So, I’ve been working my way through Smallville Seasons 1-9, and I’m just starting Season 6, but in Season 5 I’ve hit a major, major issue that I just don’t get. I probably would have ignored it if it wasn’t so pivotal to the events of the rest of that season and what happens at the start of the next. Warning you now: there will be spoilers.
So, in one episode, Clark decides to tell Lana his secret. He does so, proposes, she accepts, all is right at the world. She then goes to see Lex, Lex figures out that she knows Clark’s secret and badgers her over it, she leaves, he chases after her in his car, and they get into an accident with a bus. Lana dies. Clark, broken up about it, goes to Jor-El and demands that he save her, and Jor-El reverses time by one day so Clark can live that day over again and save her. Clark decides that telling her his secret would put her in too much danger (although Lana certainly could get herself in trouble without his help) and decides not to tell her, and so to hopefully save her life, even if it means that their relationship will end.
So far, so good. Credible thoughts, credible story, and we as the audience can see not only that he’s probably wrong — since her knowing the secret will also ensure that she calls him when she’s in trouble, and if they aren’t together she might not — but why he thinks that.
But then the episode continues. Lana again goes to see Lex. He’s drunk again, and this time tries to express his love for her. She leaves, and he chases after her in the car again. They’re almost hit by a bus … but then Clark saves her. Nice dramatic scene, and we’re all happy right? Right?
Wrong. Why? Because, at that point, Clark should have realized that her knowing his secret didn’t matter. Not only that, but when she knew his secret she called him when Lex was chasing her, giving him a chance to save her. This time, he only knew to go after her because he remembered what had happened when he went through this the first time. So, telling her his secret didn’t put her in any extra danger at all. That wasn’t what would have caused her death. And since he still had time to tell her his secret, he could have and things would have been different.
This could be seen as Clark being “Too Dumb to Live”, but I don’t think it’s a fault in the character. It’s a fault of the writers. The writers, in aiming for the dramatic rescue scene, made a big mistake: the rescue scene undermined the message they seemingly wanted us to take from this. There was really no need to have that rescue scene, other than maybe to set things up with Clark’s father. But that could have been done in other ways. To keep on message, what they should have done was have Lana go through the party nice and safe. Then we could see that Clark had reason to think — wrongly, I think most would agree — that not knowing the secret kept her safe. Then we could understand why he does what he does, even if we disagree with it.
If you’re going to make a question the underpinnings of major plot themes, you need to make sure that if you contradict the message that that question is trying to send you at least wait a couple of episodes to do so. Move things past the point of no return, and then you get to see Clark’s angst as he realizes that maybe he made the wrong choice, and his determination as he goes ahead anyway. You don’t lose it in the same episode and not bring that up, even just as Chloe being the voice of reason and Clark stubbornly persisting in his idea anyway. But, that’s what they did.
That being said, so far I still enjoy the show. But this certainly stood out.