This article contains Superman & Lois spoilers.
Superman & Lois Season 2 Episode 3
When it really comes down to it…it was never gonna be Doomsday, was it? The whole mission statement of Superman & Lois has always been to do things a little bit sideways from what the fans expect. Superman mythology is so ingrained in pop culture consciousness that any setting, any tease of a comics story, any new character, is instantly going to give audiences the idea that they know what’s coming. And despite the absurdly dominant monocultural juggernaut that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become, and the fact that comics featuring those characters are just as readily available as the Man of Steel’s, they don’t have the same problem that Superman does.
Of the three most recognizable, marketable superheroes in the world (the other two, for the purposes of this argument being Batman and Spider-Man), only Superman has struggled (unjustly) with shaking the perception among general audiences that they know his story. General audiences are either locked into the classic version of the character, the secret identity, the love triangle of two with Clark/Supes/Lois, the endless retellings of his origin, or they’re the more savvy comic book fans (like this writer) who think we can predict every twist and turn in adaptations thanks to our knowledge of roughly every Superman comic published in our lifetimes.
Hollywood’s reaction to this has been extraordinarily wrongheaded at times. The most successful Superman story of the ’90s involved the Man of Steel’s death at the hands of the monstrous Doomsday. That book sure shifted some units, which meant that the suits in charge of such things spent the next 20 years trying to adapt that exact story to the screen. When they finally succeeded, with 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was almost an afterthought, an obligatory moment bafflingly crammed into the final moments of the film for a “shock” ending. When they weren’t doing that, they were trying to strip Superman of everything that made him recognizably Superman, shy about everything from the costume itself to the power of flight, adding needless layers of brooding to a character who can be plenty conflicted without self-indulgent angst.
And then along comes Superman & Lois to do the impossible. The idea of making a Superman show that feels truly different from anything we’ve seen on the page or screen before seems like a recipe for some unpleasantly un-Superman like stories.
Instead, the show started by taking both its title characters out of their most familiar location (Metropolis), their careers (at The Daily Planet), and gave them not one, but two teenage sons. And then they had the sheer, unadulterated audacity to make both of those sons positively delightful characters, and to make the family drama every bit as compelling as the superheroics. You’d think that maybe they’d take the easy route and let the fact that only one of these two sons inherited their dad’s powers and make it cause some static between them. But no, Jonathan continues loving and supporting his brother Jordan, facing his own relatively mundane challenges with exactly the kind of moral compass you’d expect from someone raised by Lois Lane and Clark Kent.
To confound us comics-reading wiseasses even further, the one of those sons who shares a name with a Kent child in the comics, Jonathan, isn’t even the one who inherits his dad’s powers. And yet? Everything else about the entire Kent family remains Superman in every imaginable way.
That’s no small feat on its own. And then you add the show’s penchant for masterful misdirection, which began with the very first episode, and…well, maybe you’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now that it’s time I stop making predictions based on what I know from the comics. As that first season progressed and they started bringing in other recognizable elements from a very specific era of Superman comics (John Henry Irons, the Eradicator), everyone, myself especially, just assumed that we were gonna get some version of Doomsday on the show at some point.
That certainly appeared to be what the first few episodes of this season were building towards. Hell, they’ve even been giving us the live action equivalent of how Doomsday was first introduced in the comics: just little teases over a period of time of a monster in a containment suit, pounding away at a subterranean prison. The monster’s reveal in this week’s episode is so PERFECTLY the Doomsday of those classic comics…except for one “problem.” It isn’t Doomsday at all.
Of course it isn’t. When has Superman & Lois ever given us exactly what we expect? Never. And perhaps more importantly, when have they ever disappointed us after a swerve of this magnitude? Also never!
Yes, folks, that isn’t Doomsday, it’s Bizarro. Not only is it Bizarro (or a Bizarro…or maybe it’s even Bizarro #1, but why split hairs), it’s Bizarro with an appropriate costume: backwards S, mysterious medallion and all.
So the idea that this is a creature who is gonna put Superman in the ground suddenly seems a little remote. Why? Because Bizarro is often a pretty sympathetic creature when you get to know him. Whatever this version of the character is, he clearly shares a psychic link with Superman, and at least some of his memories, knowing his way to the Fortress. And while I couldn’t make out the line of dialogue he speaks to Clark during their first meeting (I suspect it’s phonetically backwards), the word he speaks when arriving in the Fortress would sound the same backwards or forward: “mom.”
Now, here’s where things get tricky: nobody here seems to quite know what Bizarro is. But Supergirl fought a Bizarro way back in her first season. Is it possible that, like the Morgan Edge of that show, that this particular piece of inconvenient continuity was wiped away by Crisis on Infinite Earths?
Far more pressingly: as I discussed after last week’s episode, there are clearly a LOT of different villains and potential villains being put into place for this season. And my suspicion is that whoever is responsible for creating Bizarro is gonna be the big bad behind it all (and yes, I’m still looking directly at YOU, Mr. Luthor).
But then again, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been right yet when it comes to predicting what Superman & Lois has in store. Why start now, right? It’s more fun this way, anyway.