Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 1
“What Lies Beneath”
Superman & Lois returns for a second season with more family drama, a change in Clark’s dynamic with the military and a threat from beneath.
The first season of this show was an impressive display of character driven storytelling that juggled vastly different elements in mostly satisfying ways. It presented a more mature take on Superman’s world with a different set of problems never seen in live action adaptations. This season looks to continue that trend with the character relationships taking the focus while delivering on the superhero spectacle expected from a show like this.
Lois is the emotional through-line of this episode and it’s a great decision as it brings everything together organically. The season begins with something eating at her that she keeps bottled up inside. This causes her to lash out at Clark and her sons while also letting it affect her work. Her professional life is barely featured but her one scene with Chrissy is more than enough to show that what she’s going through affects every part of her life. In the case of work it manifests as being an unrealistic perfectionist when it comes to hiring new talent. This sets up an ongoing struggle for the fledgling journalistic adventure to be picked up later.
The bulk of Lois’ screen time in the episode is devoted to how her emotional state impacts the core relationships in her life. Added to this is dealing with new types of problems such as Jonathan’s developing physical relationship with his girlfriend Candice (Samantha Di Francesco). He does the standard teenage thing of taking advantage of having no parental supervision and is caught by Lois who reacts angrily. This is a great way of balancing her emotional turmoil with her evolving parental responsibilities. It adds to the realism of the core familial relationship that exists in the show by pulling it all together rather than making it seem as if what Lois is dealing with exists in a vacuum. Everything is connected and she has to deal with it all at once just as a real mother would.
She overreacts when catching Jonathan in the act but that doesn’t make her views on it invalid. Instead it adds another concern to her growing list that overwhelms her because she doesn’t know how to deal with it. Her anger is a symptom of being overwhelmed which necessitates the involvement of Clark who can tackle it in a more measured way. The beauty of this is that Clark also admits that this is uncharted territory with his concern for Lois’ emotional well-being at the forefront of his mind. He is desperate for her to open up to him so they can tackle everything together but Lois isn’t ready to at this point so Clark is forced to wait until she is. It’s difficult for him as he is one to tackle problems head on so accepting Lois’ need to process things on her own schedule isn’t easy for him. On a rational level he understands but on an emotional level he feels helpless; a feeling uncommon to him as Superman.
Clark opens up to Kyle about the strife in his relationship with Lois and he is advised to just leave it be because women are a mystery not meant to be solved. This attitude offers a possible explanation for the issues in Kyle’s marriage and his family. The previous season picked up after these relationships had crumbled but it was clear a lack of communication and Kyle’s stubbornness were major contributing factors. Communicating openly is clearly a lesson Kyle needs to learn but his interactions with both Lana and Sarah show that he’s improving in that regard even if in his mind he still defaults to the wrong approach.
The root of Lois’ emotional turmoil is the arrival of Natalie. Her existence is complicated for Lois as her mother is an alternate version of her. John constantly tells Natalie that the people who look like those she knew aren’t those people which serves as an indicator of the same for the audience. Lois isn’t Natalie’s mother but she can’t help feeling that there should be some form of emotional connection. The opening scene sets up what Lois is dealing with when Clark urges her to say something to Natalie who is desperately looking for an explanation for what she is seeing and the rest of the episode centres on her dealing with this. Eventually she opens up to Clark about what’s bothering her and it’s the lack of feeling that concerns her most. She admits she felt nothing when faced with Natalie who represents the potential for the daughter she would have had if she hadn’t miscarried. It isn’t directly true as “her” Natalie would have Clark as a father rather than John but the association remains strong because Natalie sees Lois as her mother.
Feeling nothing stirs up feelings from her own childhood specifically around her mother leaving. She lived her entire life failing to understand how someone could turn their back on their children in that way but her reaction to Natalie creates fear that she’s beginning to understand that perspective. Her approach to raising her family is the opposite to what she experienced growing up as she works to create a loving and supportive family environment. An absent mother and emotionally distant father were what she dealt with growing up so she is highly motivated to ensure her children don’t have to deal with that. Feeling nothing about Natalie makes her worry that she’s capable of turning out like her mother and that will eventually impact her sons. Clark assures her that it’s not the case and Natalie creates a unique situation that nobody knows how to handle.
Once she accepts what is causing her feelings she can set about confronting them. In particular she goes to Natalie to have an open conversation with her about the way she feels and asks that they can be friends because Lois wants the opportunity to get to know her. Natalie is confused because she is trying to get her head around those she has strong feelings for not being the people she knew but ultimately she decides to give it a go. There’s a strong sense that Lois has managed to take a step forward by being honest with herself and her family but it remains tense and it won’t be easy to work through.
Natalie’s contribution to the episode could have been stronger as most of her screen time was spent repeating the same information. She was continually reminded that the people on this Earth who look like her friends aren’t the same people she knew and she acknowledges that she recognises this but finds it difficult to deal with. This is repeated too often with no meaningful development of it beyond the step forward taken with Lois. A big problem is that the experiences she refers to aren’t shown to the audience which makes it more difficult to emotionally connect with her troubles. A scene with her interacting with the doppelgänger of her best friend and seeing first hand how similar or different she is to the person she knew would have gone a long way.
Sarah and Jordan’s relationship is starting the season on rocky ground. After a month away at camp it appears that Sarah’s feelings for Jordan have changed and she has no idea how to articulate this to him. She comes across as distant and awkward while Jordan worries that he’s done something wrong. Kyle’s advice to Sarah is to be honest with Jordan before things get worse and offers her perspective on how their relationship functions. Sarah has unknowingly set the tone by defining their relationship which makes her the “Alpha” according to Kyle’s interpretation which means she has to accept responsibility for him looking to her for the parameters of their relationship. Sarah never intended for that inequality but it’s a fact of their connection and something needs to be done about it. It remains vague as to the extent of the change in Sarah’s feelings but she recognises a conversation needs to happen which is certainly progress.
Meanwhile Jordan’s anxiety has him concerned about his role in the way Sarah is acting. He’s worried that his romantic gesture has been interpreted as coming on too strong and is generally concerned that he has done something to upset her. Jonathan unwittingly intensifies that by casting doubt on her claims that she isn’t feeling well. All of this supports Kyle’s assertion that Sarah has set the tone. There are hints as to the nature of Sarah’s changed feelings such as when she talks about how everything about camp was better but a confirmation is upcoming.
Jonathan and Jordan’s relationships are connected through Clark sitting down to have a talk with them about growing him. He acknowledges that they are 15 and that means they will feel compelled to pursue physical intimacy while urging them to be responsible about it and not rush into anything. He makes it clear that they can come to him and Lois with any questions and makes sure they’re aware to always be respectful of whoever they’re with. It’s a strong and meaningful imparting of advice from Clark that doesn’t talk down to his sons while being believably awkward. Part of the appeal of this show is how it nails the realism of familial interactions in ways that compliment the characters and their established traits. Clark is a calm and understanding father who confidently takes charge of situations despite how awkward they might be while still struggling to decide how best to approach them.
Sam stepping down from his position in the military creates complications for Clark. Lieutenant Mitch Anderson (Ian Bohen) takes Sam’s place and is far less accepting of Clark’s approach to partnering with them. Anderson wants Superman to represent American interests and adhere to the chain of command just as any soldier does. His rescue and return of a North Korean submarine is a poignant example of the sort of actions Anderson would rather Superman not take. Clark returned the submarine to North Korea rather than turning it over to the United States because he believes in helping people and doesn’t allow politics to impact that. He has made the choice not to politically align with anyone as he would rather his allegiance be to the Earth rather than a singular political entity. Such a decision will come with its own problems but at least he can say that he is treating every nation equally.
This isn’t something Anderson is prepared to accept so he cuts ties with Superman and makes it clear he won’t be calling on him for help again. Whether this will evolve into treating Superman as an enemy is unknown at this time but Anderson is certainly uncompromising in his approach which loses Clark access to information that allows him to be of greater help to people. It also opens up larger questions around what Superman represents to the world as a whole and whether he can be truly impartial. So far this represents a test of his core values that he sticks to and it’ll be interesting to see how the complications surrounding this issue develop. Added to that is the trainees wearing his crest. Clark points out that the symbol isn’t theirs to appropriate but he is told that there’s nothing he can really do about it as the symbol itself is so globally recognisable that he has effectively lost control of it. The symbol could end up being associated with American and its interests which means Superman might end up being recognised as a force for America regardless of Clark’s intent.
The cliffhanger ending that indicates Doomsday might be making his way to the surface to plague Earth and Superman is something I’m uncertain about. Doomsday is iconic for having killed Superman in the comics but beyond that he’s not all that interesting. Smallville got around this by giving him an alter ego with a personality but without doing that he is just a blunt instrument for destructive purposes. If that’s the approach here then it runs counter to the character driven approach this show takes. It is very early days and there’s no indication as to how Doomsday will be approached so time will tell.
A strong opening to the season that leans into the strengths of the show with a meaningful emotional arc for Lois, some excellent realistic family drama and a compelling shift in Clark’s relationship to the military with widespread implications. Lois acting as the emotional through-line for the episode was a wise decision as it brings everything together organically. Quickly establishing that something was eating away at her before exploring it through her various interactions worked really well and created appropriate tension. Her overreaction to catching Jonathan with his girlfriend doesn’t make her concerns invalid and adds something else to her growing list of things to deal with, Her reaction is due to feeling overwhelmed which necessitates Clark getting involved. His approach is measured and his greatest concern is for Lois’ well-being. He admits that all of this is uncharted territory and tries to get her to open up. Kyle’s advice to just leave her be acts as a possible justification for the cause of the issues in his own family even if his current attitude runs counter to that. Eventually Lois opens up to Clark and admits she is afraid of turning out like her mother with this fear being prompted by feeling nothing when Natalie arrived. Clark is able to reassure her by pointing out that these circumstances are particularly unusual and there’s no chance of Lois being the unfeeling monster that she is so worried about becoming. A step forward is taken by Lois resolving to get to know Natalie better.
Natalie’s contribution to the episode could have been stronger as the content is very repetitive without showing what she’s dealing with which makes it difficult to emotionally connect with her. Jordan and Sarah’s relationship troubles play out in interesting ways on a couple of levels. Kyle pointing out that Sarah unknowingly set the tone for their relationship offers her something to consider and her clearly changed feelings following a month away have to be articulated. It isn’t resolved here but she acknowledges that she will have to be honest. Another layer to this is Jordan’s anxiety leading him to conclude that he has done something wrong or come on too strong with her. Not helped by Jonathan accidentally make him question her honesty. It’s a compelling and realistic problem for the young couple to overcome. Clark’s open conversation with Jordan and Jonathan about intimacy and their urges to pursue it is perfectly in keeping with his core values while also being believably awkward. It’s a great scene that highlights the strength of Clark’s relationship to his sons. Clark’s relationship with the military changes with Anderson taking Sam’s place. The encouragement to support American interests and pledge allegiance to a single political entity offers Clark a compelling conflict to resolve. He sticks to his principles and stays true to his decision to have no political affiliation even when it causes that relationship to break down. His crest being appropriated may end up associating him with the United States regardless of his intent and there’s potential for all sorts of other problems to arise.
- Lois as the emotional through-line for the episode
- exploring how her emotional state impacts every aspect of her life
- Lois opening up to Clark about her concerns around ending up like her mother
- Lois taking a step forward by resolving to get to know Natalie
- Kyle’s advice to Clark offering background to the issues in his family
- Kyle helping Sarah understand how her relationship with Jordan is built
- Jordan’s anxiety causing him to worry about his relationship with Sarah
- Clark’s measured and believably awkward talk with his sons about intimacy
- the alteration to Clark’s relationship with the military and the widespread implications of that
- asking large scale questions about Superman as a political force
- telling rather than showing Natalie’s difficulties
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