Superman & Lois -- "Fail Safe" -- Image Number: SML113b_0163r.jpg -- Pictured: Tyler Hoechlin as Superman -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Superman is all but invulnerable, but his battle with Morgan Edge/Tal-Rho left him feeling incredibly so. Both Smallville and Superman are still reeling from recent events, and Superman is doing what he always does–trying to keep his planet and his family safe. Spoilers follow for Superman and Lois Season 1, Episode 13, “Fail Safe.”

“Fail Safe”

It turns out that when a wealthy businessman comes to your town, puts a bunch of your people to work, tries to convert them all into Kryptonian soldiers, and then gets caught and jailed, it takes a while to work through the aftermath. As we come back to Smallville, everyone is hurting from what went on, and Superman and Lois lets us look at the trauma from a bunch of different angles.

Lois and Lana

The Cushing family is on the ropes right now. Kyle supported Edge throughout his tenure and now the town is looking at him as the shepherd who led them into the wolves’ den. Kyle and his family come home to find broken windows and graffiti. They call on the mayor, who promises to help them–only for Lana to catch him talking trash about the family later that same day.

For Lois, she’s feeling the pull of family versus duty more than ever before. Edge’s moves put her family in danger or in the spotlight at every level, from her father to her husband to her sons. He endangered their physical safety and their identities and privacy. Lois’ duty as a journalist is to tell the world what went down, and she’s in a position to know everything about it. She has to choose what to keep quiet, and that includes deciding how much she wants to drill her own father about his organization’s role in the event. It causes a rift between Lois and her editor, Chrissy, as well as giving her her own identity crisis.

The Sons of House Kent

The boys each handle it in their own way; Sam Lane’s involvement has put them in the town’s crosshairs much the same way it has Lois. The school holds an assembly to talk about what went on, but both of the Kent kids skip out individually. Jordan goes off with Sara Cushing, finding her favorite spot in the woods where they have their first actual kiss.

Jonathan goes off with the popular girl in school that he’s been eyeing, only to find out that she was more interested in gathering gossip than in making out. And while Jordan is still grappling with his powers, Jonathan is only starting to face his own questions about identity. Everyone else in his family is two things–a father and a hero, a brother and a Kryptonian, a mom and a journalist. Jonathan has just been a football guy since the beginning, and Jordan borrowed even that part of his identity for a little while.

Jonathan finds John Henry Irons in the Kent barn repairing his Steel armor, and Irons tells him, you don’t just have to be an athlete–you can have another identity. For Irons, that was being an engineer and a soldier. Jonathan has been a great character so far. One of my favorites, actually. But he’s getting left in the dust by the rest of his family, and this seems to suggest that he might get some more to do soon. Of course, there’s the worry that the CW will do what the CW does on every one of these shows, which is to give every character either metahuman or technological superpowers so that they can be a superhero too. It’s how you end up with The Flash, Impulse, XS and… Nora and Allegra.

Superman

Of course, Clark is not unaffected. After all, he just had a surprise half-brother try to destroy his family and life and to enslave his planet. The thing that shakes Clark the most, though, is that he got as close as he did to giving in to the corruption of the Eradicator. As Superman, he goes to Sam Lane and tells him to keep the 7734 project online. No one has yet acknowledged that 7734 is just “HELL” on a calculator number pad yet, and it’s driving me absolutely insane.

That pisses off Lois, of course, but Clark explains that when he was under Zod’s control and losing his grip, it felt really good to unleash. Superman by his very nature is always holding back, using a fraction of a percent of his strength and intelligence in any given situation to keep his family safe and make sure the planet he loves doesn’t lose its trust in him.

Superman in 3D

Tyler Hoechlin has been a good Superman right from the start, but moments like these are quickly making him my favorite. This Superman is vastly superior to so many other incarnations because it paints a whole picture of the character. We see him as Superman, of course, but his moments as Clark are important, too, and not just frames that happen between Superman moments. He was raised on Earth and despite having the powers of a god, he has the heart and mind of a human, and his concerns are not just reasonable from a logical point of view but easy to empathize with.

This all shows how deeply this character cares about his world. Superman is often great as a movie-sized character because he’s so powerful, but we don’t get to spend time with Clark in those cases. Only those longer-form stories like comics and, to a lesser degree, the Superman animated series let us see Clark as anything more than a secret identity. Superman and Lois makes Clark, Kal El, and Superman all the same person instead of separate characters that are all equally handsome.

Eradication is Coming

Of course, Morgan Edge is the villain that just won’t die. His plan has layers and layers. After being captured, Superman confronts him, and he’s unsettlingly calm. He goes into a catatonic state and wakes up with glowing blue eyes. The final moments of the episode show him mere miles away from the sun, actively absorbing its power, just as the Eradicator does in the comics. With Superman, Steel, and the army on the same page, they might be ready to fight the challenge that’s coming.

Superman and Lois continues to do interesting things with its characters that make me curious and eager to learn more about them. Please, CW, don’t do what you always do with your superheroes. Give Superman room to breathe and a budget to work with–this show is special.