To Be Fair to Smallville’s Lex Luthor …

Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor on Smallville. Photo from Lorenzo Agius at The CW.

Yep, I’m going there. I’m nearly 10 episodes into season four of my re-re-watch of Smallville, and dang-it, I find myself wanting to — gah, I don’t want to say “defend” — defend Lex Luthor (every chance I get, I’m going to say that he’s played by the absolutely brilliant, and probably forever-the-greatest-Lex-Luthor, Michael Rosenbaum).

I had to pause to deliver this thought. I’m going to try to not be as verbose as usual, but this thought and need to defend Lex Luthor occurred to me while watching the previous episode, episode nine, “Bound.” Long story short, Lana Lang gets possessed by a 17th century witch named Isobel, who then brings her two witch friends, Madelyn and Brianna, back through the bodies of Lois Lane and Chloe Sullivan.

One of the more benign things, relatively speaking, the witches do, is to make everyone lose their inhibitions at a barn party for Chloe’s 18th birthday party. Unfortunately for Clark Kent, he was supposed to meet a recruiter from Princeton University, but blew it.

The next day, Clark Kent shows up at Lex Luthor’s mansion, and finds Lex Luthor, after being bewitched by Isobel, playing the piano nonstop for hours and hours to the point of having bleeding hands. It’s actually rather horrific.

But the point of Clark Kent going to Lex Luthor was to ask him if he had any connections to Princeton because of what happened the previous day. The insinuation being, can you help me get back in the good graces of Princeton?

And this sort of thing — someone asking Lex Luthor for a favor because he’s the well-connected and resourceful billionaire, who also desperately wants to be liked by them — happens all the time with nearly every character on the show so far throughout the last three and a half seasons. Whether it’s Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Chloe Sullivan, Jonathan and Martha Kent, even Pete Ross to an extent, and at times, even Lex Luthor’s father, Lionel Luther.

Everyone is always asking Lex Luthor for a favor. And he’s always helping them. Every single time. Yes, like with the Pete Ross situation, I remember Lex Luthor hinting that it was a quid pro quo of sorts (which is wrong; you help people because it’s the right thing to do, not being you expect something out of it in return), and I’m sure that insinuation was there at other times. But still. It occurred to me how often people are leaning on Lex Luthor for help because he’s rich and well-connected.

What about being a friend to him? I mean, again, to be fair to Lex Luthor, he grew up under a tyrannical and psychopathic father, who killed his own parents, and blamed Lex Luthor erroneously for the death of his other son Julian, and also, mind you, has tried to kill, hurt, sabotage, corrupt, etc. etc. Lex Luthor at every turn in this show.

And yet. Lex Luthor, time and time again, is trying to be good. Even some of the points where he seems to be trending darker, I thought Martha Kent actually gave a fair explanation for that: Lex Luthor has seen some stuff, to say the least, in Smallville that is out of the ordinary, and any curious person (and who can back it up with money and resources) would dig into that a bit more. Was it fair to hide that from Clark Kent? Of course not.

Has it gone too far at times when Lex Luthor harms others inadvertently, to be charitable, in his various quests to get back at his father? Sure. There’s no rationalizing that.

But, again, it does seem like a lot of the characters take Lex Luthor for granted as a friend. “Let’s just burst into the mansion and ask Lex, he’ll fix it.”

Happens all the time.

That doesn’t excuse his bad behavior and certainly not his evil behavior in the future. Lex Luthor is not an antihero. Lex Luthor is not actually the good guy, as previously discussed in another episode where Lex Luthor tries to re-frame an Indian legend that way. There’s a Smallville subreddit on reddit where a lot of users have bought into that. I am here to say that is unequivocal nonsense.

But to be fair to Lex Luthor … before he went bad, his friends did take advantage of him, and it wasn’t right at times. Lex Luthor is a tragic character in the sense that, there seems to be a point at which he could have been good, and you hate to say he was destined to be bad, but, well, psychologically, he was always trending that way.

Daddy issues and all that.

I suppose, in the end, it’s good for me to get this out there because I have a post coming at some point during this re-re-watch where I’m going to have to eviscerate Lex Luthor. Alas.

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