This article contains Superman & Lois spoilers.
Superman & Lois Season 2 Episode 1
The Superman & Lois season 2 premiere, “What Lies Beneath” doesn’t give us any indication that this show will be slowing down after its spectacular first year. If anything, it feels like it’s giving us everything that worked in that first season, but just a little bit amplified. The emotional stakes of Lois, Clark, Jonathan, and Jordan’s home lives have been raised, while the big Superman-focused action scenes are some of the most spectacular on TV. And from the looks of things, they’re going to get even bigger.
With Jordan’s romance with Sarah Cushing apparently fizzling, Jonathan’s sex life apparently blooming, Tyler Hoechlin’s comedic timing as Clark Kent even more weirdly perfect than it’s ever been, and Elizabeth Tulloch bringing new emotional depth to Lois Lane with virtually every scene, well…who needs superheroes and supervillains, right? Oh, who are we kidding, we all need ’em.
And that’s why this episode also delivers what might be its most cinematic moment yet as Superman rescues a North Korean nuclear submarine (an action that lands him in hot water with the DEO) and introduces some new potential antagonists in the mysterious “Supermen of America” (it seems the DEO doesn’t like the idea of the Man of Steel saving enemy lives). And then there’s the little matter of John Henry and Natalie Irons trying to adjust to life on our world, a complicating factor in Lois’ life considering that as far as Natalie is concerned, Lois is still her mother. That introductory scene with Natalie and Lois is one of the most powerful moments the series has ever done, and it happens in the very opening of the episode.
Pretty packed, right? Yes. And then the final moments of the episode go ahead and up the stakes in a completely different way: by teasing the introduction of notoriously deadly Superman foe, Doomsday, in an almost perfect recreation of the character’s first appearance from the comics. That can only mean one thing, right? Well, not necessarily, especially since this show has made its name so far by subverting exactly those kinds of comic book expectations.
Superman & Lois season 2 looks like it’s going to be packed, and we spoke to executive producer Todd Helbing to get the scoop on what it all means and what’s coming next.
Den of Geek: When we spoke after the season finale and I asked you about upcoming villains, you said how you and Greg Berlanti said “if we’re going to do this, how are we going to make it different?” And right out of the gate this season, you’re going with Doomsday! The minute the audience sees Doomsday, they only think of one thing, and that’s the “Death of Superman” story. So what made you do this in the season two premiere?
Todd Helbing: To that point of doing it differently, what we love to do as a writing staff, with Greg, and just generally, is to take different parts of the mythology and combine them… like we did with Morgan Edge and the Eradicator and the half brother story. So with Doomsday…we wanted to find ways that we could take that character and find a new way to define an introduction and sort of flip it on its head. There’s a tease obviously, in this episode, episode two, you’ll get a little bit more, and then in episode three, you’ll get the full reveal.
You also said when it comes to choosing villains, you said it “doesn’t have to be somebody that can punch as hard as Superman.“
[laughs] Well, I was probably talking about the other villains. We have multiple villains this season. They all sort of start at different times, and they’re not necessarily connected, but then you’ll see how they all start to fall into place with each other.
John Henry Irons and Natalie Irons
That opening scene is really powerful and picks up the minute after the closing moments of the finale. Was that filmed at the same time? Did you always know that was the next beat from that scene?
We didn’t film it at the same time. The problem in Vancouver is, when you wrap in July and then we don’t shoot till September, the crops grow, really, quite a bit differently. We didn’t know how it was gonna play out. It wasn’t until we started talking about Lois and Clark and the boys and the history of the Lane family that it tied into Natalie and John Henry and what a real life reaction in such a strange circumstance would be like.
All of the stuff with Natalie and John was very powerful. Was any of their arc for this season in the back of everybody’s minds already last season?
Last year because of COVID, and shutting down a couple times, and just the craziness of shooting a television show during a pandemic, we didn’t really have the normal time that we would have. Particularly we knew we wanted to be back in January. So on the writing side, we had to start up… I mean, we got like two days off. We didn’t have the luxury of time this time around.
I just work with a lot of really talented writers. A writers room is a place where you should be able to open up and talk about things you don’t normally talk about. I think when we started talking about Lois and Sam Lane we knew we wanted to bring Lucy Lane in. We wanted to explain the relationship between Sam and Lois and go deeper. We want to do that with all the families this season, and really get into their backstories and secrets and tell who they really are, some of the pain that they’ve experienced in their lives and why it explains who they are right now and why Lois has this ability to compartmentalize.
In a writers room, it just takes one idea and if it fits, it has a tendency to shadow all the other storylines. That was the seed that led to a whole bunch of stories this season for all three of our families.
The Potential for Crossovers
Did you have more freedom filming this season? Are there things that you were able to attempt this season that you weren’t able to last year?
Well, I think we just figured out by the end of the season, the protocols in regards to how long certain things take…we got used to the time constraints. Now I think we’re just a little bit more educated. So it did open up a little bit. Not as much as if there wasn’t a pandemic, but enough so it felt like we could push the story in some directions.
Does that mean that we might see other DC heroes this season?
You’ll see a few. Not an exorbitant amount. I mean, are you referring to crossovers and stuff?
Coming into the show last season, there was the expectation we’re going to do this crossover with Batwoman. You know, everybody was like, “Okay, well, this is how we do these shows.” And then with the pandemic, it slowly took all of that potential away and we wound up just doing our own thing as every show did. The further along that went the harder it became to have anybody even come to your set. It just became so prohibitive that we just made the decision that if we can’t do this, if John Diggle is the literally the only person we have come over, then we just do our own thing and then we’ll see when the pandemic lifts how to how to shift.
Omicron is rearing its head right now and it’s problematic for sure, but I don’t know. We’ll just take it day by day and see how these things unfold. Right now there’s not any more than they were last year. But we’ll see in the future. We have a pretty big cast, so I don’t think anybody’s going to be too concerned about it.
Truth, Justice, and a Better Tomorrow
This episode gets into one of the philosophical issues surrounding Superman. Specifically, whether he owes his allegiance to America or the entire world. What made this the right time to explore this theme?
Well, I think once we made the decision for Sam Lane to step down from the DEO, it opened up a lot of story problems. Not for us but for the characters. It just felt like an organic time for Superman to explain what his philosophy is to a new person who’s trying to handle him in a way that he doesn’t want to be handled.
Superman had a lot of leeway with Sam because Sam knew his secret. But Mitchell Anderson doesn’t. When Superman’s speeding off, Sam knew he was very likely going to see his daughter or to go see his grandsons and he was fine with it. Superman didn’t have to explain why.
If he went to North Korea to save this sub, he wouldn’t have to explain it, because Sam would sort of smooth that over with his superiors in a way that Anderson just doesn’t have the ability to because he doesn’t know what the answer is because Superman won’t tell him. He’s just not privy to the information that Sam was. So it just felt like a good time where Superman could say to this guy, “I don’t have an allegiance to anybody. I have an allegiance to everybody.”
Speaking of that scene with the North Korean sub, this show has been really good about giving us Superman moments that we haven’t seen done in live action. Saving a submarine, I can’t remember ever seeing that in live action. The bit with the super breath and the watertower is a really clever use of his powers that we haven’t seen before. Obviously this stuff has to fit the story and the submarine is very specific to the larger story that you’re telling here. That writers’ room obviously has a lot of serious Superman fans in there. How conscious are you of trying to pick moments like that people have just never seen the character use his powers that way?
It’s kind of our North Star. We said from the beginning, if you’re going to do Superman, how do you do it different. So that is reflected or we try to reflect it in all of our set pieces, too. In a world where there’s multiple superhero shows…they’ve been on for almost a decade or over a decade, like every night, it feels like [laughs], you have to find ways to reinvent yourself. Last season, I think what we got pretty confident in was putting Superman in places in the world that you haven’t seen him in before, and finding these little nuggets that exist in our world where it would be really cool if fighting somebody or saving something.
We have a couple of set pieces coming up later in the season, that are really just cool environments. And kudos to our VFX team. We have this saying, whenever we know that something’s going to be a huge challenge to pull off in the time that we have, we just say “hey, it’s Superman.” We joke about it but there’s some truth to that. It’s because it’s this show and it’s this character and it’s these type of stories we get to tell so everybody brings their A game and we just like to challenge ourselves and see if we can give a little movie on the small screen each week.
Next week, David Ramsey is directing. Last season, he directed what I personally think was the pivotal episode of the season. Can we expect something similar? Every time we see his name as director, is it going to be one of those episodes that changes how we perceive the show?
I mean, his episode is awesome, for sure. I will go on record saying every episode that he directs is going to be awesome. He’s an unbelievably talented guy. But it’s not the way that our schedules work. You know, half the time we book directors before the scripts are written. We knew last season because we are a little bit further out. Script wise, we knew that his skill set would be particularly awesome in episode seven. But sometimes you get scripts that that don’t line up exactly the way that they did for that episode. It was just firing on all cylinders with that one. But yeah, I agree, seven is one of my favorites.
Mitchell Anderson and the Supermen of America
Mitchell Anderson is obviously an important character this season. Is it coincidental that he shares a name with a character from the comics who also is connected to the Supermen of America and has a loose connection with Doomsday?
It’s not a coincidence. Sometimes we choose names from the comics and we have intentions of doing x, y, or z but then as the story progresses and tells us which way it’s going, sometimes our initial hopes don’t work out. But a lot of times they do. I will say that Anderson was chosen because of Supermen of America and his connection to that and you’ll see how that really plays out this season.
Superman & Lois airs Tuesdays at 8 on The CW.