just wakes up in the premiere with his supervillain switch flicked on - it's pretty cool how that's all explained in the second to last ep. Only it's done in such a way that we didn't get it until gnine figured out the explanation that makes the most sense, and now we're wondering where the fics are...the trouble with getting into fandom late is that we miss all the meta! (That is to say, you've probably seen this all before, I'm writing it out for my own benefit. And possibly future ficcing.)

Also - I gotta say, kudos to SV's writers. I'm not sure this is what they were going for for the entire season, but it does explain quite a bit that made no sense whatsoever otherwise, and it's a darn nifty slow-realization reveal. Even if man, yow. Poor, poor Lex. I've gone on before about the Tragedy of Lex but this...he's no villain. He's trying his damndest to be the hero.

For four seasons Lex has toed the line, but in 5th season he becomes so much more tragic ('cuz, yeah, the one thing Lex needed was more tragedy.) He starts slipping to the dark side for real - but he does it in a way it's damn hard to fault him for, because rather than bearing a personal grudge over Clark's betrayal, or proving himself worthy of love and respect, or whatever other petty motivations Lex offers up throughout the course of the season, in truth Lex Luthor spends the year trying to save the world. Everything he does, from the day after he's attacked in the caves by Zod's minions and finds the black ship, is motivated by the desperate and entirely understandable fear that alien invasion is imminent. And okay, the ends don't always justify the means - but when you have good reason to think that the survival of your species is at stake, a lot of means are pretty darn justified.

"Mortal" is Lex's first seemingly evil act, sending those mutants after Clark. Lex saw Zod's minions superspeed in the cave, and he clearly recognized that trick. He's got good evidence to theorize that Clark might be one of them; it's imperative to make sure of that ASAP, by any method. And no wonder he's thrown when it seems to be disproved - because finally, finally Lex was understanding why Clark was lying to him all this time; Clark might be a sleeper agent for the invasion. It couldn't have made him happy, but at least it would make sense. And then he's thrown back to square one: Clark is lying to him, and Lex can't figure out what he's doing wrong, that he can't be trusted. Only he can't care about that now, because there's a lot bigger things at stake.

"Aqua" was the ep that totally confused us; it made no sense that Lex would not only go ruthlessly evil, but change LuthorCorp's direction to defense contracts. It's the first time that we can recall ever seeing Lex interested in any kind of military applications. And he was so stupidly un-PC about the poor corporate publicity of a marine-life-killing weapon, his blasé "there's plenty of fish in sea," and - yeah, fate of humanity at stake. The potential political suicide isn't nearly as important as ensuring, not national, but global, defense. "Cyborg" is the same story. Why else make super-strong cyborg soldiers, but to battle super-strong aliens?

Then there's Lex's political ambitions. He gives a lot of excuses for why he's running for office, mostly related to his personal ambitions. The one he never mentions to anyone is that he needs political clout, pronto; he has to make the connections and get into a position where he can convince people of the reality of the peril the world's facing. (And, yeah, best reason ever to get wasted after losing - "Cheers, Mr. Kent, you and your son are gonna take over the world now.")

Lex gives a lot of excuses for his actions all through fifth season, because he doesn't know who he can trust. He's been raised to be paranoid and that instinct is in overdrive when the world's in danger. And the two people he has the most faith in, who he might have considered teaming up with: Lionel - Lex knows his father has been compromised by the alien threat, he's never going to drop a hint to Lionel; and Clark - might well be one of the invaders he fears. At the end of the season it seems like he comes to the conclusion Clark isn't, after seeing him go up against Fine, and he makes a couple tentative efforts to restore their friendship, but it's too late. Clark, realizing what Lex has been doing but not why, isn't able to trust him anymore. It's a sacrifice Lex accepts. With the stakes this high, there's very few things he can't afford to accept.

Meanwhile, there's Lana, who he can be pretty sure is not a potential invader, but who he doesn't want to freak out with ravings about the end of the world. Tentatively, he brings her into what he knows, but he's trying to keep her safe. I also can't help but wonder if he has some idea of using her to control Clark, if Clark does prove to be a threat. At any rate, she's the only one he can dare be at all honest with; little wonder they bond.

The road to hell, they say, and Lex has the best of intentions. If he lets his morals slide, if he lets that darkness he so feared earlier creep into his heart, then he has good reason. In 4th season he was still terrified of his darkness; in 5th season he embraces it, as the only way to save the human race. He's a sacrifice, with the others he makes, and it will be worth it. The tragedy is that it's all unnecessary. Krypton is destroyed; Zod and Brainiac are only a remnant, and other heroes are already out to stop them. If Clark had been honest with Lex, he would know what he was facing. But Clark isn't, and Lex doesn't know, and therefore takes measures that appear absolutely necessary.

The double tragedy is that the invasion happens anyway - and Lex is its instrument. He loses his gamble with Fine* and wakes up twenty-four hours later to find that he almost ended the world. "Guilt money," Chloe says, derisively, of his donating millions to Metropolis's reconstruction, and much as I love Chloe I could slap her for that line. Damn straight Lex has got guilt, and it's mostly unjustified; he would have done anything to stop Zod, had he been able. "I would have done the same thing," he tells Lana; but he couldn't, but he's not going to easily forgive himself for that. It's a wonder he doesn't have a complete mental breakdown. Or if he does, we don't get to see it, because we almost never see Lex alone with just his thoughts (grr again at the writers for dropping the "Lexmas" ball) and he's not going to scare Lana with that, and he doesn't dare tell Lionel, and Clark isn't talking to him anymore...

(* There's a bit of Brainiac mind control, or at least a tranquilizer, in the cocktail Fine shoots Lex up with; he may remember what happens after that, but he's acting entirely out of character from the moment he comes home to when Zod's ship summons him. Also this means that both times we see Lex asleep, he's under the influence of something. I am seriously starting to wonder if he actually has a bedroom, or sleeps at all.)

And the worst thing is, Lex, as far as we can tell, doesn't have any proof that the invasion is over. He still doesn't know that Krypton was destroyed; for all he knows, there's still a force on its way to Earth, and he's possibly the only thing standing in its way. Of course he's going to continue with 33.1 - mastering the mutants might be key to raising a defense. Whatever he's got going on with Lana might be equally important for that.

In fact, unless he finds more facts out later in 6th season eps we haven't seen, Lex is probably still operating under these assumptions. And might keep holding them until the day Kal-El publicly announces himself as the Last Son of Krypton, and wow, I will not blame Lex for having a total meltdown. After selling his soul to defend against a threat that doesn't actually exist - no wonder he decides to focus his efforts on the only alien threat still extant. It'll be the only way he has to stay sane.


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Mar. 14th, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
Woah. I think I'm starting to underestimate the SV writers so much that I don't see the big picture when there actually *is* one. I completely failed to notice this...

This motivation is so obvious in S5 whenever the issue of the spaceship comes up, and definitely in "Vessel"! [I just fear that some of the SV writers haven't gotten the memo - like whoever wrote "Lexmas" or that they deliberately try to keep it ambiguous for those who want to see Lex as a flat villain (though I fail to see who would).]

I think this bit of meta has just completely thrown over my Lex characterization for S5/6. He's not been hit over the head too many times, he actually has a plan! No wonder he's so depressive about being evil.

I hope that when we find out what's up with Lana's baby, Lex will get a chance to justify himself...

I'd also love to see Lex meeting SV!J'onn... a mind-reader (which SV!J'onn seems to be) would come in *very* handy in this cosmic case of misunderstanding.
Mar. 14th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
Ahh, so it isn't that obvious, then! We were wondering, because I haven't seen any fic with the idea, but it seems like the only possible way to read it. It was a wow moment when gnine pointed it out - I was saying 6th season Lex probably resulted from a guilt-induced breakdown after nearly destroying the world when he was trying to save it, and she pointed out that maybe he still was trying to save it, and then that he was trying to do the same in 5th season, too. And then everything Lex does made a lot more sense, in a way I really gotta credit the SV writers for. Especially for "Aqua" - that one bothered me, that he'd suddenly be into defense contracts and screwing the environment when he's never done anything like it before. But of course he's interested in weapons now. It also explains why Lex is suddenly so willing to lie to Clark, when he always hesitated to do so before. Clark is, possibly, the Enemy in a way he never has been to Lex previously.

No, I don't think every writer got the memo - but that might be partly because they're trying to keep secret what Lex is up to with Fine until the end of the season. Lex actually states his motives clearly then, but the scene is too quick to really process. He's obviously desperate to save the world, but doesn't mention to Fine how else he's been trying to do that, besides the vaccine (of course he doesn't; he can't show his hand to his enemy. But it's a problem for the viewer, because he never does get an opportunity to state his motives. Which, actually, is a darn cool and subtle way to do it...)

My only fear now is that 6th season's writers might let this plot twist drop. I'm gonna be watching the season for it now...the trick is, the viewers, and Clark et al know that there's no threat of invasion, so it's pretty easy for (audience and writers alike) to forget that Lex doesn't know. I just hope they don't forget. It's a terrifically tragic misunderstanding right now - Lex is letting people assume he's the villain, for the sake of being the real hero and not bringing anyone else down with him. Poor boy. Depressed doesn't begin to cover it. He probably can't even drink as much, because he'd fear blowing his cover...

And yeah, a mindreader would come in very handy about now. Hmmm. It can't happen in the show anytime soon, because this Lex can still be saved, and the writers can't let that happen, but...
(no subject) - peach1250 - Mar. 21st, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 14th, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
I think Lex has been fixated about the knowledge of alien life since season one, and because he still doesn't understand how it all comes together, due to his many disastrous dealings with extraterrestrial forces (like Lana's limited knowledge that all mutants are evil, except maybe Clark whom she's investigating at the moment) he would focus on the threat they present to the world.

That's the thing about this show: for their many heavy-handed storytelling moves, the thing about Lex is that they are never clear about his motives because his life doesn't allow for such revelations, even with his relationships with other people.

And Red!K Clark always smacks me in the face of the fact that if only Lex and Lana knew half of what Clark knows, they wouldn't think or act that irrational around him, or get themselves into situations or pursuits that aren't exactly informed choices.

In particular, despite Splinter being a Clark-centric episode, I was focused on the Lex parts, and considered it to be the only time Lex was frightened of Clark, because despite his own suspicions about him, he believed Clark would never hurt his loved ones deliberately, and seeing Clark hurt Lana without knowing about the Black K infection shook him up, because it proved that when he's not being the moral pillar of goodness, Clark is dangerous. Linking that to the possibility of alien involvement (not to mention his shiftyness that Lex still doesn't know is induced by Red K), no wonder he was driven to beat Jonathan in the elections despite his previous admiration for the man, because now he's not so sure about the Kentian level of ethics if they've raised someone that deceptive and uncontrollably powerful.

When I get the urge to tally what each SV character could know about Lex, no wonder people think he's evil, because he could be easily judged by his actions. No one stops to think that his motives should make their value judgments more complicated. As for myself, the reason why I can't be convinced (at this point of S6 canon anyway) that Lex is evil, despite what the show portrays him to seem to be, is because Lex ISN'T HAPPY. When was the last time you saw him having fun? And we all know that he would do ANYTHING to protect that which he cares about. His showy villainous act doesn't fool me. :D
Mar. 14th, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
What gets me is that while Lex has always been fascinated with alien life, and has reason to fear the possible threat, in season 5 he is absolutely correct. The only things he gets wrong is overestimating the strength of the invaders (and not by much; Zod may be one man but he wreaks a hell of a lot of damage); and that Lex thinks he's the only one who knows the truth, and thus the only one who can do anything about it. He's not leaping to paranoid conclusions; the threat is very real. And if the world didn't have Clark? Yeah, Earth would be pretty well screwed. Even despite Lex's efforts - but one can't blame him for trying.

Yeah, it is cool - if horribly frustrating to watch - that Lex's motivations have to stay murky, because he has no outlet to express his revelations. And good point about Splinter, now I want to watch it again (I really wanna rewatch most of s5 Lex, with this reading in mind...)
Though as far as beating Jonathan in the senatorial race goes, as I see it, it's never about beating Jonathan for Lex. He enters the race before Jonathan does; he's extremely hesitant to use dirty tactics against Jonathan (and while he has a whole stack of secrets on Clark, as always, it doesn't seem to cross Lex's mind to ever use them as blackmail, even if it's Lionel's first option). Lex wants to win the election for his own reasons - and I really do think that while he gives personal excuses to Lionel, in no small part he's looking to gather power expressly to be in a position to do some serious good. But he can't explain this to Jonathan because he knows how loyal Jonathan is to Clark, and he cannot trust Clark...

Yeah, everyone always judges Lex by his actions and never once tries to consider his motivations. And I don't know why they're all so blind to how miserable he is. I'm still trying to figure out why Clark didn't realize something was seriously wrong - Lex goes evil in the beginning of season 5, in a way that's totally different and more obvious than anything he's ever done before, and everyone just nods and goes "ah-hah, we knew it all along!" without once questioning that he's been brainwashed, or possessed, or split into an evil self, or any of the other things that affect people's minds and behavior on SV on a weekly basis. ARGH!
(no subject) - attaccabottoni - Mar. 14th, 2007 05:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Mar. 14th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 14th, 2007 09:25 am (UTC)
Excellent meta! Fascinating read, even for me. But also frustrating, because - it's all so horribly tragically sad. I don't know if I could watch a show that did that to me, unless it was something like B5, which is an excellent show all around, with a creator I really trust.
Mar. 14th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah...B5, you know that even if it was agonizing, ultimately it would be satisfying. This is...really incredibly painful. I don't know if we've ever had a show quite break our hearts in this way. Especially since there's the whole issue of knowing their destiny, watching now knowing they never are going to be friends again...
Though I do have more respect now for the show than I did. It is pretty cool, to take the greatest supervillain of them all, and justify him, such that right now? I really can't say I oppose most of what he does...(even if it does leave me screaming at the hero. aaaaaaargh if only they could just understand!!!)
Mar. 14th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
Whoa - good read. You guys really put a lot of thought into it and yeah it does make sense. I'm not sure if it's intentional by the writers or not - I'd like to think it is but then again - perception is reality. Thanks for posting that - it was very interesting.
Mar. 14th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
I suspect it's partly intentional, partly not. Actually I have a hunch that some writers on the show write it this way, and some do not. But watching 6th season, most of what Lex does, his obsession, does make more sense from this perspective...
Mar. 14th, 2007 02:05 pm (UTC)
I've never thought the character of Lex is a villian either in "Smallville" or "Lois & Clark". In both shows he is portrayed as being more than a stereotypical villian especially in Smallville. I also agree with you about his motives. Lex has always wanted to save the world - I think in the comics this is explored too but I'm not a big comic reader so I won't go in to that. In season 3 there is an episode, "Talisman" I think it is, where Lex and Clark are discussing some legend in the caves and Lex sees the "villian" Segith(?) as the hero protecting the world from "the men who shoot fire from their eyes".

I think in simple terms Superman/Clark Kent has been the hero and Lex the villian but in reality when you look deeper it is simply a matter of morality. Lex believes in doing anything to stop the "alien invasion" for example, even it means killing people/sea life, betraying Jonathan Kent etc. whereas Clark would say you shouldn't do any of those things no matter what the circumstances. The trouble is it is a lot easier to do things Lex's way because Clark has to break his rules a lot more especially when those he loves are involved.

An interesting post anyway, I will be recommending it to the ledger.

Mar. 14th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've read a couple of the recent comics that justify Lex, some cool anti-hero ideas. The difference for me with SV is that I actually find myself not just understanding his motives, but agreeing with them! When Lex is fighting Superman, it's a matter of trust; he doesn't trust Superman to always stay the savior, and he has a certain right to that distrust, but most evidence is against him. In SV, the threat Lex is facing is quite real...and while Clark's moral code is commendable, there's a certain point that someone might have to cross the line, even if Superman can't.

What also gets me is that other incarnations of Lex often seem to use Superman as an excuse - they're usually well-established in their underhanded ways before he appears on the Metropolis scene. While as SV's Lex is only resorting to the methods he is after pretty serious duress - Zod came this close to destroying the world. Lex is panicked and desperate and he's not at all happy that he's having to do what he does - he's about the most miserable supervillain I've ever seen...

(Glad you found it interesting, and thanks for the rec!)
(no subject) - awehla - Mar. 14th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Mar. 15th, 2007 07:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 14th, 2007 03:28 pm (UTC)
Ah you've put the hazy ideas I've been thinking about S5!Lex and S6!Lex into much better perspective. The only thing missing now is just how much Lana told Lex after getting un-Zodified. We kinda presumed Lana told Lex the invasion is over offscreen because she knew enough to go the the Kents farm and offer to kill Zod. The other thing is that she supports Level 33.1 because mutants=bad or at least that's what she told Lex, not because of alien invasion.

I want to believe Lana's baby is Kryptonian-human hybrid, I do, I do.
Mar. 14th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
I have a bad feeling Lana left a lot about Zod out when talking to Lex...maybe just to spare his feelings. But considering she didn't explain what was up with the Brainiac power-source thing until after he confronted her with it...yeah. I don't know about 33.1, either...having just watched that ep, I got the sticky feeling that Lana might have been lying about her approval, to get on Lex's good side, why I'm not sure...

If Lana's baby was Conner, that would be awesome x1000. It's totally not gonna happen. But still...!!
Mar. 14th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
Oh my god -- you and your sister are brilliant! Of course this is what's motivating Lex in the 5th and 6th seasons! And of course he wouldn't have to do all these ruthless things and make all these terrible sacrifices if Clark would just tell him the truth! Oh, Lex. Poor, misunderstood, heroic Lex. *hugs Lex, and smacks Clark for good measure* Dare I hope that you'll be writing fic based on this observation...?
Mar. 14th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
I gotta admit, we were all bouncey excited about it. And it works, too...we're mostly through 6th season and they actually start stating it pretty clearly. It's just that the show presents Lex's obsession as a bad thing, not acknowledging that it's totally completely justified - and arguably necessary, considering the Zoners and god-knows-what-else is out there...

Oh man, I want to write 6th season Clex reconciliation fic so badly, now that I know it's possible. It would mostly consist of Lex helping them with some terrible alien threat with his latest superweapon, and Clark being all, 'duuuh, uh, why'd you help us?' and Lex screaming hysterically, 'Why do you THINK I've been making all these weapons, did you think I want to destroy the world? Why the HELL would I want to destroy MY PLANET, Clark???'
(what's disturbing me about 6th season is that everyone seems to be confusing Lex with Zod; they all assume he's eeeeeevil with precious little justification...)
(no subject) - jakrar - Mar. 14th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(Deleted comment)
Mar. 14th, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
Re: just my thoughts
Totally agree on the Greek tragedy angle. *sniff* Everyone trying to do right, and ending up victims of destiny anyway...

Yeah, we watched most of 5th season convinced that Lex's supervillain propensities were because of Clark's betrayal and his own issues. But if you watch the last couple episodes, what Lex is doing with Fine, he's definitely extremely concerned about the alien threat, and a lot of things he did that seem petty or stupid actually make total sense. Lex's obsession with Clark has taken on a whole new, more practical shape. He has set himself a goal - protecting his planet - and he will not allow anything to stop him. (also totally agree about the PTSD after Zod. Why does no one see that?!)

And yeah, Jonathan Kent had a lot of great qualities, but he fucked up his son pretty badly, when it comes to certain issues of trust and understanding...
(Deleted comment)
Re: just my thoughts - xparrot - Mar. 14th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 14th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
See, now I feel stupid for not having watching the last three or so episodes of season 5. Oh well. My favorite part of season 5 was where Clark bursts in on Lex to ream him for bringing Victor Stone back from the dead (how the hell was he supposed to get consent for that anyway? Maybe with the drug from Void). Lex tells Clark that, "Some miracles have a price, but that doesn't make them any less profound." I think that sums up season 5 Lex in a nutshell.

I also like that line because it made my mom go, "Yeah, Clark! I agree with Lex!" instead of complaining that that's not how teenagers act/talk like she usually does when we make her watch SV.]

Also, how pathetically, adorably sad is the Election victory party scene? It just underscores Lex's complete and utter aloneness. Everyone in town is with Jonathan Kent, and even if he'd lost, they'd all still be there to support him. All of Lex's few remaining friends/aquantainces are there. If he hadn't called Lana she wouldn't spare him a thought either. He's just all alone in his empty castle. I remember thinking, 'shouldn't he have some flunkies or somebody here? What about his campaign manager? He seemed nice.' Then I remembered that his campaign manager was shot in the previous episode. The guy just can't get a break. Other villains all have evil friends. Even (especially) psychos like the Joker. Through out his canon Lex has Mercy (who's fiercely loyal but not really a friend) and Lena, his daughter. His other child Conner aka Superboy (there are not words to say how much I love Lex and Clark's canonical test tube lovechild) won't even talk to him despite the fact that he is a waaaayyy better parent than Clark (but that's a whole other rant completely unrelated to this one).
Mar. 14th, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
Heeee! We had the same issues all through "Cyborg". There was the same problem with whosit, Adam Knight in 3rd season. "Oh, Lionel Luthor is bringing people back from the dead! Isn't that terrible?" Very odd ideas they have on this show. (Don't get us started on the wonder drug in "Rage" that could heal life-threatening wounds at the cost of a couple days of PMS. I would take the PMS, thank you.)

But you really ought to watch the last three eps. They're pretty awesome, and, yeah...I'm becoming more and more sure this really is the answer to Lex's sudden change of heart. It explains so much. It's also supported so far in 6th season - in fact he states it outright several times, the need to have a good defense. It's just always presented like, ooooh, Lex is obsessed and therefore EEEEVOL, but I don't buy it. There is a very real danger - hello, Zod almost destroyed the world a few months ago, and the only reason he didn't succeed is because Clark got lucky. Lex is obsessed for a Very. Good. Reason. I just wish someone would realize that!!!

Lex is so terribly alone. I almost caught myself rooting for the Lexana, just because it meant he had someone. (Of course then Lana is a stupid bint and ruins that and I came back to my senses, thank goodness...)

And heeeee! I'm writing Conner-fic right now ^___^ Though it's AU so rather less dysfunctional (I need fluff now and again!)
(no subject) - dogwoodblossom - Mar. 14th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 14th, 2007 08:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. I love this reading of Lex - tragic, but highly believable in my opinion. Lex has confused me so much the last few seasons, but this larger issue of 'imminent alien invasion' and Lex trying to find a means of defending humanity really seems to fit. I don't know if we can trust the writers et.al. to have intended this, particularly from as early as season 3 or 4, but in retrospect it makes a ton of sense. And it certainly helps explain the whole 33.1 mess of recent - like with making Victor Stone a super-powerful cyborg to battle super-powered alien invaders, creating an army of super-powered meteor "freaks" (or creating yet more "freaks" in the secret labs) can be seen as an end-justifies-the-means attempt find a way to defend mankind. I've always loved that line where Lex suggests that Segeeth is actually the hero, not Naman, because he keeps Naman in check - I remember thinking that Lex really identified with that idea, even if he wasn't sure that Clark was Naman, and your theory certainly is in line with that whole storyline (which aside from the witches in Season 4 going to the caves, and the caves being a conduit to the Fortress in the Arctic, seems to have been somewhat dropped by the wayside).

I'll be recommending this on my journal!
Mar. 14th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
The whole Segeeth keeping Naman in check thing is really emphasized in the comics. Lex repeatedly points out that Superman could easily conquer the world if he felt like it (Batman thinks the same thing, hence his own stockpile of kryptonite). Superman is so self-righteous and sees everything in black and white, and that's where the danger is. They go into it a whole lot in Superman: Red Son. If Superman gets impatient with humanity he can just impose his own ideals through force. With Lex constantly bugging him, he has a distraction.

The other less physical threat that Lex sees in Superman is that he will make humanity complacent. Human progress will stop because there are super powered beings solving all it's problems. Lex persists with his attempts at world domination to give Superman something to fight against, and remind the rest of humanity that they are capable of great things themselves. That Man can stand against Superman. No wonder everyone likes him better.
(no subject) - xparrot - Mar. 15th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC) - Expand
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Mar. 14th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
Interesting thoughts here.
I've not really watched much of the other seasons, aside from 1 and some of 6. But what you say seems to make sense. One day I must find a way to watch more...
I love your icon, btw.
Mar. 15th, 2007 06:35 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm really becoming convinced this is what the writers intended. At least some of them...

And hee, glad you liked the icon - that Simpsons line's been going through my head ever since Lex first started acting out in 5th season. Now that (I think) I know why, it makes more sense, but it is still a pretty sudden switch...
Mar. 15th, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
I loved reading this, because it works to convince me that I'm not crazy. I've always felt that SV got a bad rap for being a "dumb" show — but I do think that much of it (but certainly not all!) holds up to the kind of intense scrutiny that you've given it here.

Lex's character has always made sense to me, for exactly the reasons that you go into here. And it is a tragedy, but it's a tragedy built on choices — on that ends justify the means mentality. Lex's predisposition to shady behavior was finally given a grand purpose; he has a reason (excuse?) to give up the fight to be good.

What I especially like was how you made sense of his belated attempts to rebuild his friendship with Clark — while the rest of Lex's behavior in the season made sense to me, I had a hard time understanding that, or even figuring out if it was genuine.

What makes this a tragedy in the grand sense (as opposed to just a bummer) is how much of it stems from Lex's own choices. The easy answer is that if Clark had just trusted Lex and told him the truth, then Lex wouldn't have had to "go bad" — but that doesn't really do justice to the richness of the story. Lex was also suspicious of Clark, and by taking action as if Clark was potentially The Enemy, Lex himself fired Clark's suspicions even further. If Clark had told Lex the truth, would Lex have had a partner and someone to keep him on the good path? Could they have remained on the same side, given that Clark would have done his best to prevent Lex from crossing lines that Clark himself wouldn't cross, and that Lex would see as necessary? Would his trust of "Clark" outweigh his distrust of "Aliens," or would his suspicions remain and set them on the path of opposition anyway? The answers probably would be different at different points in the timeline. But if Lex had trusted Clark and told him the truth, the reverse would also probably have been true. And while intentions are good — protection of Earth — there is still a real moral failure in the steps Lex took... the lives that he willfully destroyed for the sake of "the greater good" prevent his intentions from diluting his actions for me. That's what makes the seduction of the Dark Side a seduction, as opposed to an easy choice between Good and Evil; it's one seemingly necessary compromise after another, until there's nothing but black. To me, the tragedy of Lex is based not in the fact that the moral compromises he made were ultimately unnecessary ones (that's the bummer), but that he was willing to make such extreme moral compromises.

I really enjoy reading the various discussions about Lex in the comics; one of the defining moments in how I see Lex was in a recent issue. Superman had been depowered at the end of the last big crisis event, and lived for a year just being Clark Kent. When he reappeared to face down Lex's latest big plot (which included adapting kryptonian technology and a lot of property damage!), Lex had an eloquent speech about how fighting Superman had ruined his life, how he could have achieved so much more, he could have dedicated his life to helping people, he could have cured cancer! Superman shook off the initial guilt and retorted that he'd been gone for a whole year. Where was the cancer cure? Where was any attempt to really help humanity? Lex was basically using Superman — and the need to oppose Superman — as a crutch, as an excuse for not overcoming his own nature. It was a great moment because, to me, it flipped one of Lex's traditional reasons for opposing Superman... that having a God on Earth would prevent humans from reaching their full potential. Superman's taunt of Lex demanded that Lex — as all humans — take responsibility for his own choices, and realize that he had limited himself. I've always loved the essential difference between the "good" billionaire control freak (Bruce Wayne) and the "bad" one, Lex. Bruce thinks that Superman could be dangerous if he was ever out of control, so holds a stock of kryptonite in case that ever happens. Lex thinks that Superman could be dangerous if he was ever out of control, and so actively seeks to destroy him to ensure that never happens.

Mar. 15th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
What gets me about SV!Lex, versus most other incarnations, is his reasons. In the recent comics (to my understanding; I'm up on the cartoons but my knowledge of the comics is mostly second-hand) Lex was a (semi-)corrupt businessman before Superman ever showed up on the scene. Superman gives Lex an excuse, gives him a challenge and a direction for his megalomania.

But SV's Lex starts out a better person - one with dark impulses, but with an awareness of that darkness, a definite morality and conscience (in direct opposition to Lionel's training). He acts outside his own self-interest: "Jitters", when he trades himself for the hostages; "Fear" when he uses himself as a guinea pig rather than risk someone else dying. Now, he's totally conscious that he's making the wrong choices, the morally incorrect choices - he thinks they're necessary, not that they're right. At the moment, Lex is not trying to justify himself to Clark or anyone else. The occasional times he does justify himself is when he's doing something that is unequivocably good - like trying to end world hunger, or cure all viruses. He hasn't tried to justify 33.1 - he believes it necessary, but not right. He's basically selling his soul, willingly and fully aware, because he thinks someone has to.

--This is what drove me nuts about Chloe's "guilt money" line. Because it's not a public gesture to restore LuthorCorp's reputation; no one knows LuthorCorp was responsible. Lex is trying to make amends for his own conscience, and no other agenda.

SV!Lex is definitely on the path toward true villainhood; he's abandoning his morality one step at a time (and they're slow steps. Thus far 33.1 is only containing dangerous mutants who were in Belle Reve already..."Freak" was a way to monitor possible dangers, but he wasn't taking pre-emptive action against them...) What makes it so tragic to me is how he's willing to make these moral compromises fully knowing that he's damned for them.

--It also does get me that Clark doesn't reach out to Lex, because I don't buy that they're on equal footing with that. Lex is the one who was totally honest with Clark for three years (we can think of two occasions Lex actually lied to Clark, with the Nicodemus flower, and with Nixon), while Clark lied to Lex for all 3 of those years - Lex has the moral high ground, and a very good reason to be suspicious of Clark. If Clark had actually once been totally honest with him, he might have been faster to trust. As it is, he has strong evidence to suspect Clark is a double agent, and not really a friend at all. While as Clark chooses not to trust Lex mainly because of hearsay about Luthors, and because he's been raised to put his own secrets above anything, including friendship. Not to mention, Clark spends most of 3rd season accusing Lex of doing things he never was doing - so yeah, I think Lex is justified in his distrust of Clark.
(no subject) - huzzlewhat - Mar. 15th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Mar. 16th, 2007 04:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 15th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)
This is a really brilliant theory, and I wouldn't be surprised if some (but not all, IMO) of the show's writers had been trying to go there with Lex. It's certainly a thing of Lex's from some (but not all) versions in the comics.
Mar. 16th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
The interesting thing is that now that I've caught up on 6th season, this theory actually works even better - I sort of suspect that a few writers were writing it such in 5th season, and then in 6th season they brought the rest of the staff around. Well, except for Lana, a lot of what Lex does with her I haven't been able to make sense of. But she always is a monkey wrench...
Mar. 15th, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
This is a fascinating discussion! I haven't watched all of S5 yet, but have picked up a lot from reviews etc. Currently, I'm slowly making my through from the beginning for my Line of Engagement fic and I'm bookmarking this meta for reference.

I hope you don't mind, but I'm also friending you so I don't miss any of your insightful posts in the future. :-D
Mar. 16th, 2007 04:37 am (UTC)
I want to rewatch s5 myself now - at least the Lexy bits - since we didn't come up with this theory until after we finished watching the whole season. Spent most of it quite confused, was thrilling to make some sense of it!

And welcome to the flist - it's pretty much all SV all the time around here right now, hope you enjoy it! ^_^
Mar. 15th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
Lex is MY hero
Thank you thank you thank you for writing this out. I've been complaining for awhile now that Lex can't really be a villian to me while he's obviously trying to SAVE THE WORLD! Maybe he's doing it wrong, but he's trying, while Clark is off giving up his powers to be with Lil Miss Lang. Not all of the pieces fit together for me before, but this helps a lot. Lex is grey, and I've talked to Miche before about how Lex has to be suffering from PTSD after being practically raped by aliens in Vessel, then wake to find he was used to further the invasion he was trying despirately to prevent! He is pretty miserable because he's doing some of the most important work in the world, alone, and it keeps blowing up in his face.

Here's some meta I wrote after freak. Your contribution helps me immensely in figuring out what he's up to, beyond the obvious factor that the mutants hurt people and will be violated (mentally at least) themselves if he leaves them in Belle Reve:

I don't think I have any explicit save the world meta, but you've picked the eps apart better than I could. I was still flailing about Mortal because the pieces just did not come together in a way that I could just accept their leaps of logic actually meant that Lex had done it. Your explaination makes a lot of sense.
Mar. 16th, 2007 04:51 am (UTC)
Re: Lex is MY hero
Hee, good to know we're not alone in seeing this! We were wondering if we were crazy...(gnine was the one who originally said Lex was out to save the world, and then together we pieced together explanations for everything based on her theory. We have sacrificed much sleep for the sake of dissecting Lex, good to know our efforts are appreciated ^_^)

Your Freak meta is pretty dang cool! That ep confused me mightily. Who was actually killing the mutants? I rather thought it was the doc going rogue, because it doesn't make sense for Lex to have them all taken out. Worst coverup ever. Lex being evil, whatever, but I can't stand Lex being stupid. --Totally agree with you about "Cyborg," too, that 'OMG!EVOL' chip didn't sound nearly as threatening as the music and Cyborg's freakout implied.
The one thing about "Freak" you don't mention - it happens a few eps after "Subterranean". In "Subterranean," Lex is not keeping close enough tabs on a known mutant in society, and a lot of people die, and Lex is pissed off. So, yeah. Makes sense he wants to be cautious, after that disaster.

Even this late into 6th season, there is very, very little I can point to and say this is Lex being unequivocably evil. There is a lot of room for interpretation in everything he does. It's weird - I like villains, always have. And I like understanding their motives and figuring out why they do what they do. But personally, I'm pretty morally strict. So I've pretty much never encountered a supposed villain who, when I analyze his actions, I not only understand, but agree with him. George W. Bush, I believe is evil. Most of what Lex does, when I think about it? I'm nodding and saying 'yeah, necessary measures.'

(this is a problem watching SV, I'm spending a lot of time screaming at the other chars. The worst thing is, I understand their perspective...I just wish they could be allowed to see Lex's...)
Re: Lex is MY hero - ladydreamer - Mar. 16th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Lex is MY hero - xparrot - Mar. 17th, 2007 12:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Lex is MY hero - ladydreamer - Mar. 17th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
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