Superman & Lois – Season 3 Episode 7
“Forever and Always”
Superman & Lois deals with planning for an uncertain future as different characters take stock of how their lives are changing.
For many, this will be a difficult season of Superman & Lois to watch. Its complex handling of such an emotive subject will doubtlessly be triggering to a chunk of the audience. There is a conscious effort on the part of those making the show to deliver a human story that pulls no punches while maintaining the fantastical superhero elements alongside it. Offering something for audiences to connect to on an emotional level grounds the superhero action and helps add a layer of reality to the show.
Mileage may vary on the approach being taken as the superhero elements are very much in the background at this point while the focus is on dealing with the cancer using human medical science so those looking for more action/adventure might be left wanting. Clark doesn’t become Superman at all in this episode and -outside of a brief visit to the Fortress, conversations about Kryptonian technology and a display of powers in a flashback- there is no representation of the “Superman” in “Superman & Lois”. To me, that isn’t a weakness as it indicates the most important narrative for the show at this time is the human story and the action/adventure elements will gain more prominence at a later time.
Part of what makes the human story so engaging is that multiple angles are being covered with the attention shifting between them as the episodes progress. This prevents repetition and shows the scale of the impact of the cancer. The person suffering from it is important but those around them have their own challenges that are also important. Jonathan and Jordan receive attention in this episode having realised that there’s more going on than they’ve been told. They go to the Fortress to ask the hologram of Lara if Kryptonian technology can do anything to help Lois. They’re told it’s unlikely and the questions become demands which highlights that hope has given way to desperation for them. Jordan is more measured but Jonathan thinks it’s worth the risk of trying as human medical science also carries a high risk so he feels that there’s nothing to lose.
Jonathan is unwilling to listen to anything countering his point of view no matter how valid those counters are. Lara and Clark both tell him it’s too risky and that humans aren’t strong enough to endure the stress of Kryptonian technology but Jonathan insists that it’s something they should try as it doesn’t make sense not to use the advanced alien tech at their disposal. This is an extreme response to the fear of losing his mother and is one example of the spiral he needs to be helped out of. The next is when he goes through Lois’ documents and finds the end-of-life preparations she has put in place. The conclusion he draws from this is that Lois is going to die and they have lied about that out of a desire to protect their children from the truth.
The reality is that Lois and Clark have been misguided in their handling of this. It’s entirely understandable as it’s new territory for everyone and their default instinct is to protect their children. They haven’t considered it from a rational point of view and the consequence is that one of their sons spirals because he senses that they aren’t being forthcoming. The lesson is learned and they bring their sons up to speed in order to temper the passionate reaction playing out. Being calm and rational is enough for Jonathan to slow down and think about his behaviour before opting to recalibrate.
There are some interesting things to unpack from this. Jonathan specifically refers to Clark -and by extension Jordan- as Kryptonian in contrast to him and Lois being Human. He puts up a partition within the family and labels himself as a helpless human that has to deal with the reality of the world around them. As was explored in the previous episode, there are certain things that Clark can never truly understand due to his invulnerability. Jordan will likely come to think along those lines as well once he fully internalises what he’s capable of. Jonathan’s point is that he feels vulnerable because he has no powers and feels a strong connection to Lois because she is the other unpowered one in the family. Clark is quick to make it clear that there’s no division within the family. As far as he’s concerned, being powerless doesn’t make Jonathan any less Kryptonian than his brother just as having powers doesn’t make Jordan any less human.
Jonathan clearly sees the powers as being the basis of a divide and Clark wants to put a stop to that. Part of it is ensuring Jonathan is aware that he has as much right to explore his Kryptonian heritage as Jordan does which makes his questions about using Kryptonian science to cure Lois a valid one. Clark’s belief is that using that resource for selfish reasons wouldn’t be fair on the rest of the world. As Superman, Clark holds himself to a high standard so won’t take advantage of something that he can’t use to benefit everyone else. He also sees sharing the technology as too much of a risk considering the current state of the world. His stance is that they have to handle the cancer as any human being would.
It’s certainly a noble stance but he’s also ignoring a potentially viable way of getting out of this situation. One possible reading is that Clark is willing to sacrifice Lois in order to uphold his principles which is a complicated notion. On one hand, it shows that Clark is fully committed to the values he presents as Superman and won’t compromise them even if doing so can save the person he loves the most. Another perspective is that letting someone die for the sake of his principles is selfish and arguably not his choice to make. In this case, that argument isn’t currently represented because Lois is on the same page. They also have the benefit of hope at this point so Clark’s resolve hasn’t been tested by the desperation created by the inevitability of Lois’ death. That test may come but for now, Clark has the benefit of knowing it’s not something he has to consider at this time.
Clark’s reluctance to use and share Kryptonian tech calls back to Bruno Mannheim accusing him as Superman of not doing enough. There’s no denying that Clark could be doing more to protect and improve humanity. He could do things like end Wars overnight and use his powers to force positive change by threatening consequences if world leaders don’t adhere to his vision of a peaceful world. That approach would be in opposition to his values as he would be unilaterally deciding what’s best for humanity and using the threat of retaliation to force the world to conform to that but there’s an argument to be made that it would be a good world to live in regardless of whether it was under duress. Sharing Kryptonian tech is a different idea but it comes under the same banner as introducing it would accelerate development without it being earned by humanity. It’d be another example of Clark forcing humanity to develop under given lines. Clark is here to help but refuses to influence the development of humanity. All he’s willing to do is set an example and hope that people decide to follow it.
An entire debate could be had about whether Clark is forcing his values on humanity and influencing their development by preventing disasters or saving people from accidents. the latter may be slowing progress on ways to combat them as the world has become dependent on Superman dealing with them. The morality of Superman isn’t an easy subject and this show is avoiding it for now though it’s not necessarily relevant at this point. If and when Lois’ illness escalates then this show should embrace the opportunity to fully explore everything that surrounds this especially with Bruno Mannheim being ideally placed to present him with those difficult questions. One is posed in this episode when he turns Clark’s question about desperation back on him and encourages him to consider how far he would go to save Lois. This connects to the desperation that the twins are experiencing while suggesting a possible future for Clark.
Bruno Mannheim continues to be a complex presence on the show and he is afforded further depth in the flashbacks detailing the beginning of his relationship with Peia combined with the start of his campaign to improve his neighbourhood. The flashbacks reinforce that he has a genuine desire to eradicate cancer and turn his neighbourhood into a prosperous community. In private he has resolved the question of how far he’s willing to go to achieve his goals and protect those he cares about while publicly presenting a carefully cultivated persona with perfectly covered tracks meaning that no criminal activity can be traced back to him. Outwardly he’s an uncompromising businessman whose achievements come from the right investments and business decisions. He acts as if he has nothing to hide because everything is so carefully hidden. His interview with Clark highlights that confidence and shows how well-practised he is in dealing with challenges.
In the flashbacks, he is beginning a power struggle against the absent Lex Luthor to be given control of his neighbourhood. He is committed to digging his community out of the crime and poverty that has consumed it for so long and feels that he has practical ways to do that. It’s clear he was right based on his success in the present day but seeing him in the early days when he didn’t have the power he currently commands was a nice touch. Connecting the control of his neighbourhood to beginning his relationship with Peia created a neat emotional grounding. Winning Peia’s heart is indelibly connected to taking control of his neighbourhood and Peia using her power to attack those who oppose him is a striking display of the strength of their relationship. This development didn’t come across as clearly as it could have but it’s interesting to see an example of Bruno Mannheim coming from a position of weakness and engineering a scenario where he commands strength.
Lois and Peia’s friendship is another aspect of the show that is compelling and complex. The reveal that Peia is behind Onomatopeia’s mask and in a relationship with Bruno Mannheim in the previous episode colours her interactions with Lois in this one. Lois becomes suspicious of her and tugs on the threads of the things that don’t add up about her connection to Mannheim based on the information she has. Peia doesn’t appreciate being interrogated by Lois, partly because she is getting close to the truth but also because she sees it as a betrayal of their friendship. Lois comes to doubt her instincts and considers the possibility that she is seeing conspiracies where none exist which leads her to apologise to Peia. She talks about her difficulty making friends and tells Peia she wants them to be more than acquaintances who connect over having cancer. This develops when Peia reveals her marriage to Bruno Mannheim because she considers Lois a friend and feels guilty about lying to her. It’s a great conversation as it involves both parties allowing themselves to be vulnerable and declare their desire to be friends with no conditions.
This alters Lois’ perception of Bruno Mannheim to a large degree as she now sees him as a devoted husband committed to saving his wife’s life as well as helping those in a similar position. There is more to come as Bruno Mannheim is involved in the experiments he is being accused of running and Peia is a weapon he uses to attack those who oppose him. At some point, Lois and Clark will find themselves in opposition to Peia and that’s something they will have to deal with. It’s a compelling connection that raises the stakes in a deeply personal way.
Things aren’t exactly what they seem elsewhere as shown in Natalie’s relationship with Matteo. The reveal that he is Bruno and Peia’s son comes at the end of the episode and is disappointing so far as it makes the world the show inhabits that much smaller. It’s also a disappointingly predictable development following the repeated paranoia directed at Matteo who is regarded as suspicious because of his interest in Natalie. Of course, being related to Bruno and Peia may be nothing more than a coincidence and his desire to get close to Natalie is simply due to him being attracted to her. He may be a bystander in all of this who will have to deal with the baggage that will come into play when Bruno learns that his son is dating the daughter of the alternate universe counterpart of John Henry Irons. It could result in a Romeo & Juliet type setup as their relationship comes between their warring parents. Matteo’s apparent ignorance of his father’s connection to John suggests that it’s simply a coincidence which allows Matteo to be entirely genuine but for now it seems like an unnecessary link when there’s already plenty of potential for compelling drama with the other elements that are in play.
Outside of that, John dealing with his teenage daughter having a boyfriend makes for a well-executed and relatable plot. He is a father who wants to protect his daughter and is wary of the boy from Metropolis pursuing a relationship with his daughter. His concern results in him making mistakes in the way he goes about assessing any threat that Matteo represents which ends up upsetting Natalie. Lana helps him gain perspective and consider the possibility that Matteo might be a nice boy who cares about his daughter. He is also encouraged to consider Natalie’s judgement and trust that he has raised a daughter who is a good judge of character. It’s always possible that her judgement is impaired by hormones and emotions but John has to learn that she is intelligent and capable so wouldn’t enter into a relationship without assessing the person she is entering into a relationship with. If her judgement was compromised and it turns out she was wrong about him then that’s a lesson she needs to learn but John has to accept that those decisions are hers to make and he shouldn’t be overprotective.
Ultimately he admits he was wrong and declares his intention to give Matteo the benefit of the doubt. This will surely be tested once he learns who Matteo’s father is but the arc he follows where he learns to overcome his shortcomings after some practical advice from Lana works really well and is in line with John’s established traits. A father struggling to deal with the fact that his daughter is growing up and starting to build her own life and connections is a very grounded story, especially with John being a single father with no partner to help him through it.
Lana may be able to help John deal with his issues but she is having difficulty with her new normal. She now knows that Kyle has started a relationship with Chrissy so seems to have moved on but she’s still stuck in the aftermath of the divorce as a single mother who prioritises work. It hits home when she sees Sarah bonding with Chrissy and opens up to Sarah about her perception that everyone else has moved on since the divorce while she’s stuck in the past. Sarah’s point of view is that it’s more about acknowledging the present rather than moving on which is informed advice on her part as she begins the episode being hostile to Chrissy. She disapproved of her relationship with Kyle partly because of the age difference and partly because she feels uncomfortable with her father finding someone else so quickly.
This causes her to see Chrissy in an unflattering light initially but after silencing that urge and spending time with her they find some common ground. This informs her advising Lana that they all essentially have to deal with life as it is rather than considering themselves to be at points on a timeline. It’s good advice that gives Lana something to think about and encourages her to let off fireworks as a statement of her desire to take control of her life. Lingering in the background is a possibility of a romantic pairing with John based on their interactions. The show’s commitment to developing these sorts of stories with no current connection to the Bruno Mannheim plot is encouraging but having everything else so neatly connected is somewhat troubling. Of course, the caveat is that it might all work when the bigger picture is revealed but for now, there are too many coincidences. At least those coincidences don’t undermine the strength of the storytelling.
A strong episode that continues to explore the complexity of Lois’ cancer diagnosis while adding further depth to Bruno Mannheim and presenting compelling background moral questions to consider.
- Jonathan’s emotional spiral highlighting the impact a cancer diagnosis has on those connected to the one suffering from it
- Jonathan assuming a divide in his family between those with powers and those without
- Clark relating to Jonathan and making it clear no such divide exists
- Clark’s views on the use of Kryptonian tech for personal gain and in the grander global context
- using flashbacks to add further depth to Bruno Mannheim by showing him in a more vulnerable position
- connecting winning Peia’s heart to gaining control of his neighbourhood
- the progression of Lois and Peia’s friendship and the associated complications that will come from this development once more truths are revealed
- John dealing with Natalie being in a relationship and the mistakes he makes as he works to process it
- his dynamic with Lana as she offers him practical advice
- Lana acknowledging her difficulty accepting her new normal when Kyle is already in a new relationship
- Sarah’s initial hostility towards Chrissy and their subsequent bonding setting her up to give Lana practical advice about handling life
- Matteo being Bruno and Peia’s son being one coincidence too many
- the mechanics of Bruno seizing control of his neighbourhood in the flashbacks not coming across as clearly as they should
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