Superman is invincible. He cannot be vinced. If you take all the things he’s done over the years in the canonical, classic stories, he is unto a god. He could take on Zeus, Ra, Odin, and just about any other god given physical form throughout mythology. That often makes him hard to write, but Superman & Lois keeps coming back to his most obvious and interesting weakness: his humanity and his connections to Earth and Krypton.
His connections–both those he intentionally makes and those he has to live with–are equal parts strength and weakness, something that can be used against him, and yet something he can’t leave behind. We know the names of his parents–Terran and Kryptonian alike–and his sons, his wife, his ex-girlfriend, his best buddy. Superman’s connections are as much a part of him as his powers. Superman & Lois keys in on that and tries to expand it. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 2, Episode 2, “The Ties That Bind.”
“The Ties That Bind”
Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) opens up to Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) about his ongoing struggle with visions and admits that there is only one person who might be able to help. Meanwhile, Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui) receives some unexpected news and tensions begin to rise between Lois and Chrissy (Sofia Hasmik). Lastly, Sarah (Inde Navarrette) breaks plans with Jordan (Alex Garfin) to spend time with Natalie (Tayler Buck).
The showrunners behind Superman & Lois are weaving a delicate web right now as they expand the core cast and try to lay out a new story that engages us as much as the first season’s. The warm-up to the debut of the big monster–which showrunners have confirmed to be Doomsday–is slow, and focus this week is primarily on all of these connections Superman/Clark has all around him. The premiere ended with the Kent family inviting John and Natalie Irons to live on the Kent farm until they find a home in Smallville. This gives Wole Parks a reason to stay on the show while also bringing in a new kid to interact with the brothers and Sarah Cushing. Keeping Parks on the show is great–he was a great asset to the first season as a foil for Lois and Clark alike.
Bringing Natalie in deeper is a big risk, though. One of the dangers the showrunners are constantly flirting with is bringing in so many kids that Superman & Lois turns into a teen drama centered on Jordan and Jonathan. That doesn’t happen here, but it is something the showrunners will have to stay sharply aware of. The show has to stay centered on Superman and Lois, or we might as well just call it Smallville 2. This week, though, Natalie continues to be a confounding factor for Lois and a voice of reason for the conflicted Sarah, who we learn had a romantic interaction with someone while she was away at camp over the summer. She also adds some much-needed balance to what is generally a very male-heavy cast.
The core of the episode, though, is about Superman and the visions he’s been experiencing. Superman goes to his brother, Tal-Rho, concerned that what he’s experiencing might be aftereffects of Zod’s occupation of his mind late last season. That’s an excuse, though, to get Tal-Rho and Superman (accompanied by his son, Jordan) to Tal-Rho’s desert-based fortress of solitude, which he uses one of the Kryptonian crystals to introduce him–Kal El–to his mother, Lara Lor-Van.
Lara is played by Mariana Klaveno, who DC fans might recognize from the Space Patrol episode of Doom Patrol Season 2. Klaveno looks the part, though she doesn’t get to do much. Meanwhile, when Tal-Rho reveals that he has his powers back by snapping his cuffs, Jordan puts up a surprisingly good fight, getting a few blows in and doing a pretty good job of protecting his ailing father, even if just for a moment. It gives us a chance to see more of Adam Rayner as Tal-Rho, a character he seems to enjoy playing, as well as giving Jordan a chance at a rematch with someone he previously felt so helpless before.
We learn that Superman’s visions are caused by “interdimensional kinesthesis.” That is, of course, the aforementioned Doomsday, and this seems to confirm that he’s not from the Earth-Prime universe, but possibly the same earth as John Irons or one of the other few universes left after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. We don’t yet know how this Doomsday is linked to Superman, either. Previously in the Arrowverse, these kinds of reactions have been caused by someone being in the same universe as their doppelganger for too long, so this could be a suggestion that this Doomsday is somehow related to Kal-El specifically. Doomsday has historically been Kryptonian in origin, though that has varied quite a bit across different DC media, so that’s entirely conjecture.
This episode makes Superman look a little helpless at times, but doesn’t do enough with that. We’re not used to seeing Superman being helpless, and it should be a bigger deal that his son had to protect him. They do a good job of conveying how confusing the visions are for Superman, but don’t really delve enough into the emotions that come with that. I’d like to see Superman address that in some way in a future episode.
The CGI Question
This episode doesn’t feel as important as the premiere, and with the show being more of a known quantity now, not quite as curious as the early episodes of Season 1, where we were still learning about how Superman works on this Earth. I’m still concerned about what Doomsday is going to look like on a CW show–the CW isn’t known for great makeup on its human villains and the CGI is just as often terrible (Despero on The Flash) as it is great for TV (Gorilla Grodd, King Shark on The Flash). Superman’s CGI has typically been a step above that of the other CW shows, though, so that suggests they’ll do Doomsday right. We’ll see.