This Superman & Lois review contains spoilers.
Superman and Lois Episode 2
There was a time, long ago, when big genre TV shows would get two hour premieres. Not the kind of two hour premiere that Superman & Lois had, where an episode that was actually a full hour without commercials got stretched out over a longer time slot with additional commercial breaks and a behind-the-scenes special. I mean a genuine 90 minute pilot that sat in a two hour timeslot. Those days are long gone, but I’ve long suspected that The CW structures the first two episodes of its biggest new series accordingly. And just as Superman & Lois feels like the most ambitious addition to the network’s DC TV lineup since The Flash, so too does its second episode feel like an extension of its first.
That’s a very good thing, by the way.
If anything, Superman & Lois episode 2 is an even easier watch than the impressive first episode. At this point, you’ve either bought into the concept of the show as a family drama, and the idea of Lois and Clark as parents, or you haven’t. We’ve met all the key players already, so there’s a little less exposition necessary (although, to be fair, it isn’t like the first episode committed the sin that so many CW pilots do, where it can sometimes feel like characters are taking turns introducing themselves to the camera), and the story itself can breathe.
What that means, for one thing, is more action. I can’t tell for sure, but it certainly feels like we spend a little more time with Superman in costume than we did in the first episode. And if you liked the cinematic look and feel of those sequences before, you’re in luck, because there’s no sign whatsoever that they blew their effects budget on that episode. This show just looks great.
That shouldn’t be a surprise though, right? It’s Superman. There’s a general sense that the network and the producers knew that either you go big or go home with the Man of Steel, hence the show’s widescreen look and amped-up special effects and redesigned costume. Superman & Lois episode 2 isn’t wall-to-wall action, but when we get it, it counts and it looks terrific, and that’s what matters.
That title, “Heritage” refers very much to Jonathan and Jordan Kent, particularly the latter. The parental decision is made to keep him home from school after his “ocular release of energy” at the Shuster Mines, specifically so that Clark can take him to the Fortress of Solitude for evaluation by the Kryptonian technology stored there (and the holographic form of Jor-El) and to gauge his power levels. Jonathan, on the other hand, has to go to a school where he doesn’t feel terribly welcome, especially when steps were taken to make sure that the football team’s playbook never arrived for him to study, thereby making his life a little harder on the field where he usually excels.
But “Heritage” could also refer to how much Smallville has changed since Clark left it. While Lana’s husband Kyle Cushing isn’t the most likeable character on the show, he effectively speaks for the people of Smallville who feel they’ve been left behind, and who are in desperate need of a job creator like new Daily Planet owner (and apparent vulture capitalist) Morgan Edge. So far, Clark dealing with the Jordan issue means that he hasn’t yet come to terms with how Smallville has moved on (or fallen) since he’s been gone, and it’s Lois who finds herself in the line of fire with the locals. Something tells me that eventually this is going to change, whether in a confrontation with Kyle or whether it’s Lois who forces him to reckon with what’s happening.
We also learn more about the mysterious “Captain Luthor,” who may not be the villain he was presented as last week. For starters, he uses non-lethal force on the soldiers who confront him, and despite the dangerous situations he’s created in the past, they were clearly designed to draw Superman out rather than cause maximum loss of life. But more importantly, it seems he comes from a world where Kal-El was either inherently evil or let his power corrupt him, and he had his own relationship with General Sam Lane on his world. Some harrowing footage that closes the episode indicates that Captain Luthor’s grudge against the Man of Steel is justified.
In case you can’t tell, “Heritage” is juggling quite a lot. But it manages to not get in its own way, while dealing with its heavier dramatic moments unpretentiously and its weightier subjects with relative ease. I often cringe at the Supergirl model of journalism, or what has passed for it with the Central City Citizen on The Flash. Taking both Lois and Clark out of The Daily Planet may help in that regard here, and so far they seem to be easing Lois into doing some investigative journalism here. There’s still the question of whether Lois actually has enough to do at the moment, but since this episode feels very much like an extension of the pilot, I’m willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt right now.
Speaking of Lois getting into trouble, we do get our first look at the new Morgan Edge this week. Adam Rayner is Edge this time around, taking over from the Earth-38 version who was played by Adrian Pasdar over on Supergirl. As with Sam Lane, we can chalk this bit of recasting up to the changes made to reality by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Rayner’s Edge is a little more subdued, a bit more cynical, and more of the elegant boardroom shark that was first introduced in the comics. He’s certainly not the nicest guy on the show, but time will tell if he’s actually the season’s big bad or if they’re going to eventually give him some nuance, as well.
This core cast is really what powers everything through. Elizabeth Tulloch and Tyler Hoechlin are, of course, perfect in their roles, and there’s probably not much reason for me to hit that point every week. But seeing them as parents is a new wrinkle for the characters overall, and the pair hit this pretty effortlessly. In particular, Hoechlin’s resigned “you heard your mother” after Tulloch’s Lois puts the boys in their place during a blowup is both perfectly delivered and wryly funny. Even Superman knows who’s really in charge in their house. That entire scene could have gone south in less gifted hands, but the four actors who make up this Kent family make it work.
The warmth between Jordan Elsass and Alexander Garfin as Jonathan and Jordan Kent that feels even more pronounced in this episode than the previous one. Particularly when they’re getting along, they’re fun and believable as brothers, and they (along with Inde Navaratte as Sarah Cushing) are refreshingly free of the overwritten teen dialogue that has become de rigueur over the last couple of decades. It also helps that the entire young cast are actually believable as high school freshmen…it’s pretty hilarious to think Jordan, Jonathan, and Sarah are supposed to be the same age that Clark, Lana, and Pete were in the first season of Smallville, for example. If you missed it, watch for Jonathan and Jordan’s simultaneous reaction when their mom goes after Morgan Edge at the Town Hall. Superman & Lois isn’t as likely to lean on humor as The Flash, but it could use more subtle moments like this one.
It feels like the pieces are all in place now, and that there are even bigger and better things ahead.