Superman & Lois – Season 1 Episode 4
Superman & Lois deals with the difficulties of juggling conflicting responsibilities as Morgan Edge becomes a more prominent threat.
A common comment in my reviews of this show is that it’s impressive because it manages to spin so many plates without appearing to lose focus on any of the elements at play. This episode cleverly makes that a part of the plot by focusing on Clark’s attention being pulled in many different directions. As Superman he’s powerful and fast but he can still only be in one place at a time which means that he has to make decisions about where his attention should be.
Those decisions impact his life in very different ways. A standing agreement exists between him and Lois that his responsibilities as Superman are the top priority and it’s down to him to make a decision on whether Superman is required in a given situation or if it can be handled without him. The obvious problem with that approach is that it affects his relationship with his sons. This has been explored in abundance over the previous episodes with both of his sons seeing him as something of an absentee father who puts work first over them. Everyone is adjusting to his newfound focus on parenthood so the feelings linger and create a natural resistance to changing that relationship.
One particularly interesting conflict is the one that crops up between Lois and Clark after Clark misses attending the town vote over whether Morgan Edge should be granted ownership of the mines. He is asked to attend because Lois can’t legally compete with her former employer but Clark has no such restrictions so can serve as Lois’ mouthpiece on the matter. He fails to attend which means there’s a side of the debate that goes unrepresented. Clark was involved in a Superman situation at the time and Lois completely understands that he couldn’t attend because of that but she struggles between her rational understanding of that fact and being angry that Clark didn’t prioritise something that was important to her. She tries very hard to present the rational side but Clark pushes her into admitting that she’s upset.
It makes for a really interesting scene as both share the understanding that Superman being needed always comes first but Clark feels bad that he let his wife down and she can’t help feeling that she isn’t high on his priority list especially now that he is focusing more on the twins. This draws parallels between families where a parent is in the emergency services or the military and how that impacts the family dynamic as a whole. In effect Superman is a responsibility that has to take priority because of what he is required to deal with. It doesn’t happen but this could be a point of comparison between Clark and Kyle because as a Firefighter he has likely had uncontrollable events pull him away from his family. Some of the tension in his relationship with Lana could be attributed to that along with the issues their daughters are known to be dealing with. It’s certainly seeded for further exploration as the season progresses.
This conflict does culminate in Clark making time to at least start a romantic evening with Lois to reiterate to her how much she means to him. They barely get started before duty calls and Clark has to go but Lois is content to let him because she understands that Clark is making difficult choices around where to focus his attention and him not being there doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to be. It’s something she always knew but Clark taking the time to make sure she’s aware that he loves her and is devoted to her goes a long way towards making her feel appreciated.
Lois processing her feelings over Clark’s absence at the debate plays out in interesting ways as well. Having her go with drinks with Lana further endears Lana to the audience following the work done in the previous episode to highlight that she wants what is best for Sarah while having no idea how to go about helping her deal with her issues. Lois and Lana are able to have a cathartic alcohol fuelled conversation about what frustrates them about their husbands which makes for a strong character driven moment. Lois gets to vent about priorities and Lana gets the chance to peel away the false image of herself to open up about her feelings. This is something she talked regretfully about in the previous episode and this follow-up shows that she was in dire need of someone to talk to.
It has been well established that Lois and Kyle don’t see eye to eye and by association there was tension between her and Lana because of that. Their time together lets them clear the air massively with Lois pointing out that disagreeing with Kyle doesn’t stop her from respecting his devotion to Smallville. It’s enough to help Lana remember there’s another side to Kyle that she has been unable to see due to their marital issues and leads to a much softer interaction later in the episode. It’s a reminder for her that there are things about him that she loves and there’s a reason she’s with him.
Lana also finds herself on Morgan Edge’s radar when he has a look at her file and sees that she had a lot of academic potential when she was younger. He’s confused as to why she would push that aside in favour of what he considers to be a banal small town life. Lana insists that Smallville is home and that she’s happy there but Morgan Edge thinks only in terms of conquest so keeps pushing the issue while Kyle looks on hanging on every word the saviour of his town has to say. Understandably this causes an argument between Lana and Kyle because he didn’t step in despite how uncomfortable she clearly was but there’s also a suggestion that Lana has regrets that she doesn’t like to think about. Perhaps on some level she feels that she settled for Kyle and could have done so much more with her life. That’s certainly something that Edge is looking to exploit. His mention of having an “eye for talent” at the end of the episode suggests that isn’t the end of his interest in her.
Edge remains an uninteresting villain but there’s a creepy quality to him that works really well. His attendance at the football game early in the episode is quite clearly a stunt to present the appearance of caring about the town and Kyle is too blinded by his desire to have Smallville’s pride restored to see it. Edge never comes across as interested in the town or the people so there’s definite wishful thinking going on where the residents are concerned. Kyle has a point that jobs are needed to restore the town to its former glory and ignoring the obvious problems with what Edge is proposing makes sense on that basis but as a character Edge is more of a catalyst for events rather than a character himself. He’s someone that can make Lana uncomfortable, threaten Lois with legal action, manufacture super powered threats for Superman to face and generally threaten to ruin Smallville through his lack of compassion but there’s still no sense of who he is as a person which makes him more difficult to invest in. He’s very much a discount Lex Luthor after a long line of discount Lex Luthors.
The other villain of the episode, Thaddeus Killgrave (Brendan Fletcher) is underwhelming for other reasons. He is introduced as if he’s a major player that will create significant problems but he’s dismissed and defeated without much thought. Villains of the week are inevitable in superhero shows and many of them will unfortunately be forgettable but this one very much finds himself at the bottom of the pile as far as threats go. The context of it being noticed that Superman’s shift in priorities has been noticed due to his lessened presence in Metropolis is certainly interesting. The problems that creates in terms of intensifying criminal activity in the city as well as necessitating the move of dangerous individuals because it’s too risky to keep them in Metropolis now that Superman seems less available is a fascinating consequence of Clark’s family focused choice but Killgrave was definitely not a strong showcase of that.
Another possible villain comes in the form of Sam Lane. He rolls into town to voice his disapproval of Lois and Clark’s choices. He is the one who brings up the problems being caused by Superman’s absence in Metropolis and thinks that it’s his place to force Clark into a reality check. Basically he believes that a few words will force Clark to reconsider his priorities and go back to neglecting his kids in favour of a more prominent showing as Superman. Lois and Clark both speak up in defence of the choice that they made and point out that Clark is doing the right thing as a father while still making sure that Superman shows up when needed. Sam was able to rely on Clark being more present during situations before this point and can’t accept this change so keeps hammering the point home that Clark has a greater responsibility than his family. Tyler Hoechlin is wonderfully restrained during this argument, playing more into the parent dealing with a problematic in-law rather than the most powerful man on the planet. It’s another great example of humanising Clark by having him stand up for the decisions he has made as a father rather than leaning into his capabilities as Superman. It’s an especially compelling scene because Sam definitely has a point and the whole point of this episode is that there are no easy answers in terms of what Clark is juggling.
Sam’s point about him being the one who keeps the military on Superman’s side and how easily they become nervous about him existing adds further nuance to the situation. Superman is accepted as a heroic presence and a force for good but it makes sense for there to be a constant awareness that this might not always be the case and Sam being the bridge between Clark and the military in terms of maintaining that trust works really well as a setup. Superman’s altered behaviour has them nervous which means that there are conversations being had about how to handle a rogue Superman. Combine that with Captain Luthor’s warning about Superman being a threat and Sam is starting to get really nervous himself. So much so that he founds a contingency plan. Having it play out in this way by the end of this episode is very contrived and somewhat unrealistic as the military would definitely have several contingencies on the drawing board at the very least in case Superman ever did go rogue. Sam personally having doubts would have been enough for now.
The advice he gives to Jordan and Jonathan about not asking too much from their father because he is needed elsewhere feeds into this and ends up creating its own problems for the entire family. There’s a very heated argument where Lois talks to him about the way he was as a father and how his work took him away from his family when they needed him. Lois doesn’t want that mentality poisoning her family and really resents that her father would go behind her back on this. Sam is clearly stuck in a cycle of making the same mistakes that caused Lois to resent him earlier in life. Her refusal to speak to him when Clark answers her phone suggests that she’s heard it all before and isn’t in the mood to hear it again. Family tension causing widespread issues for Clark as Superman is a fascinating basis for problems and Sam makes for a complicated problem that has to be dealt with.
Jonathan and Jordan unfortunately heed his advice which means they summon Clark very late on when they’re trying to deal with their classmate Tag’s (Wern Lee) manifesting powers. It was difficult to be fully engaged in Tag’s story because the plot was raised so abruptly with a rushed quality to filling in elements of his personality and backstory. In many ways it was a lot like the old days of Smallvillle -the TV show- with a villain of the week causing a minor problem for Clark to deal with. Tag doesn’t descend into villain territory as he’s more of a tragic figure afflicted with powers that he can’t control. That part works well enough and as an excuse for Jordan to feel guilty because he feels responsible for what Tag has to deal with he’s fine but it unfortunately never elevates beyond that. Tag never becomes a proper character as he feels like a disposable element introduced to complicate this episode.
The sibling relationship between Jonathan and Jordan remains strong. Jordan becoming the star of the football team while Jonathan is sidelined is being played very realistically. Jonathan supports his brother but can’t shake the feeling that he’s encroaching on his world despite being happy that he’s found purpose and is fitting in somewhere for the first time in his life. Jonathan still sees football as his thing and is finding it more difficult because Jordan is being favoured over him at key points. He admits this to Clark who points out that there’s plenty of room for Jonathan to step up and Jonathan admits that he’s jealous of Jordan’s success but it doesn’t alter the fact that he cares about his brother and is there for him. It’s a complex inner conflict for Jonathan and the slow burn approach to it playing out is making it all the more realistic.
Sarah’s commentary on the situation makes for a strong moment between her and Jordan. She points out that Jonathan has no skills to help him cope with being an outsider after so long of being popular which explains his difficulty adjusting to the massive alterations in his life. She is also self-aware about the best label for them being “disaffected” and “wayward” youths. It’s a really charming scene that makes great use of Sarah’s unique outlook on the world that is well beyond her years but not in an obnoxious way. She is shown to be blending in with other girls her age prior to this point but the abundance of focus on her difficulties justifies her more reflective nature that may not be common in others her age. Jordan talking about enjoying being on the team and being free of anxiety for the moment was a strong display of how comfortable he feels opening up to her. It’s likely that a romantic relationship is the endgame for these characters but it is being built to gradually with a really strong friendship as a foundation for it rather than going through the expected motions.
A strong episode that delivers an excellent showcase of Clark’s ongoing difficulties juggling his various responsibilities as well as the knock on effect his decisions have on the world around him. The standing agreement that exists between Lois and Clark around the need for Superman taking priority over everything else makes sense but problems still arising such as Lois being upset that Clark wasn’t able to attend something important to Lois due to being active as Superman at the time creates a realistic conflict that plays out in interesting ways. Clark taking the time to at least start a date night and reaffirm his commitment to her while confirming how devoted he is shows the strength of their relationship in the midst of their various struggles. The problems they face are analogous to families with a parent in the emergency services or the military which could create a natural connection between Clark and Kyle both being needed to do jobs that take them away from their families at crucial moments. Lois and Lana having an open alcohol fuelled conversation about their various frustrations was a really strong exchange that cleared the air between them while giving Lana much needed perspective on her relationship with Kyle. It further endears Lana to the audience by adding further depth to her through the problems she is dealing with. It informs a reconciliation of sorts with Kyle. Morgan Edge showing interest in Lana because of her unfulfilled potential positions him as a creepy presence and sets up a potential conflict where he could exploit Lana’s regrets while also adding to the tension in her marriage to Kyle as he fails to recognise her discomfort and intervene. Edge remains an uninteresting villain as there’s very little character to him so he seems to exist in order to propel story rather than have much of interest connected to him as a person.
The other villain, Thaddius Killgrave is very near the bottom of the pile as far as villains of the week go. He stands out for the wrong reasons due to him being introduced as a major threat only to be easily dismissed. He does represent the consequences of Clark’s decision to move to Smallville having an impact on Metropolis having a reduced Superman presence but he was far from the best showcase of the complications of this and failed to make an impression by himself. Another potential villain comes in the form of Sam Lane who tries to tell Lois and Clark where their priorities should lie. They both push back on this and it brings in the complicated relationship Superman has with the military with Sam acting as the bridge between them. Sam definitely has a point as does Clark and the episode doesn’t shy away from that while still having Clark stand by his convictions. Taking Sam to the point where he actively pursues and anti-Superman contingency is unnecessary as him having doubts is enough. Jonathan and Jordan trying to help a classmate struggling with manifesting powers doesn’t work as well as it should due to the lack of development of Tag as a character but their sibling relationship remains as strongly portrayed as ever. Jonathan’s jealousy running contrary to his desire to support his brother makes for a very real internal conflict for him. Sarah’s commentary on the situation is equally strong and Jordan opening up to her about how he currently feels continues to develop their connection beyond the expected beats leading to a romantic relationship.
- Clark struggling with juggling his priorities
- the interesting conflict this creates between him and Lois
- Lois and Lana clearing the air and having the chance to vent through their alcohol fuelled conversation
- Lana gaining some perspective that helps her see her relationship with Kyle differently
- Sam’s take on Clark’s priorities opening up a fascinating and complex argument
- Jonathan and Jordan’s realistic sibling relationship
- Jonathan conflicted between his desire to support his brother and jealousy
- Sarah’s commentary on the situation and the growing connection between her and Jordan
- Morgan Edge still coming across as more of a plot catalyst than an actual character
- the villain of the week failing to make an impression
- Jonathan and Jordan’s classmate Tag being too disposable to be entirely engaging
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