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Posted by: Keith Chow on February 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

If you were on your laptops last Friday evening, you probably watched your internet break in half as Earth-shattering news was greeted by throngs of people around the world. That’s right, Michael Rosenbaum was returning for the series finale of Smallville! Oh, and Egypt had a revolution or something.

Seriously, for a few hours Friday night, “Michael Rosenbaum” and “Lex Luthor” were two of the highest trending topics on Twitter, out-trending the likes of Egypt and even Justin Bieber! So it’s good to know we have our priorities straight. What made the announcement that much more shocking was the fact that, just days earlier, Entertainment Weekly was reporting that Rosenbaum had turned down any and all offers to return, to the dismay of most of his fans.

So in honor of the original Lex Luthor, and to prepare for his imminent return to Smallville, over the next two weeks, we’re going to look back at ten of Lex’s most iconic moments and defining episodes in the history of the show. Today, we’ll count down the first five. So let’s start at the very beginning.

Season 1, Episode 01

This is where it all started, way back in October 2001. Smallville‘s pilot episode firmly established that the show would be a 21st century retelling of the classic Superman myth. The biggest twist Al Gough and Miles Millar added to their interpretation was actually a throwback to DC Comics’ Silver Age: Lex and Clark were friends in Smallville. “Pilot” explained how Lex came to Smallville and witnessed the first time Lex Luthor met Clark Kent (after Lex smashed into Superman in his Porsche and careened of a bridge). Lex even got the chance to play hero by saving Clark from a meteor rock-infused hazing by Smallville High’s douchebag brigade. In fact, the early years of Smallville expertly set up Lex Luthor as a sympathetic, almost heroic, protagonist which would make Lex’s gradual descent to the dark side six seasons later that much more powerful. Most importantly, we learned that Smallville was not only a show about Clark Kent becoming the world’s greatest superhero, it was about how Lex Luthor would become Superman’s greatest enemy.

Season 1, Episode 06

“Hourglass” is essentially another throwaway “freak of the week” episode that aired frequently during Smallville‘s freshman season. The plot had something to do with a de-aged senior citizen who was murdering folks all over town. Also, there’s an old lady at the senior center who can see people’s future. Pretty silly, actually. However, the only reason this episode makes the list is for its last scene. After the story is all wrapped up, Lex decides to pay a visit to the soothsaying senior and learn about his future. Unfortunately for Cassandra, the vision is so intense, she dies. Fortunately for us, we’re treated to those visions: Future Luthor in the White House, surrounded by death and a sky full of blood.

Season 3, Episode 08

You may have noticed that I completely skipped Season Two. Usually, I claim that season as my favorite because it was mostly about Clark discovering his Kryptonian heritage. While it was a very Clark-centric season, I don’t recall anything important in Lex’s development. In the third season, though, we started to see cracks in Lex’s psyche. He started the season stranded on a desert island, after being swindled by a gold digging doctor in the second season finale, and in a declining mental state. This plotline culminated in the episode “Shattered.” In addition to Rosenbaum’s bravura acting as a Lex slowly descending into madness, we also find out that Lex’s fractured psyche has as much to do with his dysfunctional relationship with his father as with anything else. Lex also learns the truth about how his grandparents died–Lionel conspired with Morgan Edge to murder the elder Luthors for the insurance money–which establishes the Luthor tradition of patricide, and will come full circle in Season Seven. Another seventh season plotline was seeded in this episode when we learn that Lex blames himself for the death of his baby brother Julian. Finally, the episode’s closing montage is one of the best uses of Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” on a TV show.

Season 4, Episode 17

As stated earlier, Smallville is as much about Lex’s fall as it is about Superman’s rise. And for three and a half seasons, viewers only saw flashes of Lex’s dark side. In the Season Four episode “Onyx,” we finally got a taste of what kind of evil lurks inside a Luthor. After conducting some heat experiments on green kryptonite, Lex and his scientists accidentally discover black kryptonite, which in turn, splits Lex into a “good” version and an “evil” one. Needless to say, having a Lex Luthor run around Smallville unburdened by guilt and free to let his villain flag fly made for some great television. And it was nice to get a glimpse at how Rosenbaum would play Lex as a fully realized super villain. Heck, evil Lex even sported the iconic kryptonite ring from the comics! Bad Lex’s confrontation with the Kents has to go down as a classic moment in the series.

Season 5, Episode 22
Season 6, Episode 01

Smallville likes to do a lot of “possession” episodes because it allows the show to have on new characters without having to actually hire new actors. In the fifth season finale and sixth season premiere, the show got away with introducing the second most infamous villain in Superman’s rogues’ gallery without having to cast a young Terrence Stamp. Instead, Lex, with the help of Brainiac, became the vessel for the phantom of General Zod. At the time, introducing Zod this way meant we got a chance to see Rosenbaum play a badass again. Who knew that a few seasons later, we’d get Callum Blue to play a younger version of Zod? The second half of these two episodes also featured an actual superfight. Such depictions of super powered figts are rare in Smallville, so it was neat to see Clark and Lex go at it in such a fashion. Even if it wasn’t really Lex. Or really Zod either.


Keith is the Editor-at-Large of the groundbreaking graphic novel anthology SECRET IDENTITIES and Outreach Director for SIUniverse Media. Visit the official Secret Identities blog to keep up with Keith and the rest of the SI team

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Waiting for Superman: The Villain of the Story, Part One