Superman & Lois -- "Holding The Wrench" -- Image Number: SML108fg_0192r.jpg -- Pictured: Bitsie Tulloch as Lois -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss

This week’s Superman and Lois is a bit more complex than some previous episodes in terms of plot, but it still gets a lot done and continues to develop last week’s reveal that The Stranger is, in truth, John Henry Irons from another Earth. Meanwhile, Lois and Jonathan are both struggling with being normal, if somewhat extraordinary, humans living with two supermen. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 8, “Holding the Wrench.”

“Holding the Wrench”

While Superman and Lois is ostensibly part of the Arrowverse–Metropolis’ power couple has interacted with Arrow, Flash, and of course, Supergirl–the show is very much doing its own thing to the point where it barely feels connected to those other shows, which follow the same origin-bunker-team-drama formula. It’s a show about an adult couple who work through their issues like adults, and it skips right over so much of the drama that tends to power these shows. The first big moment that expanded Superman’s universe beyond himself was the reveal that the Stranger is actually John Henry Irons, known in the comics as Steel.

This week follows up on that reveal and all of its complications. On Flash or Supergirl, I feel like this reveal would’ve been followed by discussions of how to defeat him, how do his powers work, with tech wizards inventing made-up stuff in front of tons of computer screens. That’s not at all what happens.

Talk about it

The episode opens with Lois talking to a therapist about something that happened. About a mistake she’s made that she worries is irreversible. Last week, Lois watched as her husband, the strongest man on Earth, the nigh-invincible protector of the planet, was beaten to an inch of his life by a guy with a creeper van. Weirdly, that messed her up a little bit.

While Irons is locked up at wherever Sam Lane is (Metropolis, presumably), the Kent-Lane family is exploring his high-tech van. They figure out that Irons and Lois were married on his Earth, and then Jonathan finds the clip of that Earth’s Superman killing Lois. Jonathan, a curious teenager without two decades of death-defying experience, ends up getting himself caught in the van’s countermeasures. Superman saves him with milliseconds to spare, but not before Lois almost has to watch her kid die right in front of her.

Somewhat understandably, she’s furious and forgets for a moment that teenagers are idiots who think they’re immortal and tears into him. As she talks to the therapist, it comes out that she had a miscarriage after the twins were born and never truly dealt with the intense emotions that come with that.

Guards up

As Lois talks, she starts to break down, and Elizabeth Tulloch is genuinely great here. I was fully invested in this storyline thanks in large part to her acting. She drives home the idea that Lois is a strong person, but one so used to having her guard up that even she can’t tell when she’s guarding against herself. Her tears felt real, and it was heartbreaking. She apologizes to Jonathan as well, and it feels good. The show does wander into “I went to therapy once and it fixed everything like a car mechanic” territory but it’s rare that shows like these imagine the trauma that comes with living next to a superhero, and then bothers trying to deal with it.

While this is going on, Superman is trying to get Irons to talk to him. When one of Morgan Edge’s X-Kryptonite soldiers tries to kidnap Irons, Superman comes to his rescue and fights the soldier in a haze of what turns out to be artificial Kryptonite. I like this fight because while Superman is vulnerable to the rock, it’s boring to simply have him straight-up collapse every time someone mentions it around him. Instead, it weakens him, but doesn’t drain him of his courage, and so he fights the soldier and has a few moves of his own even when at a disadvantage.

A potential ally

A tense faceoff between Irons and a weakened Superman ends peacefully, turning Irons not into an ally, but not quite an enemy, either. Someone who might be able to help Superman fight the coming glut of manufactured Kryptonians, but who also can keep Superman in check–not that he needs it, but it could be an interesting path for the character.

I’m continuing to enjoy the way Superman and Lois wonders what it would be like for these characters in these situations if they were real people with actual emotions and responded to situations believably, making it wildly different from almost every show on the CW. Take that, the CW.