Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 10
“Bizarros in a Bizarro World”
Supeman & Lois moves the setting to Bizarro World -or Htrea- to detail Clark’s experiences in the strange alternate take on his own reality.
The previous episode showed how the people around Clark -and to a lesser extent the world as a whole- would deal with his absence. On a high level everyone experienced a loss of hope and a general listlessness due to the lack of that positive influence. This episode plays with a similar but also entirely different idea -highly appropriate for an episode set in Bizarro World/Htrea-; how environmental factors influence what people become.
Clark is the point of view character to provide common sense grounding on the alternate reality. It’s a strange and unsettling place but the general approach isn’t radically different to the various depictions of other universes seen in the Arrowverse so far. The production design is excellent with impressive details such as cube shaped billiard balls along with a cube shaped planet, backwards lettering everywhere and even a steering wheel on the right-hand side. Most of the characters looked different enough while still being recognisable. Outside of the cube shaped planet and billiard balls along with the red sun it’s a world that’s a lot like the prime reality but with many things askew.
A great example of that is Bizarro World’s version of Clark -or Kal as he’s known there-. He is still Superman -who goes by Kal-El- but his approach is radically different. Nothing is known about his background but it’s clear he wasn’t raised with the same values Clark was so he has a far looser sense of responsibility. His biggest concern is around Kal-El as a brand and the public perception of the family. He ignores a dangerous situation in favour of taking photos with fans and when Bizarro Jonathan -hereafter all Bizarro versions will be referred to without the Bizarro prefix for simplicity- manifests powers, Kal works on cultivating an image around the father/son hero duo which further illustrates that his priorities are far different than those of Clark. He’s a character that wouldn’t be out of place on The Boys even though he’s far less extreme than his counterpart Homelander.
The episode loosely divides itself into chapters with Clark’s experience in Bizarro World propelling the narrative. before cutting to the perspective of another character to flesh out the finer details. Jonathan, Anderson and Tal-Rho receive their own title cards. It makes sense in the case of the first two though as the episode sets up questions that require answers but the Tal-Rho interlude makes less sense as his contribution was far less significant. Seeing Kal and Tal-Rho as such close brothers -however brief- worked well and pays off nicely when Tal lets Clark go because of his resemblance to his brother. The relationship was set up as something he valued which made his change of heart believable. it’s very much the bare minimum of character work but it’s enough to accomplish what it needs to. Apparently rushed development for Tal is a constant in every universe. The pacing does suffer from the flashback chapter approach as momentum is lost when flashing back to earlier events.
Jonathan getting powers is the direct opposite to Jordan getting powers and there’s a hint of the envy coming from the other direction though Jordan is very much a background player without any character to speak of beyond jealousy and worrying about his father. One thing that remains the same is Jonathan feeling like he’s in his father’s shadow. He calls Kal out on everything revolving around him with the key difference being that in this world that is actually the case and Kal seems to genuinely believe that everything his family does should be in service of him. Like the prime universe version of Jonathan, this one looks for something that can be identifiably his which leads him to Ally.
Kal does eventually realise the error of his ways when he loses everything. Lois leaves him and takes Jordan with her when Jonathan turns from him. Very little time is spent creating a sense of Kal and Lois’ relationship but this one scene shows it to be very different to the one we’re used to. Kal is self-absorbed and arrogant which has clearly contributed to his family turning away from him. It’s possible that Lois is less supportive as well though there isn’t enough information to draw a conclusion one way or another. A general problem with this episode is that it provides the highlights of life in Bizarro World without the detail so context clues have to be used in order to fill in the gaps. For the most part it’s enough for what the episode looks to achieve but the lack of detail is evident.
The highlights approach becomes a problem at points. Kal’s realisation that he made very bad choices in life and his desire to make things right is the most glaring. He appears with his distorted face detailing his regret with his physical deterioration acting as a clear representation of that. In Bizarro World green Kryptonite makes him stronger but the cumulative effect is the physical damage it does to him. This explains why he looks the way he does in the earlier episodes and how he got to the point of crossing over. The problem is that it’s rushed. Kal hitting rock bottom is only shown in a brief scene between him and Tal, the Kryptonite use is referenced but never detailed and the cumulative damage is only shown in that one scene rather than it gradually chipping away at his physical appearance. Detailing all of this in the confines of a single episode is definitely a limitation.
Other aspects suffer such as both versions of Ally. Bizarro Ally’s world domination is mentioned and the growth of her movement occupies the background but nothing more is known about her than was established in earlier episodes. Once again there’s only so much time in a single episode but perhaps taking more time to explore Bizarro World would have been to the show’s benefit. Both Ally’s believe that in order to be whole the Prime and Bizarro versions of a person have to merge. Tal suggests that it may not be such a bad idea as everyone is incomplete in some way and suggests the separation of the two versions might be the reason for that. It’s not something that is taken seriously or explored in any way but it’s the narrative used by both versions of Ally.
What the episode fails to do is characterise Bizarro Ally. Prime Ally has been established to a degree so even a scene of them realising where they differ might have been interesting though the lack of that kind of coverage makes it easier to accept the merging at face value since no doubt is created over the loss of two unique individuals where they are concerned. It can be extrapolated through the portrayal of the other Bizarro versions but where Ally is concerned it’s all about the threat of the merging. Clark is told early on that she will become the most powerful being on the planet which sets up the danger of allowing that to happen. What power she will command remains unknown but that will definitely be elaborated on in subsequent episodes. For the purposes of this episode all that needs to be known is that she succeeds and that represents a significant threat.
Another problem -as always- is Anderson. He achieves redemption of a sort when he comes to realise that he was wrong about Clark and that the secrecy was in service of protecting his family. His minutes were numbered when he learned Clark’s secret and he gets a hard lesson in humility when Clark forgives him for everything he’s done. It doesn’t work as a redemption for Anderson as he only changes his mind once he has appropriate context to facilitate that change. This suggests he previously saw Superman as an asset rather than a person so him realising that he was misguided in that assumption doesn’t exactly qualify as growth. On Clark’s end it reinforces his values as he believes anyone can be saved but it does little for Anderson because his character continues to suit the needs of the scene. Not all antagonists need to be redeemed and his noble sacrifice fails to have the emotional impact as a result. Anderson represented a missed opportunity and the closure of his arc reflects that.
Other omissions stand out such as the omission of Lucy Lane. The prime version mentioned that she saw her other self so some sort of indication of her role in Bizarro World might have made for an interesting addition, particularly with Lois and Sam present. In many ways Lucy has been the catalyst for this plot and what she has to offer remains unresolved though there’s still plenty of season left to cover that.
Another thing that stands out is the time differential. Clark spends what appears to be a few hours in Bizarro World but was established to be gone for a month in the previous episode. Dimensional travel could account for this but in order for the overall story to hang together the timelines should be synced. Perhaps this will be explained but it stands out here because of the very deliberate choice to tell a story about Clark and Superman being absent for a month.
The ending expands on the ending of the previous one while making use of the extra knowledge watching this episode brings; namely around the function of the pendants. Bizarro Jonathan on Prime Earth following the reveal that he’s a villain coming face to face with Prime Jonathan makes for a tense ending. An open question remains around what Jonathan saw when Ally subjected him to her tea but the threat of him merging with Prime Jonathan presents the perfect opportunity to explore that
A good episode that delivers an impressive look at Bizarro World and its characters while adding important context to the ongoing plot. The production design is excellent and the recognisable elements being askew are deployed well. Bizarro aka Kal is a great example of that. He is still Superman but his approach is radically different. Since he wasn’t raised with the same values he has a far looser sense of responsibility. His biggest concern is around Kal-El as a brand and the perception of his family. He ignores a dangerous situation in favour of taking photos with fans and works on cultivating a father/son hero duo image when Jonathan’s power’s manifest. The episode loosely divides itself into chapters with Clark’s experience propelling the narrative before cutting to the perspective of another character. Jonathan, Anderson and Tal-Rho receive their own title cards but the Tal interlude makes less sense as his contribution was far less significant. Seeing Tal-Rho and Kal as such close brothers worked well and pays off nicely when Tal lets Clark go. The chapter approach does upset the flow of the story as momentum is lost when flashing back. Jonathan getting powers is the direct opposite of Jordan and there’s a hint of the envy coming from the other direction. One thing that remains the same is Jonathan feeling like he’s in his father’s shadow with the key difference of Kal seeming to genuinely believe that everything his family does should be in service of him. Like the prime universe version of Jonathan, this one looks for something that can be identifiably his which leads him to Ally.
Kal does eventually realise the error of his ways when he loses everything. Very little time is spent creating a sense of the Kal/Lois relationship but this one scene shows it to be different to the one we’re used to. Kal is self-absorbed and arrogant which has clearly contributed to his family turning away from him. A general problem in the episode is that it provides the highlights of life in Bizarro World without the detail so context clues have to be used to fill in the gaps. The highlights approach becomes a problem at points. Kal’s realisation that he made very bad choices in life and his desire to make things right is the most glaring. He appears with the distorted face brought on by prolonged Kryptonite use to increase his powers. This explains why he looks the way he does in the earlier episodes and how he got to the point of crossing over. The problem is that it’s rushed. Kal hitting rock bottom is only shown in a brief scene between him and Tal, the Kryptonite use is referenced but never detailed and the cumulative damage only comes up in one scene. Bizarro Ally is another problem as she isn’t shown to be different from Prime Ally. Nothing more is learned about her beyond what was previously established. Merging the two Ally’s is set up early on as a threat and the lack of coverage of them as individuals makes it easier to accept the merging at face value but uniqueness is shown in every other Bizarro version so it stands out. Anderson is another problem. He achieves unearned redemption when he comes to realise he was wrong about Clark and Clark forgiving him. The forgiveness makes sense for Clark as a character but Anderson only sees Clark as a person upon realising he has a family so it doesn’t exactly qualify as growth. His noble sacrifice fails to have emotional impact as a result. The ending of the episode is strong. It expands on the events of the previous one through the added context of Bizarro Jonathan being a villain and the purpose of the pendants.
- excellent production design
- presenting familiar elements and ideas that are askew
- Kal as a self-absorbed version of Clark
- the breakdown in his relationship with Jonathan working well
- setting up the threat of Ally and the merging
- only delivering the highlights of the events and not the detail
- Bizarro Ally not being any more developed than she was before
- Anderson’s redemption not working as a development
- the chapter approach upsetting the flow of the story
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