Lois Lane is a relentless reporter–imagine one of the people she’s exposed describing her, and it would sound like someone talking about John Wick, but with a keyboard instead of a gun (or pencil). Right now, though, she’s incredibly vulnerable in a way she’s never been–you can’t expose the criminal history of cancer, and Superman can’t save you from it. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 3, Episode 05, “Head On.”
Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) and General Lane (Dylan Walsh) are both having a hard time giving Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) room to make her own decisions. Meanwhile, Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Sarah (Inde Navarrette) have a run-in with an old friend at the diner. Lastly, Natalie (Tayler Buck) has a surprise visitor.
While Lois’ diagnosis continues to take center stage this week, it’s starting to seem like every plot thread that isn’t Smallville-centric ties back to Bruno Mannheim–and even one of those that might! With that said, much of this episode is devoted to characters navigating relationships and is a pretty quiet one overall. Jon’s girlfriend Candice is living with the Kents while she finds a new place to stay, and Jonathan begins to think about his future when Kyle Cushing offers him a job at the fire station. Kyle himself is figuring out what a relationship with Chrissy might look like, but isn’t quite ready to tell Lana or Sarah about it. Lana has to navigate handling the fact that the late Smallville mayor George Dean was wrapped up in some pretty shady stuff with his son’s very public mourning of his father.
Lois vs Bruno
Lois is focused on her cancer at the moment, though. Or, more appropriately, she’s using her cancer as an excuse to try to sneak into Mannheim’s facilities to see what information she can get from him. She sneaks into one of the offices, but Mannheim is there almost immediately. He’s proven himself to be the most informed person on the show so far, so this seems like an inevitability. In other shows or with a character without the right groundwork laid, this would look like happenstance. Here, it’s Bruno being Bruno.
Bruno takes Lois through his facility, and the show is working hard here to establish him as a morally gray antagonist in the vein of Daredevil‘s Wilson Fisk. The guy who is doing illegal things so that the generations after him don’t have to. As with his conversation with Superman, he’s an excellent manipulator, and you can see Lois’ facade cracking as he tells her why he opened the facility. We know for a fact that he’s doing nasty things that put countless people in direct danger, but it’s hard to hate him for it. You can’t argue with his reasons even if his actions are reprehensible. Chad Coleman is absolutely perfect casting for this kind of layered, complex character, able to remain likable even when he’s intimidating characters we care about.
While Lois is in this harrowing situation, Clark is talking to the cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy at the same time that Lois should be. This scene is really tough, and the actors playing the two patients, Allegra Fulton and Daya Vaidya, do a great job of giving it the weight it deserves.
This is one of the scenes in Superman and Lois that separates it from the other CW superhero series, and almost makes it understandable why they severed its connection to the Arrowverse. You simply could not have this conversation on a show like The Flash. I enjoy that show, but it’s more interested in silly sci-fi words than anything else, and its characters aren’t really well-suited to the quietly serious nature of this conversation. Tyler Hoechlin is excellent here, too, as the optimistic, concerned, and naive husband of someone just entering therapy. I could see his heart dropping as he talked to the two women, slowly coming to grips with what lies ahead for him.
Another one of the relationships this week is Lois to both her father and Clark. Lois is sick, and her body is her body. At the same time, she’s not someone who is willing to put a story on hold for something as inconsequential as her own health, and the two men struggle to convey to her the urgency with which she needs to tend to her health. Where does bodily autonomy meet a fatalistic refusal to listen to one’s own body? Lois Lane is almost as well known as Superman in pop culture, and arguably better defined in terms of character. Having her face an illness like this is a compelling source of conflict that takes her out of her comfort zone and forces her to rely on her loved ones.
While the adults are handling serious stuff, the kids have a social event to attend. Enter Matteo, the guy Natalie Irons met at that party a few weeks back. Matteo seems like a genuine guy, but the going theory in the fan community is that Matteo is Bruno Mannheim’s son. It would certainly back up how he so easily found Natalie despite knowing only her first name and the name of the town she lives in, and why he was so unconcerned about buying a new suit just for a dance in a new town. If he’s the son of a rich man who is a master of information, those things would be pretty trivial. Matteo could and should be just a guy, but these stories love to connect as many characters as they can and it seems like almost a foregone conclusion that Matteo isn’t Just a Guy.
We get a good, if short, Superman scene this week, though, along with everything else going on. Mannheim sicks another powered-up criminal on Superman. This time it’s a character named Deadline, who has a comic book counterpart. The guy in the books is a lot more colorful, but they have a similar powerset, which is to become intangible on command. This ends up making for the best fight scene of the season so far, and way he ends up embedded in the wall when Superman figures out his gimmick looks great.
One weird plot thread left hanging is the combat suit that Sam Lane gave Jordan last week. It was a big moment for Jordan, and it’s barely mentioned this week.
The idea of a superhero show handling something like cancer in a mature, thoughtful way is a hard one to wrap my brain around, but Superman and Lois is doing an impressive job so far of treating the illness seriously while also showing how it changes such a well-defined character as Lois Lane. The cliffhanger ending, meanwhile, is a guarantee that we’re going to have some good Superman action in the coming weeks.