Superman & Lois – Season 1 Episode 2
Superman & Lois focuses on the Kent family beginning to adjust to their new lives in Smallville along with all of the associated complications.
One of the most striking things about this show is just how many things it sets out to do. The distinct elements are Lois and Clark as parents, Clark’s exploits as Superman, Lois’ journalistic endeavours and the various struggles the teenage twins will encounter. It’s easy to imagine a competent show focused on the twins with the parents playing a supporting role or the parents being the focus while the twins occupy the background but in Superman & Lois every element is in the foreground and somehow is succeeds in juggling all of them with very little feeling underserved. That is no mean feat and has to be applauded. Of course it’s possible that the momentum will be lost as time goes on but it’s a very promising start.
This episode picks up pretty much immediately after the previous one with Lois and Clark moving the family to Smallville in the wake of Jordan manifesting powers. The basic belief is that Smallville is a better environment for Clark to teach him how to use them safely and responsibly. It’s a massive change for all of them and brings its own challenges on a few levels. It’s especially difficult for Jonathan as his life in Metropolis was a good one with a girlfriend and a position of power on the football team. In Smallville he has to start from scratch with no friends and prove himself all over again on the football team. There’s an added complication prompted by the events of the previous episode where Jordan read the situation incorrectly and kissed Sarah so the Kent boys are not well liked at Smallville High.
Jonathan’s position is a difficult one and it’s handled in a really nuanced way. There are moments where he’s irritated with his brother and blames him for the direction his life has taken and definite jealousy when he witnesses Jordan being taken away by their father to learn more about his Kryptonian heritage. He’s envious of the meaningful time that Jordan is getting with Clark and that they share something he isn’t a part of which makes sense given that Clark hasn’t been in their lives as much as he should be as a father. Despite all that he also recognises that these changes are what his brother needs right now and accepts them. He never stops supporting Jordan nor does the jealousy he’s experiencing poison their relationship. There is tension because that’s common in families but ultimately Jonathan will always do the right thing by his brother even if he doesn’t really like it. The small moments where Lois expresses understanding of that mindset are excellent and highlight that she understands how Jonathan feels having experienced similar being in a relationship where she is often sidelined for Clark’s responsibilities on Superman. It’s a fresh take on an old conflict associated with superheroes and makes Jonathan a fascinatingly complex character.
Jordan’s current struggles are around accepting that he may have to learn how to live with having super powers. His social anxiety disorder and his powers are perfectly linked in that they are both things that he has to be aware of, he didn’t ask for and they are difficult to control. Clark takes him to the Fortress of Solitude to give him context on his heritage through a holographic presentation that details Krypton’s destruction which is also a neat way to remind the audience of Superman’s origin without it being intrusive. It’s all about Jordan’s reaction to it and where he sees himself in that history. Arguably Jonathan should be there to witness this as well since it’s also his heritage regardless of whether he has powers though perhaps Clark will come to realise that both of his sons should be educated on the family history. It makes sense that he would feel Jordan needs to understand this more than Jonathan does and being slightly ignorant to Jonathan feeling left out helps to further humanise Clark through that blind spot.
The hologram of Jor’El (Angus McFadyen) provides the information around what can potentially be expected from Jordan in terms of abilities. According to Jor’El it’s genetically unlikely that Jordan will develop permanent abilities because Human DNA isn’t strong enough to store the necessary energy. The two displays in the previous episode are attributed to a strong adrenalin response to external factors in the same way that mothers temporarily gain enough strength to lift cars when their children are threatened. Jor’El dismisses the two incidents as flukes and makes it clear to Clark that there’s nothing to worry about. This serves too main purposes in the context of the show; the first being that there is always a risk of intense emotional situations causing powers to manifest under less than ideal circumstances and the second is that the show isn’t going to become Superman and Superboy fighting villains anytime soon. It sets up a slow and deliberate journey towards Jordan mastering his abilities alongside his social anxiety disorder. The focus is on him rather than what he can do which is absolutely the right decision.
Curiously, Clark is unwilling to accept Jor’El’s scientific assessment of his son’s capabilities and potential. Perhaps on some level he was looking forward to having a super powered son to mentor though the main worry is that there’s always a risk of his powers lashing out in a way that both endangers others and exposes the secrets that he works so hard to keep. There’s a strong suggestion that Clark fears the newfound uncertainty in his life after spending so long in a comfortable rut as a father. Suddenly he has to be present, have the answers and deal with situations that he is completely unprepared for. In other words he has to be a parent and reassess his own responsibilities which scares him. It just goes to show that it’s possible to move away from the “Man of Tomorrow” idea where Superman is seen as a beacon of knowledge and as close to perfect as a person can get without compromising the fundamentals of what the character stands for. This show really brings out his humanity while maintaining those core sensibilities. “Superman struggles just like the rest of us” is an appropriately modern message that is fascinating to explore.
Clark and Lois’ relationship comes across very strongly throughout. This episode continues the idea of her unconditionally supporting him because she understands that Superman is needed so she encourages him to leave when he has to and willingly handles any fallout that may result from it. This is a dynamic that is clearly years in the making and Clark is waking up to the idea of finding a balance in his responsibilities but Lois will always show him that support. Their conversation on the porch where Clark admits that he doesn’t know how to solve the problems ahead of them but remains optimistic because he feels that the family have already grown closer since moving to Smallville. There’s a casual openness to their relationship that is constantly endearing to watch.
Lois is also well practiced in resolving tension that erupts as shown by the way she skilfully defuses the argument that Jonathan starts with Jordan, asserts her authority around what they will be doing as a family all while making it clear that she understands and appreciates where everyone is coming from. Lois Lane is typically characterised as intelligent, fierce and incredibly skilled at handling people which translates naturally into her parenting style. Her handling of that situation highlights a lived in dynamic where experience has taught her exactly what she needs to do to make everyone calm down.
The previous episode largely had Lois occupying a supporting role but this one forges ahead with a plot entirely unique to her. Naturally it revolves around her journalistic skills and connects to Smallville in that she suspects Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner) is going to strangle the town in order to make money. She has identified a pattern through what happened to other towns he promised to save and it’s not something she’s prepared to stand for. She pipes up at a town meeting and makes her displeasure with what he’s doing clear before writing a scathing article that he completely rewrites to conform to his own agenda. It’s a direct attack on her integrity so she quits the Daily Planet in order to pursue the matter on her own.
Lois has a cause to pursue, a story to investigate and her own nemesis in the form of Morgan Edge. At this point there’s little about Edge that seems all that interesting as so far he comes across as the standard amoral corporate type who cares about money more than people but presents an altruistic face to the outside world. Lois obviously sees through this but in order for him to be interesting on his own terms the writers will need to do more with him than they did here. There is plenty of time and the introduction positions him as the antagonist he needs to be but it came across as being a bit by the numbers which is unfortunate considering the quality on display pretty much everywhere else.
Attached to Lois’ plot there are some interesting debates that come up. Kyle champions Morgan Edge’s plan because he can’t see beyond bringing life back to Smallville through employment. The town is suffering greatly due to the loss of people and industry so he’s all for anything that will help fix that even if it means compromising on things like a fair wage. He sees it as a necessary sacrifice because some money is better than no money. That’s certainly a fair argument extrapolated from the fact that Smallville appears to be a dying town but Lois’ point is that everyone deserves a fair wage and that the short term sacrifice will never be a short term one for someone like Morgan Edge. It’s not a debate that has an easy answer and Kyle genuinely has the best interests of his community at heart but he has blinded himself to the risks associated with welcoming Morgan Edge with open arms. This makes Kyle a different sort of antagonist and a really complex hurdle for Lois to overcome. Bubbling in the background is Clark’s lack of awareness of how bad things really are in Smallville but with Lois being the point of view character on this plot he will gain more knowledge.
The Commander Luthor (Wolé Parks) villain plot is building nicely. Enough information has already been revealed to keep it from becoming frustrating that things are being held back and his motivation is completely understandable given what is known about his past. It’s clear that he comes from an alternate universe where Superman is evil and he is convinced this Superman will go down the same path. He has a history with an alternate version of Sam Lane which draws a connection that can be developed over time. I could see Luthor eventually transitioning away from being an antagonist upon realising that this Superman is different to the one he knows though it’s really too early to tell. For now the work done characterising Luthor is good with small details like him employing distraction tactics to keep Superman at bay and taking great care to be non lethal when trying to draw him out.
One problem this has is that all of the action is focused on Luthor which means that all Clark does as Superman is deal with him. There’s a lack of any other heroics and it feels too confined for someone who should be a global force for good. It’s necessary to develop the villain and drawing a connection to the Smallville plot through Clark having to juggle different responsibilities works well enough but it’s noticeable that Superman has only dealt with problems connected to Luthor. All of this can come in time and it’s not a weakness as such especially when the set pieces look as good as they do. It’s simply a minor niggle that stands out amongst the high quality.
An excellent episode that masterfully focuses on all of the foreground elements, delivers a nuanced take on a family dynamic and continues to excel in offering a fresh take on iconic characters. Jonathan’s complex reaction to his brother and father spending time together connecting over Jordan’s emerging powers is handled brilliantly as he feels left out and envious but also unconditionally supports his brother. Drawing a parallel between Jonathan and Lois through both being sidelined when it comes to responsibilities involving super powers was a really nice touch. Equating the unpredictable nature of Jordan’s powers with his social anxiety disorder is excellent because it makes it a very character driven problem and amplifies Clark’s uncertainty around the new challenges he has to face as he reassesses his responsibilities. Lois is really well served in this episode as she goes up against Morgan Edge, enters into the debate around what compromises have to be made in order to save Smallville and continues to show how skilled she is at defusing tension within her own family. There’s a lot for her to tackle here and positioning Edge as her antagonist works well enough even if he seems shallow at the moment. Kyle is a much more interesting foil because of his fixation on saving his town.
The Commander Luthor plot is working really well with enough information revealed to prevent it from becoming frustrating. His reason for having a grudge against Superman makes a lot of sense and there’s a lot of potential to develop a connection between him and Sam. It’s possible he will end up being something other than an antagonist as things progress. A general issue is that Clark’s exploits as Superman are entirely confined to dealing with Luthor which takes away from the notion of him as a global force for good. It’s necessary to establish the villain and the set pieces are stunning to behold but it stands out as being a minor niggle among such high quality.
- Jonathan’s nuanced reaction to what his brother is going through
- drawing a parallel between Jonathan and Lois through understanding being sidelined for responsibilities involving powers
- connecting Jordan’s powers with his social anxiety order
- Clark’s uncertainty around the current challenges he faces as he reassesses his responsibilities
- Lois having a complex plot unique to her
- positioning Morgan Edge as her antagonist
- the way Lois defuses tension in her family
- Lois and Clark’s well developed and lived in relationship
- Commander Luthor having an understandable motivation and a lot of potential
- Morgan Edge coming across as a shallow character so far
- Clark’s exploits as Superman being entirely focused on Luthor
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