Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 6
“Tried and True”
Superman & Lois focuses on character conflict and how understanding can be the road to resolving it.
I’ve mentioned previously that season 2 is far less cohesive in the first and this is creating problems with the different plots appearing to lack overall purpose beyond the time they occupy. Unfortunately this remains the case but this episode leans into one of the major strengths of the series; creating a strong thematic link between the different plots therefore strengthening them through association.
The theme being explored is that of understanding in terms of how it specifically relates to resolving a particular conflict. There are a number of issues dividing characters due to information either being unavailable or withheld so this episode deals with how to make that next step and whether it’s possible to do so.
Clark and Bizarro is arguably the central conflict as Bizarro is -for now- the main antagonist. Prior to the previous episode Clark had no idea where Bizarro came from or what his plan was but that was resolved to some degree to allow them to communicate. The episode opens with a really striking sequence showing Bizarro’s journey to our world which provides an answer where arguably none is required as it doesn’t provide detail around how the trip was possible. It does show the alternate Ally, Bizarro World and further reinforces Bizarro’s desperation. Clark taking the time to listen to what Bizarro has to say makes him aware of the threat that two versions of Ally could represent and allows him to take steps to prepare for it. Details remain vague and there’s a lot of work to be done in order to establish the alternate Ally as a character but this is a promising start and Clark making an effort to understand Bizarro’s point of view is perfectly in line with his values. The relationship between them isn’t especially deep as Bizarro serves as a vehicle for foreshadowing at this point but using him to help explore a strong central theme is a worthy way to spend time.
This feeds into Clark’s conflict with Anderson. Up until this point Anderson has been purely antagonistic in order to set up a very specific problem for Clark. Last season he enjoyed a relationship with the military that was on his own terms because Sam understood Clark’s values and that there were boundaries he was unwilling to cross. Anderson doesn’t understand or appreciate that as he thinks Superman should be a purely American asset upholding the interests of the United States. It appears that he is initially in a minority with that believe as he is chewed out by a superior for breaking down the military’s relationship to Superman and getting young soldiers killed. Added to that is being directly blamed by a parent for the loss of their child.
Understandably Anderson is given one more chance to redeem his questionable actions and decisions which allows for a dialogue to be opened between him and Clark. It doesn’t improve things as his concerns about Superman are confirmed through learning that he has Bizarro prisoner and is being selective with what he has been told. Both sides of the argument are valid here as Clark has no reason to trust Anderson after how he has behaved. He also doesn’t know him as well as Sam due to the lack of a familial connection. Clark would tell Sam everything because he already knew everything about him but Anderson sees Superman as nothing more than an exploitable asset rather than a person so there is no opportunity to create a different connection. On the other hand, Anderson is a member of the United States military with a job to do and the uncertainty around how available Superman is to help as well as what he is willing to help with is an understandable source of frustration. His approach to dealing with it is more hostile than collaborative which is far from conducive to solving this problem.
Clark recognises that he will need Anderson’s help at least to some degree as he has the pendant that Bizarro dropped. He takes the time to appeal to Anderson’s better nature and gives him some information about what is happening without going into explicit detail. Some of this is down to Clark not having a lot of information to share and needing to make sense of it but there is definite lack of trust in the mix as well. Anderson does nothing to earn that trust and actively betrays it when turning on Clark. The sequence where Clark takes on the squad of soldiers before being defeated and imprisoned is an impressive mirror of the opening sequence that is striking in its simplicity.
The cliffhanger carries a lot of weight because it fully severs Clark’s relationship with the military and validates Anderson’s position since he he has permission to subdue Superman. Sam gets wind of this so this could be cause for him to come out of retirement or the situation may play out in other ways but it’s certainly an engaging ending with a great deal of potential that highlights how severe an inability to understand the other side of a conflict can be. Clark and Anderson are at an impasse with neither side willing to budge and this is where it has ended up. Hopefully this will allow Anderson to be fleshed out beyond the antagonistic military officer and insight into who he is as a person will be gained.
Continued reference to Ally being the main threat to be concerned with feeds into Lois and Lucy being in conflict. Sam tries to act a mediator of sorts by getting them in the same room and talking again. At first it seems to be working with the focus on what unites them rather than what drives them apart. They talk about the twins as well as their own history growing up with Sam as a parent. Cheerful anecdotes are shared and things seem to be on their way to being repaired. The family driven scenes involving Lucy are so charming, most notably her conversation with Jonathan and Jordan about football where she takes a keen interesting in the specifics of Jonathan’s game while giving out informed advice. It adds depth to Lucy’s character through her well cultivated knowledge while creating a baseline for an aunt/nephew dynamic between her and Jonathan. It’s brief but it’s genuine and heart-warming even if there’s a strong possibility that she is spying on the Kents for Ally.
It doesn’t take long for the conversation to shift to Ally which confirms that their issues are far from resolved. Lucy sees Lois’ realisation that another world does exist as full acceptance that she no longer sees Ally the way she once did. The truth is more complicated as Lois understands that she was wrong in one way but is still convinced she is right about Ally being dangerous. Lucy is being selective in what she chooses to pay attention to as evidenced by her ignoring the fact that Chrissy was drugged against her will. All she sees from that experience is that Lois was proven wrong. This quickly confirms how badly misguided and brainwashed Lucy is without explicitly calling attention to it. Ally has infected her to the point that obvious wrongdoing goes over Lucy’s head. Once the conversation turns to Ally any opportunity to see eye to eye disappears and Lucy leaves. They are unable to find legitimate common ground despite Sam’s best efforts to create a functional foundation for their relationship to rebuild. He holds himself responsible for failures as a father and is actively trying to be better by finding a way to repair that family bond. Lucy is currently too far gone to be reasoned with and carries too much bitterness towards Lois so a long road awaits. Lois also lacks the ability to understand the extent of Lucy’s damage which creates a currently unresolvable rift.
Sibling conflict extends to Jonathan and Jordan who are at odds with one another due to Jonathan’s shift in attitude. Jordan comes to learn that Jonathan is gaining powers through inhaling X-Kryptonite. A disturbing trend that is plaguing the school. It appears to have mental effects as well as physical ones and Jordan’s initial lack of understanding of what is really going on makes the problem worse as he unwittingly comes across as pushy. He is clearly excited that his brother has powers just as he does because now he has someone to share it with. This causes a failure to notice that he’s struggling to manage the changes brought on by inhaling the X-Kryptonite.
In some ways he comes across as pushy and the unwelcome voice of experience. It isn’t intentional as he’s only trying to help his brother overcome some of the early hurdles he faced when his powers first appeared but it’s still clear ignorance that there is something more going on than he is being told. Confronting Jonathan with the truth once again brings his jealousy to the surface. On some level Jonathan is envious of Jordan having powers particularly after the sacrifices he has made in order to protect Jordan’s secret and make his life more manageable. It is well documented that Jonathan is struggling to feel a true sense of belonging though that has gotten better through having Candice in his life and a respected position on the football team. Despite that the envy still exists and they almost come to blows over it. This is heightened by Jonathan’s exposure to X-Kryptonite but it is still an amplification of something that was already there. It doesn’t make complete sense to explore it in this way but the actors sell it well.
Jonathan’s victory on the football field comes with an overpowering feeling of emptiness. This is because he feels like he didn’t earn it since he was enhanced by X-Kryptonite. On paper this is everything he ever wanted with the X-Kryptonite being the thing that could help him get there. This feeling is punctuated by Clark assuring him that he earned it through hard work and determination while he feels that he cheated his way into that position. This realisation acts as a wakeup call for him and he vows to never do it again because he wants a genuine sense of accomplishment. Of course this won’t be the end of this plot but Jonathan’s innate decency is hard to silence and the whole setup provides an outlet for unresolved feelings he has about his brother as well as his life in general. It’s an interesting plot and makes great use of the complex brotherly relationship at its core but is still somewhat unearned given what has been previously established about Jonathan.
Following on from the previous episode is the fallout of Lana and Sarah learning about Kyle’s infidelity. After putting a brave face on at the quinceañera reality is setting in and Lana is visibly struggling to figure out what her next move should be. An early scene where Sophie asks if Kyle will be coming back succinctly sets up that uncertainty with Lana in a daze and holding back tears in order to stay strong for her daughters. Sarah’s hug as a firm display of support furthers the changing nature of their relationship as Sarah confirms she is mature enough to handle the reality of this; something she confirms later when telling Jordan she’s worried about her mother and angry with her father.
Lana takes a measured approach to figuring out what to do next. She does recognise that Kyle has been working very hard to be a better person and doesn’t discount all of the strides he has made to be a more attentive husband and understanding father. The fact that this affair was in the midst of major relationship issues is factored into the complicated thought process around this so there is a lot for her to unpack. A conversation with Clark helps her put some of this in perspective as he brings up the right points to focus her thinking. Clark tells her that if Lois were to be unfaithful to him then there would be a lot he would consider but moving forward as a couple would have to be genuine forgiveness on his part otherwise it means living a lie. The first step is understanding why it happened and going from there. Clark is open and doesn’t sugar coat-the situation in order to spare her feelings. What she is dealing with is difficult and will require a great deal of consideration so he offers to be there as a friend and lets her get on with figuring out her next move.
She talks to Kyle in order to get his side of the story and talks to the woman he had an affair with. Both are open and honest about their experience and Kyle makes it abundantly clear that it was a thing in his past that he regrets and takes full responsibility for. It is pointed out that Kyle called it off when Sarah had her accident showing that he was fully committed to his family even if he strayed from his marriage. It’s not a simple case of Kyle being a bad person who can be cast aside as he has demonstrated a genuine ability to change and improve. Lana ultimately decides to give herself more time and asks that Kyle moves out while she resolves this within herself. The actors do an excellent job conveying the pain and uncertainty caused by this revelation with a palpable air of tragedy to how it plays out. It is framed as a complex problem with many considerations and Lana’s commitment to fully understanding every aspect of it neatly feeds into the common theme in every plot found in this episode. As always this show’s characterisation is on point and wonderfully delivered.
A strong episode that neatly connects the different plots through a strong theme, contains impressive action sequences and typically excellent character work. Overall this season has been so far less cohesive than the first but the character work remains strong and this episode is a great example of connecting character driven plotting through a strong theme. The theme being explore is understanding in terms of how it relates to resolving a particular conflict. Clark and Bizarro is arguably the central conflict with Clark gaining an understanding of where Bizarro comes from and his objective. The excellent opening sequence depicts Bizarro’s journey into our world and shows how he came to possess the pendant while offering a look at Bizarro World. It’s lacking in detail but it’s effective and further reinforces Bizarro’s desperation. The antagonistic relationship isn’t especially deep and Bizarro largely serves as foreshadowing but it’s a promising start and Clark’s attempt to understand him reflects his values. This feeds into his conflict with Anderson. Up until this point Anderson has been purely antagonistic and this episode capably highlights the differences between Anderson’s relationship with Clark and the one Sam enjoyed. Anderson’s decisions create friction with his superiors as well as the parents of those who died following his orders. Both sides of the conflict are valid as Clark is withholding information due to a lack of trust while Anderson’s role is made more difficult due to the uncertainty. The cliffhanger carries a lot of weight as it fully severs Clark’s relationship with the military while validating Anderson’s position through having permission to subdue Superman.
Continue reference to Ally being the main threat feeds into Lois and Lucy’s conflict. It’s possible that Lucy is a spy but despite the likelihood of that there are some really endearing familial interactions involving her. The common ground found between them works well and having that fall away in ways that highlight how misguided and brainwashed Lucy is without explicitly calling attention to it is excellently done. Sibling conflict extends to Jonathan and Jordan. The X-Kryptonite amplifies things within Jonathan that were already there and brings in the jealousy angle. Jordan is far from his best self and unintentionally comes across as pushy. Jonathan’s realisation that a victory achieved by cheating is an empty one is likely to be short lived but the whole dynamic is well done even if it doesn’t make complete sense for Jonathan’s character. Lana’s difficulty in figuring out her next move in regards to Kyle is handled with wonderful complexity. She takes the time to understand what went on, considers how far Kyle has come as a person and recognises she needs time to arrive at a more reasoned decision. It’s mature, complex and beautifully handled by the actors.
- the strong thematic link connecting the different plots
- both sides being valid in Clark and Anderson’s conflict
- the striking cliffhanger ending
- the endearing familial moments involving Lucy
- confirming how badly misguided and brainwashed Lucy is without explicitly calling attention to it
- Jonathan’s existing issues being amplified by the X-Kryptonite
- Jordan unintentionally coming across as pushy
- Jonathan’s realisation that an unearned victory is an empty one
- the complexity to Lana considering how best to deal with her relationship with Kyle
- the Bizarro/Clark relationship lacking depth
- Bizarro acting largely as a function of foreshadowing
- Anderson remaining underdeveloped
- an overall lack of purpose to the plotting of the season
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