Spoilers: Through Third Season
URL: Secrets & Lies
1. Laura and Lewis' Girl
Pink-clad in a fairy princess costume, a three-year-old moppet taps Martha Kent on the head and grants the woman's wish. Lana Lang's young life is perfect until her aunt carries her outside to greet Laura and Lewis Lang as they return from the Crows' homecoming game. The sky is rent with fire, and Lana's parents die right before her eyes. A photographer captures this private moment of horror and grief, and plasters it on the cover of Time Magazine to share with the whole country.
Thirteen years later, Lana has friends, a blond quarterback boyfriend, and a smile (not to mention necklace,) that leaves boys falling to their knees in front of her. Though only a freshman, she has a drawer-full of tiaras, a wall full of trophies, pom-poms of her very own... and a secret of her own. Thirteen years later, she creeps into the graveyard at night to whisper to her parents' grave, nursing her grief privately in a way denied her so many years before.
2. Smallville's Girl
From the start, Lana has been possessed of a great deal of empathy. She worried about other people, and she's refreshingly free of Popular Girl Insulation. When Greg Arkin asks for her help as a study partner, she cheerfully agrees. When Clark Kent stumbles at her feet once again, she picks up his books for him, and even starts a conversation.
This isn't a surface trait either; even after she's gravely injured as a direct result of Lex's drug-induced insanity (don't you love a show where you can write lines like that with a straight face?) she still asks how Lex is, and genuinely means it. She befriends outcasts and high school royalty all the same, a streak of kindness that often gets her in trouble.
Still, she's no creampuff. Lana has her territory, and she's not shy about protecting it. When Lex Luthor invades her stables, she pointedly reminds him they've already met, and he was less than dressed at the time. Likewise, when Clark refuses to come up with a reasonable explanation for his bizarre behavior toward her when he was on Red Kryptonite (see what I mean?) she refuses to accept a half-apology. That's been expanded upon in recent years to include learning self-defense, which she rarely hesitates to use when necessary.
She's a bright and determined girl who gets things done. Though it was a sore spot between them initially, Lana managed to take over the school newspaper when the principal stripped Chloe Sullivan of it. Instead of keeping the position, Lana printed the same kind of article that got Chloe banned in a show of solidarity, and helped return the Torch to its rightful editor. Likewise, when the Beanery threatened to destroy the Talon's profitability, with a little prodding, Lana researched the competition and uncovered health code violations to ethically shut them down.
Lana's incredibly civic-minded- she converted the Talon to an emergency check point in the aftermath of the tornadoes that ripped through Smallville in 2001, and she volunteers at a suicide crisis hotline. If Lana says she's going to do something, she does it, a reliability that people sometimes take for granted.
Unfortunately, some of her merits become flaws when taken to the extreme. Because she is so generous with herself, she'll sometimes erase herself completely trying to be what someone else wants. She dated Whitney long after she wanted to because she felt obligated to stand by him during his father's illness, and all but told Clark she'd continue to pretend to be what he thought she was, if that meant he'd never leave her.
And while Lana is a genuinely empathetic person, she doesn't seem to be a very good judge of character. She repeatedly befriends people about whom she knows very little, which tends to put her in danger. She offered the apartment over the Talon to Adam Knight after knowing him only for a brief time, and ultimately, he tried to kill her.
She also lets her grief over her parents' death adversely color her relationships with other people. Even when she decides to stay behind in Smallville when her guardian, Aunt Nell, married and moves to Metropolis, she still considers it an abandonment. As much as she has tried to put her parents' death in the past, she still uses it as a shield and a sword- her original business proposal to Lex to gain ownership of the Talon was predicated entirely on her sentimental memories of the time her parents spent there.
Lana's worst trait is a streak of selfishness and self-absorption that's hard for her to mitigate. Even as she struggles to be more than the little girl on Time Magazine, she takes advantage of that to keep people close to her, even at the expense of damaging other friendships. Lana's greatest need is to be loved, and on occasion that need eclipses everything else she sees around her.
3. Everybody Else's Girl
Whitney Fordman: A senior to Lana's freshman, Whitney Fordman was the boyfriend who proposed marriage before the end of the year, and ultimately joined the Marines to prove himself. Though Lana loved him, he was often pre-occupied with football, then later, with his father's terminal illness, leaving Lana adrift in an almost-relationship that she felt obligated to maintain, even though her heart wasn't in it. Still, she cared deeply for him, and was heartbroken to discover he'd died in action.
Clark Kent: The boy next door. Lana had been aware of Clark's existence, but had never spoken to him until he stumbled upon her in the graveyard during one of her post-mortem parental chats. Their relationship has been a complicated one. Though attracted, Lana knew there were things Clark kept from her, and she felt she couldn't really be with someone who couldn't be honest with her. Each time Clark attempted- and failed- to tell her the truth, she grew more reserved until no relationship but friendship was possible at all. She expressed Clark's unreliably best when she said, "Clark Kent isn't always there when you want him, but he's always there when you need him." Though their almost-romance was bittersweet, Lana and Clark can be good friends to one another, confiding personal details and thoughts, even if Clark holds back on his biggest secret of all.
Lex Luthor: The Luthor Family and Lana's family had done business together prior to the premiere, a tradition that continues with Lex and Lana, in the ownership of the Talon. Their relationship isn't entirely business, however. Lana is one of the few people in Smallville who *doesn't* take advantage of Lex's wealth and position; she's genuinely concerned about him as a person, and he, her. She seeks his advice, and he's happy to give it, acting almost as an older, doting brother. They have a mutual respect for one another that cuts through their issues. Lana doesn't let Lex play Lord of the Manor, and Lex doesn't let Lana play the Poor Little Orphan Girl, and between the two of them, they can both just be themselves.
Henry Small: After spending years believing in the beautiful fairytale of Lewis and Laura Lang's romance, Lana discovers that the man she believed to be her father wasn't- at least, not biologically. When she seeks out her biological father, they attempt to form a family bond, but it's tenuous at best. Warned early on by Henry's wife that Henry treats people as projects, Lana ultimately severs the relationship so he will focus on his nuclear family, the way they deserve. That moment is a striking turning point for Lana, giving up something she desperately craves for the better good.
Martha Kent: The image of the fairy princess who granted her wish for a child remains a vibrant one for Martha Kent, and she often treats Lana as the daughter she never had. She confides in Lana, and accepts her confidences, offering motherly advice when she can. Lana plainly appreciates Mrs. Kent's kindness, but for her, I think Martha is just a kind woman, and Clark's mother.
Chloe Sullivan: Though Chloe went so far as to call Lana her sister, Lana and Chloe's relationship is just as thorny as Lana's relationship with Clark. Chloe envies Lana's status as the Pretty One and even more so, her hold over Clark Kent's affections. Lana envies Chloe's friendship with Clark and her mostly-intact family. At the same time, Lana admires Chloe's ambition and sense of purpose, while Chloe admires Lana's kindness and generosity. It's a combination that puts them at odds as often as it puts them at evens, though both girls plainly care about one another.
4. Her Own Girl
Though the character has been unevenly written, Lana Lang's progress from frightened, dependent orphan to strong, independent young woman is a worthwhile transformation. As the seasons progress, she becomes more self-sufficient, blossoming when she's challenged, growing into a woman of her own who enjoys her relationships with other people, but who doesn't *need* someone else to make her feel successful and important. Instead of becoming The Girl Clark Kent Left Behind, as her comic-book counterpart always was, this Lana Lang may well become The Girl Who Chose to Stay Behind, and that's a reinterpretation worth cheering for.