I figure this is about as safe a game as one can play with this sort of thing, since they are fictional and cannot get hurt. I would never do this to real people even in the privacy of my own head.
I'll leave most of the discussion about the subject to the essay. But.
I want to talk about Smallville.
And Lionel Luthor. Lionel is as textbook a sociopath as Voldemort. The main thing about sociopaths is that they have no conscience. Other people are just tools or possesions to be used by them as they desire - at best, they're temporary partners to be discarded when they're no longer useful. And they believe everyone else is like that, and that they're all playing the same game of users vs used.
How did Lionel Luthor get the seed money for LuthorCorp? He killed his parents. And he did so without remorse or regret. He's probably even proud of the way he'd gotten away with it for so many years.
His wife and children? Possessions, just like his house and his cars and his wardrobe. His inability to give love destroyed his wife and one son, his willingness to use people destroyed Lucas and then there was Lex.
Lex was his disappointment. He wanted a handsome, strong, brlliant, athletic, perfect son - a son as driven as he was, who would show him perfect loyalty and work for him until he died. Or something. And he got the first part, sort of.
Before the meteor attack, Lex was asthmatic, which means he was weak and unathletic. Afterwards - he was bald. Healthy, strong, *brilliant*, but bald. And while that would make him a sexy adult, it also made him an ugly child, not the sort to use as a model for the "perfect" family or even the "grieving widower and son."
And Lex, being a more or less normal person (he has his own problem, surely, but he definitely has a conscience - he sacrificed himself for his mother, he ran into the plant in Jitters, he clearly loved Helen), would do anything for his father's love. Because that's what a son wants. And he will NEVER, EVER get it because Lionel isn't able to provide it. And even if Lex figures this out - maybe when he tried to steal Lex's body, maybe when he stole Lex's memories or had him drugged in Belle Reve, or when he played blind for months to twist that knife - he's still going to try. Because, again, that's what a son does.
And that's one of the things that has broken him. He's been taught that some of the finest things about him - his ability to care, his ability to empathize, his conscience - are worthless. That he is worthless.
I didn't watch last season. I'm pretty sure I'm not watching this season unless someone tells me they fixed things. But I do know that if they had just continued that way, what a powerful story it would have been.