Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 8
Superman & Lois continues to pick up the pieces from past developments as the characters deal with the consequences.
I’ve mentioned before that this season doesn’t feel as connected as the previous one did and that is still the case with this episode. There are interesting ideas at play but the various ongoing plots are disconnected. Lana’s Mayoral campaign links to the breakdown of her relationship with Kyle though it appears that the campaign plot only exists to allow for this conflict, the Ally plot is currently the central antagonistic one with the loss of Clark coming into conflict with the Military it’s another outlier that is interesting by itself with very little wider connection, Jonathan’s troubles on the back of his drug use similarly lacks cohesion with the other plots even if it is linking to Jordan’s desire to use his powers to help others and there is also the John/Natalie presence having no obvious connection to anything else.
After an extended absence following sustaining major injuries John makes his return and is ready to leave the hospital. Natalie is angry and lashing out at Clark because of it. She’s struggling to accept that this Clark is different to the one that killed her mother and played a part in destroying their world. Her difficulty accepting that manifests as hostility that she isn’t shy about expressing. Even though there’s no real world analogue for what she is dealing with it is still relatable because she is grieving and lashing out because she needs an outlet for her feelings. To her Clark represents everything she has lost which makes it impossible for her to accept his kindness at face value. John’s injuries intensify those feelings because he sustained them helping Clark. In a very different way he was almost responsible for her losing the only person she has left; at least from her point of view.
Clark realises this and understands that it’ll take a long time for Natalie’s view of him to change. It’s also possible that she will never see him any differently but that won’t stop him trying to get her on side. Clark hears her words about being forced to live with someone who reminds her of everything she has lost so he takes steps to give John and Natalie a place of their own. This allows Natalie distance from that reminder which will hopefully facilitate her processing her loss on her own schedule. She now only has to interact with Clark on her own terms and he makes it clear that he wants to get to know her when she’s ready to do so. It’s very strongly delivered and allows Clark to work towards solving a problem in a different way. John receives less attention but that isn’t a drawback as he is used to enhance the focus on Natalie by being an example of the lingering impact of association with Clark and his family. The situation is more complicated than she is prepared to see at this point but the fact that his recovery will be slow supports the notion that her own healing will take time.
Jonathan is in an increasingly sticky situation around his recently outed drug use. Clark feels personally betrayed by Jonathan’s actions and has lost trust in him. Lois encourages him to cut him some slack because she previously internalised advice that allowed her to approach Jonathan in a more constructive way. Clark is still operating on anger so isn’t yet willing to hear Jonathan out and consider the unintentional pressures put on him as part of the family. For now he is fixated on Jonathan making poor choices, bringing shame to the family by betraying the values he was brought up on. His assumption that Jonathan is lying coupled with the belief that he’s getting really good at it is cutting with Lois quickly yet effectively rounding out the “benefit of the doubt” side of the argument.
One thing that I find really interesting about this version of Clark Kent is that his parenting technique is far from ideal. He made the decision at the beginning of last season to be a definitive presence in the lives of his sons rather than focusing on juggling the Daily Planet and Superman while Lois takes on the bulk of the parental responsibility so he is still mired in a learning curve. This means that he often makes mistakes and handles situations poorly. In this case it’s taking him longer to learn his lesson because the disappointment overpowers his capacity to listen to reason. This creates a compelling conflict between Jonathan and Clark that has a significant impact on Jonathan who feels that he has no support in what he’s dealing with.
A lot of that he has brought on himself as he has made a conscious decision to protect Candice even though she is a drug dealer. Jordan makes this point but Jonathan is committed to supporting her because he’s aware of the tenuous family situation. He is willing to take the heat because her father can’t afford to lose out on the income she brings in otherwise they will lose the house and have nowhere to go. It’s complex but Jonathan is allowing something he knows to be wrong to continue because he believes it’s in service of a good cause. His morality is misguided in that way and it’s easy to see that he doesn’t believe there’s any other way for Candice and her father to avoid total poverty so he keeps quiet and let’s the blame fall on him even though the consequences are severe.
Where it falls down is that there isn’t enough background to this problem for it to reach its potential. Candice isn’t really a character; she’s a collection of concepts feeding into a narrative. This means that on paper all of this is interesting but what is presented on screen is lacking. Her relationship with Jonathan is shallow and poorly defined which means that declarations of love fall flat. The working assumption is that the feelings are genuine but the possibility exists that she’s manipulating him or some way or preying on his good nature so that she can continue to sell the drugs. She is motivated by helping her father with this being the only way she thinks she can do it but the desperation doesn’t actually come across because the plight has only ever been mentioned in passing.
There was a real opportunity for Candice to be the case study of economic struggles in Smallville in the wake of Morgan Edge’s influence in the previous season. Her relationship with Jonathan would make this relevant to the main characters and, if done well, would add texture to Smallville as a setting. There would probably be some way to use this to deepen the Mayoral campaign plot concerning Lana as well.
Instead there is a surface level problem created by Jonathan tarnishing his family name in favour of supporting his girlfriend. There’s no sense of their relationship or why he would risk so much to support her outside of them being in a relationship and her home life being less than ideal. The headlines are evident but the story is yet to be told so it’s difficult to entirely latch onto this on an emotional level. Jordan Elsass is doing an incredible job performing the impact it has on Jonathan but the detail is lacking.
In a way he’s leaning into what he was taught as he has been keeping Clark’s secret so has been somewhat conditioned to be selectively dishonest. He is keeping this secret for Candice because he believes it to be in service of a greater good but doing so is creating problems he is rapidly losing control of. The fight he gets into with someone chasing Candice up for money is an extreme and clear example of that as Jordan gets involved in order to protect his brother but ends up going too far and being more brutal than he is comfortable with. This makes sense at his current level of development in using his powers and being overtaken by emotion to the point he loses control is a very relatable problem with super powers adding an extra layer to it. Jonathan is dragging Jordan down with him and taking entirely the wrong approach by threatening others rather than holding himself to a higher standard as he has been raised to do.
This also has a knock on effect in Jordan’s relationship as he fails to attend meeting Aubrey with Sarah because it’s obvious he has been in a fight. This comes after he is less than enthusiastic about meeting Aubrey considering what happened between her and Sarah. He feels that it might be weird and Sarah understands that but also genuinely wants to defeat that by making them all friends. Once again it showcases Sarah’s desire to face problems head on rather than ignore them. It’s a difficult approach but definitely the best one so she will likely be disappointed in Jordan for failing to show up especially when he will probably have to lie about why that was.
The Cushing family are still in disarray. Sarah questions whether Kyle and Lana only interacting when he picks one of their daughters up is the new normal and there isn’t a definitive answer to it at this point. Lana does bring Kyle in to help with her Mayoral campaign which acts as an excuse for the issues between them to be addressed head on. One of the major challenges facing Lana at this point is navigating the scandal caused by public knowledge of Kyle;s infidelity. This will naturally lead to tough questions being asked of her around her ability to keep her own family in order and how that reflects on how effectively she will function as Mayor. She explodes at Kyle for creating this problem through this mistake and expresses frustration at the added scrutiny placed on her in the political sphere by virtue of being a woman.
Kyle calmly accepts everything Lana says because he knows she’s right and is fully aware of what he has done. All that’s on his mind is making amends and proving to her that he has changed. Lana isn’t yet at the point of making any decisions as she still needs time to process it. It is contrived for her to bring Kyle in to help her prepare for the upcoming debate on that basis but it makes for good drama to see the issues addressed in this way.
The Ally plot is rapidly losing momentum largely because the death of Bizarro has removed a crucial element that was carrying it. Anderson is no substitute for Bizarro due to how poorly developed he is and the idea of Ally is far more interesting than Ally herself. Through Anderson she learns about the portal in the mines and is pointed in the direction of using that to merge with her “Shadow Self”. Her belief is that becoming the best version of yourself is only possible when you merge with your “Shadow Self”. Up until this point it was more likely that this was something she used to manipulate vulnerable people through promising them that any troubles they have will fade away once they achieve that. This episode confirms that this is something that she believes but it has yet to be explained why that is which leaves a significant gap in her character. Bizarro-Ally appear to be pulling strings from beyond the portal so it may transpire that she is manipulating Ally in some way though it’s all frustratingly vague.
Being vague is acceptable in the context of developing a story but a massive step forward is taken here with Ally and a group of her faithful -plus Chrssy- approach the portal in the misguided belief that it will facilitate the merging. In order for Ally to be at this point there should be a more extensive grounding of her character and belief system instead of her just acting as a catalyst for this to take place. The episode presents what happens as being counter to the plan though it’s likely those who disappear have been transported to Bizarro-World and will either return later or be reintroduced in some way. It doesn’t help that no named characters cross over as Clark manages to prevent Ally and Chrissy from crossing over so there is no reliable point of view character in Bizarro-World at this point.
Ally does become more dangerous as a result of it becoming clear that she has no idea what’s going on. It’s clear this setback won’t deter her and her lack of knowledge will only endanger more people. Her capture is a very brief victory as her contingency plan involving Lucy is in place. It is already known that Lucy has a lot of emotional baggage that triggers Sam and Lois. Her reappearance reopens wounds in both of them that remain unresolved. The turning point for all of them is when Lois’ mother abandoned them. The reason behind that is a mystery to all of them which contributes to the lasting impact of that event. Sam admits that he was forever changed by that and there’s no way for him to fix it. He has repeatedly recognised his failings as a father and the impact it had on his daughters but he wasn’t equipped to handle the situation in a productive way.
As has been previously established, Lois took on a parental role in the absence of that mother figure while Lucy became more vulnerable which made her susceptible to Ally’s promises. The role Lois naturally adopted created a rift between her and Lucy as there was envy on Lucy’s part that Lois appeared to be handling it better than she was. Things look to be improving after Lucy’s suicide message prompts a reunion where she decides to come back and let her family help her. This is a deception so that she can get close to Sam in order to free Ally which comes at no surprise but doing this reveal in the same episode is very rushed. Lucy’s betrayal may have had more impact if some time was spent on her reacquainting with Sam and Lucy. An episode spent on her appearing to rebuild those relationships before revealing her true intentions would give the betrayal greater weight rather than the whistle-stop tour of the headline issues followed by the betrayal. The content on display was good but definitely condensed.
This does allow for strong insight into the lingering mental scars left on Lois since that event. Her conversation with Clark when he finds her snooping around in Lucy’s apartment has her open up about her fear of her family falling apart. She has a sister who may want to commit suicide, a father who feels incomplete and has always been incapable of handling the fallout of Lois’ mother leaving. Lois has significant abandonment issues and worries that everyone will leave her. Clark assures her that it’ll never happen but the recent problems with Jonathan add to those anxieties because she feels a total loss of control over the constants in her life. The reality is that even though Sam was less than ideal as a father he was always in her life, Clark will never leave her and she has a strong relationship with her two sons. Her fear of total abandonment is irrational but it still has power over her and it comes to a head because of Lucy’s threat of suicide. The ending where Lucy betrays her and Sam is emotionally weighty and creates compelling stakes going into the next episode.
A strong episode that provides compelling coverage of how the consequences of character decisions. John and Natalie finally return with Natalie angrily lashing out at Clark because she blames him for John’s injuries. She is also struggling to accept that this Clark is different to the one who killed her mother. This manifests as hostility that she isn’t shy about expressing. It’s still relatable despite the Multiverse detail because she is lashing out due to needing an outlet for her grief. To her Clark represents everything she has lost which makes it impossible to accept her kindness at face value. Clark understands this and offers them a home so that Natalie doesn’t have to deal with Clark every day and can choose to get to know him on her own terms and process her loss on her own schedule. Jonathan is in an increasingly sticky situation because of his recently outed drug use. Clark feels personally betrayed by Jonathan’s actions and has lost trust in him. He isn’t able to approach him in a more constructive way and understand the reasons behind the decisions that Jonathan has made. One interesting thing about this version of Clark is the ongoing parental learning curve with this being a great example of not always approaching things in the best way. Jonathan brings a lot on himself by choosing to protect Candice He is committed to supporting her because he knows that father is on the edge of poverty and that they have nowhere to go if they lose the house. This suffers because the headline facts are interesting but Candice and her relationship with Jonathan are so poorly developed that it’s difficult to invest in it.
The Jonathan plot has a knock on effect on Jordan who helps him by fighting off a drugged up individual with super powers. Jordan goes too far when taking him on which feeds into his training plot as he still has a long way to go before being able to control his powers. It’s also entirely the wrong approach as it’s one that favours violence which is another betrayal of their upbringing. Jordan also misses out on the arranged meeting with Aubrey that Sarah set up to try and defeat the awkwardness. Him not showing up will likely reflect poorly. The Cushing family are still in disarray as evidenced by Sarah’s question around what their new normal will. Lana and Kyle’s preparation for Lana’s debate is contrived but it does allow them the opportunity to discuss the breakdown in their relationship. Lana explodes at him which is clearly something she needs to do and it supports her frustrations around the campaign she’s running. Kyle remains committed to proving that he has changed while giving her the time she needs even if the relationship is beyond fixing. The Ally plot is rapidly losing momentum largely because of the death of Bizarro. Anderson is not a suitable substitute and the idea of Ally is more interesting than Ally herself. Learning that she believes the promises she makes to others rather than it being an extended manipulation is interesting but it raises too many questions. The reappearance of Lucy resulting in her betraying Sam works really well though would have been better with more time to develop. It is further confirmed that the trigger point for many of the issues Sam, Lois and Lucy deal with is Lois and Lucy’s mother abandoning them. Lucy is vulnerable, Sam is broken in some profound way and Lois has severe abandonment issues that comes with a fear of losing everyone she loves. It’s irrational but powerful. Lucy’s betrayal is emotionally weighty and creates compelling stakes going into the next episode.
- the relatable portrayal of grief driven anger from Natalie
- Clark’s measured approach that allows Natalie to heal
- the continuation of Clark’s parental learning curve through his approach to Jonathan
- Jordan being dragged down by Jonathan and their approach being less than ideal
- a knock on effect for Jordan’s relationship with Sarah
- Lana getting the opportunity to vent her feelings about Kyle’s mistake
- Lucy’s reappearance and her betrayal having emotional heft
- the portrayal of Lois’ well cultivated abandonment issues
- Jonathan’s plot being let down by Candice and his relationship with her being underdeveloped
- the lack of strong background making this plot less impactful that it could be
- the contrivance of Lana and Kyle working together
- the Ally plot losing momentum
- the idea of Ally being more interesting than Ally herself
- too many questions surrounding this character
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