Archive for Superman

TV Character Study: The Case of Lana Lang (Smallville)

Posted in Old Non Horror Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**Note: This review is based on analysing a character from a TV show of my choice. It will look at what was successful about them, what worked and what didn’t, their main story-lines and contribution as well as a broad audience reception of them. With certain shows there are so much that can be said however this will merely focus on a summary of the proposed discussions. If you have any feedback please feel free to comment on this post as well as post requests of future character studies you would like to see and I’ll do my best. Many Thanks.**

The re-imagining of Superman’s early years began in 2001 in the shape of “Smallville” (2001-2011). When the show started it focused on Clark Kent’s early years as a teenager, dealing with the various trials and tribulations of growing up, keeping secrets, Lex Luthor and meteor freaks! In this review the focus will turn to a rather controversial character that fans of both the comics and the show share divided views on, Lana Lang. In this review Lana is going to be examined as a character in “Smallville”, along with her contribution to the series in terms of storyline and audience reception. So let’s have a look at the love of Clark Kent’s life! Lois Lane ! Sorry I mean that other girl that shaped Clark in terms of becoming the superhero we all know today (in the “Smallville” universe of course!).

Lana Lang appeared in the “Pilot” (#1.1). She was a central part to the beginning of the show, even having screen time before Clark’s eagerly-awaited appearence. Her parents were killed in the meteor shower. This event enabled her to become closely connected with the main characters and storylines. As a teenager, Lana was the typical girl-next-door and a high school crush for Clark. In a similar vein to the concept of her in the comics, the main difference was the change of physical appearence for the character, Lana was no longer the red-headed cheerleader fans were familiar with in the comics and the Christopher Reeve films. She was portrayed by Kristin Kreuk and was now a brunette, her origin’s are unclear however it was implied heavily in the fourth season that she had French ancestors. Clearly the show was aiming for Lana to be a love interest for a long time and wanted to bring something new to her character as well as having an attractive leading lady to capture the male audience. She was there as an equal to Clark in appearance and personality. As his first love she would be a key factor in his development especially as they were depicting Superman’s early years. The main problems arose when the writers kept her in the show as a primary love interest up to season eight.

The Girl-Next-Door Lana in Season One

The issue to  begin with was that Lana acted as the damsel in distress, finding herself placed in situations where she was at risk for Clark where he had to physically save her e.g. “Metamorphosis” (#1.2), “X-Ray” (#1.4), “Accelerate” (#2.21). In the early days it was down to the fact she wore a kryptonite filled necklace which is the one element Clark is affected by (sticking to “Superman” lore!) . The necklace symbolized the doomed nature of their relationship and acted as a warning sign from the beginning,  eventually becoming more symbolic in her departure. The other female lead, Chloe (a whole new character created for the show) was smart and was able to help Clark through investigating meteor freak behavior as well as collecting information that eventually went onto her “wall of weird”. Chloe was the nerdy best friend archetype, however she contributed much more than the love interest did at this stage, even as far as possessing similar qualities to Lois as an ambitious reporter. Therefore the audience were expected to just accept the fact that Clark was infatuated with this girl without real reason when Chloe seemed more well-suited to him. Lana did possess likable qualities, she was kind and friendly and cared about those around her even putting others needs before her own.

Young Love: “Clana”

One of the more frustrating aspects of Lana was the writer’s slow build-up towards her romance with Clark, (yes five seasons we’re talking here!). There were many attempts at romance e.g. “Exodus” (#2.23), the main reason it was always stalled was due to Lana constantly suspecting something different about Clark and being unable to fully trust him, it was made worse following Clark’s encounters with red kryptonite which caused him to behave rebelliously and almost as a stereotypical jock/jerk towards Lana (“Red” #2.4). Ideas of romance were played with in the form of alternate realities e.g. “Relic” (#3.6). Even though it became tedious and had fans screaming “GET TOGETHER ALREADY!!!” it was actually a legitimate reason on the character’s part to be hesitant, she couldn’t give herself completely unless she knew the whole mystery surrounding Clark Kent. This did give her character an intelligent side as well as a cautious one as it demonstrated how she wasn’t going to give in too easily and thought things through. However in later years when she did discover the truth behind Clark’s secret she accepted it and would go to any lengths in order to protect him (e.g. “Promise” #6.16) where she married Lex Luthor following a threat made by his father Lionel where if she didn’t marry Lex, Clark would die! In one of the best episodes of the entire series “Reckoning” (#5.12) Clark proposed to Lana after telling her the truth about his alien nature. Lana accepted and it seemed like a “happy ever after” was in store. Sadly, the fact that Lana kept the truth from a continuously suspicious Lex meant tragic consequences for her as she was involved in a car smash after being chased by Lex and died. Even though tragic this could have been a fitting and dignified end for her character, she would have been difficult for Clark to get over and would have held a great and profound impact over his life but with the help of Lois Lane, his eventual wife it could have provided a better development for that relationship rather than an “out-of-nowhere” crush beginning in season eight.  Clark was able to turn back the clock and his perfect moments with Lana were now a memory only for him, leading to an interesting turn of events which saw the match of “Lexana” much to fans dismay, but we’ll get to that later! The destruction of their possible happy life together only added to the hints of their doomed relationship. In season seven the characters made another attempt at a relationship, a shock twist came in the form of Clark being inhabited by Bizzaro and Lana admitting she had felt more of a connection when he wasn’t himself to when he actually was Clark. By this point the writer’s were going too far and were recycling everything the audience was aware of, Clark and Lana were not meant to be!

Lana possessed by the spirit of the Countess Thoreaux

Being a pretty love interest was not enough for the character to remain on the show therefore the obvious direction would be to give her superpowers. This was something the writers toyed with throughout Lana’s stint on the show, however they did not keep it as a consistent factor and just seemed to be throwing various different scenarios at the audience. Lana has had super strength (“Wrath” (#7.7), she was possessed by a powerful witch (“Spell” #4.8, “Sacred” #4.15), and became a vampire (“Thirst” #5.5). When she left the show she was bound in a skin suit made from nano-technology as well as alien DNA providing her with superpowers, finally she could become Clark’s equal in terms of strength and they could save the world together, although Lex had other plans for that! The suit unfortunately enabled her to absorb kryptonite energy making her repellent to Clark forever (“Requiem (#814). These stories were both compelling and fun to watch however felt inconsistent, as one moment she had powers and the next they were gone giving a gimmick feel to the character and storylines. A personal favorite of Lana’s powers has to be the witch posession as it transformed her character from a meek, shy girl into an ass-kicking, dangerous woman not to be messed with! She held her own against the strong masculine characters e.g. Clark and her then “love interest” Jason Teague. Kristin Kreuk was also given the opportunity to show her potential as a surprising leading lady. Its possible that episodes like these encouraged the creators to keep her around longer than intended as Kristin delivered some unforgettable performances and showed believable chemistry with Tom Welling.

Lana and her biological father Henry Small, the storyline was short-lived!

The family in Lana’s life was inconsistent. She became independent extremely fast through running her own business at The Talon. With her parents gone, she was brought up by her Aunt Nell who departed the series early on in order to live with a new boyfriend. Lana discovered her father wasn’t who she thought he was and her biological father was still alive and living in Smallville, going by the name of Henry Small (“Lineage” #2.7). She began to build a bond with him, however the storyline was shortly dropped and  to recollection was not mentioned again. Stability was a lacking factor in Lana’s life contributing to her lack of trust in others. The death of her parents made her stronger and drove her to fight and become a stronger person, the beginning of this transformation showed her taking on self-defence classes following an accident.

Lana and her season four boyfriend Jason Teague

Other than Clark and Lex, Lana had two other big relationships in the series, Whitney in Season One and Jason Teague in Season Four. Both these men shared similarities, both human, both football players/jock types and both jealous of Clark which eventually drove them crazy. It appeared that on the surface Lana was attracted to these two as they seemed safe and relatively “normal” and were not as challenging to be around as Clark was. Lana soon realized in both relationships that she belonged with Clark, therefore these two represented a sense of realization for her in terms of where she wanted to be in her life. When Lana made the decision to leave Whitney she was held back with the news of his father’s illness, instead of abandoning him she put him before her own happiness and supported him. In Jason’s case, he came out of nowhere, viewers were led to believe that Lana had met him by chance in Paris, however there was more to him than met the eye. In the beginning their relationship seemed very innocent as they went about it in secret, Lana was serious about Jason however matters became complex when his mother Genevieve became involved. In Paris, Lana had developed a mark of transference on her lower back which was connected to her ancestor the Countess Thoreaux. Genevieve was hiding something, Lana had dreampt of her prior to meeting Jason. It turned out that Genevieve had orchestrated the whole relationship as the Countess was burned at the stake by their ancestors and vowed revenge one day. The Teague’s ancestor had been obsessed with searching for the stones of knowledge leading Jason and Lex to China on a similar quest. Eventually Lana felt distrust in their relationship and grew tired of it revolving around the stones. In the end Lana, possessed once more by the Countess killed Genevieve while Lex orchestrated Jason’s death in the second meteor shower. She now felt Jason used her to find the stones and demonstrated no remorse for his loss. The storyline took a surprising turn with Jason becoming more unlikable. By the fifth season when Lana was made aware of his death she showed little remorse, her character began to grow and harden emotionally.

“Lexana”

Returning to “Lexana”, one of the most twisted and unexpected relationships in the show’s history, it provided drama and conflict and showed Lex at his nastiest and the levels he would sink. In Lana’s case, the story depicted a woman entering adulthood and making the wrong decisions. Lana and Lex had been close friends throughout the early years, even co-owning the Talon together. They both shared similar frustration of not being able to work Clark out and built up a sense of trust. He kept the Talon open for her even though it was not profitable as he knew what it meant to her, he paid for her trip to Paris at the end of the third season and looked out for her against the Teague’s. They grew even closer in the fifth season following the second meteor shower in which she confided in him regarding information about a spaceship landing on earth (“Arrival” #5.1). Following “Reckoning” (#5.12) Lana began to feel trust in Lex over Clark as he appeared “honest” with her, ruthlessly Lex wanted her for himself and arranged for a powerful hypnotist to separate her from Clark (“Hypnotic” #5.16) to which he was successful. Lana began to fall for him deeply, even moving into the Luthor mansion. Unknown to her Lex kept plenty from her including his dealings with Milton Fine/Brainiac, the truth behind the sinister level 33.1 and in a sickening tactic convinced her she was pregnant with his child only to then suffer a miscarriage when she was not even pregnant in the first place! Lex also created a clone of her without her knowledge. Once Lana discovered the truth she swore vengeance. This was the moment where she became headstrong, resourceful and powerful. She faked her own death by using the clone to frame Lex and went into hiding. Lex allowed Lana to return to Smallville with the promise she’d be free of him. Revenge was the only way forward for her at this point but it almost destroyed her. She spied on Lex constantly, even viciously attacked him when she temporarily absorbed Clark’s powers. She was a broken woman trying to keep it together and needed redemption. Her intentions were semi-good as she used the ISIS foundation, a project she began in order to help the meteor-infected and those affected by Lex’s experiments so she could keep a close eye on him. She began to show Luthor-like qualities bringing in a darkness to her character.

Lana’s final scene

By the time Lana exited the show she was a strong, confident and powerful woman using her gifts for good and helping people. Her final scene was moving and emotional as she gave Clark one last kiss which almost drained him of his life, ironically metaphorical of their relationship throughout the entire series. Lana was a crucial character to “Smallville’s” beginning’s,  she was played brilliantly by Kristin Kreuk and provided the show with some of its more interesting storylines. The main problem for hardcore fans was that Lana was completely different from the familiar character depicted in the comic books. Lana didn’t provide as much drama as she did in “Smallville”, her relationship with Clark was not as epic and “Lexana” didn’t exist. In fact Lana married Clark’s best friend Pete, and became First Lady of the United States when Pete was elected president over Lex. As previously mentioned she was also kept around longer than needed in “Smallville” and took priority over developing Clark’s relationship with Lois Lane which became infuriating as stories surrounding “Clana’s” dying romance became recycled over and over. TVtropes.org labels Lana as a “Creator’s Pet”  (SEE: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/CreatorsPet/LiveActionTV) which to an extent is true, allegedly the ratings were dropping due to her extensive screen time which the writer’s ignored. She could never do anything wrong and became raved about by other characters such as Chloe even if she had done wrong to her. The superpowers element bothered fans as she was never intended to be an ass-kicking superhero type, it was as if the writers intended to convince the viewers to love her character which simply did not work. Lana’s best storylines include her season four arc as well as her fall into darkness because of Kristin’s performance, other than that the character did weigh the show down and it could have gone in a different direction much earlier without including her.

So, what are your thoughts on Lana Lang? Please comment below.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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