Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 4
“The Inverse Method”
Superman & Lois reopens old wounds for Lois as well as the Cushings while Clark continues to explore the mysterious connection he has to his duplicate.
One of the lingering questions around this show is whether it actually exists in the Arrowverse. It shares some of the actors but apparently none of the history while recasting and rewriting some who have appeared in other shows. Further confusion is created by the appearance of Lucy Lane (Jenna Dewan) who is a completely different person from the iteration that appeared in the first season of Supergirl. In other shows “Crisis On Infinite Earths” is used to explain any changed but this show has yet to create a tangible connection with the wider universe that it may or may not be a part of. This isn’t something that could be considered a problem as it doesn’t have to be part of a wider universe especially when the storytelling is as strong as it is but for fans of the Arrowverse connections are made by default so it stands out that they aren’t being addressed.
In the case of Lucy; this version is far more troubled than she was back in Supergirl. In the past she succumbed to the lure of a cult led by Ally Allston (Rya Kihlstedt) and tried to take her own life in the pursuit of ascending to a higher plane of existence. Lois worked to expose the cult in order to free her sister from its influence and stop Ally from harming anyone else. In terms of the background it’s well trodden ground for cults with them preying on vulnerable people in desperate need of help. Superman & Lois makes no effort to suggest that Ally helps people in any way and fully leans into the notion of her organisation being a dangerous thing that needs to be brought down.
Ally is mostly seen from Lois’ perspective which means she is painted as being manipulative and unpleasant. This does rob the character of nuance as it isn’t apparent what about her persuades people to fall under her influence. The straightforward approach makes sense for the story being told but Ally actually being a character would provide more overall depth. At this point she is an obstacle placed between Lois and Lucy while causing Chrissy to question her professional affiliation with her. Based on the available evidence it appears that Ally’s tactic is to create doubt or exploit existing ones and twist it to align with her message. It’s certainly insidious but more focus on how she does this and why it works would enhance the threat she represents.
Much of the focus is on Lois and Lucy’s relationship with Ally’s cult serving as the catalyst for them being estranged from one another. Lucy is angry with Lois for not understanding what Lucy is going through and why Ally is able to help her through it while Lois is frustrated with Lucy’s inability to see the truth about Ally. They are at an impasse that can’t be resolved without a massive mindset change. As said before the episode is showcasing Ally and her organisation in a wholly negative light so the expectation is that the viewer will side with Lois.
This helps amplify the notion of Lucy being misguided and consumed by an inability to resolve the issues she is dealing with. Lois becomes the scapegoat for how she feels because Lois took away the only thing that brought her comfort. Perversely Lucy sees Lois as the manipulator who forced her into speaking out against Ally and leaving out an important part of the story to suit her own agenda. Without having the full scope of what happened detailed it’s impossible to say what the reality is or was but it’s certainly easy to accept that Lois wanted to protect her sister from a nefarious cult looking to exploit her.
Further reference is made to a suicide attempt which turns out to be how someone is supposed to ascend to a higher plane of existence. In this universe being able to do that isn’t automatically a ludicrous notion but it’s unlikely that Ally knows how to do it especially considering the fact that she hasn’t done it herself. Despite that, Lucy saw no other way out of the life that brings her so much pain and wanted to shift to something better. She resents Lois for preventing that and mentions that she saw her other form in the moments before being revived. It could be a near death hallucination or perhaps she caught a glimpse of her happier and more self assured Pre-Crisis self. It’s also possible she saw a version of herself from another universe entirely. John and Natalie come from a different universe so there’s every possibility that others can be glimpsed.
Whether Lucy really saw what she claims she did or not is beside the point. For now the main takeaway from this is that Ally had a part to play in the breakdown of Lucy and Lois’ relationship; something that was already strained by Sam’s inability to cope with raising them on his own. It is well established that a tremendous burden was placed on Lois who effectively stepped in for her mother after being abandoned. As such it’s reasonable to assume that she didn’t necessarily handle trying to help Lucy in the best possible way but what is clear is that her heart is in the right place. Lucy is heading down a dangerous path that Lois believed she was free of and she has no idea how to help her. Added to this is her reputation and integrity being called into question with Lucy recanting her story and the video evidence that now exists of Lois admitting that she left a part of the story out due to feeling that it wasn’t relevant.
The scenes between Lois and Lucy are excellent; Elizabeth Tulloch and Jenna Dewan’s performances powerfully convey the rift that exists between the sisters. Their words are dripping in emotion and Jenna Dewan appears believably damaged. There’s a detached quality to the way she conducts herself that matches up with what the character’s emotional state to be. Both actors bring across the history that exists in their relationship and serve the story very well.
This situation is proving less than ideal for Chrissy who is concerned that partnering with Lois might have been a mistake. Calling this story into question casts an uncomfortable light on her and calls her own integrity into question through association. Lois is too distracted to be fully aware of how deeply concerned Chrissy is and has assumed that Chrissy is entirely on her side when it comes to combatting this. Initially this certainly seems to be the case but as the episode progresses Chrissy experiences increasing doubt until she reaches the point where she asks Ally for her version of events. This could be building to Chrissy falling under Ally’s influence after having her vulnerabilities preyed on. Telling a story about how intelligent people can find themselves aligned with organisations like Ally’s could be incredibly powerful if done well.
Lana’s Mayoral campaign continues to be difficult to place in terms of what the purpose of the plot is. For now it does little more than fill time while suggesting directions it can go in and fails to capture interest by itself due to how disconnected it is. In theory it could be a way to flesh out the community that is Smallville but so far it hasn’t been doing that. The current complication is her opponent conducting a smear campaign by digging into Lana’s history. That history includes Sarah’s suicide attempt; something that may not endear Lana to voters. It leads to a couple of really engaging scenes; the first of which has Lana and Kyle discuss how they should approach it and arriving at the shared decision of telling Sarah the truth so that she can be prepared for what she might have to face.
The second is when they talk to Sarah about it and she accepts it as a part of political campaigning. Sarah sees no problem with this becoming known because to her it represents a mistake she made that she has now learned from. If she is forced to talk about it in public then her commentary will be positive. This once again shows Sarah’s maturity beyond her years and how therapy has helped her process her feelings in a very functional way.
Another unclear plot is the potential drug addiction one involving Jonathan. The previous episode had him buying X-Kryptonite fuelled drugs from his girlfriend while leaving the reason vague. It turns out that he was buying them with the intention of using them in order to keep up with his peers on the football field. This has the potential to be a narrative around the temptation to use performance enhancing drugs when playing competitive sports with a superhero twist but so far the show isn’t leaning heavily into it.
Part of the problem is that Jonathan has never really exhibited any jealousy around people being better than him in certain areas. He has supported Jordan throughout the manifestation of his powers and his objective prior to this was more around outing the ones using drugs rather than levelling the playing field by taking them himself. It’s an awkward shift that the episode fails to justify though it’s easy to see how addictive suddenly having powers would be and it’s possible that Jonathan could end up something of a thrillseeker who enjoys having powers to a dangerous degree as a contrast to Jordan with his more responsible outlook.
Jordan starts to learn the pitfalls of wanting to use his powers to help others. In trying to prevent a robbery he risks exposing himself after being caught on camera. Luckily Sam is able to deal with the footage but with his intervention comes a lesson about spatial awareness when using his powers. Jordan asks Sam to train him which sets him off on his own hero’s journey while providing an opportunity for Sam and Jordan to bond in a unique way. Sam’s proviso that they keep it between them is likely to end badly but other than that the general setup is strong and had a lot of potential.
Clark’s connection to his duplicate, Bizarro still plagues him with intense visions and an inability to function when near him. This episode identifies that the necklace BIzarro wears is responsible and that the connection causes him just as much pain. Nothing is known about where the duplicate comes from but there’s a hint of tragedy to him with the clear confusion he experiences along with a desire to sever that connection. The necklace is removed which seems to stop the proximity based pain but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Connected to this is John and Natalie’s arc around finding a new home. They both embrace the fact that they are working together on John’s suit but the urgency of the Bizarro problem means that John puts himself at risk when his technology isn’t equipped to keep up with the punishment he will receive. His first injury is relatively minor when he wields the hammer without his gauntlet and later he almost dies when receiving a bad beating from Bizarro. This will either motivate John and Natalie to improve the suit or give Natalie more reason to feel it’s a bad idea to put himself at risk in this way.
The conversation Clark and John have about finding a home and feeling secure was really strong. Clark talks about Smallville being somewhere he feels at home and likes the slower pace of life. John understands this point and feels that Natalie is warming up to it as well. It’s the declaration of contentment before a tragedy unfolds putting that bliss at risk but it’s also a really poignant display of friendship from each of them. There are suggestions that Natalie is starting to find her place but they are relegated to background details in this episode.
Clark’s broken relationship with the military is continued when Anderson resolves to take on Bizarro without him. It’s fair to say that Superman is less than effective when dealing with him but his approach of sending a small team of untested super powered teenagers is far less than the smartest course of action. Two are killed and one survives when Clark and John get involved. In theory this is incredibly tragic and fully supports Clark’s concerns but it isn’t as effective as it could be because Anderson’s team aren’t really characters. Tag has been seen before and is therefore recognisable but hasn’t received much in the way of characterisation so there’s very little to latch onto beyond the surface level peril. Some time spent developing Anderson and his team as people with their own relationships to each other would have fleshed out this aspect of the plot a lot more and added extra meaning to their deaths. As such it’s simply an additional detail that had more potential than the episode allowed.
Anderson and his team being the only viable avenue of support points to this show being set in a universe separate from the rest of the Arrowverse. Clark would understandably not want to trouble Barry or anyone else with threats he’s facing because other heroes have their own concerns but given the severity of what is being faced and the fact that Clark becomes useless when going anywhere near Bizarro it would be reasonable to at least entertain the idea of looping in Barry, Kara or anyone else when the alternative is relying on a resource that Clark doesn’t trust. This doesn’t have to actually happen but having it not be addressed is frustratingly glaring.
A good episode that makes excellent use of the fractured Lois/Lucy sisterly bond while putting things in place with the other plots. The cult led by Ally is seen from Lois’ perspective which prevents the Ally character from being in any way nuanced as the episode presents her as obviously manipulative which means it isn’t apparent what about her manages to persuade people. The straightforward approach makes sense for the story being told but there’s an opportunity for more overall depth that isn’t being utilised. This is all in service of selling how misguided Lucy is and exploring the fractured connection she has with Lois. This works brilliantly thanks to excellent performances from the two actors and clearly establishing the events that led them to where they are now. Lucy claiming that she saw her other and better self isn’t necessarily the hallucination Lois assumes it is but it’s self evident that trying to take her life in pursuit of Ally’s claims is far from the best idea. This situation is also less than ideal for Chrissy who is questioning her association with Lois due to her reputation being called into question. Early signs point to this creating a vulnerability for Ally to exploit that sends Chrissy down the path to being manipulated which could be a really hard hitting exploration of how intelligent people succumb to such influences.
Lana’s Mayoral campaign continues to be a directionless and uninteresting plot but it does lead to some engaging character interactions. The obstacle of a smear campaign shining a light on Sarah’s suicide attempt prompts a great scene between Lana and Kyle where they discuss the importance of being honest with Sarah about this and another strong one where Sarah highlights how her suicide attempt resulted in positive steps forward for her. This once again shows her maturity. Jonathan’s potential drug and super power addiction is something that comes out of nowhere for his character as he has never exhibited any envy over Jordan having powers nor has he expressed any desire to improve himself in that way. This is something that could go somewhere interesting but so far it comes across as forced. Jordan trying to figure out how to use his powers to help people and almost outing himself in the process sets up an ongoing dynamic between him and Sam who pledges to train him. The associated secrecy is troubling but otherwise it’s interesting. John and Natalie starting to settle into their lives in Smallville is more geared towards John in this episode with Natalie being given more cause to be concerned about his association with Clark. The escalating injuries for John sets up a tough conversation to be had and the conversation John has with Clark is a poignant display of friendship that also sets up the upcoming tragedy. Clark’s fractured relationship with the military isn’t as strong as it could be as there has been a failure to properly characterise Anderson and his team which makes the death of two of them lack impact. Bizarro is a considerable threat and the information given in this episode moves that forward but there’s a failure to connect emotionally to the damage he causes because Anderson’s team aren’t actually characters.
- Elizabeth Tulloch and Jenna Dewan’s excellent performances
- the strong showcase of the fractured Lois/Lucy relationship
- setting up Chrissy being manipulated by Ally
- the strong scenes focused around Sarah’s attempted suicide and all she learned from it
- John and Natalie’s desire to find a home playing out in interesting ways
- the poignant display of friendship in Clark and John’s scene
- Ally lacking in nuance
- still no momentum to the Mayoral campaign plot
- Jonathan’s addiction plot not coming from anywhere
- the lack of characterisation of Anderson’s team lessening the impact of the deaths
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