Superman & Lois – Season 3 Episode 6

Apr 26, 2023 | Posted by in TV

“Of Sound Mind”

Superman & Lois challenges Clark in new ways and Sophie struggles with feeling neglected when her family are wrapped up in their own interests.

The mission statement of this season seems to be twofold. One of the aims looks to be developing characters who have been sidelined or left behind in prior seasons and another is presenting Clark with a challenge he has never had to deal with before. Both are strong starting points as the former acknowledges past missteps with some of the characters while the latter shows a desire on the part of the writers to push themselves to deliver a Superman story never seen before in live action. Of course, it all comes down to the execution but the starting point is very strong.


A problem shared is a problem reduced

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that characters like Natalie and Chrissy have received more attention than they have previously. In both cases, their starting point is recognising that their lives lack depth and looking to fix that. It’s an acknowledgement on the part of the writers that some characters are only defined in the context of a core relationship or the role they occupy on the show and a great opportunity for characters to gain agency by looking to enrich their lives in some way.

Something similar happens here with Sophie. Sarah’s mostly absent sister has become something akin to a running joke as there is often a failure to even mention her when she’s nowhere to be seen. It always stands out because she’s very young and can’t be left without supervision yet the show consistently fails to feature or mention her because she doesn’t fit into the stories being told. There’s likely a behind-the-scenes explanation involving legal working hours limits for someone Joselyn Picard’s age but there has been a failure to work around that in a believable way. Kyle and Lana having two daughters/Sarah having a sister has never felt like a necessity because very little has been done with that dynamic beyond the occasional appearance or reference to things affecting her in some way.

This episode turns Sophie being a forgotten part of the family into a plot point albeit somewhat clumsily. She has barely been featured this season and only appears in this episode to labour the point of her being forgotten. It’s very much about Sophie and how she feels in this episode but it also feeds into the ongoing narrative of Lana being pulled in different directions and her relationship with her daughters suffering because being Mayor has consumed so much of her time. Early on in the episode, Sophie is somewhat regarded as an inconvenience getting in the way of other things that her family are doing. Lana can’t look after her because she is on her way to an interview with Chrissy, Sarah can’t look after her because she has a big test to study for and Kyle has to work so it’s about who has the most scope to bear this burden. Kyle ends up being the one charged with her care but has to take her to work because it’s the only option. This highlights that Sophie feels neglected as her family talk about her rather than to her and treat her as a problem that needs to be solved.


Hard work and plenty of it

It comes to a head when she runs away after being dismissed by Sarah who doesn’t even notice that she’s gone until directly asked where she is. It doesn’t take long to find her so the panic is short-lived but it does draw attention to the fact that they have all been guilty of neglecting Sophie. Kyle’s realisation comes after he prioritises sneaking around with Chrissy over making sure his daughters have everything they need. Sarah is old enough to look after herself but Sophie is a different story and he’s so wrapped up in his own concerns that he forgets about that. Lana chews him out over that but she’s hardly in a position to judge Kyle for not paying enough attention to Sophie as she’s guilty of the same thing. The episode smartly doesn’t dwell on Lana finding out about Kyle and Chrissy as the more urgent issue is that Sophie is missing. There will likely be fallout from this but Kyle’s comfort with publicly outing their relationship shows that it’s more than a casual fling for him is an interesting development.

Jonathan is the one to reach out to Sophie because he understands how he feels. A persistent problem is sidelining Jonathan and focusing more on Jordan. This is a persistent problem with limited signs of being addressed but there is a definite awareness of the problem so the next stage should hopefully be taking definitive steps to address it. For now, it feeds into an excellent scene between Jonathan and Sophie where he makes her feel seen. He knows exactly how she feels and is able to approach her from a place of empathy while talking about the mistakes he made along the way as a cautionary tale to prevent her from falling into the same trap. Sophie running away wasn’t a mistake because it was the only way for her family to take notice of how they’ve been treating her but it’s important for Sophie to understand that the neglect wasn’t malicious and that her family do care about her even if they don’t express that as clearly as they should. Her actions were extreme but put a spotlight on the problem and hopefully starts her family down the path of being more considerate and examining their own commitments. This is evidenced by Lana and Sarah taking the time to make Sophie feel loved and valued which is a positive start but it also has to be a consistent effort. It’s a struggle that can continue as the responsibilities the characters have increase.

Volunteering with Kyle at the fire station is the current attempt to give Jonathan purpose. There isn’t a lot of coverage so far but the previous episode introduced the idea of this being an opportunity for Jonathan to learn important life lessons. The first example was Kyle flatly telling him to think about which commitment is most important to him and this episode continues the idea by highlighting to Jonathan that he has to prove himself before progressing through a career. Kyle points out that he needs to earn respect and work hard rather than being handed success. It’s not universally true as evidenced by the inequalities that exist everywhere in society but in general, it’s a good lesson for Jonathan to learn. The value of hard work by itself is a strong fundamental value that’s innately easy to respect and Kyle isn’t one to let anyone coast. So far this looks to be a good fit for Jonathan as he is positioned to learn foundational values that compliment his upbringing.


Far from a last meal

Something similar is happening with Jordan though there is more to it where he is concerned. He is increasingly frustrated with his training because he is anxious to do more while Clark refuses to let him take on more responsibility. It’s evident that he’s mastered the training programs in the fortress and part of his frustration comes from not understanding why Clark won’t let him progress. Part of it is impatience on Jordan’s part in not deferring to what his father can teach him but most of it is down to Clark’s extensive experience of being a superhero and knowing how situations can escalate far beyond what is expected. He wants Jordan to understand that his perception of being ready to progress comes from besting predictable training programs and that the reality will be far different. The problem is that Clark fails to recognise that making Jordan endlessly repeat training scenarios won’t accomplish his goal of making sure he’s ready to face reality because the only way to do that is for Jordan to get real-world experience.

Clark’s overprotective attitude towards Jordan comes from feeling helpless about Lois’ cancer. He eventually admits that his fixation on keeping Jordan safe comes from his inability to save Lois from the cancer. Jordan’s training is something that he can control and he can draw a direct link between his actions and Jordan’s safety but Lois fighting her illness is something he has no control over. It’s an important realisation that changes his approach to Jordan’s training, particularly when Jordan saves his life and shows that being half-human might end up being a strength as his tolerance to Kryptonite is far greater as a result. The message is that Jordan is the best of Lois and Clark and that needs to be nurtured. Clark realises that he has as much to learn as Jordan does but in a different way.

Much of the episode features Clark in denial about how helpless he is. This starts with his attendance at a group therapy session where the spouses of those fighting cancer can discuss how they feel supporting them through the treatment. The scene is nothing short of devastating thanks in part to the audience following Clark’s perspective. He sees his future as one of the accounts he hears will come to pass but he doesn’t know which one. It’s an important scene as it adds more texture to the cancer storyline by addressing that those supporting the person being treated will find it difficult to be an emotional anchor when they’re afraid of losing someone they care about.


We’re not so different

One of the accounts is from a man who talks about the positive news of a scan being better than expected but any excitement is tempered by the knowledge that losing his wife is inevitable. That’s something he knows for a fact and he’s fully aware that she’s living on borrowed time. It’s good that they have more time together but it’s still finite and running out. Another is from the leader of the group who talks about losing her husband. She describes her husband being as strong and determined as Lois currently is but currently losing to the illness just as Lois might so it’s a practical example of how iron-willed determination may not be enough to defeat the cancer. All of this is especially difficult for Superman to hear because he’s in a room full of people that he can’t save. One thing that is reinforced by this plot is that Clark has a compulsive desire to protect and save others and doesn’t like to accept that it’s sometimes impossible. That’s a great attitude for a hero to have but it creates a barrier for Clark dealing with Lois’ cancer in a healthy way.

This is exemplified through his reaction to the group therapy. He dismisses it as not being for him with a false smile on his face hiding the real anguish he is feeling. His denial is later reinforced by his rejection of Lois’ suggestion to get her affairs in order just in case the worst comes to pass. Lois is far more pragmatic than Clark is as she understands that she may not survive this whereas Clark is unwilling to accept any possibility other than a full recovery. He sees Lois putting things like a will in place as a sign of “the pull” that he was made aware of in the previous episode. To him, preparing for the possibility of her death is a sign that she has given up and accepted her fate when it’s actually just a sensible formality to take care of while she still has the energy to devote to it. She reassures Clark that she has no intention of resigning herself to an inevitable death but they both have to be realistic about what could happen.

She tells Clark that he needs to consider his perspective as he has built-in distance from everyone else on the planet because of his invulnerability. Lois makes reference to a number of things that could end up killing her that he has no control over including being hit by a bus. Human beings are physically vulnerable and -with a few exceptions- Clark isn’t so he can’t truly understand the concept of mortality in the way that she does. He can understand it in theory and clearly doesn’t consider the other methods he has no control over to be a persistent threat. The cancer is a different consideration because it’s currently directly impacting her but she was always at risk of being diagnosed. It’s a very human reaction to life-threatening circumstances as most people don’t leave the house worrying that they’ll be run over for example. It’s an accepted possibility in daily life that people don’t dwell on because doing so would make them live in constant fear of all the possible fatalities that could occur. Cancer is similar; everyone is aware that they could be diagnosed with cancer at any time but most operate on the general assumption that they won’t. Thought is applied to it when the threat is a more urgent one just as being run over would heighten awareness of that possibility.


The real world is unpredictable

Lois pointing that out to Clark helps him to eventually admit that he feels powerless. People don’t like feeling that way generally but being Superman would amplify that significantly. He’s the most powerful being on Earth but feels powerless because there’s nothing he can do to rid Lois of her illness. Clark can do nothing more than hope for the best and be supportive of Lois as she deals with it. James DiStefano aka Deadline (Jason Beaudoin) is an extension of that idea to a limited extent. Attention is drawn to his death leaving three children without a father. It’s a powerful point by itself and loosely links to Clark’s unwillingness to accept the potential negative conclusion of Lois’ treatment. The idea is that it’s a practical example of there being no avoiding it in some cases even if Deadline had his time unnaturally extended thanks to Bruno Mannheim’s experiments. Not enough is done to create an organic link between Deadline’s inclusion and Clark’s arc but the linkage can be seen and it visibly feeds into his thought process.

Once Clark is able to vocalise how he feels he goes back to group therapy and shares those feelings with people who will understand where he’s coming from. His final line in the episode is him admitting that he needs help. That’s growth and humanises Clark in a visceral way. It’s a moving and thoughtful progression that plays very well throughout the episode.

Lois isn’t forgotten in the midst of Clark’s arc. She has a really engaging conversation with Peia (Daya Vaidya) who gives her plenty to think about. Part of their conversation is about how Clark is handling this where Peia offers advice based on her experience with her own husband. The idea is that they understand what they’re dealing with while the husbands struggle because it isn’t happening directly to them. It reinforces that there’s a lot to consider when dealing with this and that nobody needs to feel isolated. Perhaps more significantly is Peia’s perspective on Bruno Mannheim. She lists the positive things his influence has achieved, both for the area and the hospital itself. This adds to the complexity of the character featured elsewhere and continues the notion that he does have a genuine desire to help people despite the illegal and immoral things he is involved in. Peia believes that the hospital is real and has helped a lot of people. One example she gives is them finding things that other doctors missed and making her treatment more effective as a result. At this point, there has been more coverage of Bruno Mannheim as a philanthropic humanitarian than there has of him as a villain. Hopefully, this progression will continue and Bruno Mannheim will remain a nuanced figure with his criminal endeavours motivated by genuine altruism. The murky morality will be more interesting than his being flatly characterised as a villain. So far so good.


No more denial

Peia and Lois’ conversation about Bruno Mannheim coupled with his apparent transparency when it comes to her investigation at least gives Lois scope to consider that there might be some sincerity to him that may make it more difficult for her to condemn him as she learns more. For the moment he is indirectly helping her considerably through his hospital administering her treatment so at the very least she has to accept that those employed in the hospital are doing their jobs. This places her in a potentially interesting ethical position and challenges her previously held assumptions.

The reveal that Peia is Onomatopoeia has some weight because Peia has been given attention in this episode as well as the previous one. Like Mannheim, she comes across as sincere and her rapport with Lois is an engaging one as was her conversation with Clark in the previous episode. There seems to be a defined separation between her compassionate nature and carrying out whatever acts of violence Bruno Mannheim asks of her. The reveal somewhat colours what she says about Mannheim’s influence but not to the extent of rendering it invalid. His clear personal investment in curing her also adds extra motivation for him to help those suffering from cancer. His mother was previously mentioned but it appears the stakes are more personal than he let on. Long may this complexity continue.


The plot thickens


An excellent episode with a moving and thoughtful exploration of Clark’s denial and feelings of helplessness while continuing to add welcome depth to less-featured characters.

  • 9/10
    Of Sound Mind - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • using Sophie’s limited appearances as the basis for a story about her feeling neglected
  • Jonathan helping Sophie realise she isn’t alone as he went through the same thing
  • Kyle teaching Jonathan about hard work and earning respect
  • Jordan also having to understand how reality works through his training
  • adding complexity to that through Clark being overprotective
  • building to the realisation that Clark is being overprotective because he can’t protect Lois from the cancer
  • exploring Clark’s denial over how helpless he is
  • the excellent group therapy scene and Clark seeing some of the possible futures
  • Lois’ discussion with Clark about his general perspective and how he can’t understand how vulnerable humans are
  • Clark’s eventual admission of feeling powerless and needing help
  • Lois and Peia’s conversation allowing Lois to have an experienced perspective of what she’s dealing with
  • Peia adding to the complexity surrounding Bruno Mannheim
  • the Onomatopoeia reveal contributing to that complexity


Rise Against…

  • Deadline’s inclusion offering a valid but clumsy link to Clark’s arc
  • Sophie’s appearance being a deliberate and inorganic starting point to explore the idea of her being often forgotten


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User Review
9/10 (2 votes)

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