It feels like it’s been a while since Smallville put the Lana/Clark relationship, or lack thereof, at the heart of an episode. Holly Harold’s ‘Magnetic’ rights that wrong by placing it front and centre in a manner that Smallville is frequently entertaining at doing: by having one of the characters turn bad and then letting the emotional fireworks fly.
It’s easy to be a little dismissive of an episode like this. The Clark and Lana scenes play out in nearly the same way every other week. Welling and Kreuk share nice chemistry and the series has always had a knack for capturing romance against a fantasy backdrop in a small town, but it’s so easy to poke fun at just how similar these episodes and scenes are between the two actors.
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The possibilities of romance, something that comes between them, Lana’s bitterness at Clark keeping secrets and one or both walking away to a soft rock ballad. We’ve seen variations of this scene so many times that it’s become part and parcel of the series’ structure for so many of its episodes, and either ‘Magentic’ will infuriate audiences for once again going back to it or have you giving the episode a near-standing ovation for being unashamedly committed to using the trope so blatantly. It’s a very entertaining episode as always, even if there is maybe nothing new here. We’re given another meteor rock inflicted antagonist that once again plays into another of Smallville‘s frequent motifs: the villain that is the mirror image of Clark.
The casting of guest star Keven Zegers plays into this trope by having another conventionally attractive male to turn Lana’s head and who offers to her the means of a relationship built on actually being who he is instead of hiding himself. Harold’s script has a lot of fun with this even if it is Smallville doing the same thing it’s done several times before, but it’s honestly hard to be overly critical when it’s another entertaining hour amongst a season of episodes that are seeing the series hitting some great highs, especially with regards to its ongoing story arcs.
While Clark and Lana’s relationship brings the typical WB soap element, perfect for the post-Dawson’s Creek and pre-One Tree Hill era (and of course Smallville shares executive producers with the latter), once again the Luthor strand of the series sees the series at its absolute best. Lex being older means that the series can throw its oar into more complex story threads than the soapier stuff with Clark and Lana (who we must remember are destined not to be together, which gives their scenes an aura of soapy tragedy that is quite wonderful) and his scenes with Chloe and the revelations that appear to lie in wait regarding Lionel are amongst the juiciest material the series is playing with right now.
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As it stands, Lex is still somewhat a sympathetic character, and – brilliantly – the series is frequently prone to making Lionel the supervillain, with murder now potentially in his past just waiting to be revealed. John Glover doesn’t appear in the episode, but it says a lot about how vital his presence in the series is that Lionel still carries considerable weight within even when he isn’t around.
Of course, watching Lex having to deal with his father’s crimes and misdemeanours has its own set of brilliant ironies within it. While Lana and Clark have to navigate their way through a possible relationship that we know is doomed to fail, Lex is dealing with a father who is a comic book villain, while he himself is on a journey to being the exact same thing. It gives what could so easily have been just another episode of Smallville considerable power, and is another feather in the cap of what is shaping up at this stage to be a really good season.