Superman & Lois started with a brilliant montage of Clark’s life that was universally praised. Well, they decided to make that montage into 75% of an episode of television. Some might have been thinking “Why is this necessary? I’ve seen Clark’s origin story countless times in comics, movies and on TV. Everyone knows this story. This is filler!” I disagree with that line of thinking. Showing the full origin was a necessity narratively and to underline who Lois and Clark are as people and as a couple.
Narratively, this episode functions as a play on the famous Alan Moore Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything” where a plant called the Black Mercy makes him envision his life had Krypton not gone bye-bye. This time Clark is reliving his actual life as his half-brother Morgan AKA Tal-Rho looks on like a creeper. It shows how much Clark has in his life. A father who teaches him how to use his powers, a never forgotten mother who made his first costume, a wife and partner who loved him before she knew he was Superman and two kids when he never even knew he could have them. You need to see Clark’s life through his eyes to understand why he’d submit to Tal-Rho. Clark truly is the man who has everything and by the end it is taken from him.
Tal-Rho destroys the crystal that has the Jor-El A.I. functionally killing the only semblance of a parent Clark has left. He is savagely beaten by his brother who then goes onto to threaten to murder his wife and children. His only choice is to submit and it ends with The Eradicator being used on him. The entire episode was perfectly crafted to take him from the highest highs (flying for the first time, meeting Lois, falling in love with her, getting married, having kids) to the absolute lowest he had ever been in his life. Becoming a puppet for a sociopath with genocidal intentions is Clark’s worst nightmare.
When they introduced the alternate universe Evil Superman at the end of episode two, to say that I was weary of another Evil Superman would be an understatement. Thankfully they had a clear plan. The writers of this show don’t think Superman is boring which is basically why so many Evil Superman stories exist. They adore him. They delight in him saving Lois and an Indian community in Metropolis from racist Atomic Man (first seen in the Kirk Alyn serials and in recent comic series Superman Smashes The Klan). The Evil Superman plot exists in this show to highlight what a good person Clark is and how he wouldn’t just break bad on his own. This isn’t the usual “Lois is dead! Welp. There goes my tether to humanity! Time to start murdering people in a hideous new costume!” Stories like that don’t grasp that Clark was raised by humans and he is a human at heart if not biologically. Lois is his favorite person in the world, but the man wouldn’t start melting jaywalkers if she slipped in the shower.
The real Evil Superman story is Tal-Rho. His entire life is a dark mirror to Clark’s. The first ten years of his life were spent with an abusive father. He came to this planet and was immediately shot at by mean British people. He was tortured by the mean Brits and then tortured again by Hologram Daddy at the desert fortress. Tal-Rho never experienced the love and kindness Clark did. He looks at Clark’s life as a pathetic waste when his life has been spent being miserable and carrying out the wishes of a dead man. Clark was probably happier eating chicken nuggets and watching Seinfeld reruns than Tal-Rho has ever been in his entire life. Tal-Rho never had a thought or desire that wasn’t put there by his father. Tal-Rho never got to forge his own path like Clark did. He’s just a puppet who wants to make other puppets so Hologram Daddy will be happy.
Many people have compared Tal-Rho to Zod. There are similarities. The plan for world domination and genocide whether through terraforming or through body snatching. The desire for Superman to kneel before him or submit, but not in a fun way. They both share a blatant disregard for humans as expendable. Though Zod’s plans were his own in every medium whether it was Superman II or Man of Steel or even Smallville season nine. Zod always just shows up and decides he wants to take everything over. He didn’t spend most of his life being miserable on a planet he hates waiting decades to enact his father’s plan. Zod is his own (genocidal) man. Tal-Rho is just pathetic.
This episode also cemented Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch as my definitive favorite Clark and Lois of all time. Good writing is always important, but what takes it over the finish line is good acting from people who understand the characters. Tyler and Bitsie get the Clois dynamic. Lois is the aggressive one who is passionate about reporting important things and will run into danger but does have a soft side for dorky chicken nugget enthusiasts. Clark is the supportive one who would drink her bath water and save her whether she knows it is him or not. Tyler and Bitsie just nail it. They sparkle in every scene.
What sealed Tyler and Bitsie as my favorite Clark and Lois was the interview scene. Lois was grilling him trying to get every bit of information she can, and Clark is being evasive, but still looking at her like he wants to (respectfully) kiss her all over. The cherry on top is Lois isn’t smitten with Superman at all. She loves only Clark. The look on Clark’s face overhearing it is just gold. He’s a mixture of happy, stunned and a little hurt she isn’t into Superman. Bitsie plays the love confession perfectly. You can tell Lois only has eyes for her dorky man and not the Chad version of her man a few feet away.
Lois being in love with Clark and not Superman is straight out of the comics Post-Crisis. Before they rebooted the universe in 1986, Lois was in love with Superman and not Clark. To be fair, in those days Superman was the real person and Clark was just a facade, so one could argue she was in love with his true self. I prefer Lois falling in love with Clark first. A snarky driven woman seeing how special a kind-hearted man from a flyover state is just romance catnip. I think two co-workers developing a relationship built on support and admiration is way more romantic than the “He caught me falling out of a helicopter! I want to have his babies!” approach. The latter just makes it feel like she just likes him because he’s her savior.
People online were clowning Lois for having her boyfriend right in front of her and not recognizing him. Though this has been something Lois has been mocked for since her creation. I think people need to accept the power of the secret identity. It isn’t just the glasses. It is seeing someone out of context. If you saw Kelly Clarkson at Target, would you think that was Kelly Clarkson or a woman who resembled her? You’d think it was a woman who resembled her. I know what the rebuttal to that argument will be. “Alan, Lois knew what Clark’s orgasm face was! How could she not recognize him?” Would you think the man who knows your Chinese food order and sings REO Speedwagon in the shower as he uses your good shampoo was moonlighting as a superhero? Probably not.
I did wish we had seen Lois’ reaction to learning Clark was Superman. She mentioned in a previous episode that she didn’t understand at first, so I doubt she was jumping for joy. No one likes to feel like a fool so being angry would be very understandable. It was a missing beat because you could have juxtaposed it with the interview scene. It would be so embarrassing to tell your friend that you are already in love when your boyfriend is there deceiving you. If they ever do another flashback episode, they need to show her reaction. Clark didn’t do it out of malice, but I still feel like we should have seen Lois reading him for filth.
Speaking of lying to your girlfriend, Jordan and Sarah became a couple in the C story of this episode. I do think Jordan missed the window to tell her the truth about him, so when she finds out, he’ll be getting dumped. This will likely be a season two plot because there’s only four episodes left. When they inevitably get to it, I hope they have Clark talking to Jordan about Lois’ reaction to his secret, so they can play that missed beat and tie it into the teen story. That is how you tell an intergenerational story.
This was the best episode of the season. It felt like a love letter to both Superman and Lois. From the Man of Steel first flight homage to Lois working as a TV reporter like she did in the Bronze Age of comics, there were homages all over the place. It took us on an emotional rollercoaster like no other episode this season. I went from smiling like a lunatic at Clois flirting to the edge of my seat watching Clark submit. If I were making a list of the best Superman TV episodes, this episode would land in the top ten easily. Top tier Superman content and I don’t say that lightly.
Random thought about “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events”:
- I don’t really think a Nazi with a flamethrower could be considered a systemic issue like Lois said. Systemic issues are like police violence, housing, bias in healthcare and poverty. You can just lock that Nazi up and it is done.
- Shoutout to supervising producer and director of this episode Gregory Smith for the shot of Tyler’s bicep. You are the real MVP.
- Having a Kryptonian shoved all up in him humbled Kyle. He went from “Shut up, Lois! We’re getting these sweet jobs! Take your ‘facts’ and shove them!” to “Lois, I’m sorry for being the dumbest man who ever lived.”
- I wonder how John Henry Irons has been paying for things since he arrived on that Earth. Credit card fraud? Turning tricks? Delivering for DoorDash?
- I do want to know how Sam found out Clark is Superman. Did he figure it out himself? Did Clark tell him? We know he knew before the wedding.
- This is completely off topic, but I just want to say that Batman might not [redacted], but Superman sure does, and he loves it.