Despite being a show about a flying man who can hold up an entire bridge with one hand, Superman and Lois is a fairly grounded show that has found a way to thread the needle between some of Superman’s sillier adventures and the very real repercussions they would cause. How does a show like that let its hair down and get silly? Welcome to Bizarro World. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 2, Episode 10, “Bizarros in a Bizarro World.”
“Bizarros in a Bizarro World”
Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) races through the portal after Ally Allston (guest star Rya Kihlstedt), but when he arrives on the other side, he discovers everything on this parallel earth is… bizarre. Navigating his way through deceivingly familiar faces and landscapes, Superman goes on one wild ride in his fight to stop Ally from merging.
Last week imagined what a world used to having Superman around would look like if the hero disappeared for an entire month. This week flips the coin over and shows us what the Inverse Earth, the home of Bizarro Superman, looks like in its live-action interpretation. It’s as different of a place as a show with a CW-sized budget can be. The earth is a cube instead of a sphere, and so are the balls they play pool with. Superman is a hero, but instead of shunning celebrity he embraces and gets lost in it. And everyone has silly emo hair.
Limited Budget, Limited Bizarro
This episode admittedly didn’t go as far as I would’ve liked, but that is, again, the limit of a secondary network’s television budget. I would love to have seen things get weirder. The main theme of Inverse Earth is that people like crappy stuff, but it otherwise looks just like our world. Bars are well lit and full of normal-looking people; I was imagining Inverse Earth as being rundown and broken, but with people pretending that that is normal. With characters being intentionally repulsive but treated as beloved.
Unfortunately with that budget and just an hour of television, the writers had to work with what they had. That said, I still enjoyed the story for the most part.
In this world, Superman is a celebrity. He steps out of a limo and people ask him for signatures and selfies. His family is just as famous as he is. Instead of being split into Clark and Superman, he’s just Kal El full time, but a somewhat corrupted version. He’s not evil or bad, just a jerk who has to learn from his mistakes before he can get back to being a selfless hero like the Superman we know.
And that’s kind of the theme that flows throughout this episode. In the Inverse World, Kal and Tal have a strong brotherly relationship that only breaks down when Aly Alston interferes. Jonathan has powers instead of Jordan, but learns to use them to help Aly instead of to help his father. Chrissy is ultimately still good when Lieutenant Anderson shows up at her newspaper, and so are Lois and Sam Lane when they meet. It’s not so much a mirror world as it is a pitch-shifted world. Things aren’t truly that different when we get down to brass tacks; just superficial stuff like text being backward, the Earth being a cube, and so forth.
It’s enough to give Bizarro Superman a satisfying arc, though, and to bring the Lieutenant back to the side of good just in time. It’s enough to watch Jon El go from a good kid who wants to save people to a frustrated son who thinks he has to defy his father to make a name for himself.
I was excited for this weird episode going in, but the further I get from it the more I feel like the showrunners could’ve done to make it truly feel Bizarro and Inverse. Superman destroys a whole building to save one person and is lauded for it despite the deathtoll. Lois writes for a tabloid and makes up most of her stories. Visibly different societal norms. It feels like one missed opportunity after another, even if it makes for a fairly enjoyable watch.