This article contains SUPERMAN & LOIS episode 8 spoilers.
Superman & Lois has done so many things right in its first season, using familiar comics characters to explore an uncharted onscreen corner of the Superman mythos, focusing on the struggles of small town businesses in an increasingly corporate America, and embracing bold and risky storytelling decisions like introducing hero John Henry Irons to the DC TV universe – just initially disguised as both a villain and a Luthor.
If fans and critics (or, more specifically, me, who is both) have had one lingering complaint throughout Superman & Lois Season 1, it’s that the show has often left the Lois part of its title to languish in the background of its primary plots a bit more than we might have liked. Sure, it’s been very careful – and rightly so! – to give Lois her own life and story outside of her roles as a wife and mother. But her investigation into obvious corporate dirtbag Morgan Edge has often felt like a vehicle to give Lana and her husband Scott some conflict as much as a real story centered on Lois, herself.
Thankfully, “Holding the Wrench” changes all that, giving us what is essentially our first Lois-centric Superman & Lois episode that not only adds some incredibly unexpected layers to this incarnation of the character, but takes a long overdue look at the emotional toll that comes with loving and living with someone who has the abilities of both her husband and her son.
And it turns out that Lois has been carrying a lot more than we ever realized.
The scene in which she reveals the miscarriage she suffered a year and a half after the twins were born is beautifully and sensitively handled, allowing Lois to not just give voice to the specific fear she feels as a result of Jonathan’s near-death experience but to also acknowledge how the lingering grief and guilt she carries over the loss of her daughter still informs her choices and behavior, even all these years later.
Bitsie Tulloch is absolutely phenomenal throughout the hour, whether Lois is furiously lashing out at the son she thought recklessly endangered his own life or tearfully recounting the feelings of powerlessness parenthood often inspires. (Her description of parenting as letting her heart walk the world freely where anything could happen to it was…whew. Something else.)
And, of course, Lois is not the sort a woman who makes time for therapy more than once or sees a traumatic event like a miscarriage as something she should allow to slow her down. She took her vacation days in the wake of her loss and clearly expected that to be the end of it. But even Lois Lane is human, and apparently has been living with a heavy emotional burden ever since.
It makes sense that she’d unfairly blame herself for losing her child – who she had planned to name Natalie, just as the daughter she had in Irons’ universe was called – because Lois is a hero, and someone used to saving the day when it counts. She solves problems, breaks big stories, makes people’s lives better by finding the truth. Surely, there must have been something she could have done. Taken time off work, eaten healthier, stressed less, made better – or just different – choices. It must be her fault, and that’s the truth she’s told herself, for what is apparently a heartbreakingly long time.
“Holding a Wrench” smartly avoids the temptation to make this narrative subplot about anything other than Lois and how her experiences have shaped who she is as a mother. As a result, Clark is present solely to support his wife and encourage her to get whatever help she needs without judgment or unnecessary couple drama. (I’m positive Clark probably carries his own share of guilt about not being able to save his daughter or protect Lois from the pain of her loss, but this particular story isn’t about him and Superman & Lois thankfully recognizes that fact.) Their relationship truly is goals.
To be fair, Jordan Elsass’s Jonathan also deserves a special shoutout – as the most normal Kent child he’s often found himself taking a backseat to his brother Jordan’s problems in a way neither his family or the show itself often directly addresses. He’s the most normal, sure, for whatever that means in this family. But he’s also the one who sacrificed the most – his friends, his girlfriend, his college football dreams, his social status – in the move to Smallville in the first place. And while Superman & Lois has done a bang-up job thus far exploring Jordan’s struggle with his developing powers, it hasn’t always let us see how Jonathan is dealing with his lack of them.
“Dad, you and Jordan basically are weapons. I’m the only one in this house who is completely unarmed,” Jonathan says during his animated defense of his decision to snoop in Irons’ RV, which is a truly nonsensical reason for trying to rob a man who just tried to kill your father, but a completely understandable decision for a boy who doesn’t know what his place in the world – or his own family – is supposed to be anymore.
It’s Lois, of course, who sets him straight, allowing herself to be truly vulnerable to her son in the process – not just about the daughter she lost, but about the fact that she knows how humbling and frustrating it can sometimes feel to be part of a family that also contains people like Clark and Jordan. They’re “extraordinary humans in a family of super people”, and that’s not always easy. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have important roles to play, and the episode underlines that fact by making Lois – with her deep and oh-so-human understanding of loss – the one person who manages to talk Irons out of killing Clark.
As satisfying as this season of Superman & Lois has generally been, “Holding the Wrench” is the first installment that has felt truly great instead of just good – and it’s because the show finally gave us the piece it had so often been missing: Lois, fully realized in all her complexity, and heart, and guts, and fury. This is the woman I was waiting for, and I can’t wait to see where this story – and this show – takes her next.