This article contains Superman & Lois spoilers.
Superman & Lois Season 2 Episode 6
One of the best things about Superman & Lois is its ability to deftly balance a half dozen competing plots and character arcs at any given moment. The show somehow manages to pivot from stories about family drama and smalltown politics to deep cut superhero lore and teenage romantic angst without missing a beat, ultimately creating something that feels utterly unique to any previous version of this story that we’ve seen on screen before.
“Tried and True” is a perfect example of this—the hour is 100% nonstop from start to finish, featuring everything from a literal trip to Bizarro World and a high octane high school football game to the ultimate betrayal of Superman by the U.S. government. (There’s even a literal avalanche at one point.)
Given everything else going on in this installment—former Power Rangers star Amy Jo Johnson really does knock the balance of various genres out of the park in her first time directing for television—it’s hard to believe that the most emotionally compelling aspect of “Tried and True” has very little to do with Superman’s attempt to understand Bizarro’s mission on our earth. Instead, it’s the very human collapse of a marriage and the inevitable way the end of that relationship will change multiple lives forever.
“I got to dabble in every aspect of this show,” Johnson tells Den of Geek. “There were a lot of different [parts] across the whole show. I have an avalanche. I have these mass fight scenes. There are quiet moments with Lana and Kyle and Sarah, and that really fun scene in the bedroom with Tyler and his shirt off. I felt really lucky and really blessed with this episode.”
In an hour that gives us our first-ever onscreen glimpse of Bizarro World, it would have been easy for “Tried and True” to essentially coast through the rest of its story, but that’s not what Superman & Lois is about and we all know it. And once again, it’s the quieter moments of this episode that somehow manage to be most emotionally devastating—Lois and Lucy’s almost-but-not-quite sibling reconciliation, Lana’s struggle to piece together the facts of her husband’s affair, Jordan’s hurt over his discovery of Jonathan’s drug use—and that reminds us that as much as we all love the superhero elements of this story, the true strength of Superman & Lois lies in its ability to treat its smallest, most human moments with the same gravitas and care that it does its most epic comic book homages.
Look, I know I can’t be the only person out there still suffering from lingering Smallville PTSD, or who was more than a little nervous about Superman & Lois’ decision to include any version of the character of Lana Lang in the show. But I’ve rarely been so happy to be wrong because as this series has gone on it has become increasingly apparent that this Lana is not just an interesting woman in her own right, but one who serves an essential and necessary purpose on this canvas.
Because Lana Cushing is relentlessly normal. A small town mom who worries about everyday concerns like paying bills and raising kids, she’s not especially connected to the world of superheroes and the villains they regularly face (in fact, the one time such a villain did touch her life directly, it made her a social pariah and practically destroyed her town). Unlike characters like Lois, John Henry Irons, or the Kent children, Lana has no direct knowledge of Superman’s identity or involvement with the threats he’s regularly battling. Yet, her presence is a reminder of the fact that this superhero story doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and that the unique strength of Superman & Lois’s storytelling lies in its humanity.
“With Lana, I’ve been given the opportunity to portray a woman in a small town [who is] up against different things in life that are really real.” actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, who plays Lana, says. “When we first meet her she is not the most empowered, she’s definitely been shackled by this small town even though she loves Smallville. She married young, had kids, probably had loftier goals that were not met. In the second season, we get to see her keep getting more and more empowered. More grounded, more centered, more courageous.”
And just because her story deals with more everyday problems of love and marriage doesn’t mean that it’s treated as a lesser plot within the world of the show.
“What I think is so cool is….when Todd [Hellbing, Superman & Lois showrunner] was creating the show, he always, always was adamant about how this is a show about superheroes, but them living in a very ordinary existence,” Chriqui says. “He wanted to merge the two together. [And] that’s what they do. They have this amazing way of just bringing up these super normal circumstances and how we would deal with them.”
The collapse of the Cushings’ marriage is but one moving piece in a larger hour, but even with limited screen time to work with, the show still presents Lana’s concerns, as well as the difficulty in untangling yourself emotionally from a person you’ve been with for most of your life, with genuine care.
“They end things, but not for a lack of love. It’s very evident that they love each other,” Chriqui says. “And of course, my heart breaks because I love working with Eric Valdez so much. But their relationship is fractured right now, so there needs to be some healing. I was actually really, really glad that was the decision that she came to because I just feel like that’s what’s real.”
Chriqui also applauds Lana’s ability to “take the initiative to do what’s best for her” during what is clearly a horrible situation.
“Whether this is a timeout, whether this is just a separation, whether it’s longer, Lana is finally just saying what she needs. It is so hard to ask for what you need, just in life. But she feels empowered enough to be like, ‘no, I need this.’ I think that provokes growth, obviously, for everybody involved.”
Thankfully, Lana has a hero in her corner—and no, I don’t mean the Man of Steel. Just regular Clark Kent, neighborhood all-around great guy, who is a solid, reassuring presence for his former childhood sweetheart when she most needs a sympathetic ear. But, unlike most CW dramas, which often view love triangles as narrative necessities for survival, Superman & Lois never even hints at the idea that there might be anything other than friendship between them.
“I think it’s so rare. We don’t see a platonic relationship like that very often on television,” Chriqui says. “I think that the fans like that. They don’t sit on pins and needles with us being like what’s going to happen between them, because that’s not what it is.”
It’s true that a big piece of what makes Clark and Lana’s friendship so special is that there are no will they/won’t they vibe, and their relationship is allowed to be openly warm and loving without implying it might develop into something more romantic.
“The thing is—we’ve seen that already. We’ve seen these historical characters. We’ve seen Superman and Lana. We know that when they were younger, that they were in love and blah, blah, blah,” Chriqui says. “What we’ve never seen is this incarnation of them being adults and parents.”
And to be fair, Lana will need that sort of support now that her marriage, at least for the moment, seems to be ending.
“For [Clark and Lana] to be able to come together in such a non-threatening way, it’s very refreshing,” Chriqui says. “[But] what a rich gift it is to have that kind of history with somebody that’s known for so long, and that’s known all the different versions of you.”
But what does the future hold for Kyle, Lana, and the Cushing family? Chriqui isn’t sure.
“They’re not the kinds of people that would talk shit about each other to the girls,” she laughs. They just wouldn’t do that. I think that they will co-parent together, and they will do what is for the highest good of the girls.”
But Lana and Kyle’s split will doubtlessly impact other dynamics within the family, particularly when it comes to Lana’s relationship with her daughters.
“I think Sarah is old enough to…she sees it all and she knows it all. Not to say that she’s not going to have her own painful journey in all this, but I think that she’s also going to be able to be a real support and friend to Lana,” Chriqui says. “And that will then present the opportunity for a new dynamic between them, between mother and daughter, which is really exciting. I think it opens things up.”
Chriqui is torn about what she’d like to see next for her character but hopes that Superman & Lois will continue to be honest about Lana’s journey through this “turbulent time” wherever it may take her.
“She needs time and space to process and to just figure out what in the hell her life looks like now because this was a big [blow]. And I just want to continue on this trajectory of just telling the truth of exactly where she is in this moment. So if it is that she is single and co-parenting and deciding to not be in a relationship, I just want to fully explore that. She’s in a brand new world and she’s on her own, and I think it’s going to be challenging. And I think it’s also going to be really gratifying.”