The Secrets of Superman & Lois Season 2: Bizarro World, Parasite, and More!
Showrunner Todd Helbing takes us inside the creative process behind Superman & Lois season 2, the creation of Bizarro World, and more!
This article contains Superman & Lois spoilers.
Superman & Lois season 2 was a wild ride, wasn’t it? From the Doomsday fakeout that ended up being Bizarro, to the completely new and unexpected version of Bizarro World we were introduced to, to the even more unexpected Parasite, it packed a lot into its 15 episodes.
And the season finale still managed to bring surprises! We finally got an answer as to where the show exists within Arrowverse continuity, and it nicely set up Superman & Lois season 3 with a substantial tease of what’s to come. It’s a lot to digest, and there’s a long wait before we get new episodes, but we sat down with showrunner Todd Helbing to get all the secrets from the season we could.
At what point did you decide that you were going with Bizarro and Parasite as your villains for this year? It’s an interesting combo and it’s very interesting way the way you kind of remixed them and made them work together.
Yeah, so at the beginning of the last two seasons, I’d go over to Greg Berlanti and we just shoot the breeze and I run them through what me and the writers have talked about. We pitch ideas and then we hone in on what we think could be cool. Bizarro came out of those conversations with the writers first and then with Greg.
A lot of times you don’t know how all these ideas are going to work together, but we knew the general arc was going to was going to begin with Mitch Anderson, which would lead to Bizarro, and then get to Ally and the Parasite twins. It’s like, “how do we do the Parasite twins, if it’s just one person? They merge. And then we can merge the worlds and there’s Bizarro World, and we can have that highlight certain aspects of Superman and Lois [as characters]…we just want all these stories to talk to emotionally, thematically speak to each other. We just don’t know how we’re gonna get there ultimately.
Thematically, there is a little bit of similarity between both seasons, with this notion of people kind of being taken over and being replaced. Last season, it was more more overt, because they were actual Kryptonians. Whereas here, it’s this other “self” instead. Is this intentional? And if so, what are you trying to say with this?
Throughout the seasons, there’s a lot of discussion about today and the internet and Twitter, Reddit, whatever has brought us closer to each other or driven people apart. We’re not trying to overtly do any sort of social commentary. But I do find that what has happened in the last decade, or as long as Twitter and Reddit have been around, I don’t know, because I don’t I’m not on either of them, is that there’s sort of this duality of people. There’s the people that are who they are. But, you know, the few times I go on, it’s everybody has a handle, and they’re a completely different person, and they say things that they would probably normally never say to somebody to their face.
I think, as a whole, it’s had an impact on people in a very negative way. It’s probably turned people into meaner people than they would normally be. So yeah, there might be a little bit of a social commentary, but it’s not what we set out to do. But there is that element of how people can be multiple different versions of themselves, and some are better than the other.
I feel like this applies really well to Jonathan and Bizarro Jonathan, because Jonathan is such a good guy and such a compelling character. And then you have Bizarro Jonathan…
With Jonathan you think about how often this guy’s ego has been beaten. And he’s still just a good kid. Is there a breaking point to him? I don’t know. Because there clearly was with the other version of him. Maybe we’ll see that in the show and maybe we won’t, but I think all of us have a breaking point. And then it’s like, if you get to that point, do you bounce back or do you continue down a bad path?
How does your team keep the writing of these kids so believable, even in the face of the larger science fiction and superhero elements you have to tell?
You think about the global craziness of all that too much. If that’s what you’re focused on, it’s not going to feel real. But if you take all that aside, and it’s because of that happening, it makes this character feel this way, and have them talk about how that makes them act as a result of what’s happening, then it feels real. We try not to have the sort of comic book discussions. It sounds weird, in a comic book show, but it’s true. It’s like…how do they react in the scenario, to whatever the the real life analog is, is what we try to do. If you boil it down to it’s not this crazy end of the world with a square planet merging with the wrong planet coming together, it’s just like, something’s wrong, and there’s an environmental crisis that you’re dealing with. Then it becomes more believable.
Bizarro World is a perfect example of how you took a concept that should not work in live action at all for a modern TV watching audience. What were the elements that you knew you had to keep as you were paring that down to something that worked within the story, would work for a modern audience, but would still have a visual identity and look really cool?
I think collectively, we knew you’ve got to do a square red sun, and a square planet. But then, what is the aesthetic of the people? How does the red square sun change what the world would look like? So we had like square lens flares, which you could argue whether that makes sense or not that based off the lens, but, but there are little things like that about what’s accomplishable and would make sense aesthetically and what we can do in the time we have to shoot.
So it’s just really the reality of what production can do within our financial resources. To add a red filter, like in episode six, the first time we went to Bizarro World, that doesn’t cost anything. But more, but add something really cool. The big cost was how do you change one of our sets completely, if we have to shoot in that house the next day? That became a production design nightmare. We flopped the image. So every time we shot, everything was flopped in post.
While it seems easy, the crazy math you have to do in your head of like, okay, if we want the the words to be backwards, do we shoot that normally? And then we flop it like when is it happening? When is it not? We have to get cars where the steering wheel is on the other side, all that stuff. It became a nightmare for everybody. I apologize to the crew and cast, officially. We got lucky that there were some educated guesses. But it all panned out and looked pretty cool, I think.
“Bizarros in a Bizarro World” is one of the it’s one of the best episodes of TV I’ve seen so far this year. But to me, it was almost like the equivalent of flashback episode in season one. Do you think you’re going to try and do something else kind of like that in season three? Whether it’s another flashback, whether it’s something else, do you think this is going to become a feature of the seasons going forward?
I think when you have a fanbase that is so invested in a property like this, you’re sort of obligated to do it as a thank you for tuning in and supporting the show. I’ll say, yes, the plan is to do it. But if it doesn’t work organically, if it feels like it’s a one-off, then then we probably would not do it. But I think because we know in advance that we want to it’s easier to sort of lay the seed so it works organically. Last year was such a great example of the potential to make those stories work within the mythology of the season but provide a fresh new backstory for whoever we need it to be.
Now that you’ve freed yourself from a lot of the Arrowverse Earth-Prime history, how much of Superman and Lois’ history have you mapped out now that you no longer necessarily have to be beholden to every beat that was introduced on Supergirl and other shows?
From day one, we wanted to tell our version of that love story. It was important to us that Lois fall in love with Clark and not Superman first, for Martha to be such an influence on him, to have Lara as a big influence, little things that have been introduced, but maybe never explored. I think each season will find a way to tell a part of their story in a way that fits within our show and the history of the Superman mythology. But that probably would have happened, regardless of whether we are in the are on the same earth as the other shows. Depending on the villain, depending on the scenario, we can pick a lane that wouldn’t blow up anything that had been done before and still tell a compelling story. So I think it’s yes, it’s probably easier now. But it would have been a massive hindrance.
Whose idea was it to add Miracle Monday to to the end of this episode?
When Brent Fletcher and I were breaking the episode, we knew we wanted some sort of celebration. I say this all the time, but there are some massive fans of Superman working on this show. Walking encyclopedias. Brent and I don’t have the in depth knowledge that some people have. Whenever there’s scenarios like that where we want a deep cut from the comic… we reached out to Adam Mallinger and Max Cunningham and Max replied in about two seconds with “Miracle Monday!” It was perfect.
You can listen to our entire interview with Todd Helbing about the secrets of Superman & Lois season 2 on our DC Standom podcast!