The idea of getting super powers sounds fun, but Jordan Kent, named after his Kryptonian grandfather Jor-El, has an extra rough time of it. He’s getting his powers as a teenager and his powers are proving unpredictable as they develop and he matures. What you realize as you start to grow older is that all teenagers, even the smart ones and the good ones, are dumbasses. This is just a matter of fact. CW’s newest addition to its lineup of superhero shows is working hard to imagine what a teenager with new powers might go through; the biggest challenge though, is doing it without the teen’s drama taking over the whole show. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 6, “Broken Trust.”
Live-action superhero stories are everywhere, from theaters to broadcast TV to streaming. Origins stories were for a long time a crucial ingredient of getting people invested into characters. But producers have started to realize in the last few years that while we might not know a lot about how the Green Arrow or Shang-Chi got started, the stories of the biggest superheroes are burned into our brains. We don’t need to re-examine Superman’s early years.
Superman and Lois smartly skips over that and look at a part of superheroism previously left mostly unexamined by live-action stories: what is being a superhero like over a long period of time? This version of Superman has been wearing the big “S” for something like 20 years by this point. Everyone knows who he is, just like we do. So now we can dive into the way life tugs and pulls at that person. Even someone who is akin to a literal god on earth feels the weight of life and obligation.
Where were we?
This episode, the first back from the show’s hiatus, picks up directly from the last episode. Superman shows up to intervene between Jordan and Tag, the speedster kid the government hauled off and things kick off from there. Tag, having escaped government custody, escapes Superman as well. Jordan and Jonathan, back home, are prepping for their big game against Metropolis.
I’m still not sure where Metropolis is on Earth-Prime; it’s typically somewhere around Delaware in the comics, but if high school football teams are competing it can’t be far from Smallville, Kansas. Maybe it’s supposed to be near the “home of Superman,” Metropolis, Illinois.
While the kids are excited about the game, though, Jordan’s powers are seeming to glitch out as small sounds are amplified and he’s dealing with intense migraines that threaten to turn into optic blasts. Lois, meanwhile, is continuing to investigate Morgan Edge, who is pulling the wool further and further over the town’s eyes–most especially Lana’s husband, Kyle. Lana is initially onboard with Kyle, but Lois is sowing seeds of doubt with her continued investigation. She meets up with Captain Luthor, who is posing as journalist Marcus Bridgewater, to infiltrate Morgan Edge’s mining operation, where they find X-Kryptonite–the source of the Kryptonian-like powers Superman has been encountering lately.
No Strings On Me
In the middle of all of this are Superman and Clark Kent, being pulled in all directions. Tag’s powers and fear have put Tag himself in danger and wounded his trust in, well, everyone. Superman tries to protect him, only for Sam Lane’s soldiers to shoot him with Kryptonite-tipped bullets, putting Superman at odds with the government and army.
Lois’ adventure with Marcus goes sideways when Leslie Larr shows up to blast them with her heat vision. Marcus/Luthor handles it and, in the process, attracts all of Lois Lane’s suspicion, and she brings her concerns to Clark; Luthor’s vendetta/misguided heroism are a looming threat for Clark and his family. Even so, much of what Lois does, neither Superman nor Clark can do. Superman can’t scan the lead-lined mining facility, and Clark A) currently a stay-at-home dad and B) doesn’t have the nose for news that Lois has.
Superheroes and Journalists, a tale as old as time
Lois storyline has to constantly reinforce that Clark trusts Lois and vice versa, despite her penchant for getting into danger. I can’t help but think of the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson as depicted in 2018’s Spider-Man on PlayStation 4–as a journalist, Mary Jane indeed gets into all manner of danger, but her uncanny ability to zero in on trouble is indispensable for Peter and is ultimately necessary for him to save New York. I think Lois’ arc is going to be similar; Clark/Superman cannot function at full capacity without Lois both as a partner in marriage and in fighting crime and corruption. I like that she tells Clark about Marcus right away because it not only means that that will also pull on him, but avoids the kind of unnecessary drama we’re often used to seeing on the CW.
And then there are the boys. Jordan is essentially going through superpuberty. Instead of his voice cracking, his eye lasers are crackling. Instead of his voice getting deeper and more powerful, his strength is growing by the day. He’s struggling, and Jonathan is having to act like a big brother. The shifting dynamic between them is crucial to the show and yet another string tugging on Clark’s time and abilities.
More like “Broken Hand”
At the football game, Jordan’s powers flare-up, and Clark is just barely able to conceal them by literally catching Jordan’s heat vision in his hand. Later, Jordan persuades Jonathan to go hang out with the team; they encounter some of Jordan’s old bullies from the Metropolis team and one of them manages to get under Jordan’s skin. Jordan takes a swing and the only reason the guy doesn’t die is because Jonathan puts his hand in the way; Jordan’s punch shatters it.
Both of the boys are charming and relatable in equal measure. Right now, it feels like they represent two sides of Clark: Jonathan represents Smallville Clark; he sometimes gets into trouble, but seems to have a strong moral compass. Jordan represents the danger of an unchecked Kryptonian who hasn’t mastered their powers.
Clark addresses this directly when talking to Jordan, mentioning that when he first started heroing, people didn’t trust him, that it took a long time to gain that trust, and that every time he wears the suit, that trust is called into question. One mess-up could ruin his reputation. Jordan looks at his father the same way many people do–a perfect, infallible demigod. But the reality is that while Clark doesn’t have to worry about say, drowning or getting hit by a car, he’s burdened by worries a thousand times larger.
I genuinely enjoy Jonathan’s presence in particular, and he works well to balance out Jordan’s frustration and explosiveness. His emotional responses to situations are believable, but I enjoy watching him struggle to and ultimately succeed in doing the right thing–especially as it applies to his brother and family.
How do you write for the man who can do everything?
Superman is really hard to make interesting. I hear people call him boring all the time. Indeed, someone who has Superman’s list of powers is tough to write for when it comes specifically to villains. But just the same way that the Clark Kent side of Kal El grounds the Superman side within the fiction, it does so at a story level, too. The show is spending less time trying to come up with contrived ways to put Superman in danger and more time showing how he’s actually vulnerable. He has limited time, he can only be in one place at once, and he has to be incredibly careful with every move he makes.
Right now, Superman and Lois (along with Legends of Tomorrow, of course) is the best thing happening in the CW DC universe.