Clark is having to accept a lot right now. His wife is sick and his sons are growing up quickly. He has to face reality, and that’s tough when you spend so much of your life living a very different reality from those around you. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 3, Episode 06, “Of Sound Mind.”
“Of Sound Mind”
Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) finds himself in uncharted territory, and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) bonds with a new friend. Meanwhile, Superman pays Bruno Mannheim (guest star Chad Coleman) a surprise visit. Lastly, Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui) puts Sarah (Inde Navarette) in charge while she away at a meeting with Chrissy (Sofia Hasmik).
While Superman is anything but human, his humanity has always been an integral part of his character. When he leaves it behind, it often changes who he is. But as Earth’s protector, he has to constantly keep his emotions in check; a moment of rage could take down a skyscraper and result in countless lost lives. Man of Steel showed us one side of that coin–the danger Superman can pose to the world when he loses sight of who he is and where he is. Superman & Lois shows us the other side of that coin.
Super Strength, Human Feelings
Clark is struggling, and we can see it throughout the whole episode. He’s not a danger to anyone, but he’s under an incredible amount of stress that no amount of Kryptonian power can help with.
Tyler Hoechlin is maybe my favorite Superman and my favorite Clark Kent at this point–neck and neck with Reeves. He can embody both characters. When he suits up and floats above the Earth, listening for cries for help, he looks every bit the legendary hero he’s portraying. When he’s in jeans and flannel, he looks like what he is–a husband, a father, and a reporter.
We’ve jumped forward a full month from when we last saw these characters, and Lois is embracing cancer treatment. Clark, however, is struggling with the reality of the situation. When Lois brings up the idea of creating a Will, he completely denies the possibility that Lois might succumb to cancer at some point–despite the fact that survival rates for it are in the single digits. He thinks he’s being Superman here–relentlessly optimistic and hopeful. What we and Lois can see, though, is that he’s in denial. He’s going through the motions of optimism, but in the process, he denies Lois the reality of her situation and himself the opportunity to process it. This also continues to help treat Lois’ cancer as a serious subject while also integrating the fact that it’s happening to Lois Lane and Superman, rather than two normal people.
Shooting Our Son With Lasers
This also manifests as Clark tries to work with Jordan to prepare him for field combat. Jordan has been training relentlessly with the AI villains available at the Fortress of Solitude. I wish we could’ve seen more of this, but even the scene we get is a lot of fun. Jordan is fighting holographic versions of Atomic Skull and Bizarro Superman; the last one feels a little weird considering the way things ended with him being one of the good guys last season, but the fight is still pretty cool.
There’s a moment where Clark is watching Jordan fight. It’s clear that Clark thinks Jordan is in over his head with the two enemies on either side of him. Instead, though, he waits for the right moment and lets them hit each other with their powers, dodging out of the way at the last second. Clark is surprised, maybe even impressed. But this messy cloud of fear, denial, and frustration is impairing him. Instead of responding to that, he surprises Jordan with some bonus lasers. It feels like a cheap shot, and Lois even asks him, in what might be my favorite line from the show so far, “How is this fine? You’re shooting our son with lasers.”
It takes a lot to get Clark to come around. Lois stands up to the most powerful being on the planet and tells him to listen to her: her pain is real, her fear is real, and the possibility of death is real, and she needs him to be realistic about the situation to help her cope with it. To understand where Jordan is at, it takes Superman nearly losing to Bruno Mannheim’s assassin, Onomatopoeia, and his Kryptonite gun-armed henchmen. This scene is fun, too. It’s our first real look at Jordan’s superhero suit, which looks less like Superman’s suit and more like the Phantom. In other words, he looks like a big dork.
Normal Among The Exceptional
This episode also does some more interesting stuff with the non-powered side characters. Jonathan in particular is strong this week as a depiction of what it’s like to be a normal person in a family with an alien superhero, a half-alien in superhero training, and a world-famous reporter. Michael Bishop is still new to the role but he feels like a natural. When Sarah’s sister is feeling left out of her family, Jonathan is the one who is able to talk to her about that feeling. Sarah is busy with school, Lana with mayoral duties, and Kyle with his budding relationship with Chrissy. Bishop handles the scene really well, and it helps unite what are often two very separate parts of this show.
At the end of the episode, though, there’s a huge twist. Mannheim isn’t giving these dying criminals superpower treatments just so that they can do supercrimes for him. Onomatopoeia is none other than Peia–Mannhiem’s wife. This kind of reveal can be really cheesy and it can feel forced and contrived, but it works with the relationships they’ve established. Bruno is meant to serve a purpose similar to that of Wilson Fisk in Daredevil in that he’s doing the wrong things for the right reasons. These criminals are test subjects to find a cure for his wife’s cancer, and it makes it a lot harder to look at him as just a criminal. In fact, it puts him and Superman on pretty equal footing, even if the things he’s doing are wrong.
My biggest problem last season was the way Ally Alston’s story petered out by the end of the season. If Bruno Mannheim can stay strong until the finale, this is going to turn out to be a very good season of Superman & Lois.