Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Theories on Smallville’s 33.1

While not anywhere as cryptic (or good) as Lost or Heroes, Smallville offers its own vexing brand of mystery in the form of the enigmatic 33.1, a project spearheaded by Lex Luthor involving the meteors and their respective freaks. Recently, I had a thought the project could run to the very heart of the Superman mythos.

33 is the generally accepted age when Jesus Christ died. Though I’m not sure Smallville will ever touch upon it, the Superman mythos are rife with Biblical, specifically Christ-like, metaphors. Some of the best writers have called Superman a failed Christ figure, and if you don’t believe me, just check out Superman Returns for many allusions to Superman’s Messiah-like identity.

But 33.1 is Lex’s project. Much like the portrayal of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Superman – especially in Smallville­ – is a reluctant savior at best. He never asked for this burden – but Lex Luthor certainly did. In the latest Justice episode he touts his reasoning for the project as a safeguard for freedom and democracy, and before that, he even tests Lana’s loyalty regarding a (faux) alien energy source to use as a weapon against alien invaders.

It is the cruelest and most satirical irony that Lex Luthor himself is barred from the heroism of his most consistent adversary. In the latest pages of 52, Lex himself is exempt from the Everyman program which gives ordinary superpowers because of a strange physiological dysfunction. But I believe if Lex Luthor ever did become a superhero, he would be the first to give his life and fulfill his Messianic complex/self-fulfilled prophecy.

In short, Smallville is at its best when it is not about Lex Luthor’s meteoric rise to villainy, but instead, Lex’s own slow fall from grace. And 33.1 might just be the key to both Lex’s own fragmented Messiah image as well as the answer to fallen Smallville fans such as myself.