Lex Luthor has been flirting with the dark side for some time now. He has been on the edge, but has always had a reason to not jump off. In this episode, titled Descent, we see the events that pushes him over that edge and causes him to descend into the darkness. He not only commits a physical act that has him embrace the darkness, but an internal struggle is going on inside him as well. These two events are the final acts that enable Lex’s journey to pure evil become complete.
We also see how the friendship of Lex and Clark Kent will never be repairable and how after six and a half seasons, there is no going back for them.
Lionel Luthor shows up to LuthorCorp at night and goes to his office, Lex is there. Lex talks to him about the Traveler and asks him if he has found the Traveler. Lionel tries to play it off as nonsense. Lex brings up how they were in Smallville when the meteor shower occurred. Lex accuses him of being there for the Traveler and that he put his life at risk for this Traveler. Lex asks him who the Traveler is, and Lionel tries to tell Lex that he, Lex, is the Traveler. Lex doesn’t buy it and tells him that he will find the box in Zurich and find out for himself. He pulls out a gun and tells Lionel to give him the second key. Lex pulls it off Lionel’s neck and then pushes Lionel out of his office window. Lionel calmly falls to his presumed death.
At the Daily Planet, Chloe Sullivan and Clark Kent are searching for Brainiac and any clues to his whereabouts. They notice a buzz going on, and Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen come in reporting that someone jumped off the LuthorCorp building and that it might be Lionel Luthor. They all rush outside and there is a body covered, lying on the steps. Lex comes out to the steps and pretends that he doesn’t know what is going on. Lex identifies Lionel and acts like he is shock. Lex hears a voice, saying “You killed him?”. He turns and sees the younger version of himself asking this question. Lex turns and finds Clark in the crowd and starts to walk away. Clark talks with Chloe about how he doubts that Lionel committed suicide and mentions that Lionel had talked to him earlier and that he wanted to give him a locket.
Back at the Luthor mansion, Lex is sitting by the fireplace by himself. His assistant comes in and offers her condolescences. Lex tells her about a memory that he has about his dad taking him to the a museum in Washington DC. Lex has his locket, and the assistant figures out what happened and tells him that know one would ever know. She opens the locket and the key isn’t inside. She tells him that Lionel visited the basement of the Daily Planet. Lex prepares to leave, and his younger self visits him again. Alexander tells Lex that he shouldn’t have killed Lionel. Lex yells at him, and then realizes Alexander isn’t real.
At LuthorCorp in Lionel’s office, Clark is studying the scene and opens the vault. He examines the valuables in Lionel’s vault and notices some kryptonian symbols on a metal bar. He picks it up and reads them. It says: Kal-El in the event of my death. He turns the different sections and it turns on and projects a message on the wall. More kryptonian symbols appear and the message informs him of the the two keys and they will reveal information on how to stop Clark. He must prevent this from happening.
At the Daily Planet, Jimmy is looking at a picture taken in Lex’s Daily Planet office. In the background, Lionel is being pushed out of the window, but they can’t make out who the other person is. They decide to go to Isis and use the computers that Lana has. They agree to get Chloe’s help. Chloe walks in to her office and finds a paper folded up and inside it is a key, the second key to the box in Zurich. She hides the key in her desk. Lex comes down the stairs and starts to question Chloe about his father visiting her. He looks inside the desk and finds the key. He accuses Chloe of hiding it from him, which she was, and then fires her. Chloe is escorted from the building. Lex’s assistant comes in and says she will get things ready and that he should go home and get some sleep. She overly friendly with him and tells him “We did it Lex.”. Lex gives her a cold look and walks out. The assistant goes to pack up Chloe’s things and there’s a text message from Jimmy indicating that Lionel’s death wasn’t a suicide and that they have a picture. The assistant reads it and goes to Jimmy’s office. She pulls a gun on them and escorts them into the storage room. The assistant tells them that she knows that the picture was uploaded to a second server. She shoots Lois in the shoulder, forcing them to tell her where it was uploaded to. She then puts them in a cold freezer and closes the door. Jimmy is left banging on the door.
At Isis Chloe and Clark are already there. Clark tells Chloe about Lionel’s message. She tells Clark how Jimmy uploaded the photo to the server. She pulls it up and starts working on the resolution. Chloe tells Clark about how Lex found the key and then fired her. She will work on it. Clark goes to the mansion to find the key.
At the mansion Clark is looking for the key and Lex walks in. Clark tells him that he doesn’t believe Lionel killed himself. They begin talking about their fathers and their early friendship. Lex tells Clark that he turned out the way he did because of Clark. He just wanted to be friends with Clark. Lex talks about how his father turned to Clark because he could trust him. Lex begins to blame Clark for Jonathan’s death, but Clark tells him that he has proof that Lex killed Lionel.
At Isis, Chloe has been working on the picture and the final resolution comes through and Chloe sees Lex in the picture. Just then, Lex’s assistant comes in and knocks Chloe out. Clark comes in a few minutes later finding Chloe on the ground. She wakes up and tells him that she saw the picture of Lex pushing Lionel out of the window. They talk about Lois and Jimmy and wonder where they are. They determine that whoever knocked her out must have stopped them from coming over. Clark goes to find them. Lex’s assistant is listening and sees Clark superspeed off. She leaves and calls Lex and leaves a message telling him she knows who the Traveler. As she walks to her car, she is grabbed and a man sprays a chemical into her mouth and she convulses and then dies.
Clark goes to the Daily Planet and uses his hearing to locate Lois and Jimmy. They have passed out from the cold, when Clark opens the doors. He uses his heat vision to warm them up and he runs off. Jimmy opens his eyes and sees the door open.
At the mansion, Lex is making plans to go to Zurich via phone. Alexander appears and urges Lex to not go to Zurich. That if he does that then it will destroy him. Lex grabs Alexander and tells him that he makes him weak and then throws him into the fire. Alexander is symbolically killed and has been purged from Lex’s conscious.
At the Kent barn, Clark is pondering, looking at the metal bar he found in Lionel’s vault. Chloe comes in and tells him that no one is invited to the funeral. Clark tells Chloe that Lionel is another father figure that has died trying to protect him. First, Jor-El, then Jonathan, now Lionel. Clark questions how someone could kill their own father. Chloe tells him that in the pure absence of love, pure evil exists. Lionel died protecting him and they have to prevent Lex from succeeding. Clark vows to get the keys from Lex and not letting him use the keys.
At the cemetary, Lex is standing next to his father’s graveside, alone. We see Clark come walking up and stand in front of Lex by the grave. Lex and Clark stare at each other and after a moment, Lex leaves. Clark grabs a handful of dirt and drops it on Lionel’s coffin.
In a deleted scene, Lois and Jimmy are in the freezer trying to stay warm and encourage each other to stay awake. Jimmy starts banging on the floor with a metal bar, hoping someone will hear it and rescue them.
While I hated Lionel Luthor for the longest time, pretty much up until this season, I always found that he was true to himself. He was always the jerk of the show, the one who no matter what, you could count on him to always do what’s best for him. When he started to slowly change and become a better man, I was always waiting for him to change back to being selfish. In the end he never did, til the end Lionel protected Clark and his secret. While he is mostly responsible for Lex’s upbringing, he did try to change him in the end. Lex had his chances to ‘repent’ and change his ways, even his dead mother couldn’t change Lex. Lionel ended up being Clark’s friend after Lex couldn’t or wouldn’t. It was sad to see him meet his demise, but a necessary step for his son, Lex, to descend into the darkness. Lionel will be missed, but I believe he did fulfill his destiny on the show Smallville.
On a sidenote, I was surprised that Martha Kent wasn’t brought into the episode somehow. The writers spent a lot of time developing Martha and Lionel’s relationship over the previous couple of seasons, and to not have her at the end I thought was a missed emotional opportunity. Maybe they will address it in later episodes.