Superman & Lois – Season 2 Episode 14

Jun 22, 2022 | Posted by in TV
Superman

“Worlds War Bizarre”

Superman & Lois increases the stakes with Clark rendered powerless as Ally pushes the two worlds together.

Superhero storytelling is up there with the most prevalent in entertainment at the moment. Hallmarks of these types of stories are impossibly high stakes and widespread destruction. One of the common criticisms of superhero stories is that the stakes are empty because there’s nothing to ground them. There are only so many times that the world or even the universe can be in peril before it becomes white noise. There’s also the issue of escalation and continually having to one-up until it reaches the point where there is no credibility in the storytelling.

Superman

Superman is more than powers

One way to get around this problem is to make the large-scale events meaningful to the characters involved. When the audience can latch onto relatable aspects of things that are otherwise impossible to connect with then the story being told becomes far more meaningful. Superman & Lois is a show that understands that with the bulk of its time spent focusing on the characters and their relationships to one another.

Clark losing his powers automatically raises the stakes because he can’t contribute to the crisis at hand as Superman. He feels understandably powerless in more than just the obvious sense. As someone accustomed to being at the forefront of taking action against threats, the thought of being unable to provide the necessary Braun is completely unpalatable and he spends much of the episode sulking because of this. Depowering a superhero is a classic storytelling tactic when tension needs to be ramped up and it’s often a lazy one. Supergirl often depowered Kara for arbitrary reasons and other properties have deployed the trope in different ways but this is a good example of it as it’s something he has to come to terms with it in his own way. It’s only part of the external problem and it’s quickly established that he will eventually get his powers back but not in time to be useful when dealing with the current circumstances. The possibility of a risky solution is thrown into the mix that will no doubt become relevant in the next episode but the focus is on Clark realising that there is more to Superman than his powers.

That wisdom comes by way of Lois who reminds him that Superman inspires people to be the best versions of themselves and always have hope even in the darkest of circumstances. She used the example of herself and points out that he inspires her every day. It’s somewhat contrived as this is a lesson Clark should have learned long ago but it makes sense in context as he is overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness having lost his powers when one of the largest scale problems he has ever faced. Lois helps him realise he can still be useful so he suits up and attends the town meeting to try to be that beacon of hope that people need at that moment. A strong affirmation of what Clark stands for comes across when he sincerely says to Sam that saving him was worth losing his powers. People are important, life is important and saving just one person is what Superman is all about.

Superman

No job too small for Superman

His appearance at the meeting is an odd moment as it isn’t quite the triumphant affirmation of what Superman stands for that it needs to be. Pairing it with Lana being attacked by the former Mayor who sees this crisis as an opportunity to discredit her muddies the message somewhat. On one hand, opinion over Lana’s actions being divided makes sense because public opinion is rarely unanimous and political figures are always natural targets as there’s an expectation that they will take charge in a given situation. Lana being attacked by a political opponent more focused on discrediting her than tackling the issue at hand is a clear commentary on modern politics and an expansion of the previous Mayor’s role earlier in the season.

He preys on people’s fears and tries to irrationally link those fears to Lana’s handling of the situation when she is doing her best to be clear, honest and rational to the people of Smallville. Clark’s appeal for them to listen to their better natures is an uphill struggle at this point and understandably so but the idea of the larger issue being fodder for a political opportunist is chillingly real. Another reading of this is a man attacking a woman’s credibility and that woman needing to be rescued by another man because people won’t listen to a woman in authority. It’s an extreme reading though not entirely unfair. Clark may have been better used in his civilian identity as an attendee of the meeting so that the other residents of Smallville saw him as one of them rather than the symbol that is Superman. The big problem was that this singular plot point was trying to say too much and the end result was chaotic messaging.

Lana’s difficulty in this episode furthers the trouble she has been having dealing with the knowledge of Clark’s secret. She is in a difficult position as Mayor as she knows more about what’s going on than anyone else does but isn’t sure if it’s appropriate to share as further questions will be asked about where she got the information. A solution of sorts is presented to her when Chrissie and Lois offer her a source and confirm the DOD’s cover story designed to appease the masses. Telling the truth is oddly small scale considering the cover story is broadcast globally and Smallville consists of a very small number of confused people. It’s a testament to the sense of belonging Lois feels to Smallville that she is committed to being honest with everyone there but the lack of global coverage stands out as an unaddressed point. Focusing on Smallville does support Lana’s recent characterisation and ties it to the Mayoral plot; something the show had previously struggled to make relevant. Knowing Clark’s secret directly rubbing up against her responsibilities as Mayor is an interesting problem that the episode covers well.

Superman

Stepping up

There are some impressive minor details in the way the coverup story is presented that directly reference the difficulty keeping a secret of that magnitude. Lana remains sharp and makes sure to ask Lois and Chrissy why they’ve come to her. Lois trusts Lana with the secret and keeps her promise to be honest with her and Chrissy does so for the good of the town. Meanwhile, Lana keeps up appearances by questioning why she would be informed at all. It’s a small touch but conveys in a single line of dialogue the constant vigilance that must be employed in protecting Clark’s secret. Prior to this, the teenage perspective is all that has been depicted so getting an adult outlook is welcomed.

Further coverage of secrecy and deceit is delivered through a really open conversation between Lana and Kyle. Lana frames her frustration through her lack of comfort lying to the people of Smallville when she’s supposed to be their Mayor and directly calls Kyle out on his history of lying to his family over a long period of time. Kyle has unquestionably become a better person and takes what Lana says entirely on the chin before offering her practical advice on what it’s like to consistently lie. His perspective is that if a lie is told enough times then it is eventually something that the person telling it comes to believe. It’s a slippery slope because it becomes second nature very quickly and then turns into a pattern of behaviour that is hard to break.

If the noble intent behind Clark and those around him keeping the fact that he’s Superman secret is stripped away then a valid reading of Clark Kent is that he’s a compulsive expert liar who has become so comfortable presenting a false narrative to the world that he has no concept of what the truth is any more. Context justifies Clark living his life in this way but Lana being new to the inner circle of knowledge struggles with it, particularly when she is responsible for representing a community of people and feels duty-bound to be honest with them. It’s a very compelling internal problem for her to wrestle with and Kyle’s perspective is impressively relevant.,

Superman

Not alone this time

Circumstances escalate and Jordan is forced to reveal his powers to Sarah when Bizarro-Lana attacks. He gets to be partially honest with her before this by mentioning that both of their mothers have known about the Bizarro World threat which offers some justification for him being so distracted. It could generously be called a half-truth but it does give Sarah some insight into why Jordan kept things from her. She gains further insight when she sees that Jordan has powers and almost immediately confronts Lana after joining the dots and concluding that Lana knew. Friction is created between them because Lana hid the truth from her while being fully aware of Sarah agonising over Jordan hiding something from her. Lana can only wait until Sarah is willing to discuss it with her but for now, Lana pleads with her to keep the secret because of how important it is that it doesn’t get out. There is an open question around whether Sarah will respect that or not though it’s likely that she will.

With Clark out of commission, the burden of saving the world falls to John and Natalie. As usual, there is no mention of other heroes that may or may not exist in this universe which makes sense in that this show needs to solve its own plots with available resources. A global threat like this would merit all heroes pitching in but that’s not what happens so it doesn’t impact what the episode delivers. John and Natalie have a variation on the same argument in the previous episode where she wants to be on the front line and John wants to protect her. His plan is to fly through the portal and shoot a missile at Ally to stop her and the merging process. Needless to say, it doesn’t work and results in a loss of contact with John with Natalie immediately fearing the worst.

It’s similar to the argument in the previous episode but not the same though it doesn’t quite qualify as a natural evolution of it. John wants to keep Natalie safe so puts a time-delayed child lock on her suit so that he can fly into the portal alone and leave her behind. It’s a reckless choice on his part but also understandable given his well-established priority being Natalie’s safety. She protests and wants to be in the fight with him because the last time he watched her fly away she ended up losing him for what turned out to be months but could have been forever. John doesn’t deny that possibility but he points out how different the circumstances are now as this time she has people around her who will be there for her if the worst happens. This is confirmed when the worst appears to happen and Natalie is surrounded by emotional support. It doesn’t make the loss any less devastating but people will help her deal with it and that means everything.

It’s too late in the season for the villains to be any more than what they currently are. The finale is likely going to stick to the established characters and have the villains be connected to the problem that needs to be solved. It’s a decent approach but it’s also limiting as it means there are significant presences in the show that aren’t receiving enough development. Ally spends this entire episode trying to force the two worlds together so doesn’t have anything to say for herself. Prior to this, she was a figurehead with occasional bouts of characterisation intended to make her more than a simple antagonist. She is nothing more than the sum of her parts -interesting considering her plan is about making people complete- and none of her followers are much more than muscle to support her plans. The possible exception to this is Lucy but her contribution has been too intermittent to have that level of impact. The actual threat of the worlds merging isn’t nearly as urgent as the dialogue suggests that it is though the quick escalation with the visual shifts at the end of the episode was a great touch.

Superman

A square peg in a round hole


Verdict

A strong episode that grounds outlandish stakes with meaningful characterisation that brilliantly expands their existing arcs while keeping them connected to the events. Clark losing his powers automatically raises the stakes because he can’t contribute to the crisis at hand as Superman. He feels powerless in more than just the obvious sense and it’s something he needs to come to terms with in his own way. Wisdom comes by way of Lois who reminds him that Superman is far more than a set of powers. It’s somewhat contrived as this is a lesson Clark should have learned long ago but it makes sense in context. A strong affirmation of what Clark stands for comes across when he sincerely says to Sam that saving him was worth losing his powers. People are important, life is important and saving just one person is what Superman is all about. Clark’s appearance at the meeting is an odd moment as it isn’t quite the triumphant affirmation of what Superman stands for that it needs to be. Pairing it with Lana being attacked by the former Mayor who sees this crisis as an opportunity to discredit her muddies the message somewhat. Lana being attacked by a political opponent more focused on discrediting her than tackling the issue at hand is a clear commentary on modern politics and an expansion of the previous Mayor’s role earlier in the season. Another reading of this is a man attacking a woman’s credibility and that woman needing to be rescued by another man because people won’t listen to a woman in authority. It’s an extreme reading though not entirely unfair.

Lana’s difficulty in this episode furthers the trouble she has been having dealing with the knowledge of Clark’s secret. She is in a difficult position as Mayor as she knows more about what’s going on than anyone else does but isn’t sure if it’s appropriate to share as further questions will be asked about where she got the information. A solution of sorts is presented to her when Chrissie and Lois offer her a source and confirm the DOD’s cover story designed to appease the masses. Knowing Clark’s secret directly rubbing up against her responsibilities as Mayor is an interesting problem that the episode covers well. There are some impressive minor details in the way the coverup story is presented that directly reference the difficulty keeping a secret of that magnitude. Lana remains sharp and makes sure to ask Lois and Chrissy why they’ve come to her. Further coverage of secrecy and deceit is delivered through a really open conversation between Lana and Kyle. Lana frames her frustration through her lack of comfort lying to the people of Smallville when she’s supposed to be their Mayor and directly calls Kyle out on his history of lying to his family over a long period of time. His perspective is that if a lie is told enough times then it is eventually something that the person telling it comes to believe. It’s a slippery slope because it becomes second nature very quickly and then turns into a pattern of behaviour that is hard to break. If the noble intent behind Clark and those around him keeping the fact that he’s Superman secret is stripped away then a valid reading of Clark Kent is that he’s a compulsive expert liar who has become so comfortable presenting a false narrative to the world that he has no concept of what the truth is any more. Circumstances escalate and Jordan is forced to reveal his powers to Sarah when Bizarro-Lana attacks. Sarah almost immediately confronts Lana after joining the dots and concluding that Lana knew. Friction is created between them because Lana hid the truth from her while being fully aware of Sarah agonising over Jordan hiding something from her. With Clark out of commission, the burden of saving the world falls to John and Natalie. John and Natalie have a variation on the same argument in the previous episode where she wants to be on the front line and John wants to protect her. It doesn’t quite quality as a natural evolution of that argument but it does progress. John doesn’t deny the possibility of his plan resulting in Natalie losing him but he points out how different the circumstances are now as this time she has people around her who will be there for her if the worst happens. This is confirmed when the worst appears to happen and Natalie is surrounded by emotional support. It’s too late in the season for the villains to be any more than what they currently are. Ally spends this entire episode trying to force the two worlds together so doesn’t have anything to say for herself. Prior to this, she was a figurehead with occasional bouts of characterisation intended to make her more than a simple antagonist. None of her followers are much more than muscle to support her plans. The actual threat of the worlds merging isn’t nearly as urgent as the dialogue suggests that it is though the quick escalation with the visual shifts at the end of the episode was a great touch.

Overall
  • 8/10
    Worlds War Bizarre - 8/10
8/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • Clark’s reaction to losing his powers
  • Lois bringing wisdom that reminds him that Superman is more than a collection of powers
  • the chillingly real depiction of the former Mayor trying to discredit Lana
  • Lana’s difficulty resolving her desire to tell the truth with the secret she is forced to keep
  • Kyle’s perspective on telling persistent lies and how that informs her choices
  • Sarah confronting Lana after joining the dots upon learning that Jordan has powers
  • progressing John and Natalie’s argument about her being in the field
  • confirming the different circumstances by showing how much support Natalie has around her
  • the striking visuals that end the episode

 

Rise Against…

  • irreparably weak villains
  • the threat of the worlds merging not being as urgent as it needs to be
  • some muddled messaging

 

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