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‘Superman & Lois’ Review: Season 1 Episode 7 “Man of Steel”


Just because a man is bald, tech savvy and wants to murder Superman does not mean he’s Lex Luthor. This episode revealed that the man who is determined to kill Superman isn’t Captain Luthor as he is called by his Echo Dot, I mean, A.I. He’s really John Henry Irons AKA Steel the character famously introduced after Superman died in the comics and also known for a truly terrible 1996 flop starring Shaq. This show has been pulling a fast one on us from the pilot.

Reactions to the twist have been mostly positive, but I have seen people miffed that a heroic character and one of the few Black characters in the Superman corner of the DC universe has been turned into a villain. That begs the question: Is John really a villain? He isn’t trying to kill Superman because he’s jealous there’s a man with God-like powers around like the real Lex. His world’s Superman went on a killing spree that included his wife Lois and possibly his daughter Nat. He has real reasons to think Superman is just a beautiful lie waiting to strike.

This puts John in the category of well-intentioned antagonist. He is trying to save the world from genocide. We don’t know what happened to that world’s Superman to make him start destroying buildings like he’s in a Zack Snyder film. He could have been brainwashed. He could have just snapped. Brainwashing is most likely given John has indicated Morgan was involved and what I assume are X-Kryptonite powered subjects destroying Metropolis with Alt Superman. If that world’s Superman could be controlled by Morgan, so could Earth Prime Superman.

The other factor is John very clearly has PTSD from all the trauma he experienced. When Superman walks up to John to presumably just give him a punch to knock him out, he sees a flash of his black suit Superman approaching him. He can’t distinguish between his melting people Superman and our Superman. This has likely affected his decision making to make sabotaging nuclear power plants to test Superman’s powers seem reasonable. So, you have a man with good reason for his actions and untreated mental illness. That doesn’t sound like a villain to me.

Where does John go from here? Does he have a redemption arc and become an ally? Does he become a full villain? Will he last on this show beyond this season? There are many paths they can take with him. I am very intrigued by where this is going.

This episode also featured Lois and Clark teaming up to investigate John. This marks the first time this series has had them working together. Until this episode when Clois were in scenes together, it would be them talking about the boys and cuddling or talking about the boys and Superman stuff and drinking wine. They were all good scenes, but something was missing, and it was Clois working as a team. They met and fell in love as reporters, so it is a key part to the couple’s dynamic. It is kind of mind boggling that it took a show called Superman & Lois this long to do this. Even if you take away the “Duh! You need to have Clark and Lois investigating!” factor, it is just common sense for TV writing that you need your leads working as a team at some point in the A story. I really enjoyed it, but I am figuratively rolling up a newspaper and swatting them on the nose because they waited until episode seven to do this.

Over on Teenage Angst Corner, Jordan gets pissy at Jonathan for talking with Sarah when he spies on them with his super hearing. Obviously, they makeup immediately because this show is incapable of having the twins mad at each other for more than an episode. Part of me likes that they always have each other’s backs and are quick to forgive. The other part is screaming that Jordan broke Jonathan’s wrist last week and he may never play football again. When you add in the blatant parental favoritism towards Jordan, Jonathan should be still fuming. They had a whole speech about getting trust back after it is broken last episode and then proceeded to hand wave Jonathan’s injury like it is an afterthought. Jordan was going to hurt someone, and Jonathan paid the price for it. There should have been more conflict from that.

Even with my quibbles, this was a good episode. The reveal of John Henry Irons was well done, we got Clois finally working together and the chilling flashbacks of Alt Superman melting Alt Lois. There were lots of things to like even with the problem of this series tending to instantly forgive conflicts. Season one has already been written, so there’s nothing they can do about that now, but they can keep it in mind for season two. Work through a conflict on a show. Don’t just pretend it isn’t there like the wet spot after sex.

Random thoughts about “Man of Steel”:

  • Lana is going to feel so guilty when those five people end up dead because of Morgan. I doubt the subjects are ending this season alive.
  • The reveal of “Captain Luthor” as John Henry Irons reminded me of Hank Henshaw being revealed as Martian Manhunter in Supergirl season one.
  • I’ve seen a lot of praise for Tyler Hoechlin online lately and that makes me happy, but I’d like to remind people that he was good in the role from the start. It is just the writing for a lead and a guest star are very different.
  • Elizabeth Tulloch is now my second favorite Lois. Teri Hatcher is still number one, but Bitsie is close on her heels.
  • The preview has Jonathan saying he almost died. Is the idiotic decision to not give Jonathan an emergency beeper coming into play?
  • If John Henry Irons sticks around past this season, I wouldn’t be opposed to him being paired with Lana after Kyle inevitably gets sacrificed to the TV Gods as the series regular offering.
Alan Sarapa
Alan is a Maryland resident and lifelong Superman fan. He has a monthly soap column at The Pop Break and is a co-host on daytime themed podcast The Chat.

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