Superman & Lois -- "Man of Steel" -- Image Number: SML107fg_0038r.jpg -- Pictured: Wolé Parks as Captain Luthor -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss

In hindsight, some things seem really obvious. There’s a big reveal in this week’s Superman and Lois, and I’m kind of mad that I didn’t see it coming. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 7, “Man of Steel.”

“Man of Steel”

Integrating known characters into a retelling of a story can be difficult; how do you bring in the character people want to see without them being so close to their source that you know what’s going to happen before it happens. It’s also hard to make good use of the multiverse without breaking everything, as The Flash has shown us.

Superman and Lois, however, seems to have accomplished just that. This week, we learn the true identity of the stranger, referred to thus far as Captain Luthor.

I can hear you

Jordan is still recovering from last week. His powers are manifesting one after another, and his augmented hearing is overwhelming him, causing him to isolate and close himself off. Lois, meanwhile, continues to investigate Morgan Edge and the Stranger.

With Jordan slowly manifesting his powers, we’re almost getting a Superman origin story within the story of an existing Superman. We get to watch a teenaged Kryptonian make mistakes and cope with his powers week by week, just as if we were watching a young Clark Kent figure himself out. The show does a good job of showing how overwhelming it would be to hear everything everywhere, and how that would affect the person doing the listening.

One of the cheesier moments comes, though, when Jordan finally masters his hearing. He does it, of course, by staring intently at a picture of the only girl he’s ever talked to and is now in love with, Sarah Cushing, which lets him focus on her voice. On the one hand, this is probably how a teenager would handle this situation. On the other, it’s hard not to cringe.

When he tunes in, that is–again, of course–the very moment that Sarah is talking to Jonathan without Jordan there. Jordan tunes in a minute too late and thinks he’s caught them flirting. Again, this is cringy, but the show smartly handles it rather quickly–more on that later.

L.L.

While the teenagers are acting like teenagers, Lois and Clark are trying to make sense of how the Stranger, the newly-discovered X-Kryptonite, and Morgan Edge are connected. Lois recruits Lana Cushing as her man on the inside.

If you haven’t noticed, Superman comics have a weird obsession with “L.L.” initials. Lois Lane is investigating Morgan Edge and his assistant, Leslie Larr, with the help of Lana Cushing, who was Lana Lang. With Lana siding with Lois, even as her husband Kyle continues to worship the businessman and eat up everything he says. I can’t help but wonder if the show is prepping Lana for a return to being Lana Lang again at some point.

Speaking of Leslie Larr, we learn officially this week that she’s the only subject to successfully accept the X-Kryptonite power without eventually combusting and that Edge has put Larr in charge of that project. There’s a plot development here that I think is pretty smart. Larr lays a trap not for Superman or the Stranger, but for both, putting them in each others’ crosshairs.

Hammer down

That puts us into the back half of the episode. Superman goes to meet with the Stranger, and Lois senses something is wrong. They’re struggling to find any information about this guy (for the obvious reason of him being from another earth) but hit on something at the last minute.

The Stranger isn’t a Luthor at all, but is rather his Earth’s John Henry Irons.

The show takes a few breaks throughout to introduce us to this character in his own world. He’s married to Lois Lane, and they have a daughter together. When that Earth’s Superman goes rogue, he kills Lois (off-screen), putting Irons on a path to revenge. Starting from an AI built by that Earth’s Lex Luthor, Irons and his daughter–who appears to be every bit the engineering whiz that he is–built that Doomslayer suit and a massive hammer.

We get enough time with and history of Irons to show that this guy’s hatred of Superman is pretty well earned. I can’t help but think that he’s going to turn around at some point and work with Superman, but I’m really curious as to how the writers are going to make that happen. Their decisions so far have been stellar, so I’m actually eager to see what happens (unlike on The Flash, which is currently a very bad show). I’m really enjoying actor Wolé Parks as Irons, and find myself hoping he continues to be a part of the show moving forward.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Irons unleashes on Superman; he’s outfitted an abandoned factory and his creeper van with red sun lights and quite literally brings the hammer down on Superman.

Just before this, Jonathan and Jordan talk about what happened earlier, with Jordan apologizing for his behavior. There’s a great line from Jonathan here. Jordan apologizes for the fact that Jonathan has to lie about him a bunch, and Jonathan says that everybody has secrets that they have to lie about for each other. Again, their dynamic is incredibly believable as brothers, and I’ve loved what the show has done with them so far.

Jordan then hears Irons beating on Superman, and the two drive (without a license) to the factory, with Jordan acting as a GPS while Jonathan drives. When the truck crashed through the wall and hits Irons, it was deeply satisfying.

Please stay good

Superman and Lois really is a step above CW’s other superhero offerings–other than Legends of Tomorrow–in so many ways. Like Legends, it’s doing its own distinct thing. The Flash, Supergirl, Arrow, Batwomanand even Black Lightning have had a bad habit of getting into the same rut that makes them look like they’re repainted variants of the same toy set. Every show starts with the hero’s origins, builds up a support team for them, gives the superhero a base set with lots of monitors full of 3D diagrams, and eventually gives almost all of its cast superpowers eventually.

A team wouldn’t make sense for Superman. He’s an experienced, storied hero who has been working on his own for years. He’s not entirely alone–Lois feeds him information, and the government gives him some minor support, but there are, in actuality, very few people who can stand alongside Superman, and they all have their own shows right now.

The show has so far avoided the typical CW drama-powered storylines, and even the casting sets it apart from other shows on the network. The look of the show is different from anything else. It’s hard not to be excited about what’s to come (and a little worried about when it’ll fall apart).