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Smallville’s Great LEXpecations: 10 Favorite Lex Luthor Moments 

Photo Credit: Jack Rowand/The CW

It’s been said that a hero is only as good as his villain, and if you’re Clark Kent you can never become Superman if you don’t have Lex Luthor. Smallville took a character who for many years had simply been known as Superman’s arch nemesis and really fleshed him out into a full, three dimensional character. This of course couldn’t have been possible without the amazing nuanced performance of Michael Rosenbaum who brought such depth and complexity to the character. I mean think about it, can you think of any other show where the main villain is actually one of the protagonists for the first three seasons?  Even though I knew he was going to turn into the evil Lex we all know, part of me held out hope, and still does, that deep down he’s just a hurt, misunderstood child who has good in him. 

Ever since leaving after the 7thseason finale, Michael Rosenbaum’s presence has been sorely missed and fans around the world rejoiced at the news that he would be returning for the series finale. In honor of the great work he’s done, we’re looking back at our favorite Lex Luthor moments. I call it…the Lex Luthor Lex-perience…(crickets) No? Nobody? Ok, let’s get on with it then…

Season 1, Episode 1 “Pilot” – Lex runs over Clark with his car

Photo Credit: The WB / David Gray

For every action, there is a reaction and the reaction from this one event started the greatest rivalry of all time between Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. Had Lex never been speeding and lost control of his car, he never would have hit Clark Kent who pulled Lex out of the wreckage in the water. If that had never happened, Lex would have never become friends with Clark, almost to the point of obsession trying to figure out his secret which ultimately caused the irreparable rift in their friendship and started the bitter feud between them. Who knows what Lex would have become had he not hit Clark with his car, but because of this one single event, it ultimately created one of the greatest villains of all time.

Season 1, Episode 6 “Hourglass” – Lex’s future is revealed

The plot for this episode revolved around an old woman who could see somebody’s future whenever she touched them, which I believe they ripped off later on down the road in another episode. While the episode as a whole was so-so, it was its final moments that left some of the most haunting images ever seen on Smallville in the minds of the viewers. Lex goes to the old woman and when she touches him she sees him as President of the United States and eventually the sky rains blood as he has unleashed a nuclear disaster that has left everything in ruins as he stands in a field of human remains. The vision of Lex’s future is so powerful that before she can even tell him what she saw she instantly dies. The way it was shot and just the aesthetic look to the whole sequence is so jarring and so stylized that it’s one of those images and moments that you can’t shake. The seeds of a dark future yet to come for Lex were definitely planted in this episode.

Season 3, Episode 8 “Shattered”- Lex loses his mind…or does he?

Photo Credit: The WB

Season 3 was interesting for the fact that Lionel Luthor became the main villain and his number one target was his son Lex. After Lex went hunting down Morgan Edge to find out if he helped Lionel commit murder, Lex starts to have a psychotic break. Morgan Edge tries to run him down with his car but Clark crushes the car with his bare hand right in front of Lex. Unfortunately, no one believes Lex and he is admitted into the insane asylum. This storyline really was a shining moment for Lex and the acting by Michael Rosenbaum was just top notch. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking to see this character suffering and nobody believing him when we as an audience know that he is indeed telling the truth. Watching him in that insane asylum as his father looks on was a chilling moment as it showed Lex at his weakest and most vulnerable.

Season 3, Episode 20 “Talisman” – Who is Clark ’s ultimate enemy?

The other interesting thing about season 3 was the focus on the Kawatche Indians and how their mythology correlated to Clark . Basically he found a cave with their paintings on it that told the story of his coming to Earth as the Kawatche people had prophesized since the beginning of time. In this particular episode there was a knife that was said would be destroyed upon being touched by Clark ’s arch nemesis. Of course, the race was on for both Lex and Lionel to get their hands on it and when they both grabbed it at the same time, naturally it disintegrated into dust. Clark was left to wonder who his real enemy would be. Up until this point in the show, Lex had been maybe a little shady at times, but mostly he was a huge hero. This was the first time the thought really crossed Clark ’s mind that Lex might not be who he thinks he is and that one day his relationship with him might change. Of course we know what ultimately happens, but for Clark this was a big realization that things were going to change…

Season 4, Episode 17 “Onyx” – Two Lex Luthors for the price of one!

Photo Credit: The WB

There are two sides to every story, and in this episode we got two separate Lex Luthors running around Smallville! After a black kryptonite explosion (which we learned in the season premiere that black kryptonite can split personalities), Lex got separated into normal Lex, and Alexander. His evil twin so to speak, Alexander, imprisoned Lex at the mansion and just went on an evil spree like you wouldn’t imagine. This was the first real glimpse at the Lex we would eventually be seeing in season 7 and it also gave birth to the famous Lex quote used in countless promos “Looks like I am the villain of this story.”

Season 5, Episode 9 “Lexmas” – Lex sees what his life could have been like

Photo Credit: The WB/Michael Courtney

…and they did change in a big way.  By season 5 Lex and Clark were full blown enemies and Lex had started down the road to the dark side. However, in this Christmas-themed episode, Lex got to see what his life could be like if he changed his ways and got out from under the influence of his father. A married life with Lana with kids and the white picket fence seemed to be what his heart truly desired, but his inner demons got the best of him and his “It’s a Wonderful Life” future was nothing more than a dream. It was interesting to see the alternate Smallville universe with Chloe and Clark getting married (how Lex ending up married to Lana prevented Clark from finding Lois was never mentioned) and how Lex was so loved by not only Clark, but by Papa Kent as well.  A bittersweet episode for the fact that we know things will never be like this no matter how much we wish they were.

Season 6, Episode 1 “Zod” – Kneel before…Lex!

Photo Credit: The CW

At the end of Season 5, Brainiac had unleashed the spirit of Zod and it possessed Lex’s body. In the Season 6 premiere, we got to see the full-on confrontation between Lex/Zod and Clark. Hearing Michael Rosenbaum utter those infamous words “Kneel before Zod” was awe-inspiring and having him be possessed by Zod allowed Clark and Lex to finally have a physical confrontation, with Clark eventually driving the spirit out of him into the Phantom Zone.

Season 6, Episode 16 “Promise” – Lex commits homicide on his wedding day

Photo Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW

In my book, this episode represented the point of no return for Lex.  After faking Lana’s pregnancy, the Doctor who made it happen threatens to tell her unless Lex pays him two million dollars.  Lex loses it and just beats the holy hell out of this guy eventually killing him. I think this very moment is where Lex had finally been taken over to the dark side. Sure he had had done some really crappy things the whole season and wasn’t a great guy, but up until this moment you still thought maybe there was a chance. But after killing the doctor and hiding his body you just realized that it was over for Lex. He was a different man than we knew in the beginning of the series. This Lex was vicious, unrelenting, and dangerous…just the way we always knew he would be.

Season 7, Episode 16 “Descent” – Lex kills his father, Lionel Luthor

Photo Credit: Michael Courtney/The CW

This moment was the culmination of a seven season-long battle between father and son…and it all took place in the cold open of the episode!  Lionel holds the key to unraveling who the Traveler is and Lex gets it from him, but that’s not enough. Years of being tortured by Lionel, of being mistreated; all of the lies and the deceit lead Lex to finally put an end to it by pushing Lionel out the window and killing him. It was a bold move for the series in general to kill off Lionel, but it was even MORE ballsy to do it in the first 5 minutes of the episode!  Still, this was Lex at his meanest and most sinister.  Even though Season 7 was kind of a bust it did bring out the best (or worst) in both Michael Rosenbaum and the character of Lex.

Season 7, Episode 20 “Arctic” – Lex finds out Clark ’s secret

Photo Credit: David Gray/The CW

The moment that we had waited for had finally arrived. Lex had figured out Clark’s secret that he was the Traveler and he had infiltrated the Fortress of Solitude to end Clark ’s life for the sake of defending the planet. This moment actually surprised me not because of the fact that Lex finally knew, but it was how he reacted to it. I think I (and probably a lot of other fans) half expected Lex to just go bananas and attack Clark with kryptonite but instead you could almost see the hurt and remorse in his eyes when he took Clark down, telling him that he loved him like a brother but he had to do this. The best villains are always the ones who think that they are doing the right thing and even after all the personal issues they had, Lex still loved him, but felt he was a threat to the world with his unlimited amount of power and had to be put down. Of course this was the last time we saw Michael Rosenbaum as Lex (“Lex” would return in season 8 partially deformed, but we try to forget about that) and for him to go out in such a big way was amazing in one way, but also left a whole lot of question marks that hopefully we’ll get some answers to come the series finale.

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