Superman & Lois – Season 1 Episode 6
Superman & Lois returns from hiatus with more power troubles for Jordan and more underhanded dealings from Morgan Edge.
As the title of the episode suggests this outing is all about trust and it feeds into the majority of the plots being juggled. It’s not an unfamiliar concept within Superman stories as he has always stood for high minded values such as truth and justice -also the American way though that one is often diluted in modern tellings- so it makes sense that it would form a cornerstone of storytelling within this particular show. It’s a very resilient theme that can be explored in a variety of ways as this episode demonstrates.
The main story involves Jordan having issues controlling his powers after being attacked by Tag while lying about it so that he isn’t made to miss an important football match. Jordan’s compulsive need to prove himself to the kids that used to pick on him when he was at school in Metropolis leads to him behaving in less than likeable ways throughout. This show does a great job of making the characters nuanced meaning that their flaws don’t end up defining them. Jordan presents a selfish attitude, ignores clear warning signs and lies to Clark because he has a desire to be accepted. He knows that telling Clark about the glitches he has been experiencing with his powers means that he won’t be able to play football and the most important thing to him right now is playing football because he has gained acceptance and found purpose.
Jordan’s choices are realistically teenage. They are driven by insecurity and they are framed as the wrong choices. His behaviour realistically spirals as the episode progresses with him defying Clark’s instruction to stay in the hotel room to go drinking with his teammates and then not backing down from the Metropolis team picking a fight with him. There is a scene earlier in the episode where Clark teaches him how to channel his strength into a punch which pays off when he uses that same technique when throwing a punch against the one picking a fight with him which shows that he completely missed the point of what Clark was trying to teach him about restraint and control. Clark freely admitted that there was a learning curve on his end too but there’s no denying that he has always been an advocate for how important restraint is.
As always Jonathan works to support Jordan. He notices the glitches and immediately insists that Clark needs to be told about them but Jordan is adamant that he has the situation under control. It’s painfully apparent at that point that he doesn’t but Jonathan backs down anyway because he doesn’t want his brother to think that he doesn’t have his back. He realises that it was a mistake to allow him to continue and is punished for that when he has to get in the way of Jordan’s punch. The result is a broken arm and the very real possibility that his ability to play football is forever compromised.
Jonathan is naturally selfless, supportive and has a good sense of right and wrong. He has made his own mistakes and will continue to do so but tends to be closely aligned to Clark when it comes to understanding what the best course of action is. The brotherly relationship continues to be a strong one though it does mean that Jordan has something of a blind spot as he chooses to ignore his instincts in favour of allowing Jordan to continue even when he knows it’s a bad idea. He’d rather achieve that by helping Jordan realise he needs to be honest with Clark rather than taking that decision from him and damaging their relationship by going behind his back. It’s a difficult situation to be in and having him injured because of how he chooses to manage it is a powerful display of the fact that sometimes bad things just happen despite the best of intentions. There was no right answer but Jonathan was true to himself which is all anyone can really ask of him.
Of course Jordan’s difficulties become known to Clark and there is almost a major incident in the middle of the football game. When a fight breaks out and Jordan is on the ground being attacked by the other team his heat vision almost activates. Clark notices this and tells him to release it so the energy can be safely absorbed. Jordan’s difficulties frame the abilities he has as dangerous as well as being a personal burden rather than an exciting advantage that he can have fun with. Clark absorbing the energy works on the purely surface level detail of safely allowing the release of this energy and also works on a metaphorical level. It highlights the idea that parents can unwittingly pass on their own burdens to their children while also using their experience to help their children bear those burdens. It is well established that Clark never wanted his children to grow up dealing with the complications of super powers as he did but his experience of making them part of his life means that Jordan has the best chance of finding a healthy way to cope with them.
The theme of trust comes through in a discussion Clark has with Jordan about earning trusts. He talks about his early days as Superman and the difficulty he had realising that a lot of people were afraid of what he could do so he had to work hard to show people that he only wanted to help. Clark is also aware that it only takes one mistake to damage that trust possibly to the point that it can never be repaired and every day of his life he was tested to continue being worthy of that trust. This is a lesson that Jordan needs to learn because there will be lots of times in his life where he will be tested and he needs to know how to handle that. He has an unrealistic view of Clark as he sees him as Superman; the man who has control and always has all the answers but Clark opens up about having the same feelings and struggling with them constantly but keeps them in check to live up to that trust he has earned. Clark is able to show Jordan he understands and use the benefit of his own experience to set that example.
This discussion supports the sequence where Clark finds Sarah and Tag that is intercut with the fight that Jordan participates in. Clark is shot with Kryptonite and is shown to be visibly tempted to retaliate. He knows that he could demolish everyone in the room with no effort but he controls himself and keeps the urge in check. This is contrasted by Jordan giving into that same urge to show that he’s at the start of the journey towards understanding the responsibility that comes with super powers where Clark has achieved it and constantly works to practice what he has learned. The intercutting sequence followed by the discussion was a really effective way to make the point while continuing to show Clark’s humanity through constant coverage of the daily struggles he has maintaining the flawless perception of Superman. Jordan was overcome by the memory of being picked on and took the opportunity to get his revenge. It would have landed better had any coverage been given to Jordan and Jonathan’s life in Metropolis beyond the odd mention but what was delivered was incredibly effective.
Trust is further threaded into Clark’s conversation with Sam where they discuss the Kryptonite weapons. Clark’s faith in Sam is visibly shaken because he sees the use of Kryptonite against him as mistrust on Sam’s part. Sam hides behind his duty to protect people by any means necessary which is seen as a cop out response by Clark. There is visible damage done to their relationship over this with Clark no longer feeling that Sam is someone he can trust. It is left unresolved but it’s a promising start to an ongoing conflict that will continue to play out.
Tag’s inclusion in the episode also feeds into the idea of trust. He goes to Sarah because he needs help and trusts her over anyone else. Unfortunately he becomes overwhelmed by his powers and accidentally attacks her. The episode makes it clear that Tag is confused and scared rather than bad which means that Clark doesn’t need to defeat him. What Clark needs to do is reason with him, convince him that he’s there to help and have Tag trust him enough to allow him to provide that help. Tag doesn’t work as a character in his own right because he wasn’t a presence on the show before getting his powers meaning there’s a limited sense of who he is beyond what characters say about him. The tragedy associated with him would be stronger if work was done to establish him prior to this.
Sarah being trustworthy is something that has been firmly established so it’s entirely believable that Tag would reach out to her in a moment of need. Her nature is reinforced through her conversation with Jordan where she directly asks him if he has powers and makes it clear that he can trust her with anything he might want to tell her. She leaves it at that rather than pushing him for information though given her obvious intelligence it’s likely she will either notice things that happen after this or rethink what she has already seen in order to draw different conclusions. Sarah isn’t the type to exploit that information but she now has the opportunity to see Jordan in a different light which could naturally lead her to figuring out Clark’s secret.
Jordan lying to her about having powers has consequences that manifest almost immediately. Being dishonest with her is a tangible example of some of the lessons Clark has been trying to teach him around the weight of responsibility that comes with his powers. At first they seemed purely advantageous as they allowed him to find purpose but now he is finding that he is forced to push people away because it’s too dangerous to be honest with them. It’s incredibly isolating especially for someone like Jordan with major emotional issues and he breaks down in Lois’ arms when really considering what that means. It’s a beautifully tragic moment that ends with a powerful mother/son connection right before his powers glitch to the point that he’s completely overwhelmed prompting Clark to rush him to the fortress. It reinforces the weight of that burden and Jordan’s current lack of control while continuing the idea that the powers are dangerous.
Trust also comes into Lois’ interactions with Luthor who is still posing as a journalist. That cover story doesn’t work for very long as Lois very quickly picks up on cues that “Marcus” isn’t who he says he is. Luthor does show her the X-Kryptonite which tells her why Edge is so interested in Smallville but there’s a lot about him that doesn’t add up and she’s less than inclined to trust him. This shows how keen Lois’ instincts are and it’s good that she isn’t strung along by Luthor for very long as it’s consistent with how intelligent she has been shown to be. At the moment Luthor largely remains a plot delivery mechanism without much depth to him which brings this plot down slightly but the focus on Lois’ suspicions helps to mitigate that to some degree.
Her friendship with Lana also ties into the theme of trust in a couple of ways. The first is when Lois goes to Lana and Kyle to warn them about Edge. This is something she does frequently but this time it is after she has some proof that he’s up to no good. It plays out in the same way it always does with Kyle reacting to her assertions with hostility because he has fully bought into Edge being a positive force in Smallville. He’s right in the sense that jobs have been created with people having the opportunity to get back to work and dig them out of poverty. Kyle sees that as an unquestionable positive though he’s blinded to the corruption associated with it because he is entirely focused on the welfare of the community. Lois’ fear is that they’ll come to see the truth too late and by then Smallville will be beyond saving.
Lana comes around to Lois’ way of thinking after seeing what happened to Tag and connecting it to the mines. She wants to know more and she wants to understand the point Lois is making. Their friendship has been handled well enough for it to be believable that Lana would listen to reason here. Kyle is another story and Lana thinks it’ll be better to keep him in the dark until more proof exists. Lana and Kyle’s tempestuous relationship remains interesting in that they find common ground again only for Lana to decide that deceiving him is the best course of action for now. This suggests a lack of total trust in their marriage which tracks with what has been shown before. There’s plenty of drama to be mined -pun intended- from this.
As before, Morgan Edge still fails to be a character. He has a lot of influence in the show and appears in a number of scenes in order to hammer home that he is not to be trusted but there’s very little to say about him as a person. His motivation remains unclear and he has limited personality. If he is to be the main antagonist for the season then more needs to be done to makes his presence meaningful and flesh out his character beyond what he does.
A strong episode that expertly threads the theme of trust through the different plots, provides a great development opportunity for Jordan and continues to showcase Clark’s humanity. Jordan’s difficulties with his powers tie into the issues he continually deals with. Refusing to be honest about the glitches comes from a place of insecurity and has him behave selfishly. The nuances in his character prevent his flaws from being his defining trait and his choices are framed as the wrong ones. Jonathan is as supportive as always and is punished for putting his trust in Jordan’s judgement by having his arm broken in a way that might permanently hinder his football career. Clark is able to relate to Jordan’s struggle by opening up to him about experiencing the same feelings of anger and temptation while also highlighting that he has learned to keep them in check because he earned the trust of the people and understands how little it will take to damage it. This is a lesson Jordan needs to learn and the intercutting between Clark resisting the temptation to retaliate after being attacked by Kryptonite and Jordan giving into the urge to hit a bully punctuates that point perfectly. Seeing Clark struggle with the same urge once again showcases his humanity. Sarah being trustworthy feeds into the Tag story when he comes to her looking for help. He naturally trusts her but accidentally hurts her because he can’t control his powers. Tag is firmly established as scared and confused rather than bad which means he needs to be reasoned with rather than defeated which Clark manages to do. Tag doesn’t work as a character in his own right due to a lack of attention on him prior to getting powers. Sarah’s approachability is further noted when she assures Jordan he can trust her with anything he is keeping hidden. She doesn’t push him but she’s also intelligent and may start to come to different conclusions with the idea that Jordan has powers in her head.
Jordan lying to Sara has consequences that manifest almost immediately. This reinforces the idea of the powers as a burden and supports Jordan’s existing emotional issues perfectly. At first having powers was wholly positive for him as he found purpose but now he’s seeing the drawbacks as they are preventing them from being close to others. His breakdown in Lois’ arms is a truly powerful moment of mother/son connection. The subsequent glitch Jordan experiences reinforces the idea that the powers are dangerous. Trust as a theme comes into Lois interactions with Luthor. He remains less than defined as a character but focusing on Lois being suspicious of him helps to mitigate some of that while making great use of her established intelligence rather than having her be strung along by him. Lana and Lois’ friendship is used to explore this theme in a couple of ways. The first is when Lois goes to them to warn them about edge and it plays out as it usually does with Kyle blinded by the fact he is creating jobs in Smallville. The experience with Tag encourages Lana to come around to Lois’ way of thinking though she opts to keep that from Kyle until there’s more evidence. This ties into the fractured nature of their relationship and a lack of trust within it leaving plenty of drama to be mined in the coming episodes. Edge remains problematic as there’s no character there beyond “shady CEO”. He has no personality and his motivations are very unclear. To make him a more interesting antagonist work will need to be done to flesh him out as a presence.
- the nuance of Jordan’s character preventing him being defined by his flaws
- his decisions being framed as selfish and wrong
- Jonathan acting as a supportive presence and being faced with difficult choices
- tangible consequences for Jonathan’s decision to trust Jordan to handle the glitches in his powers
- Jordan learning a hard lesson about the burden of his powers
- Clark opening up to him about the anger and temptation he experiences
- punctuating Clark’s point by contrasting his choice to not give into his urge while Jordan indulges his
- humanising Clark by highlighting he does struggle with anger and temptation
- a powerful moment of mother/son connection when Jordan breaks down
- adding to the idea of the powers being a dangerous burden with the ending
- Sarah’s trustworthy nature feeding naturally into the Tag plot
- her conversation with Jordan where she makes it clear she can be trusted but doesn’t push him
- Lois being suspicious of Luthor and acting on it rather than being strung along
- great use of the Lana/Lois friendship
- the lack of context regarding Jordan and Jonathan’s prior life in Metropolis weakening that aspect of the episode
- Tag not working as a character due to only being prominently featured after gaining powers
- Luthor being more of a plot delivery mechanism than a character
- Morgan Edge having no depth beyond what the plot needs of him
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