Of Clark’s four combined parents, biological and adoptive, Lara has always gotten the short end of the stick. Jor-El gets to be the A.I. that teaches Clark about Krypton and relevant to the narrative in adaptations like Smallville where he functioned as a Big Bad for years and in Man of Steel. Jor-El even came back from the dead briefly in comics. Jonathan’s death is used as a catalyst to spur Clark into becoming Superman in adaptations and he becomes the namesake of a son in comics and on this show. Martha gets to be the kind and patient mother who is pivotal to Clark’s outlook on life and makes his first costume in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures and on this series. Lara gets to be the pretty woman who birthed Clark and launches him into space. She does get a voice role in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, but we all know that was because that film couldn’t afford Marlon Brando getting overpaid to voice Jor-El again. Adaptations don’t care about Lara. Until now.
It was so beautiful to see Lara reunited with her son. Sure, she was in the body of her son’s first girlfriend who he has presumably seen naked, but it was still touching. Emmanuelle Chriqui and Tyler Hoechlin played all the beats very well. Lara was so happy to see the son she had to send away had found love and had a family of his own. These scenes could have been hella awkward like in The Flash season five had Grant Gustin playing father to a woman older than him. That awkwardness wasn’t here. It felt natural. I think a big part of acting in a superhero show is finding the emotional truth of a scene even in absurd situations.
The show also gave Lara a backstory. Morgan is the product of her first marriage who got sent to Earth, landed in England, and was promptly hunted and locked up. Thus, explaining Morgan’s desire to use the citizens of Smallville as meat puppets he can stuff with Kryptonian consciousnesses. The pizza oven/MRI hybrid looking thing that has been doing this is Lara’s invention The Eradicator that was meant to preserve Kryptonians. If you are thinking “Alan, I vaguely remember Eradicator from the comics. Isn’t it a robot with sunglasses?” Yes, but it was a device first. I’m sure Superman & Lois will get around to casting a hot guy in Ray-Bans eventually.
Lara’s desire to help her family and her people is mirrored in Lana, the real hero of this episode. Lana willingly getting Kryptonian baked was very brave. She had no way of knowing whether the process was reversible. For all she knew, that could have been the end for her. She hopped in The Eradicator anyway to save her husband and all the people she let sign up for the program. Lana’s sense of responsibility to Smallville functionally makes her Martha’s successor as the heart of Smallville. Clark can’t really take up the Martha mantle because he has global responsibilities, a complicated family situation and he was gone for 22 years. Lana has the time and years of built-in trust with the community. I really hope this is explored more because this is the first time, I’ve ever liked Lana in any incarnation.
Over on the teen corner of the episode, Jonathan was continuing to be sassy to Sam. One of the joys of this show has been the show giving Jonathan traits from Lois. In the comics, Jonathan is Clark Jr. You’d think Lois wouldn’t have been involved in his parentage at all, which is stupid when you remember Lois is the dominant parental figure that spends the most time with him. This show wisely didn’t fall into the trap of making Jonathan Mini Clark. Jonathan has Lois’ desire to speak truth to power and her habit of getting into trouble. Jonathan even tells Sarah the truth about the Kryptonian meat puppet situation with her father while Jordan is more like his dad, the compulsive liar.
The Sarah/Kyle situation is complicated because she clearly loves her dad, but he’s let her down numerous times due to his alcoholism and she was very harsh when she thought he disappeared to drink. Kyle wants to be a better father and husband which is the impulse that got a Kryptonian rando shoved into his body. He wanted an easy fix when he should be looking into treatment for his addiction and untreated PTSD. It would have been very easy to write Kyle as a one note jerk, but they’ve shown how much he loves his family, and they love him. Sarah has a lot of bad memories of her dad, but he’s still the man who accompanied her on guitar at the talent show. I think seeing a sociopath inhabit her father’s body put into focus how much he means to her. It was sweet seeing them reunite through the kryptonite box. Erik Valdez and Inde Navarrette have great father/daughter chemistry.
I still think this show is going to kill Kyle eventually though. He’s the most expendable series regular that is likely going to continue in season two. Jordan and Jonathan have plot armor. Sarah is Jordan’s love interest, so that gives her a bit of protection. They could kill Lana, but there would be a backlash. Sam has too much conflict with Clark and Lois to kill him in an early season. Kyle is the obvious choice to sacrifice to the TV gods. I think Kyle is just sympathetic enough that whenever they do off him, it will be moving. I didn’t think I’d ever feel the prospect of Kyle’s inevitable death would be sad when I watched the pilot and deemed him a goner. It is a testament to Erik’s acting and the writing that thinking about Mongul punching a hole through Kyle doesn’t make me want to twerk like it once did.
There was a lot going on in this episode. You had a soapy reveal of a long-lost brother, the military setting up in Smallville, a possessed drunkard, an ex-girlfriend willingly letting the lead’s mother hop into her body, a whole backstory about said mother and Superman saving the body snatched people with a solar flare that will have down for days. It could have easily been a mess, but the show spun all those plates and kept them in the air. The episode felt like a season finale and there’s five episodes left. Kudos to Superman & Lois writers’ assistant Adam Mallinger for doing a great job writing his first ever episode of television. I know this meant a lot to him and I’m so glad it turned out well and I didn’t have to read the episode for filth.
Random thoughts about “O Mother, Where Art Thou?”:
- The citizens of Smallville seemed nonchalant about the DOD setting up there. If I saw military officers setting up tents in my area for no obvious reason, I’d be freaking out and tweeting about it.
- People are complaining about Lana not recognizing Clark as Superman considering she could tell people whether Clark is circumcised, but I was fine with it. You just must accept people are so in awe of Superman that they’d never expect he’s the guy picking up a pizza for his family they wave at or the neighbor who let you use his tools.
- I was a bit surprised Jordan was like “So?” to Jonathan telling him about Evil Superman melting Alt Lois. I guess that since it isn’t father, he doesn’t have a big reaction, but if I heard there was an alternate universe where my dad murdered my mom, I’d be upset.
- The cinematography was so gorgeous in this episode. The shot with the sun setting as the Kryptonians were in pursuit of Superman was just spectacular.
- I hope they don’t wait too long to put the score for this show on Spotify once this season is over. Dan Romer was an excellent choice for this series.
- I wonder what John Henry Irons is doing. Having one-night stands with white women who resemble Lois? Hitting up restaurants he saw on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives? Visiting objects of abnormal size at various tourist traps? I hope all the above. He deserves to have fun.