As someone who has watched almost every piece of Arrowverse content and reviewed a good chunk of it, I feel pretty authoritative when I say that the CW’s DC shows have a shaky track record. Superman and Lois has been nothing short of great so far, but that shaky record means I’m in constant vigil, expecting even the shows I like to disappoint me. So far, Superman and Lois hasn’t, but this week has Superman walking a precarious tightrope. Which hopefully won’t be a problem for the man who can fly. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 4, “Haywire.”
This week, Clark Kent has a very full life. We wrote last week about how this show isn’t just about Clark Kent being Superman, but about Kal-El balancing his obligations to his family and the world and trying to make the latter happy without deserting the former. Clark is trying to be a part of his kids’ football team, help Lois out in her quest to reveal Morgan Edge, and keep doing what he has to as Superman to keep the world safe.
A lot of this rings really true–these obligations are already pretty true for a real parent, and Superman is a complication that Clark has to manage on top of all of that. I like that all of this stuff factors into his life. Clark has always been as important as Superman is to Kal-El, with each half making the other better. There is no Superman without Clark, and Superman and Lois seems to get that.
Life is complicated without superpowers
In Smallville, it’s Clark’s life that comes calling. Lois finds herself threatened with legal action if she speaks out against Morgan Edge, so she asks “Smallville’s favorite son” to help her out. Meanwhile, the Kent boys have their first football game, which is Jordan’s first opportunity to control his powers in front of a crowd. Incredibly, that’s not the complication here. The complication is Lois’ father, Sam Lane, showing up to the game unannounced and spotting his grandson displaying strength uncharacteristic of a kid who hides in his room and plays Mortal Kombat vs DC on his Xbox.
Sam Lane is the closest thing Superman has to a boss, acting as kind of a liaison between the Man of Steel and the government, and adds a lot of chaos to the already stressful life Clark is leading. Lane points out to Clark that with Superman showing up in Metropolis less frequently, the existing criminal element is starting to take notice. At the same time, he warns the Kent boys that their dad is too important for them to bug him about unnecessary stuff.
Lane’s interference serves to scatter Clark’s attention, and he finds himself triple-booked. He has to stop a criminal in Metropolis when he’s supposed to be standing in for Lois, and his kids are getting in trouble at the same time.
Jonathan and Jordan end up at a school party with another student who broke his arm in the explosion caused by Jordan’s optic blast. This is where things really start to wander into dreaded CW territory. We learn that there was some other entity or substance near the fire when Jordan’s blast went off, and that that gave the student, Tag, some kind of superpower that he has no control over. Tag’s arm vibrates its way right out of his cast, healed. Later, he busts through a thick wooden table easily, and the Kent boys find him zipping all over the woods outside.
That feels like the beginning of a storyline not unlike the junk Flash has done almost every season where Some Thing The Protagonist Did made a bunch of supervillains and now the protagonists have to deal with them. The show could salvage this somewhat by making them complications rather than villains, as with Tag, but the whole concept itself is very tired, and it’s something we’ve seen on not only The Flash, but Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow as well. Legends is the only one that really gets away with it because it treats the idea as ridiculous in its tone and writing, where the other shows have to take things seriously.
I’m really not interested in this storyline, and I don’t think viewers are, either. We can see through it for what it is: a plotline that exists to let the writers fill in episodes between big story beats. It feels lazy and uninspired, and I’m hoping that Superman and Lois won’t fall victim to using it as a crutch.
Talking like adults
I’m continuing to enjoy the pairing of Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as Clark and Lois, though. The show sets up things to make them clash and then has them resolve it like realistic adults who care about each other. It’s a nice contrast to the on-going final season of Black Lightning, in which its main character and spouse snipe at each other in childish arguments nearly every week to the point where I just zone out until the “Jeff and Lynn Argument Scene” ends. Superman and Lois has been good about making these points of conflict feel real. Real isn’t always a good thing, but here it works because Superman is so unreal that part of the fun is trying to slot him into real life.
My biggest complaint is that the episode feels overfull and a little directionless. We have Superman dealing with his father-in-law and an escaped criminal. Lois is dealing with her busy husband, her gag order, and her antagonist for the season, Morgan Edge. The Kent boys are navigating high school and the world of superpowers. And in the middle is Sam Lane trying to pit them all against each other. It’s a lot for an hour of TV, and it just feels a bit jumbled.
Superman and Lois airs on The CW on Tuesdays at 8 PM CST.