Staying on the Superman kick for now, let’s talk about Smallville season five again. Specifically, let’s talk about one of the episode I bought/requested as a gift for: “Lexmas”, where Clark meets Santa and Lex goes into a vision of a future between him and Lana.
It starts out innocently enough, with Lex (Michael Rosenbaum), then running for senate, meeting with a guy named Griff on Christmas Eve to discuss whether or not to use Griff’s services to destroy Lex’s opponent, Jonathan Kent (John Schneider).
Okay, I may have to explain some things.
Season five of Smallville is, to me, where the show really started to go off the rails in terms of storytelling. To that end, we got a truly bizarre story arc where Jonathan Kent, a Midwestern farmer with no relevant political experience, after a speech from his best friend Sen. Jack Jennings (Tom Wopat, of course) to run for United States senate. Even now, after the year of hell that has been 2016, that is a special type of weird.
So anyway, Lex leaves the back alley he met Griff in and is immediately mugged by an Asian couple. He hands over his car keys and starts handing over his watch when, for no reason, the female mugger decides to shoot Lex. The man who would be POTUS falls down on the concrete and suddenly we’re in the Land of the Golden Tint, where it’s seven years later, it’s Christmas Eve again, Lex is married to Lana, they have a little boy together and a little girl is on the way.
The Lex plot goes about like that for some time, with Lex experiencing the Life He Could Have If Only He Can Shun The Darkness Inside Him™. He has a family and good friends and even has Jonathan’s respect, something he’s been seeking since the very first season. All’s just going oh so Rockwellian until Lana goes into labor. The baby’s delivered and is fine, but Lana starts bleeding internally, and the doctors can’t do anything to stop it. So he goes to Lionel, but sadly Lionel’s in his “I am a proto-supervillain” phase, and refuses, saying that Lex turning his back on him led to this scenario.
Lana passes away, and Lex’s dead mom (who has been showing up in every segment or so) comes to him, trying to comfort him. It fails and Lex continues down the path to his eventual career as the greatest criminal mind of his time.
The subplot of the episode is where things get truly goofy/surreal, though. You see, Clark is conscripted to deliver presents by Chloe since the delivery guys are on strike. While making the rounds he meets a drunken man in a Santa outfit, about to jump off the roof of a building. The Santa’s depressed by all the selfishness in the world, but Clark perks up the jolly old drunk by telling him of why he’s delivering presents when he could be making out with Lana. The twist being that the guy Clark saved was in fact St. Nick himself.
Now, I know this is a cliché and way too many series have done a Christmas episode involving Santa. But from my experience, most of those shows are either sitcoms or cartoons, not young adult targeting sci-fi/fantasy family dramas. Seeing Smallville, a show that’s so built around the freak of the week formula that there’s a series of YouTube videos counting them, suddenly putting jolly old St. Nick in an episode is just kind of nuts. But it is nuts in the best possible way.
This is what pushes the episode from slightly surreal to full on mad for me. Not only do we get Lex going through a reverse It’s A Wonderful Life hallucination, we also get to meet Santa! The episode, like the season and the series as a whole, is somewhat crap; Lex’s turn to the dark side is far too predictable, Santa’s depression seems far too easily solved, and it has the problem Smallville always has of giving Lex the meatier subplot and not being able to find something for Clark to do without his superpowers. But a great performance from Rosenbaum, the sight of Tom Welling actually seeming to give a damn (something that would disappear as the seasons wore on) and the sheer creativity on display makes this kin of a treat for me.