TV Review: Smallville’s ‘Talisman’ or: The Episode That Shows What Lex Luthor Is All About

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Pictured is the painting of Naman and Sageth in the Kawatche Caves, which serves as the allegory or legend for Superman/Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. Photo courtesy of the fandom site for Smallville.

As you may know, I’ve been re-watching the television series Smallville, and I’m up to the third season now. As you may also remember, I previously did a post called TV Review: Smallville’s ‘Duplicity’ or: The Episode That Shows What Superman Is All About.

Well, I now have reached the episode that shows us who Lex Luthor, Clark Kent/Superman’s greatest foe, is all about. Lex Luthor at this point in Smallville is not yet a full-on bad guy. Lionel Luthor, his father, is positioned as the ultimate bad guy so far (played to absolute perfection by John Glover) of the show. Typically, all the bad things happening throughout the show at this point (besides the bad guy/girl of the week) are due to Lionel Luthor.

But, Lex Luthor has begun showing signs of nefariousness. He’s still keenly interested in investigating Clark Kent. He’s … peculiar about Lana Lang (I have a whole blog post to do about that), and he still tries to manipulate people and events with his billions of dollars.

Still, he’s not the ultimate bad guy juxtaposed to Superman/Clark Kent, and even in this episode, Talisman, he’s not a bad guy yet. But there’s a revealing moment.

First, a Kawatche Indian, Jeremiah Holdsclaw steals a mystic knife from the Kawatche Caves, which gives him superpowers similar to Superman’s, causing him to think he’s the legendary Naman, the “man who fell from the stars.” Naman is considered the savior of earth by the Kawatche legend. And part of the Naman legend is that there is an evil force opposite him that goes by the name of Segeth.

In an earlier episode of the series, Skinwalker, from season two, episode 10, the Kawatche believed Clark Kent to be Naman.

Well, whether he actually is or isn’t, it’s up to Clark Kent to try to stop Jeremiah before he can kill Lionel Luthor, who Jeremiah believes to be the Segeth. Lionel Luthor, of course, wants the knife for his nefarious purposes. And it’s not clear why Lex Luthor wants it at this point, too.

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Lex Luthor and Lionel Luthor both touched the knife seemingly at the same time in the episode. It’s not clear who the real Segeth is, but one of them (or both!) certainly are since the knife dissolved. Photo courtesy of the fandom site for Smallville.

What the Luthors don’t know is that the if the true Segeth touches the knife, it will crumble, which ends up happening when both Lionel Luthor and Lex Luthor simultaneously touch the knife at the end of the episode after Clark Kent is able to stop Jeremiah. I suppose it’s not necessarily clear if it was “simultaneously,” but suffice it to say, we don’t know who touched it first.

At the end of the episode, though, we get this great exchange between Clark Clark and Lex Luthor, which is only 90 seconds, but as the title of this blog post says, tells you everything you need to know about Lex Luthor and what motivates him. Check it out:

The best bad guys believe they are the good guys, and Lex Luthor epitomizes this. His interpretation of the Kawatche legend is that Naman, who has the power of 10 men (Superman definitely is stronger than that) and can shoot fire from his eyes, is actually the bad person, and Segeth is the one trying to save and protect the world from someone so powerful. In fact, to Lex, Segeth standing up to someone like Naman, who is that powerful, is courageous and brave. Segeth is the hero, and Naman the potential would-be tyrant.

“But if one person could do all that, he would be a formidable enemy. He could conquer the world. He could become a tyrant if nobody kept him in check.” – Lex Luthor

That’s Lex Luthor. He thinks he’s protecting us from Superman, the all-powerful alien who could take over earth at any moment; he’s only trying to keep Superman in check, so he says. Lex Luthor, by standing up to him, is the hero of the story, and the protector of humanity.

And, you know, divorce yourself from Lex Luthor’s villainy, and you can see a legitimate concern there: A powerful being from another planet, who, if he wanted to, and wasn’t raised by a lovely Kansas farm couple, could indeed take over the world without breaking a sweat, provided nobody knows about Kryptonite, his one weakness. That’s what makes Lex Luthor’s motivation and his villainy all the more potent, and why he is the perfect nemesis for Superman/Clark Kent, because there is a nugget of credible concern there.

I love it!

One other notable thing about this episode that has nothing to do with Lex Luthor is that John Schneider, who plays Jonathan Kent, directed this episode. How cool is that? I didn’t know he did some directing. He also has a neat scene in the episode after Clark gets stabbed, and is able to heal Clark thanks to Jor-El, Clark’s biological father.

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Jonathan Kent saving Clark Kent after the latter was stabbed with the mystic knife made of Kryptonian metal.

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