Superman and Lois came back this week after a short hiatus, bringing home the threads made last time by Tal-Rho, also known as Morgan Edge. The hiatus was worth the wait, bringing a lot of feeling and some great Superman action. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 12, “Through the Valley of Death.”
“Through the Valley of Death”
The casting director in charge of Superman and Lois should be patting themselves on the back. Someone should be patting themselves on the back. So many of the strength of this show belongs to the cast. Even with the same writing, some different actors could’ve changed the whole dynamic of the show.
Bitsie Tulloch has done a fabulous job bringing Lois Lane to life and making her three-dimensional. It’s easy for these iconic characters to be formed wholly out of tropes. Lois is plucky, fierce, firey, etc.; but no human is like that all the time, and Superman and Lois is a great place to explore Lois as a whole person. She is strong. You don’t mess with Lois Lane. But while she will uncover whatever story there is to uncover, she’s a wife and a mother in addition to being a legendary reporter, and both her strength and vulnerability are on display here.
Edge trapped Superman into going with him in the previous episode. The Man of Steel had used up all of his power to overload the Eradicator and free the citizens of Smallville, and Edge took advantage. When we find Superman again, Edge has used the recovered Eradicator to implant a particularly special soul into his body. Superman is still Superman, but he’s huffing and puffing as he resists the soul of General Zod, who Superman defeated earlier in his career.
Back in Smallville, another General–Sam Lane–is trying to decide what to do about Superman’s potential turn. Lois brings in John Henry Irons and the two, of course, go straight for the nuclear option. Lois works hard on both of them to get them to see her point of view. She gives a great speech to Irons where she reveals the truth about her relationship to Superman. It’s something she’s clearly thought through, but it’s also emotional, and both of these aspects are visible.
Another great moment comes with Lois’ son, Jonathan (Jordan Elsass). He, like his mom before, makes an appeal to Irons. Where Lois was speaking to a man who was married to her doppelganger on another planet, asking him not to kill her husband, Jonathan’s seems to be more effective. Jonathan goes to Irons and says that he seems like he was a good father on his earth. “This guy you’re about to kill, he’s a really good dad, too.”
Wole Parks does a great job bringing Irons to life, too. Irons and Superman have a great fight on what appears to be a rocky Vancouver beach (it’s so hard to tell where things are happening geographically in this show). Irons is holding his own against Superman quite well thanks to that rad hammer, and he knocks Superman around enough to shake Zod loose just long enough to let Kal El sneak out. Here, Irons’ helmet is off. That not only lets us see what he’s thinking and feeling, but also makes him look a lot less like the guy from the DOOM games.
Between having to talk to Lois and Jonathan, and then meeting Superman face-to-face–knowing now who he really is–Irons is becoming an increasingly complex character. Parks does a great job of making this apparent without even talking much of the time.
The story itself is pretty simple. Superman has potentially turned, the serious good guys want to kill him, and the emotional good guys want to save him, and they have to meet in the middle. These great performances help bring a lot of emotional complexity to it. With that said, it’s fun to see certain Superman elements brought to life through the show.
The Eradicator device itself isn’t the first, second, or third thing you think of when you ask who and what Superman should be fighting, but it’s a great choice for a story like this. The football-egg like shape of it is pretty authentic to the comics, and its function is quite similar. Instead of pitting Superman against a clear villain, it becomes a war of identity. Its presence calls Superman’s Kryptonian and Earth aspects into question while also fleshing out Kryptonian history a little bit more.
It also opens up the possibility of additional deep-cut storylines. In the comics, Superman throws the Eradicator into the sun and that powers it up in a way that lets it take on a humanoid form. When Superman dies, the Eradicator becomes that Superman with the shoulder cape and yellow wraparound visor that I thought was so cool when I was ten years old.
Diggle done dirty
The only part of the episode I’m really disappointed by is Diggle’s cameo. I’d hoped for a lot more out of it. With Superman against the ropes and his allies planning to kill him, I’d hoped to see John Diggle put on the ring and become a Lantern. Instead, he shows up with a weapon from ARGUS and takes Lois side in the arguments about keeping Superman alive. He’s moral support. When does Diggle get his moment? It was, again, good to see John Diggle, but it feels like an opportunity wasted.
Even so, this was an overall killer conclusion to this storyline, and I hope the writers can keep up this pace as the show grows.