Superman & Lois – Season 3 Episode 3

Mar 29, 2023 | Posted by in TV

“In Cold Blood”

Superman & Lois deals with the reality of Lois’ cancer diagnosis as things between Lana and Sarah come to a head.

Challenging Clark with a problem he can’t solve as Superman is essential to the ongoing viability of this show. The superhero action is spectacle and also a requirement in a superhero show but ongoing viewer investment relies on characters being relatable. A family coming together to deal with an illness is very grounded and relatable as most viewers will either have direct or indirect experience with something similar. The emotional stakes associated with a cancer diagnosis, the ongoing struggles that come with treatment and the constant fear of that treatment not working will be what sticks in the mind of viewers.


Give me a break subconscious!

The cancer plot is in the very early stages and is being developed gradually with each episode delivering a step forward. An unidentified problem was noted in the first episode, the cancer was confirmed in the second and the third is about the reluctance to begin treatment. This is woven neatly with the ongoing villain plot which is used as a distraction allowing Lois to avoid how she really feels about what she’s facing. This is excellent storytelling as it allows for development of the ongoing plot in an emotionally resonant way. The villain plot is treated as story details that are delivered to the viewer while the focus is on Lois using investigating it as a distraction. It keeps the attention in the right place without forgetting about Bruno Mannheim and the shady things he’s involved in.

Those developments are slight. All that is really learned is that he somehow has a supply of Clark’s blood and Henry is reaching the limit of what his people are doing to him. The reveal that he has Clark’s blood is a compelling mystery as the question of how he got it is immediately raised. My personal theory is that the evil Superman from John and Natalie’s universe will be the source but we’ll see how it pans out. These small reveals are enough for this episode as there is progression in the story which suggests that the writers won’t spin their wheels on furthering the narrative.

Lois prioritising investigating the story over her own health is classic avoidance of a serious issue. It’s not something she’s initially aware of as evidenced by her dismissing missing her first appointment as a genuine mistake. The second missed appointment makes it more clear that there’s something more at play than simple forgetfulness. Other characters waste no time confronting her about this which is refreshing to see in a CW series where drama is often artificially created by people avoiding having necessary conversations. Chrissy immediately expresses concern when she realises and pushes her to reply to Clark and rebook her appointment. She gets dragged along when Lois knowingly misses her second appointment and doesn’t stop her from pursuing the lead but that makes sense as Lois is a force of nature who can’t be stopped when determined. Chrissy at least constantly makes reference to the fact that she shouldn’t be there and highlights that she’s worried.


Grim rounds

Lois can’t hide from acknowledging reality forever and it comes to a head in a conversation she has with Clark. She opens up about not liking people treating her as if she’s fragile when she still feels like herself. She has concerns about the treatment robbing her of her energy as she feels it will prevent her from being herself. She wants to feel like herself for as long as she can and the Bruno Mannheim case is an unresolved thing she put a lot of work into so she wants to see it through before she is unable to. There’s a certain logic to her avoidance but she’s failing to fully appreciate that time is of the essence. The longer she leaves it, the less likely it is the treatment will be successful and the collective knowledge of that fact causes everyone to worry. Clark acknowledges how she feels but doesn’t support her choices because she needs to consider her health and let go of any obsessions that get in the way of that. On the third try, she goes for the treatment after allowing herself to realise how serious this is and how deeply impacted those around her are.

The episode opens with Clark having an intense dream detailing Metropolis being completely destroyed and the Daily Planet globe falling on Lois. He seems to save her at the last second and wakes up clearly distressed by it. The dream appears again later in the episode which indicates that Clark is trying to resolve an inner conflict that currently has no answer. The conflict seems to be around his priorities. Superman is an unbiased figure committed to protecting others no matter who they may be. That often comes in direct conflict with his familial responsibilities as has been evidenced repeatedly on this show. He often has to leave his family during important events to take action as Superman. The first episode of the season had him leave Jonathan and Jordan’s birthday party because Superman was needed for example. Early in the run of the show, Jonathan and Jordan viewed him as an absent father because he was away so often and his friendship with Lana was often visibly impacted by his double life prior to her knowing his secret.

Lois’ diagnosis likely has him thinking about his priorities and a possible inability to juggle his double life. The dream is a fascinating visceral showcase of this. In the dream, Metropolis is crumbling around him and he’s completely ignoring that as he searches for Lois. His priority is saving her at the expense of everyone else suffering which would seem to run counter to how he should approach the situation as Superman. Focusing on a single individual he’s close to and ignoring everyone else is showing favouritism and a betrayal of what Superman is supposed to stand for but it’s also completely understandable as having the kind of emotional detachment that would be required in order to not prioritise loved ones is impossible, particularly when one of Superman’s fundamental qualities is endless unconditional compassion.


A thorough investigation

A possible interpretation of this dream beyond the obvious fear of losing Lois to forces he is unable to stop is that Clark is worried about his grasp on priorities. This is supported by his willingness to neglect a mudslide and wait with Lois. She gives him permission to go and deal with it but the willingness to ignore the cries for help suggests that he may end up neglecting his responsibilities as Superman which would obviously have widespread consequences including significant loss of life. It also comes up when Sam tells him that Lois should be his priority which is an understandable position for a worried father to take that also feeds into his role with the DOD. He is someone that typically plays the long game and is willing to let bad things happen because it’s tactically more sound to wait in order to solve a larger problem.

The contrast between that way of thinking and Clark’s approach has always been interesting as Clark is broadly reactive so makes decisions based on current goings on rather than considering the bigger picture. Sam’s more strategic mindset means he can justify Clark taking a step back from being Superman while Lois is dealing with her illness because he sees that as the priority and feels that everything else can wait. It’s a very brief argument but has the potential to escalate significantly conflicting demands on Clark’s attention continue to come up.

This episode also features a strong focus on Lois’ support network. Jonathan and Jordan make her breakfast consisting of all her favourites because they know that chemotherapy typically results in the loss of taste so they want her to enjoy the taste of her favourite foods before she is unable to. It’s a heartwarming gesture that says so much about the strength of the family dynamic that exists on this show. Jonathan and Jordan have approached the diagnosis by learning everything they can about what is ahead of them and they have applied that knowledge practically by giving Lois a final injection of normality before the difficult days ahead of them. Their knowledge is reinforced with the later conversation in the diner where they talk about how things are expected to play out.


We should do a gesture

Lois’ support network also includes Natalie and John with Natalie taking the initiative on a gesture of solidarity by gifting a watch that she made for her mother. John objects to the gesture because he sees it as Natalie forgetting that Lois isn’t her mother. The idea of the watch being given to Lois upsets him because it reminds him of the Lois he lost. The prospect of losing another Lois and being unable to do anything about it weighs heavily on him even if he’s initially unable to admit it. By the end of the episode, he’s able to resolve this to some degree and be honest about his fear of losing a friend. In a way, the watch represents history repeating itself and makes him think about what he has lost. Objecting to Natalie’s gesture was a deflection on his part to avoid letting the pain take root.

Natalie giving the watch to Lois is closure of a sort for her. She couldn’t be there for her mother at the end of her life but she can be present and supportive of this Lois. She seems to have accepted that Lois isn’t her mother and found a way to let her be a part of her life regardless of what reminders are prompted. The watch isn’t about replacing her mother, it’s a demonstration of how much this Lois has come to mean to her and making it a group gesture from all of the kids is a powerful declaration of how many people Lois has in her corner. It’s poignant and moving.

The watch was something that had to be earned which adds weight to the gesture. It was stolen along with Jonathan’s truck and the kids work together to get it back. There isn’t much to the mechanics of this other than a well-executed relatively low-key action sequence that highlights Natalie’s intelligence and strategic ability. It also showcases the shared determination to deliver that gesture while connecting to a plot for Jonathan.


Waiting is the hardest part

I’ve repeatedly mentioned that Jonathan is often left in the background and that’s somewhat evident in what this episode delivers. After his accidental infidelity in the previous episode, the other kids call him out on not being honest with Candice about what happened and he promises to be open with her. That honesty is delayed by the theft of his truck and issues created between them by him rightly accusing her father. There’s a brief argument where she defends her father and a later conversation where she apologises after learning that he was responsible. Jonathan is understanding and doesn’t blame her for the actions of her father while also not holding her responsible for previous mistakes she has made. Candice states that he seems to be perfect which prompts him to tell her the truth. The reaction to that truth isn’t shown in an attempt to create a cliffhanger but none of it is interesting.

Bringing in Candice’s father who might as well have openly said “I’m going to steal your truck” in order to create a temporary rift between them over the assumption Jonathan makes only to resolve it almost immediately after creating it is bad storytelling. It assumes that the viewer is at all interested in Jonathan and Candice’s relationship but there is still no reason to be. She has appeared a number of times but no effort has ever been made to explore their connection as a couple. Their on-screen relationship consists entirely of the milestones that are relevant to whatever story is being told in a given episode. There’s no organic grounding created by showing them together in more mundane ways to establish that their relationship is a functional thing that is a normal part of Jonathan’s life. Every appearance of Candice has some form of drama associated with it so her function on the show is as a drama delivery system rather than an actual character. As such, there’s no reason to care about her reaction to Jonathan telling her the truth about what happened with his ex. Dumping him or forgiving him will have no meaningful impact on his character so the whole plot is meaningless. One thing that needs to be majorly fixed in this show is how Jonathan fits into it.

Things are far from ideal in the Lana/Sarah relationship. There’s a lot of unresolved friction between them that comes to a head in this episode. The catalyst for this is Kyle’s reaction to learning that John installed the new security system in Lana’s house and office. There’s a strong sense that Kyle feels left out because of how much he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know the truth about John so can’t understand why Lana would go to him for her security needs. Sarah’s response to his questions after she let it slip that John installed the security isn’t enough to satisfy his security encourages him to go to Lana who becomes very defensive when asked about it. This hints that Kyle may start looking into things and close in on the secret which makes for the mild suggestion of a threat, however well-intentioned.


Cool guys never look at explosions

The main purpose of Kyle’s curiosity is to force an explosion in the Lana/Sarah friction. Lana asks Sarah to be more careful in what she tells Kyle and Sarah pushes her by sarcastically asking for a list of banned topics. She then points out that Lana makes everything about herself and is behaving selfishly before accusing her of taking the Mayor job to make herself feel more important. It culminates in a remark about Kyle cheating on her and Lana reacting by slapping Sarah. This argument was great because of how real it was. Both of them are wrong and neither of them are their best selves but both of them are right. Lana has been so buried in her work that she has been neglecting her children and Sarah is behaving petulantly in bringing it to her attention. The slap is unquestionably crossing a line but it’s an understandable reaction considering the heightened emotions in the argument.

That doesn’t excuse what Lana did and there will undoubtedly be consequences but it doesn’t feel out of place in the context of the scene. That’s good writing as a character makes a massive mistake in the heat of the moment after being deliberately provoked. Sarah is shocked because she clearly didn’t believe her mother to be capable of it and Lana immediately regrets what she did. It’s an excellent payoff to something that has been bubbling since the beginning of the season and possibly signifies a wake-up call for both of them. Lana’s mismanagement of her priorities naturally links to Clark’s concern about managing his so there’s a cohesion to the character-driven storytelling that sets up connections that allow the characters to work through their issues by relating to one another. The streak of excellence in this season absolutely continues with this episode.


Taking that next step


An excellent episode that expertly grounds the show with the handling of Lois’ diagnosis while delivering a powerful mother/daughter argument between Lana and Sarah.

  • 9/10
    In Cold Blood - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • weaving the handling of the cancer plot with the development of the villain plot
  • the depiction of Lois’ avoidance of the issue of her diagnosis
  • Lois and Clark’s conversation about her missed appointments and the need to take this seriously
  • Clark’s dream pointing to his concerns about juggling his priorities
  • supporting that with his willingness to ignore a mudslide and Sam’s view on where his focus should be
  • Jonathan and Jordan offering support in an endearing way
  • the complexity associated with Natalie’s gesture of gifting the watch
  • the watch representing a reminder of what has been lost to John
  • the watch representing closure of a sort to Natalie
  • having to earn the watch by retrieving it from those who stole it
  • the hint of a threat coming from Kyle’s curiosity
  • the friction between Lana and Sarah coming to a head
  • their argument being an example of them both being wrong and right at the same time
  • the slap as an understandable yet inexcusable reaction from Lana


Rise Against…

  • the Jonathan/Candice plot being another reminder of how poorly developed the relationship is


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User Review
8.9/10 (5 votes)

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