Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 9
“30 Days and 30 Nights”
Superman & Lois explores the notion of a world without Superman and how everyone would handle the absence of both Clark and the Man of Steel.
“The Death of Superman” is one of the most well known comic book Superman stories. It captivated audiences when it debuted and in one way or another people have been attempting to adapt it ever since. There have been two animated versions of it, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice killed off the character with both versions of Justice League resurrecting him. Even Smallville sideways glanced at it.
This episode delivers a riff on “The Death of Superman” without actually killing off the character by focusing on the impact of an extended absence along with the uncertainty of his return. For those involved Clark could be dead and the uncertainty grows every day he’s gone. On a high level this is a great way of showing the positive influence Superman and Clark has on the world simply by being in it. News reports morbidly describe preventable disasters that Superman would normally prevent and everyone close to Clark sleepwalks through their lives. Smallville seems drained of its colour -even though that’s not actually what happens- as hopelessness sets in among the people there. The episode does an excellent job cultivating the mood and atmosphere. It does this so well that the contrived nature of Clark’s disappearance is easy to ignore. Impulsively following Ally in the way he did doesn’t make a lot of sense considering he didn’t follow Anderson or the others in the previous episode. There is also very limited follow-up to Lucy’s betrayal which is disappointing due to the weight the cliffhanger commanded. This is because she disappears following carrying out her role in Ally’s plan but a full month goes by within the episode with very little mention of it. Another glaring omission is the mention of other Arrowverse heroes who would surely step in during Clark’s absence. Their inclusion would run counter to what the episode is trying to say but it definitely stands out. Is this show set in the Arrowverse? Does Kara exist in this world? We still have no definitive answer.
As stated this is easily forgotten because what the episode has to offer is so strong. There are a few emotional threads both uniting and separating the characters. A montage brilliantly sets the stage for what most of the characters will be dealing with over the episode. Jordan continues to be trained by Sam, Lana continues her campaign for Mayor, Lois has to be a single mother, Jonathan continues to feel isolated by his decisions, Kyle continues to be alone, John steps into the void filled by Superman’s absence and Natalie continues to struggle adjusting to the new world without her mother in it. The bulk of the episode takes place at the end of this month without Clark and Superman which makes sense in context but it may have been interesting to spend more time detailing what the early days were like to show the process of hopelessness setting in rather than rushing to the point where it has already happened.
There is no main thread as such but everything orbits the results of the Mayoral election. Every character goes through Lana’s campaign headquarters at some point in the episode so it’s as close to a central narrative as the episode gets. As always the plot itself isn’t that interesting because there has been limited focus on building Smallville as a believable community. The town is whatever a given episode needs it to be so there’s a lack of identity there. Any of the Mayoral campaign content is very repetitive as it largely amounts to the previous Mayor trying to drag Lana’s name through the mud by focusing on her marital troubles as a reason people shouldn’t vote for her while Lana highlights those dirty tactics along with her own sincerity. Finally we reach the point where a decision has to be made and the plot can hopefully move onto something more interesting. She wins the election by a realistic yet undoubtable margin so her victory is assured and all of her hard work has paid off. How her role as Mayor will impact the rest of the season -if it does- is as yet unknown.
One moment does stand out as a potential direction for Lana’s role as Mayor. She comes across as dismissive of Sarah when she comes to her about Kyle. Her mind is on the election and she is trying to deal with the separation in her own way but she is short with Sarah who is reaching out to her for help and highlighting that Kyle isn’t doing very well. Lana’s position is that it’s none of her business and that Kyle has to solve his own problems. She urges Sarah to accept that it’s not her problem either and then removes herself from the conversation. It’s an understandable if cold reaction in the midst of a stressful time but it may set up a shift in Lana’s priorities that leaves Sarah feeling neglected.
Sarah definitely feels neglected in her relationship with Jordan. She tries to speak to him about it early in the episode and asks him if he’s being distant because she’s spending more time with Aubrey. We as the audience know what is diverting Jordan’s attention but from Sarah’s point of view it looks like he’s avoiding her and shutting her out. That’s what he’s doing but not for the reasons she thinks. Kyle helps her gain perspective on this through acknowledging failing to put Lana first and understanding that she should have been his priority. Sarah takes that advice and confronts Jordan with it before ending their relationship because of his inability to make her a priority or trust her with whatever he’s going through. From one point of view it’s unfair of her to expect to be trusted with family secrets that aren’t Jordan’s place to tell but that’s easy to understand as the passive audience member who sees the full picture where Sarah is missing key details. The end of their relationship isn’t as impactful as it could have been but that comes with the lack of focus on it over the season as with other elements. Despite that it was believable to have it lead to this point and Sarah being proactive in confronting the issues once again comes from established traits for her.
The fallout of it leads to a really nice moment between Jordan and Lois where Jordan openly states he doesn’t know what to do in the wake of this. Lois’ advice is that heartache sometimes just has to be felt. It’s harsh and the last thing that Jordan wants to hear but equally it’s exactly what he needs to hear because he needs to understand that people can remove themselves from your life for their own reasons and there’s nothing that can be done about it no matter how much you might want to. It’s not easy to accept but it’s one of those unfortunate truths that comes with life experience.
Unfortunate truths feed into Sarah and Kyle’s interactions. They are all about finding that new normal in their lives and accepting that things may be forever changed for them. Kyle’s apartment is the perfect visual representation of his mindset. He has nothing more than he needs because he considers it to be a temporary situation that will end with him going back to his family. Sarah’s conversation with Lana leads her down the path of believing that the breakdown in this marriage might be permanent and that the family will have to adapt to that. Kyle has to accept that he may never get to go home again so will have to redefine the parameters of his relationship with his daughters. Sarah takes the lead on finding a new baseline for the father/daughter relationship and helping Kyle sort his life out. It’s an unconventional position for the daughter to be put in but it makes sense in context because Kyle has never been someone who has a firm grasp on his own life so needs that guidance. He is motivated to let Sarah help him out of the shame of her having to see him live like that. He’ll be a better person because of her which is all the motivation he needs. Sarah also needs that support as evidenced by her coming to stay with him in the wake of breaking up with Jordan. Lana isn’t equipped to give her that support at this time -or at least that’s what Sarah thinks- so she goes to Kyle who is fully willing to support her through this and champions the decision she made. Sarah also needs to feel the heartache and she doesn’t want to do so alone.
Feeling heartache comes into the Natalie and John story. Natalie is frustrated with John as from her point of view he seems to have completely forgotten losing their Lois. There are a number of moments from Natalie’s emotional perspective such as when John fails to see the significance in her attempt to make breakfast. He shrugs it off because they’ll be able to eat at Lana’s campaign headquarters but this upsets Natalie because on the anniversary of her mother’s death she is trying to follow her waffle recipe as a way to honour her and John fails to pick up on this. Natalie is in intense emotional pain because she is struggling to deal with this anniversary and John failing to acknowledge the significance of the date is making it worse. From her perspective he flirts with Lana which seems like a betrayal of her mother’s memory. Sarah tries to help her by organising a celebration of her mother’s life from her own heritage but Natalie can’t indulge in that because showing Sarah a photo of her Lois will invite too many questions. She feels isolated in her grief and John being do dismissive takes away the one outlet she might have.
She eventually confronts him and he talks about trying to move on with his life. He makes the point that doing so doesn’t diminish Lois’ memory because life goes on in the wake of grief and people have to find a new normal. John has been living with this a lot longer than Natalie as from her perspective the loss is very recent since she spent a lot of time in stasis where John has gone through an arc and started to process his feelings. He does admit that he hasn’t handled things in exactly the right way and has ignored the anniversary by keeping himself too busy to really think about it. The beauty of this disagreement is that neither side is right or wrong in their approach because everyone handles it differently. The truth is somewhere in the middle and they have to work together to find it but they are in very different places. John has made the mistake of assuming that Natalie has the inner strength necessary to roll with the punches and handle this but she’s struggling and needs his support. Seeing them come together to celebrate their Lois’ life by watching the video of Natalie’s first moments of life together is heart-warming and the earlier scene where John allows himself to feel the loss by revisiting that video alone is heartbreaking. The complications created through the lack of communication between them is wonderfully portrayed and highlights the complexities of grief.
The action piece of the episode is designed to show Jordan’s growth as a hero though other characters feed into it. Being seen by John prompts Jonathan to advise him to confess to Lois on his own terms because it’ll be worse if she finds out through someone else. This plays out more or less as anyone might expect with Lois becoming angry and concerned. She is less than pleased with Sam for training him and keeping that from her while also being angry with Jordan for keeping secrets. This leads to a very understandable argument where Jordan stands by his actions because the time has come where he is needed since Clark is gone with no indication when -or if- he will return. Sam constantly encouraging Jordan to listen to Lois and not push too hard is amusing while also feeding into the regrets he has around his own failures as a father This represents another wedge in his relationship with Lois who is struggling with most of her family keeping things from her. Lois’ point about Jordan being young and therefore not ready to be carrying out heroics is a strong point though perhaps a little overprotective. Jordan has the chance to prove himself when he rescues them and shows how naturally he has taken to his training. This leads to Lois furthering her realisation that her kids are growing up and she’s struggling to keep up with the different sorts of problems that come with it. Not having Clark around makes it worse as she has to handle all of this herself.
There is a development of sorts in the Jonathan/Candice relationship. Circumstances mean that Jonathan protecting her is no longer a viable option so he brings her to Sam and Lois after immunity is promised. This reiterates the desperation that motivated her actions though very little is done to actually deepen it. No time is spent on Lois reflecting on that nor does it become a main fixture of the conversation. Her account is a factual one that leads to the operation being brought down along with a promise for Jonathan and Candice to focus on their relationship. No mention is made of how Candice and her father will manage financially now that a major source of income has been destroyed though that may come later. Whether this will support Jonathan getting out of the trouble he’s in remains to be seen.
A strong episode that brilliantly conveys the hopelessness of a world without Superman while delivering excellent characterisation across the different plots. Clark being absent for the entirety of the episode has a significant impact on those close to him as well as the entire world. News reports morbidly describe preventable disasters that Superman would normally prevent and everyone close to Clark sleepwalks through their lives. The episode does an excellent job cultivating a mood and atmosphere of hopelessness which shows the positive influence Clark has on the world by simply being in it. This is done so well that the contrived nature of his disappearance is easy to ignore as is the lack of definitive follow-up on the ending of the previous episode. Lucy disappears but is barely mentioned. The bulk of the episode takes place at the end of the month with the difficulties during that time conveyed through a montage. It makes sense to do it this way but it may have been interesting to spend more time dealing with the early days. There is no main thread in the episode but everything orbits the results of the Mayoral election as every character goes through Lana’s campaign headquarters at one time or another. The plot itself remains uninteresting because little time has been spent building Smallville as a believable community. The town is whatever a given episode needs it to be which means there’s a lack of identity to it. The content surrounding the campaign has been really repetitive up until this point so Lana winning the election will at least force that to change. One moment does stand out. Lana comes across as dismissive of Sarah when he comes to her about Kyle. Her mind is on the election and she is trying to deal with the separation in her own way but she is short with Sarah who is reaching out to her for help and highlighting that Kyle isn’t doing very well. Lana’s reaction is understandable if cold in the midst of a stressful time but it may set up a shift in Lana’s priorities that leaves Sarah feeling neglected. Sarah definitely feels neglected in her relationship with Jordan. She tries to speak to him about it early in the episode but doesn’t get anywhere. We as the audience know what is diverting Jordan’s attention but from Sarah’s point of view it looks like he’s avoiding her and shutting her out. Kyle helps her gain perspective on this through acknowledging failing to put Lana first and understanding that she should have been his priority. Sarah takes that advice and confronts Jordan before ending the relationship because of his inability to prioritise her or trust her with whatever he’s going through. From one point of view it’s unfair of her to expect to be trusted with family secrets that aren’t Jordan’s place to tell but that’s easy to understand as a passive audience member who sees the full picture. The end of the relationship isn’t as impactful as it could have been due to the lack of overall focus but it’s believable to have it lead to this point and Sarah being proactive in dealing with it comes from her established traits. The fallout of this leads to a nice moment between Jordan and Lois where Lois advises him that heartache sometimes just has to be felt and there’s no actual way of fixing things. It’s an unfortunate truth that comes with life experience.
Unfortunate truths feed into Sarah and Kyle’s interactions. Both have to accept that things may be forever changed and they have to work towards finding their new normal. Kyle’s apartment is the perfect visual representation of his mindset. He has nothing more than he needs because he sees it as a temporary situation that will end with him going back to his family. Sarah takes the lead on finding the new baseline for their relationship and helping Kyle sort his life out. It’s an unconventional position for a daughter to be put in but it makes perfect sense in context. Kyle is motivated out of the shame of Sarah seeing him live like that. Sarah comes to him for support in the wake of her relationship with Jordan ending because it appears that Lana is too busy to give her that. Sarah also needs to feel the heartache and Kyle will support her with that. Feeling heartache also comes into the John and Natalie story. Natalie is frustrated with John as he seems to have forgotten losing their Lois. She is convinced of that after he fails to see the significance in her attempt to make breakfast. This upsets Natalie because it looks to her that he has forgotten the anniversary of their Lois’ death. It’s far more raw for her since it happened more recently from her perspective due to being in stasis for so long. John has gone through an arc and started to process his feelings but Natalie is very much at the beginning of that. She is in intense emotional pain and feels isolated because John seems to have forgotten and she can’t even look for support elsewhere as showing a photo of her mother to anyone else would invite too many questions. John does eventually admit that he has been keeping himself busy to avoid thinking about it. He has wrongly assumed that Natalie has the inner strength to cope with this but comes to understand that she needs support. The beauty of the disagreement is that neither side is right or wrong in their approach as everyone handles it differently. The truth is somewhere in the middle and seeing them come together to celebrate Lois’ life is heart-warming. The action piece of the episode is designed to show Jordan’s growth as a hero though other characters feed into it. Jordan telling Lois the truth about his heroic exploits plays out more or less as anyone would expect. The argument is understandable and complex with Jordan standing by his actions. Sam encouraging him to listen to Lois is amusing while also feeding into his failures as a father. This represents another wedge in his relationship with Lois who is struggling with most of her family keeping things from her. Eventually she does accept that Jordan’s training is going well when he proves himself which furthers the realisation is that she’s having difficulty keeping up with the different problems that come with her kids growing up. Not having Clark around makes this worse. There is a development of sorts in the Jonathan/Candice relationship. Circumstances mean that protecting her is no longer an option which forces her to come out into the open after being promises immunity. This reiterates the desperation but very little is done to deepen it. No mention is made of how Candice and her father will manage financially now that a major source of income has been destroyed though that may come later. Whether this will support Jonathan getting out of the trouble he’s in remains to be seen.
- excellently cultivating the mood and atmosphere of hopelessness in the wake of Clark’s absence
- Sarah being proactive in addressing the issues in her relationship with Jordan
- the complex Sarah/Kyle interactions as they support each other and find a new baseline for their relationship
- Lois’ advice to Jordan around heartache needing to be felt being an uncomfortable yet necessary truth
- Natalie’s difficulty dealing with the anniversary of her mother’s death
- the complexity of the Natalie/John conflict around their handling of the anniversary
- an understandable argument around Jordan’s heroics
- furthering Lois struggling to deal with different problems coming with her sons growing up
- repetitive content around the Lana Mayoral campaign
- failing to meaningfully address the cliffhanger from the previous episode
- very little depth to the Jonathan/Candice relationship
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