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‘Superman & Lois’ Review: Season 1 Episode 13: “Fail Safe”

Superman & Lois -- "Fail Safe" -- Image Number: SML113b_0095r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Adam Rayner as Morgan Edge and Tyler Hoechlin as Superman -- Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Superman & Lois has been very eventful in the previous few episodes. Citizens of Smallville were body snatched and then restored. Tal-Rho threatened to kill Lois and the twins until Clark surrendered. Clark then had Zod shoved into him, and a pep talk from John Henry Irons got him to fight the possession off. Tal-Rho absorbed the consciousnesses in The Eradicator. The show could have kept the plot machine going, but this week they decided to take a breath and show the characters struggling with the aftermath.

Clark is horrified at the fact that he enjoyed letting go of his constant control when possessed by Zod. Clark always must use restraint whether he’s punching a villain or hugging his wife. It is understandable that just letting that burden go would be freeing and terrifying. It shakes him so much that he wants the D.O.D. to keep weapons that could kill him. This is a reversal of his prior position on both this show and on Supergirl where he viewed having weapons and kryptonite in general as a betrayal. Clark in his right mind would never hurt anyone, but it is sensible to think about mind control, magic and unknown threats that could influence him.

Lois is furious at her husband wanting the military to have the ability to kill her husband. It is very reasonable to see why she’d think that would be a terrible idea. The military serves at the pleasure of the president. If a president just decided to kill Superman for funsies or because they thought it would play well with their base, they could. Lois brings up the point of the various psychos who want to kill him and if they found out a military base had everything, they needed to end the Man of Steel, they’d be rushing there like it was a Black Friday sale.

I love that the show handles this dispute very maturely. Both Clark and Lois’ positions are treated as valid. Lois yells, but it is more about the thought of losing her husband than actual anger at Clark. She had a front row seat to her father and Irons considering whether Clark should die last week. Having to beg people not to kill your man would be traumatizing for everyone. Clark listens to her concerns and they come up with a solution in Irons having the weapons. I really do think Lois and Clark have one of the healthiest marriages on television. They are supportive of each other and when they fight, they work through it.

Superman & Lois — “Fail Safe” — Image Number: SML113a_0008r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Sofia Hasmik as Chrissy Beppo and Bitsie Tulloch as Lois Lane — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Lois is also grappling with how to cover the Morgan Edge story. The citizens of Smallville are angry and confused. Lois has a conflict of interest in that she doesn’t want to announce “Hey yokels, Morgan Edge is really Superman’s half-brother who put Kryptonian minds in some of you using a special kind of kryptonite. Why would he do that in Smallville and not anywhere else? Uhhhh. He liked the ambience?” It is an interesting development because Lois does believe they deserve answers, but she doesn’t want to compromise her family. She ultimately has Chrissy write the story, but I have a feeling this conflict will return where she will be pitted against her journalistic integrity and her desire to protect her family.

Poor Jonathan gets another figurative kick to the teeth this week as Teegan tries to use him to get information about the Morgan story. This boy just can’t win. He gets moved to a small town, his girlfriend dumps him, his parents don’t give him an ELT, his hand gets broken, his uncle almost murders his whole family and now just when he thinks a girl likes him, she just wants the tea. I credit that Lois Lane DNA for being able to sniff out a user.

This whole season feels like it was designed to break Jonathan down. I understand why Todd Helbing and the writers found this narratively necessary. Jonathan started the show as a popular jock with a girlfriend and promising football career. It makes dramatic sense to take that away from him and see how he deals with that. It has just become a bit much. Every week is a new torture for Jonathan. They’ve broken him down, but they haven’t built him back up. When you just see a character getting beaten down with little to no wins, it becomes tedious. Jordan has dealt with his share of being tormented on this show, but comparatively has had triumphant moments than Jonathan. Stop kicking the puppy so hard, Superman & Lois writers.

Kyle being the biggest Morgan cheerleader and Lana signing up people for the mind whamming bite them in the butts this week as the citizens of Smallville blame them for the mess. Kyle can’t even go to the firehouse because they don’t want him there. If you had told me at the beginning of the series that I would feel sympathy for Kyle, I would have told you to sleep off whatever drugs you were on. This is the C plot of the episode, but it isn’t written like throwaway scenes to give Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch time to nap and catch up on Hacks. You can tell how much this hurts Kyle and Lana.

Kyle and Lana’s identities are heavily wrapped in the community of Smallville. Kyle has pulled these people out of burning buildings, had barbecues with them and knows everyone in that town. He truly thought Morgan was going to revitalize Smallville. Lana cares about Smallville so much she was willing to risk functionally dying by having Lara takeover her body. They are used to being popular so the switch to being pariahs is something they’ve never experienced in their lives. I hope the show doesn’t just have everyone forgive them instantly. There’s only two episodes left in the season, so I do worry they’ll have Emily Phan hugging Lana in the next episode and just gloss over everyone treating Lana and Kyle like they pushed an old lady down a flight of stairs.

This episode was light on plot and heavy on character moments which served it well. I am enthusiastic about densely plotted writing, but there are times when shows just need to reflect. If they had just rolled past everything and moved on, it would have been bad writing and a disservice to the characters and the fans. We needed to see Clark reacting to being taken over and to see how Smallville dealt with that craziness. If this were The Vampire Diaries or any other nutty CW show set in a small town, characters would have shrugged and moved on like nothing happened. I applaud the show for caring about this. It makes Smallville feel like a community and not just a group of day players who occasionally interact with series regulars.

Random thoughts about “Fail Safe”:

  • I know fans worry about this show becoming a team show like The Flash, but I liked Clark and Irons teaming up. Clark needs a friend even if that friend knows what an alternate universe version of Lois’ looks like naked.
  • Tal-Rho becoming The Eradicator surprised me. He’s like three characters in one. Morgan Edge, original character Tal-Rho and now The Eradicator.
  • Bitsie Tulloch is the underrated MVP of this series. She plays every facet of Lois so well from mom to dogged journalist. More fans need to give her the props she deserves.
  • I’d complain about Clark not putting Tal-Rho in the Phantom Zone, but I think it is likely they didn’t use it because the first seven episodes of Supergirl this season had Kara in the Phantom Zone. They’ll wait until a future season to use it.
  • I know they said the John Henry Irons of the Earth of this series is dead, but I’d bet he’s alive and they’ll use him eventually. It feels too convenient for him to be dead.
  • Security at Smallville High must be lax if multiple students can just walk out without anyone stopping them.
  • I’d rather Jonathan just get his powers than become a tech hero like Irons. Just have him be a late bloomer.
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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