Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 2
“The Ties That Bind”
Superman & Lois focuses on the mystery of the recent earthquakes as the characters all deal with different problems.
One of the strengths of this show has always been how it juggles very different types of storytelling in ways that don’t make all of the elements feel disconnected. There’s a strong character base that allows the various plots to naturally flow together. As I’ve repeatedly said the success rate is variable depending on the story but the show itself is mostly engaging and does what it sets out to do well. So far this season is a particularly good example of using the characters to connect everything organically.
The main plot for this part of the season is the threat from beneath. It touches many of the characters due to the current focus being on investigation. Clark is experiencing visions that cause him pain so answers need to be found for that and Lois takes it upon herself to investigate the earthquakes. Jordan is added into the plot by going with Clark, John works with Lois and Chrissy is added in because she and Lois are partners. Characters are in place in ways that make sense except for Jordan who is far from ready to be dealing with threats at this level though that becomes part of the point of his inclusion.
Clark’s visions are a cause for major concern as they cause a complete sensory overload that renders him incapacitated. One hits as he is dealing with a super powered threat and it puts him in a vulnerable position at a key moment. Naturally he has to understand the cause and put a stop to them. His first theory is that it has something to do with the Eradicator which means that Jordan and everyone else who was inhabited by a Kryptonian could suffer the same affliction. Pushing aside the fantastical elements Clark is a man dealing with an illness and worrying that his son may be endangered by it. This grounds the problem and makes it relatable as this show so often does.
The only resource available to Clark to look into this is Tal-Rho -formerly Morgan Edge-. It’s less than ideal but he is the best place to start in trying to get answers. It’s not a resource Clark wants to call on but times are desperate and he pushes aside his personal feelings for the greater good; something that is very fitting with his character. This moves the plot forward while inviting exploration of the familial connection that exists between Clark and Tal; something that had been sorely lacking last season.
Tal initially appears de-powered and assures Clark that he is absolutely no threat to him but may be able to help if they go to his Fortress in order to run tests. Clark suspects foul play but also acknowledges that he doesn’t have a lot of options so takes the risk and releases Tal in order to allow him to run those tests. Jordan comes with Clark as backup in case he’s incapacitated again which seems ill advised though, as previously stated that was entirely the point of his inclusion. Clark assumes the risk and it ends up putting Jordan in danger which is a regrettable circumstance.
Their visit to Tal’s Fortress allows them to interact with a simulation of their mother, Lara (Mariana Klaveno) which gives both of them an opportunity to reflect on the absence of that presence in their lives. It loops back to the suggested conflict in the previous season between Clark having a loving upbringing that provided him strong parental connections and Tal’s far more brutal experience. Nurture has shaped the two men with Clark holding strong values as a result while Tal is filled with hate and contempt. It’s a simple yet effective basis for a conflict that naturally allows other elements to be added in.
Clark and Tal are united in that they didn’t know Lara and Tal is especially bitter about it because he feels abandoned by her. He talks about being raised by his brutal and abusive father and that he resents Lara for allowing that to happen. She expresses regret but also states that she didn’t learn of his existence until it was too late which brings in the fact of Kryptonian reproduction being facilitated through genetic engineering. This was most recently featured in Man of Steel and Krypton in order to highlight that Kryptonian society engineered its own destruction due to a genetically engineered population failing to innovate. It’s unclear if this is the case in this version but a more personal distinction is drawn between Clark’s natural birth and Tal’s engineered one. Tal resents Clark for being the favoured son and sees the circumstances of his creation as being part of why that is. He sees himself as a discarded mistake intended to be forgotten and refuses to listen to Lara’s claims that she cares equally about both of her sons.
With more effort put into this, Tal could be a fascinating character with his attitude fully justified by a life defined by abuse and abandonment. There is an obvious and strong contrast to Clark’s life that could be more prominently explored. It works well here because there is an opportunity to directly confront those feelings with the hologram of Lara present to answer for what happened but it never quite gets to the point of exploring it beyond the surface level. The episode has nothing to say on this as it just reiterates the facts as have previously been presented while adding in the detail of Tal-Rho not being a natural birth.
The reveal that Tal was lying about being powerless fell flat because his honesty was always in question. This raises questions around Clark’s lack of precautions taken when bringing him to his Fortress. Jordan rising to the occasion when Clark is incapacitated and standing up to Tal shows how far Jordan has come even if the mastery of his powers and his comfort level with them hasn’t really been depicted. Tal’s reaction helps sell this with him being equal parts impressed and shocked. Clark’s outburst when Jordan is threatened makes sense from a fatherly standpoint and suggests self punishment for allowing Jordan to be placed in that position but this isn’t taken far enough and Lara’s disgust at seeing her two sons come to blows in this way doesn’t resonate as clearly as it needs to. Part of the issue is that Lara isn’t developed enough as a presence for her words to carry the meaning that the episode suggests they do. The framework existed for some really strong emotionally driven storytelling but the execution is far less than it could have been.
From a plot point of view it is revealed that Clark’s visions are connected to the earthquakes and that some sort of external being is causing them. Lois and John learn that the earthquakes aren’t really earthquakes and they hear a brutal attack in the mines with a shadowy creature violently killing those down there. This brings the characters up to speed on the fact that they are facing a threat with the next steps to be to learn what that threat is. For now the focus is on what this means for the characters involved which is the right approach so the focus is on Clark being harmed by this connection rather than the threat itself.
The changed relationship with the military is reiterated when Clark is incapacitated and a Doctor gives him a once over. For the most part all this scene does is repeat the information noted in the previous episode. Anderson reiterates that Superman isn’t welcome unless he’s willing to pledge specific allegiance to the United States. The young trainees wearing the shield also make a return but it’s another repeat of the same information. The reminder is good but the lack of development of both ideas stands out.
Lois and John investigating the threat is likewise about their relationship while they work together with the plot running secondary. John affirms his commitment to ensuring that Natalie finds a place to belong in this new world and sidelines his own personal feelings around Lois in order to make that happen. The repetition of the phrase “I’ll make the adjustment” and Wolé Parks’ delivery of it powerfully conveys how he is compartmentalising his feelings for the good of his daughter. John’s insistence that he is finished playing hero with his suit is almost certainly temporary but the desire for normality is believable under the current circumstances.
Lois is concerned about her ability to relate to Natalie who seems resistant to forming a relationship with her. This is entirely based on her reaction to Lois putting on breakfast but it’s a good example of the difficulties the two of them will have finding common ground. Not forcing scenes between them at this point makes sense because both need time to adjust and Natalie needs to expand her life beyond her father before figuring out how she can connect with a woman who looks exactly like her mother but isn’t. It’s a fascinating and complex issue and care is being taken to allow it to develop at a more measured pace.
The move to Smallville looks to be a positive one for Natalie when she makes a new friend in Sarah. They connect over the car that Kyle bought to work on with her as it allows Natalie to lean into her mechanical skills; one of the few things that make sense to her in this new world. Added to that is the car doing what Kyle wanted it to albeit not in the way he wanted it to. Instead of bringing him and Sarah closer together -which it still could- it allows Natalie to take comfort in applying herself to something she knows she can do while making a friend in Sarah.
Their conversation feeds into the tension that exists between Jordan and Sarah by giving Sarah a sounding board separate from the situation to talk about what’s bothering her. She doesn’t detail what it is and Natalie doesn’t feel the need to hear it but she is very well equipped to give general advice on secrecy and how best to approach it. Coming from another universe means she understands keeping secrets and feels that keeping them is sometimes necessary so she doesn’t condemn Sarah for wanting to keep it to herself. Her advice is to either come clean or get better at being dishonest which is unconventional and compelling advice that makes sense for Natalie given her current circumstances. Even though their interactions are geared around two very particular things they are an engaging pairing with the strong basis for a developing friendship.
Sarah does admit to Jordan that she kissed someone else while she was away but insists that it was a thing that happened with no meaning attached to it. Jordan doesn’t see it that way and feels both hurt and betrayed in the moment. It’s a really effective scene with Alex Garfin brilliantly conveying the shock associated with Sarah’s confession. Whether their relationship can survive this remains to be seen but this is a natural extension of the rift that was introduced in the previous episode.
Lana being put forward as a mayoral candidate is a plot that so far fails to capture my interest. The introduction of a candidate that she was backing in the previous episode was obviously a preamble to her being put in the position of running for Mayor of Smallville. At this point it’s unclear what this plot is getting at. Will it represent a further test for her relationship with Kyle or will there be more focus on the challenges she faces trying to improve things for the town? So far this is very plot driven outside of Kyle’s inspiring unconditional support so it hasn’t reached the point of being interesting so far?
Another bubbling plot introduced is around Lois and a story she wrote years ago about some sort of cult that it turns out her sister was involved in. The story has been awakened through a podcast casting doubts on the truth of it. Lois isn’t concerned because she made sure she covered herself in every aspect of it but the situation is escalating because one of her sources has chosen to change their story. This causes distress for Chrissy as the reputation of her publication is now called into question because of who she associates with. This represents a wider concern as Lois is known for pushing the envelope in order to break a story which may leave her -and by association Chrissy- open to others looking to call Lois’ reputation into question. There will be many people she has angered over the years with her writing so this challenge could be very damaging for Chrissy if things play out in a certain way.
This sets up a compelling conflict between Lois and Chrissy while forcing Lois to confront the tension within her own family. There is mention of her sister Lucy being a part of this cult and trying to take her own life because of advice she was given. She also points out that they haven’t talked since so there will be an interaction forced by this development that could be very weighty.
A good episode that constantly loops back to character when building up the threat and offers interesting challenges for many of the characters outside of that. Clark going to Tal-Rho to look into his visions presents an opportunity to explore the differences between them through interacting with the holographic recreation with Lara. The circumstances of their different upbringings and values are brought up and background details are added around Krypton’s approach to reproduction. Unfortunately this isn’t explored beyond the surface which means the emotional beats don’t land in the way the episode needs them to. The reveal that Tal was pretending to be powerless falls flat and raises questions around the lack of precautions taken by Clark. Jordan rising to the occasion in protecting Clark shows how far he’s come even if his increasing comfort level hasn’t really been depicted. Clark’s outburst suggests self punishment for putting his son in danger but it isn’t taken far enough. Lara also isn’t developed enough for her disgust at seeing her sons being hostile to one another to resonate properly. The plot moves forward by identifying that there is an external influence causing Clark’s visions with the focus being on the danger the visions themselves represent to Clark rather than whatever the threat turns out to be. The changed relationship to the military comes into play through this but it largely repeats information from the previous episode.
Lois and John investigating the earthquakes is more about their relationship than the plot. John’s discomfort with continually interacting with Lois is addressed as is his desire to make a good life for Natalie. This is handled brilliantly and shows how devoted John is to his daughter. Care is taken with Lois and Natalie’s relationship with there being deliberate distance being created between them so that Natalie has the chance to establish things for herself. She makes a positive connection with Sarah over the car she and Kyle are working on. This allows Natalie to embrace something that makes sense to her while also beginning a friendship with Sarah. Her advice to Sarah is unconventional and compelling while making perfect sense for her character. Sarah admitting to Jordan that she kissed someone else while away furthers the tension established in the previous episode and is handled well by the actors. Lana being put forward as a mayoral candidate fails to capture my interest at this point as it’s more plot than character driven with no clear direction. Lois having one of her stories scrutinised sets up some interesting possibilities around Chrissy questioning her association with her and forcing an interaction between Lois and her sister, Lucy after so much time not exchanging words. Both could be interesting and weighty.
- some of the high level opportunities created by allowing Clark and Tal-Rho to interact with Lara
- Jordan showing his growth by taking on Tal-Rho
- keeping the focus on the visions harming Clark rather than the threat associated with them
- Lois and John investigating the earthquakes being more about their relationship
- John’s devotion to Natalie being impressively shown
- Natalie and Sarah’s naturally created friendship
- developing the Jordan/Sarah tension
- the Lois and Chrissy plot having lots of compelling things feeding into it
- the lack of depth to the Clark/Tal conflict
- repeating the tension between Clark and the military rather than developing it
- the plot around Lana’a Mayoral candidacy being unclear as to the purpose
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( vote)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.