Superman & Lois – Season 3 Episode 12

Jun 21, 2023 | Posted by in TV


Superman & Lois brings back an old enemy with a massive chip on his shoulder as Jordan’s heroics gain even more attention.

Lex Luthor may be as much of a household name as Superman. The character has been a persistent thorn in Superman’s side since his introduction and has seen many adaptations over the decades. He represents a threat that isn’t easy for Superman to deal with as his intelligence and resources typically match Superman’s powers. Lex has been characterised as a mad scientist, a cutthroat CEO, or a combination of both depending on the version. The CEO version typically eludes defeat by covering his tracks so well that there’s no evidence to trace back to him. Superman may know what Lex has done but the inability to prove it keeps him at large so his intelligence and resources are what make him a match for Superman. In some ways, he exploits the lines that Superman won’t cross to keep himself in a position of power.



This version of Lex is one that has already been defeated to an extent. Lois was able to pin crimes on him that sent him to prison but it turns out that he’s innocent of those crimes and was set up to take the fall for what Bruno Mannheim was doing. The negative consequence of Bruno being brought to justice is that Lex Luthor is now a free man. He deserves to be in prison but there is no evidence linking him to anything that he is actually guilty of so in the eyes of the law he should be free. This puts him back on the board so that he can be a threat to the Kents and he’s more dangerous than ever because he harbours a visceral grudge against them.

If this is the end of Bruno Mannheim then that’s unfortunate as it means an entire season of buildup comes to an unsatisfying payoff. It’s possible he and Matteo will play a part in the final episode but as it appears they have been cast aside in favour of Lex Luthor who has been introduced as the real threat waiting to emerge. Over the course of the season, Bruno showcased the concept of the businessman villain who is an expert at covering his tracks so nobody can act against him. It has been established that Bruno does what Lex does on a smaller scale so he is an effective primer for Lex which means time doesn’t need to be spent establishing Lex as a shrewd businessman who expertly dodges incrimination. It’s known that Bruno and Lex were connected so it’s easy to draw a line between them to understand that Lex works on a higher level.

Michael Cudlitz portrays one of the more openly merciless versions of Lex Luthor. Flashbacks detail him becoming an inmate and the steps taken to take control of that environment. He uses blackmail, intimidation and sheer brutality to take over to the point that he’s both feared and respected by everyone from the prison warden down. It’s an efficient way to establish what makes this version tick and very quickly sets him up as a formidable presence. Michael Cudlitz’s performance is impressive and his version of Lex immediately grabs the attention.


Things aren’t getting easier

His approach of taking control through intimidation and fear extends to how he approaches Lois. The first place he goes after being freed from prison is the Kent farm which shows how much of a priority his grudge against Lois is. He approaches them to demand that Lois retire from journalism so that he never has to see her words in print ever again. This shows that he recognises and respects Lois’ ability and understands the power that her reporting has. He never wants to be in the position of her bringing him down again so he demands she retire or suffer major consequences. Naturally, Lois and Clark aren’t ones to be intimidated but it’s looking likely that Lex won’t be pulling any punches in coming after them.

Another notable detail is that Lex has a daughter that no longer speaks to him. She was 14 when he went into prison and he was imprisoned for 18 years so she will be 32 at this point which means she’s over double the age of the twins. Despite the age difference, Lex being a father draws a parallel between him and the Kents while also folding him neatly into a show that is focused on parent/child relationships. It has been announced that Lex will be a full-time cast member come next season so it’s likely his relationship with his daughter will be a significant part of that. The fact that he brings it up shows that he cares deeply for her and resents Lois for taking his time with her from him. As far as he’s concerned it’s Lois’ fault his daughter no longer speaks to him and she is going to suffer for that. The scene Lex shares with Lois and Clark brilliantly establishes that adversarial relationship that is both lived in and new to this show.

Lex Luthor’s introduction doesn’t pause the show’s other spinning plates. The aftermath of Lois’ operation opens the episode with a voiceover detailing how she feels. the gist is that she’s frustrated and finding it difficult to adjust to her new normal. Part of that comes from it being medically mandated that she take it easy and let herself heal. That applies to physical and emotional healing as both will take time and can’t be rushed. Lois feels frustrated because she doesn’t idle well so has to keep pushing for Clark to allow her to keep busy to at least some extent. A larger discussion could be had about her emotional well-being being tied to her work. She needs to feel useful and needs to be engaging her brain in a project otherwise she feels less like herself. That was previously established and Clark monitoring her as she works shows his growth following previous coverage of him not fully acknowledging what she needs to do to feel like herself. Lois throwing herself into her work enhances the ultimatum delivered by Lex as there is a fresh reminder of how important Lois’ work is to her so the prospect of having that taken away from her is unthinkable.


Time for another real-world lesson

Also challenging the Kents is the rumblings about a new hero in town and Jordan’s growing frustration with anonymity. The goggles are mocked by his peers at school but it’s generally accepted that a new hero that Smallville might be able to call its own is an exciting prospect. The consequences of this awareness are far-reaching as Sarah feels under additional pressure to keep the secret. Lip service is paid to her keeping the secret for months and being worried about saying the wrong thing that might lead people to learn the truth. Jordan’s seemingly flippant attitude about his own secret makes her feel worse about it as she sees the stress as being pointless if she takes it more seriously than he does. This feeds into Sarah feeling like she has a lack of control over her life and has possibly ruined it by making some bad choices. Her current aim is to rebuild and reinvent herself to some degree and she sees Jordan as holding her back from achieving that. Jordan comes to her accusing her of siccing Lana on his parents so that he gets a telling off for his attitude but Sarah points out that his secret has caused difficulties for her and he’s ignorant of that fact. She does come to take control of her life in another small way by deciding to colour her hair. A change in appearance can have psychologically positive effects so Sarah is clearly looking to feel better in any way she can.

Jordan’s current attitude is another thing rooted in frustration. He’s looking for recognition for his heroics which Clark constantly states isn’t the point of being a hero. It’s something Jordan can’t understand because Superman is a public figure who does get recognition and gratitude for helping people whereas Jordan is instructed to ensure he isn’t seen so that nobody knows he even exists. After performing heroics for a while it’s only natural for him to feel like he merits some recognition for his efforts. It’s something that makes sense for a teenager to crave and feeds into his social anxiety preventing him from fitting in easily at school. Being seen as a hero might give him the validation that he’s looking for so being instructed to ensure he is never seen is something he is now actively resisting.

He ends up forcing the issue when he outs himself after helping Clark dissipate a tornado. Now he is a known commodity all over the internet and social media so putting the genie back in the bottle is impossible. It’s clear Jordan enjoys the glory so will probably continue to chase that feeling and get the recognition he feels like he deserves. It’s an interesting development that has a lot of weight to it while presenting a relatable challenge for Lois and Clark who are dealing with a teenage son that wants to be recognised for what he does.


Well there’s no going back now

There’s a larger conversation that could be had about the concept of recognition for superheroes. Clark wears a costume when he acts as Superman and is very much a brand within himself. Much has been said about Superman as a symbol of what people can aspire to and he very much expresses those values when speaking publicly. He isn’t in it for the recognition or glory but it’s something he gets because of what he does. Clark is perhaps someone who doesn’t need that kind of validation in order to believe that what he does is worthwhile but he should acknowledge that won’t be the same for others. Jordan clearly seeks that validation and wants to be recognised for what he does. No amount of insistence that Jordan shouldn’t feel that way will change that attitude so Lois and Clark have handled this poorly and ultimately created the situation they’re now in. There is a history of Clark failing to consider that his children don’t think the same way he does which he tends to learn from but he still hasn’t perfected considering that at an earlier point and preventing the inevitable fallout of failing to do so. It’s consistent and clear that Clark is trying but at some point, that lesson will need to be internalised.

Jonathan wants the opposite of Jordan in terms of treatment. Lois succinctly points out that one child wants special treatment and the other doesn’t. Jonathan finds that Kyle is going easy on him because of who his father is which is creating friction at the Fire House as he wants to earn their respect on his own merits rather than being protected by Kyle. Clark going to Kyle to address the situation is the second example of a parent going to another parent in order to make them aware of a problem affecting their child. Both instances aren’t welcomed by the teenagers because they don’t want their parents fighting their battles for them but in Jonathan’s case, it leads to another real-world life lesson from Kyle. He acknowledges wrongdoing in treating Jonathan differently but doesn’t appreciate that he had to hear it from Clark because he would rather that all problems be dealt with between them. It’s another way to earn respect and Kyle presents himself as an approachable person willing to accept when he has made a mistake. It wasn’t something Jonathan asked for but addressing it with Kyle directly is still something he should have done rather than remaining silent. It all feeds into Jonathan going out of his way to be normal and find a focus that is uniquely his that he can excel at. There are still issues in how much coverage Jonathan gets compared to Jordan but contrasting the brothers through what they want from life works really well.


Enjoy your evening’s ultimatum!


A strong episode that delivers an impactful introduction for Lex Luthor while furthering the major character stories in engaging ways.

  • 8.5/10
    Injustice - 8.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • a strong debut for Michael Cudlitz’ Lex Luthor
  • using flashbacks to establish this version of Lex Luthor
  • extending his approach of taking control through intimidation and fear to the ultimatum delivered to Lois
  • the excellent scene Lex shares with Lois and Clark
  • folding him neatly into the parent/child focus the show has through him having a daughter that doesn’t speak to him
  • an impactful exploration of the aftermath of Lois’ operation
  • the voiceover detailing her frustration and reinforcing how her work is tied to her identity
  • the exploration of Jordan’s growing frustration with his anonymity
  • his desire for recognition and Clark failing to recognise that Jordan doesn’t share his own views on the subject
  • the escalation of the situation now that Jordan has been outed as a hero that exists
  • acknowledging the pressure Sarah feels keeping Jordan’s secret and his seemingly flippant attitude making her feel worse about it
  • her discussion with Jordan where she calls him out on making it difficult for her to rebuild her life
  • another instance of Sarah taking control in a small way by colouring her hair
  • two instances of parents getting involved in the lives of their children that aren’t welcomed
  • Kyle giving Jonathan another real-world lesson about earning respect by addressing issues head-on rather than remaining silent
  • contrasting the brothers through what they want from life


Rise Against…

  • the continued imbalance in coverage between Jonathan and Jordan
  • pushing Bruno Mannheim out of the show in favour of Lex Luthor


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User Review
9.75/10 (2 votes)

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