Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 15
“Waiting for Superman”
Superman & Lois concludes its second season with worlds colliding and a reminder of how important hope is in the darkest of circumstances.
There will be no organic way to discuss this as part of the analysis so I’ll start the review by addressing the reveal that Superman & Lois exists in its own universe separate from the Arrowverse rather than part of it as previously believed. The reveal is delivered by way of a clumsy statement from Sam who talks about seeing a lot of strange things in his line of work including other worlds that have “leagues of heroes” before declaring that this world has only Clark but he is the best of all of them.
The confirmation that this show exists in a universe separate from the wider Arrowverse makes sense for a number of reasons. Lois and Clark’s teenage sons didn’t exist even on the reborn Earth Prime, Sam Lane and Morgan Edge were recast, Lucy’s backstory was completely different and so on. It makes more sense for this to be a new world than not but the problem is that it was clearly supposed to be set in the Arrowverse until recently. Evidence of this can be found throughout such as John Diggle making reference to Oliver Queen and the box that came his way in the finale of Arrow. It’s more than possible that this world had and Oliver Queen who was also Green Arrow and this version of John Diggle was also offered the opportunity to take on whatever the box was offering him but that runs counter to Sam’s declaration that the only hero this world has is Clark. None of this affects the overall quality of this show but there’s a clear course correction and it’s clumsily handled. Perhaps The Flash will spell the end of the Arrowverse and Superman & Lois will serve as a new beginning for a shared universe that will later introduce new versions of familiar heroes. If the reveal tells us one thing it’s that plans are ever-evolving.
Now for the finale. This episode picks up basically where the previous one left off with the merging of the worlds ramping up and people as well as objects moving between them at random. It’s visually striking to see the jumps between locations or the distorted run-down version of the Kent farm populated with objects from our universe but the episode never manages to maintain the threat that the merging of worlds supposedly represents.
A number of problems contribute to the lack of a tangible threat. Stakes are often an issue in superhero storytelling. Things often escalate to the point of being ludicrous while not being grounded in anything relatable. The previous episode spent a lot of time on the characters and how they relate to one another but this one shifts the focus to being more plot-driven which makes it more difficult to invest in the threat. Another issue is the lack of scope to the threat that two worlds merging represents. The focus is firmly on the impact it has on Smallville which makes sense to a degree since that is the setting of this show but the threat being faced is a global one which doesn’t come across. Smallville could have been a microcosm of what is being experienced globally but there’s no sense of widespread chaos or the damage being done across the world. Despite being clearly large scale it’s all so small scale and that limits the credibility of what is being faced.
One thing that isn’t as prominent a fixture as it should be is characters being displaced to the other world. Lois switches places with her Bizarro self but it doesn’t really mean anything. Bizarro Lois finds the Kent family but doesn’t meaningfully interact with them or react to seeing alternate versions of her sons and dead husband. She is present but her presence has no purpose which makes her introduction into the dynamic a confusing choice.
Lois in Bizarro World works a little better. Despite the circumstances, she never loses hope and leans into her strengths by taking any action she can to resolve her current situation. She begins by tracking down Bizarro Chrissy which doesn’t actually come to anything. On one hand, it could be seen as busy work for Lois who isn’t actually given much of value to do in the context of the narrative but on the other, it could be seen as contributing to the overriding temptation to lose hope so that Clark restoring it makes the impact that it needs to. The episode doesn’t entirely succeed because it’s not clear that there is an emphasis on tempting various characters to lose hope but the suggestion is there.
Finding Kyle lost in Bizarro World acts as an attempt to ground things in some sort of relatable way. He sees being trapped in another world with no access to his family as karma for his mistakes and that this is what he deserves. Lois assures him that nobody deserves to be alone or is beyond redemption and that he isn’t getting what he deserves for making a mistake. It’s a positive message about it always being possible to atone for mistakes assuming there’s a sincere desire to do so. Kyle is an example of a man who has bettered himself. He has come a long way from the standoffish and dismissive presence he was early in the first season. Lois’ recognises that and her words coincidentally are immediately followed by Kyle returning to the other Earth, it’s almost as if Lois offering him hope was enough to shake him out of the self-imposed exile and head back to continue to make amends.
His conversation with Lana towards the end of the episode where they redefine their relationship was a brave and interesting choice. All signs pointed to them reconciling especially with Lana, Sarah and Sophie searching everywhere for him earlier in the episode. The fact that they don’t resume their marriage and have all be forgiven is far more realistic and Lana’s reasoning that she isn’t sure she can trust him is perfectly understandable given the circumstances. Their conversation is reasoned and mature with the acknowledgement that their children mean they will always be a part of each other’s lives but things have changed and things can’t simply return to normal. It leaves them in an interesting place with an open question around whether it will be possible to truly reconcile or if their lives will head in separate directions.
Kyle isn’t the only character seeking or working towards redemption. Tal has been on an uneven journey towards his own form of redemption over some of this season and achieves it here. That is to say that he achieves it in the sense that the episode states that he does without it actually being earned. His change in outlook from power-hungry despot to family-focused misunderstood uncle only works if the audience is willing to overlook his past behaviour. It’s a complete shift in personality that hasn’t been earned in any way. In fairness, this version of Tal is better than the previous one because he’s a more dynamic presence but it’s completely at odds with what came before. The writers seem to retool Tal to answer whatever demands the plot requires. In this case, Clark is out of commission so another being with equivalent powers is required so he takes on that role. It does make sense that he wants to have a positive relationship with Clark as that has been established as one of his foundational desires but it’s jarring to see him as a completely different person to what has been characterised previously. This does look to be Tal’s personality from here on out -assuming he will appear again now that he may be stuck in Bizarro World- and it’s definitely a better fit but inconsistency stands out.
In stark contrast to where Lana and Kyle are left, the Lana and Clark conflict is neatly resolved with Lana accepting him back into her life after acknowledging that trouble will crop up whether she maintains a friendship with Clark or not. It’s a natural endpoint to the friction that was created but it ends so suddenly and the slate is wiped clean without any real buildup in order to earn it. Clark promises to be fully honest, Lana laughs and acknowledges that she may not want to hear the full truth then they move on. It is a testament to the strength of their friendship and does allow Lana to gain an understanding that the secret was kept for a reason but there’s something overly simple about the line in the sand that is drawn here. There is still room for complications but there was a lot of scope to explore this friction in really compelling ways.
A far better reconciliation comes from Sarah and Jordan who have an open and frank conversation about the failure of their relationship. She expresses regret that she never apologised for being unfaithful to him and that she failed to be understanding of his feelings. She created tension by trying to force him to be more open without realising how difficult that was for him to do. This supports Sarah’s long-established characterisation as someone who works on herself and has gained the ability to analyse her feelings through her experience in therapy. She doesn’t always get it right but she’s constantly doing that work and the addition of context around what Jordan was dealing with has helped her understand that she made some bad decisions. It is far from one-sided and Jordan cops to not being open with her about his feelings and how that massively contributed to driving a wedge between them. He admits it’s hard for him to be open about his feelings in the way that he should but it’s something he will work on. Their agreement is to reset and start fresh which suggests they are trying to be friends first and see if it develops along the same lines as before.
Their relationship has changed in fundamental ways due to Sarah now knowing Jordan and Clark’s biggest secrets. She is one of a small number of people aware of the truth and that knowledge will alter the way they relate to one another. To what extent isn’t obvious now but a lot has shifted due to secrets being revealed this season and it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the existing dynamics next season.
Another person who learns the truth is Chrissy. It’s unclear how that information affects Chrissy beyond altering the way she sees Clark as is depicted comedically towards the end of the episode. It’s more of a significant development for Lois as it marks her full commitment to her partnership with Chrissy as well as her friendship. The friendship angle is the most impactful as it’s a profound sign of absolute trust as well as a way to absolve herself of the guilt associated with keeping Chrissy in the dark all this time. She has come to realise that lying to Chrissy is unsustainable and that there was an imbalance in their personal and professional relationship created by Lois wilfully being dishonest with her. This also suggests a shift in perception around keeping Clark’s secret that may prompt further analysis of how important it is to keep it and who could handle the truth. It has caused a lot of problems and been in the mix when bad decisions have been made so it is worthy of re-evaluation.
Superman is still very much seen as a force for good and a source of hope. The episode successfully showcases solving the problem as being a thematic victory even if the plotting is questionable. Some focus is given to how people react to the return of Superman to save them all from insurmountable odds and what he represents is overtly confirmed in Lana’s speech. It rewards those who never lost hope and restores it to those who lost it so it works for everyone who needed saving. Showing Clark as Superman from the perspective of those on the ground was a nice touch as it depicts him as a distant hero and almost an angelic presence who protects them from above. The man behind the Super is still very much the focus of this show but small touches like that add texture to the world however brief it might be. The shift from Superman doing a flyby to give the people of Smallville something to cheer for to Clark approaching Lana from the crowd seconds later is a perfect encapsulation of those two aspects and the separation that exists between them.
The mechanics of the plotting that led to this are very questionable. Clark arranging for Tal to throw him into the sun so that he can regain his powers is something that should have produced consequences of some kind. It’s exciting and inspiring to see him powered up to the extent that he’s literally glowing but his decision is frontloaded with a warning about the danger associated with doing this and an accompanying expectation that there would be lingering consequences. There’s a comic story titled “All-Star Superman” that was also adapted into an animated movie that depicted Superman flying too close to the sun and absorbing too much energy. The energy surplus was too much for his body to handle and it amounted to a terminal diagnosis. I’m not suggesting that the same should have happened here but some sort of riff on that might have been interesting to tease as something to be explored next season. It may yet come but there’s no hint of consequences to be found in this episode which makes all the warnings that preceded his decision irrelevant since they didn’t come to anything. It’s also questionable that Clark and Tal were able to have a conversation in the vacuum of space when hovering close to the sun when Clark didn’t have any powers. The Arrowverse -including adjacent as this is- has always had a glancing view of the laws of physics but a powerless Clark being able to breathe and talk in space strains credibility even when accounting for that.
Ally’s defeat and the prevention of the merging process happen far too easily. I’ve written at length about how Ally is a poor example of an antagonist because her characterisation is limited and I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that it was impossible to fix that so late in the season. Her role here is to be too powerful for Tal and no match for a newly powered Superman. She contributes very little else to the episode so Clark separating the two Allys has no impact. Similarly, preventing the merging of the two worlds by flying really fast and expelling energy to force them apart is a visual spectacle that is far too neat as a resolution. Nobody had to learn anything to achieve it and Ally wasn’t defeated in any meaningful way. It’s as if the writers had written themselves into a corner and saw no meaningful way to resolve what was set up so just delivered what was presented and hoped it would be accepted.
The Allys being separated and imprisoned makes sense as a punishment for them. They had what they wanted most of all taken away from them and are locked away with their other self as a constant reminder of what will always be out of reach. That in itself is a strong example of poetic justice and reasonably should have been left at that. A confusing addition is Lois going to the Allys and asking them if they felt the completeness that they were trying to sell to their followers. The answer is that they did but the feeling only lasted a moment which prompts Lois to question why they chose to force this on everyone else even though they were aware that the promise was a fallacy. The answer is that they couldn’t bear to be alone and wanted to drag everyone into the same unfulfilling situation with them. If actually explored this would be a fascinating mindset. A villain who doesn’t live up to their own ideals and continues down the path they started on even after realising it doesn’t lead anywhere could have been an excellent villain story with lots of potential. Instead, it’s an incidental detail that has no real impact beyond the shock value of the statement itself.
Lois is very much the wrong person to have that conversation with the Allys. Having her ask the question implies that she feels less than complete and sets that up for exploration that never comes. It is something that could be picked up in the next season but it’s a confusing choice to have Lois visit them when Lucy would have been the logical choice. It comes across as if Lucy was intended to be in that scene and it was altered possibly due to Jenna Dewan’s availability. It stands out more when Lucy appears later in the episode to set up that she is going to Metropolis with Sam. Lucy getting closure on her affiliation by Ally by finding out that what she promised was impossible to achieve before heading to get her life back would have been a fitting conclusion to her contribution to the season and her presence in that one scene makes her absence in the other stand out even more, especially when it carries the implication that Lois is lacking a sense of completeness.
A strong and meaningful example of heroism is found through Natalie and John. Natalie begins the episode distraught over the prospect of losing John. Her emotional state is fully justified as she fears that history is repeating itself. She lost her mother in similar circumstances and felt powerless at that time but things are different and she has the power to prevent her father from suffering a similar fate. Her parting words to Jonathan and Jordan where she expresses happiness at the opportunity to have brothers resonate strongly and confirm that she has found a family in this new world. There’s a finality to the way she expresses herself as she doesn’t expect to come back from trying to save her father but she seems content that her time on this Earth has been worthwhile and wants to make sure her new family know that.
Her interaction with John as they both wait for death was really powerful. It contains the expected declarations of love and connection but there’s so much weight behind the words brought on by all they have experienced together. Adding in a reminder of the loss of Natalie’s mother and the fact she never got to say goodbye adds so much weight to John and Natalie being together for what they believe to be the end and there’s a sincerity to their sacrifice that comes from knowing that giving their lives will save two worlds.
The fact that Clark saves them doesn’t diminish this as the fact that they believed this to be the end for them was clear and the performances of the actors fully sold the moment. Clark saving them is thematically resonant as it’s a direct example of the return of hope and that Superman can bring that to people in the direst of circumstances. It’s also a reminder of the strength of family as both have the support of Clark which allows them to cheat death. It’s satisfying and ties in with the themes being explored while allowing for a strong moment of connection between John and Natalie in a tense situation.
Based on this episode it’s unclear what the third season will bring though the same was true of the end of the first. Clark forms a new fortress -that seems to be equally difficult to get to- for use by the entire family and promises Jonathan that he will be excited by all the tech he will have access to which suggests he will be encouraged to help out by using technology rather than powers. It’s a slight tease but it qualifies as one. John Diggle’s appearance sets up Bruno Mannheim and Intergang as antagonists for the next season as well as an indirect connection for John as his Earth Prime counterpart was killed by Bruno Mannheim. Intergang would likely be a lower-tier threat for this show which might make for a refreshing change from the Apocalyptic stakes that have defined the previous seasons. More personal problems can come from less obviously powerful threats and that may be just what this show needs. Time will tell!
An uneven episode that contains some strong character work but is let down by messy plotting and frustratingly neat conclusions and setting things up that never pay off. One of the problems the episode has is that the threat of worlds merging never properly manifests. The focus is on Smallville which makes sense as it’s the setting of this show but it’s very much a global problem with the worldwide implications never shown. It lacks in scope which undermines the threat. Characters being displaced to the other world is never as prominent a fixture as it needs to be. Bizarro Lois finding the Kents accomplishes nothing as she doesn’t meaningfully interact with them. Lois in Bizarro World works a lot better and feeds into the ongoing temptation to lose hope while highlighting that Lois never does. Her interaction with Kyle where she reassures him that he isn’t being punished for his mistakes. Her words are followed by his return so that he can continue to make amends. His conversation with Lana where she tells him they can’t go back to the way they were was a brave and interesting choice. Their relationship is redefined because she can’t entirely trust him and an open question is set up around whether they will reconcile or continue to move in separate directions. Tal’s uneven journey towards his own form of redemption completes with him being accepted by Clark and taking steps to help him save the world. His characterisation has been changed from power-hungry despot to misunderstood uncle which only works if the previous characterisation is ignored. It’s a complete personality shift that hasn’t been earned in any way though this version of the character is better. Lana and Clark’s conflict is neatly resolved with Lana accepting Clark back into her life after acknowledging that trouble will crop up whether she maintains a friendship with him or not. It’s overly simple even if there is still room for complications. Jordan and Sarah’s reconciliation is far better handled. Both acknowledge that mistakes were made and resolve to reset. This exchange and Sarah reflecting on all that she has learned reinforces the long-established characterisation of her as someone who continually works on herself and doesn’t always get it right but keeps trying. Chrissy learning the truth about Clark doesn’t immediately impact her beyond a comedic beat but is significant for Lois as it shows her fully committing to their partnership and friendship. It’s a profound sign of absolute trust and allows her to absolve herself of the guilt associated with keeping Chrissy in the dark. She realises the imbalance in the professional and personal relationship created by her willful dishonesty. This also suggests a shift in the perception around keeping Clark’s secret and that it may be worthy of re-evaluation.
Superman is still very much seen as a force for good and a source of hope. The episode successfully showcases solving the problem as being a thematic victory even if the plotting is questionable. Showing Superman from the perspective of those on the ground was a nice touch and overtly confirming what he represents in Lana’s speech complimented it nicely. Transitioning from the distant hero and almost angelic presence to the man in the crowd was the perfect encapsulation of the focus of this show. The mechanics of the plotting were questionable with a glaring lack of consequence to the supposedly dangerous gamble of Clark having himself thrown into the sun. All the warnings suggested there would be some fallout but nothing is even hinted at. Ally’s defeat and the prevention of the merging process happen too easily. It’s a visual spectacle with no impact which suggests the writers had written themselves into a corner. The Allys being separated and imprisoned together is a strong example of poetic justice. Lois questioning the Allys on whether they actually felt complete compromises this by suggesting a complex villain story that will never be seen while placing a hint that Lois is feeling incomplete that the episode doesn’t follow up on. Lucy’s absence in this scene stands out due to her appearance later in the episode. Natalie and John’s contribution provides a strong and meaningful example of heroism. Natalie declaring that she considers John and Jonathan brothers is touching and her desire to do everything she can to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself where parental loss is concerned follows naturally from her history. Their collective decision to sacrifice themselves for the greater good and their shared declaration of feelings is incredibly moving and powerful. Clark saving them doesn’t diminish the fact that they believed this to be the end for them and is thematically resonant as it’s a direct example of the return of hope and that Superman can bring that to people in the direst of circumstances. It’s also a reminder of the strength of family. It’s satisfying and ties in with the themes being explored while allowing for a strong moment of connection between John and Natalie in a tense situation. There are some minor teases for the third season but time will tell what it will bring.
- Lois not losing hope even when trapped in Bizarro World
- her advice to Kyle around karma being followed by his return to our world to continue to make amends
- the realistic progression of Kyle and Lana’s relationship
- Sarah and Jordan’s thoughtful reconciliation
- reinforcing Sarah’s characterisation as someone who continues to work on herself
- Lois telling Chrissy the truth about Clark showing full commitment to their partnership and friendship
- the implied shift in mindset around Clark’s secret
- showing Superman as a force for good and source of hope
- showcasing a thematic victory
- the visual transition from distant almost angelic hero to man in the crowd
- the Allys being separated and imprisoned together being a strong example of poetic justice
- Natalie’s declaration that she considers Jonathan and Jordan brothers
- her determination to ensure she doesn’t lose her father similar to how she lost her mother
- John and Natalie’s collective decision to sacrifice themselves while sharing feelings being both moving and powerful
- Clark saving them being thematically resonant around the return of hope and strength of family
- the threat of the worlds merging never properly manifesting
- failing to establish it as a global threat meaning that the threat lacks in scope
- characters being displaced to the other world never being as prominent a fixture as it needs to be
- no reason to add Bizarro Lois to the Kent family dynamic
- the neatness of the Clark/Lana resolution
- Tal’s characterisation being completely changed to allow for his redemption
- no impact to Ally’s defeat or the resolution
- the warnings about Clark throwing himself into the sun coming to nothing
- a flimsier grasp on the laws of physics than usual
- Lois questioning the Allys on feeling complete being a confusing choice
- Allys answer setting up a compelling villain story that will never be explored
- setting up Lois feeling incomplete and doing nothing with it
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