Superman & Lois – Season 1 Episode 10
“O Mother, Where Art Thou?”
Superman & Lois continues to revolve everything around the idea of family as Clark is made to confront his heritage in a very personal way.
One of the many things this show has done well since it began is take its time whether that be in the deliberate approach to building plot, developing characters or exploring relationships. This more meditative approach has worked well because it sends a message that the writers of this show see these things as worth taking time to develop. This means it stands out even more when things are rushed and this episode certainly rushes through a lot.
The episode picks up immediately after the previous one with Clark learning that Morgan Edge is a fellow Kryptonian who may be his brother. It turns out that brother doesn’t just mean that they are both Kryptonians as Edge is also a son of Lara who came from a different father. There is a whole backstory to that situation that is largely glossed over but the important part is that Clark is now confronted with biological family rather than the found family he values. Their first conversation very much focuses on how they view the world. Edge -or Tal-Rho- sees Humanity to be nothing more than their flaws. In his mind they’re a dangerous and violent race who deserve to be replaced with the superior Kryptonians where Clark believes in the good that Humanity are capable of achieving. He has seen it, he has lived it and he continues to believe in it where Edge considers that as more of an anomaly that doesn’t excuse how terrible the Human race is.
This idea is continued into their second conversation that sheds more light on what shaped that worldview for Edge. It’s done through contrast by quickly covering Edge’s backstory where his arrival to Earth was met with him being immediately hunted, locked away and experimented on. This treatment embittered him and taught him to hate the Human race which fuels his motivation to replace them with what he considers to be a better option. As we know Clark was found and raised by loving parents, was taught to look for the best in people and had his worldview shaped in a positive way. This fuels his desire to protect and inspire people so there is a direct contrast between Clark and Edge that succinctly justifies Edge’s motivation. There is an idea in there that is never covered, specifically around how easily Clark could have experienced fear and persecution when he made his way to Earth. Clark never agonises over the possibility of his life playing out in a similar way nor does he acknowledge how lucky he was to be found by the Kents. Granted it’s something he can’t control but considering the alternate universe evil Superman that has been showcased several times it would be a relevant internal conflict.
A big issue with this is how quickly it’s introduced and delivered. Clark does have trouble with the notion of having a biological half brother and how that challenges everything he understood about his family history but it doesn’t factor into the overall narrative as intricately as it needs to as the focus is on the mechanics of what he’s doing rather than why he’s doing it. The real story is Clark having a half brother who has lived a life that he so easily could have lived rather than a world domination scheme inspired by a terrible childhood. Edge isn’t a strong enough character to assign the necessary meaning that needs to exist which makes the overall narrative appear muddled.
The idea of Krypton being reborn on Earth through bodysnatching Humans is undoubtedly a problem but there’s a failure to explore exactly why it’s a problem. In some ways the facts speak for themselves with Human consciousness being overwritten by a Kryptonian one meaning the complete loss of self against their will. Edge is manipulative and dishonest about his intentions meaning that the people involved are being violated so there’s a lot of horror attached to what he’s doing but the implications are never covered. As mentioned previously a case study would have helped with this and there were two ideal candidates to provide this through Emily and Kyle. Emily wasn’t developed enough as a character with any coverage she did receive going down a different route and Kyle -or whoever it is inhabiting him- spends this episode doing little more than making threats from inside a cell. Instead of being a meaningful problem it comes across as being something that’s happening without much weight attached to it.
Another issue is the reborn Kryptonians have no individual personalities. Clark faces an army of them towards the end of the episode but they are nothing more than henchmen with no agency. There has been mention of the Kryptonians being a peaceful race so it doesn’t make sense that all of them would willingly go along with Edge’s plan following being implanted into a Human host. Do any of them have a problem with what had to be sacrificed to allow them to live or did he only choose the immoral members of his race to be reborn? All of them so easily falling into Clark’s obvious trap further devalues them as individuals and robs this plot of any real meaning. Edge’s plan is a complication and the Kryptonians are never allowed to be anything more than elements associated with that complication which makes for a massive missed opportunity. Basically there was too much going on with insufficient exploration in favour of a really rushed conclusion.
The episode is at its best when playing to the strengths the show has demonstrated so far. Family is a major theme so Clark having the opportunity to meet his mother when Lana agrees to be her host allows for some excellent moments. Emmanuelle Chrique’s performance as Lara is excellent; she is obviously play a different character to Lana and the tenderness she routinely exhibits particularly around Clark is really engaging. Her sentiment around hoping Clark would be loved and accepted on Earth comes across as fully sincere and Clark allowing himself to be vulnerable as he fills her in on what his life has been like is really endearing. The happiness and pride she exhibits as she sees that things turned out well for her son is a really strong character moment though it does stand out that she shares no time with her other son despite the importance of that connection.
Lara’s conversation with Lois is equally excellent. Lois’ confession about being with Clark being as wonderful as it is difficult is beautifully honest and highlights her awareness that worthwhile things in life are never easy. Their relationship is one of extreme contrasts but it’s a supportive partnership based on love. There’s no regret in Lois’ voice as she opens up about this.as it’s an acknowledgement of this being a fact of her life that she is willing to live with and that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lana’s decision to be Lara’s host is explicitly tied to who she is as a person and the experiences that have led to this. She feels responsible for what is happening because she was the one who recommended people for the fake leadership program. Her guilt motivates her desire to make things right and she offers herself as host without hesitation. Nobody blames her but herself because she had no way of knowing what Edge was up to but feeling responsible makes sense especially considering how much she wanted to help people get their lives back on track. Her reaction to seeing Superman in the flesh for the first time was a really nice touch as well. The awe on her face as she realised it was really him is a great reminder of how inspiring Superman is to people. Her conversation with him around there being another way and his commitment to optimism reinforces one of his core positive personality traits in a very natural way.
Sarah’s feelings about Kyle come into the plot in a big way when she beats herself up over giving him a hard time. Her reaction to Kyle’s behaviour was completely understandable as it fits a pattern she has unfortunately gotten used to and she was approaching the end of her tether with it. Kyle is a constant disappointment to her because he would consistently let her down in favour of drinking so she sees him as an unreliable figure in her life. Jordan and Jonathan help give her context to this particular situation which allows her to gain some perspective on what her father may have been going through as well as the reasons her mother continues to tolerate it. She begins to realise how easy it is to be in your own head and leap to conclusions in given circumstances but she comes to realise that there is more happening than she assumes and she adjusts her thinking accordingly.
There is a really strong scene between Sarah and Jordan where he offers her emotional support, apologises for missing her performance and makes her aware that he’s completely there for her should she need him. His mention of the moment she was able to share with Kyle due to his non attendance was a really nice touch as he recognises it as a necessary bonding moment that both of them needed to experience.
Jonathan’s morality continues to be strongly displayed particularly in relation to how he deals with Sam. An argument erupts when they try to get Sarah access to see Kyle and Sam falls back on the mantra of secrecy being necessary to protect people. Jonathan rightly points out that he continues to say that but it has never been true. Sam is stuck in the military mindset of keeping everything hidden and handling a situation through compartmentalising information which removes the Human element entirely. Jonathan recognises that and encourages him to be compassionate because it’s clear that his default tactics aren’t working in this situation. This is another example of Jonathan’s morality being very similar to Clark’s and his ability to articulate what he believes to be the right thing is definitely coming along. Sam agreeing to let Sarah see Kyle indicates that he isn’t beyond reason and might be starting to understand that his way may not be the best way to do things. Having Sam budge slightly on his preconceived notions fits with what has been established and it’s appropriate that there’s an innocence to how Jonathan sees honesty as a concept. He doesn’t accept the world as a complicated place and feels that secrecy has only contributed to things being more complicated than they need to be.
The ending where Clark crawls into the Fortress powerless clutching the Eradicator as Edge considers recent events to be a mere setback is somewhat interesting though comes across as somewhat overblown. It’s encouraging that Edge will be sticking around with his first attempt having failed as there may now be time to explore the character in more detail especially in terms of how he relates to Clark. As for Clark unleashing all of his energy and rendering himself temporarily powerless it’s likely there will be complications that arise where he needs his powers and doesn’t have them. It also looks likely that he will try to install Lara’s consciousness into the Fortress which could result in some really strong material as he can now turn to his birth father and birth mother for guidance.
An uneven episode that excels in some really strong character moments but gets bogged down in overblown plotting. The reveal that Edge is Kryptonian and the biological half brother of Clark is in theory a strong idea especially when positioning Edge as the opposite to him in terms of their upbringing. There’s a whole internal conflict to be explored for Clark when faced with the embodiment of everything he could have been had he been less fortunate when he landed though it doesn’t happen. They do occupy opposite viewpoints on how they see Humanity but that’s as far as it goes. Edge’s plan is obviously horrific but the horror of it is never explored and the Kryptonians have no personality of their own which makes his plan appear very shallow given how surface level everything is. Even their defeat showcases a lack of intelligence on their part which makes for a very rushed conclusion to an overstuffed plot.
The episode excels in characterisation. Clark’s conversation with Lara where she gets to see the man he has become while being happy that he was both loved and accepted on Earth just as she wanted is really well handled with Emmanuelle Chriqui’s performance being filled with tenderness. It’s odd that she doesn’t spend time with her other son but the material with Clark is strong. Her conversation with Lois is equally excellent. Lois confesses that being with Clark is as wonderful as it is difficult and talks about their relationship as a loving partnership. It’s a great moment that further reinforces Lois being fully willing to accept that these difficulties are a fact of their lives. Lana’s guilt and desire to make up for the part she played in causing the situation is a strong showing for her and her reaction to seeing Superman in the flesh was a really nice touch. Jonathan and Jordan giving Sarah context and perspective on her father’s behaviour allows her to see things differently. She begins to understand that there is more happening than she is aware of and she alters her thinking according. Jordan’s scene with her where he offers her support should she need it is brilliantly done as well. Jonathan challenging Sam on his morality is another really strong moment where Jonathan highlights how often his approach turns out to be the wrong one. Sam sees reason and decides to be compassionate which shows flexibility on his part. The innocence associated with Jonathan’s perspective on secrecy makes for a believable outlook and further showcases his morality.
- Lara’s tenderness and pride as she sees the life her son has built for himself
- the Lara/Lois conversation
- a strong showing from Lana as she takes responsibility for the part she played
- Sarah altering her mindset when receiving appropriate context and perspective
- Jordan supporting Sarah
- Jonathan challenging Sam on his morality
- not exploring the direct contrast between Edge and Clark
- no exploration of the wider implications of Edge’s plan
- the Kryptonians having no personalities of their own
- a rushed conclusion
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