‘Superman & Lois’ Season 2 Premiere Review: “What Lies Beneath”

Superman & Lois returned to The CW for the start of its second season with angst over an alternate universe “daughter”, horny teens and a new man at the Department of Defense who is a real “pick me” about Superman. Though we need to start with the name on everybody’s lips. 

Doomsday

Throughout the episode Clark was being hurt by the vibrations of an unknown force that also caused an earthquake in Smallville. That force was Doomsday beneath Smallville punching in his green containment suit in a nod to his first appearance in the comics who went on to famously kill Superman in 1992. Doomsday showing up on Superman & Lois is a big deal.

I know there are going to be fans that will say bringing on Doomsday in the second season is too soon. People had similar complaints about Doomsday killing Superman in Batman v Superman. I think it is a different situation. Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark has been a superhero for over 20 years, and he’s been playing the role since 2016. Henry Cavill’s Clark was brand new when he fought Doomsday and died. The show also must use characters when they are cleared for use. Warner Bros can become very stingy with characters when they have plans to use them in a film. Also, The CW is being sold so we don’t know what the fate of the DC shows on that network in the hands of new owners will be. It could be now or never for the show to use Doomsday.

Doomsday is a good choice for the new threat because he’s as different from Tahl-Rho as can be. Doomsday is just made to kill. He doesn’t have a personality. He doesn’t have goals unless you count killing as a goal. This does present a problem when adapting for television: How do you make a season of television about a villain who doesn’t speak? Smallville tackled this in season eight by making Doomsday a Jekyll and Hyde type played by Sam Witwer in Davis form and by Dario Delacio in Doomsday form. Reactions to this version of Doomsday varied, but it was admirable that they made a season about one of Superman’s biggest villains. 

Todd Helbing has said season two will have multiple villains, so I think that is going to be the way to deal with the challenge of a villain who doesn’t talk. Doomsday is the blunt instrument of the Superman Rogues gallery. He’s a plot device. Having other villains around to serve as more traditional Big Bads will let him do what he does best, which is destruction, and I can’t wait.

America First? Nah. Superman Belongs To The World

“Truth, justice and the American way” is the most famous Superman catchphrase. It originated from the 1940’s Superman radio serial during World War II. It did not come from the comics at all. It was just a piece of propaganda like various heroes punching Hitler in comic books, but this one stuck to the character. People associate Superman with ultra-patriotism to the point that Frank Miller used him as Ronald Reagan’s bitch in The Dark Knight Returns

The show wisely continues to run from the perception that America owns Superman by having him save a North Korean submarine and pissing off new DOD stooge Mitch Anderson. He wants Superman to bend the knee and declare he belongs to America, and he’ll put American interests first. Clark of course has no desire to be the errand boy of this power tripping loser. Clark knows Superman belongs to the world. He isn’t confined to one city like a lot of other heroes. He’s global. He can save people in Metropolis one minute and be in China the next minute.

Mitch wants to feel like a big man, so he takes that school for powered young people set up last season and makes them Supermen of America which is another thing from 90’s Superman comics they are adapting. Will Mitch use Supermen of America against Clark by going “If I can’t have you, no one can!” in a true ID Channel fashion? Quite possibly. Control freaks can’t handle people who set boundaries with them and actually say no. He could view Superman as a liability and want him gone. There’s also the Doomsday factor. If Mitch somehow got ahold of the almost unkillable beast and instead of viewing it as an existential threat to humanity, viewed it as an asset to America, that would be terrible for our protagonists but great television.

Ain’t Your Mama

Lois and Clark’s normally emotionally mature relationship is strained after the arrival of melted alternate universe Lois and John Henry’s daughter Natalie. Lois freezes in the face of this stranger calling her mom and feels terrible guilt over it. This brings up the newly introduced backstory for Lois: Her mother Ella abandoned her and Lucy as children. This explains why Lois has such an independent streak: Her dad was busy and her mom didn’t want to be a mother to her daughters. Lois was wracked with guilt over making Natalie feel abandoned.

It is a tricky situation. Would having the doppelganger of your dead mother in your life be comforting or just a painful reminder of what you don’t have? Because even if Lois and Natalie bond, it will never replace what Natalie lost. I hope the show continues to lean into this dynamic because it is a fertile area for drama and Bitsie Tulloch and Tayler Buck did a nice job playing up how awkward and devastating this situation is for the both of them. Very keen to see more from them.

I do hope this is the only time they’ll say a conflict lasted multiple months in the Clois relationship. I like this emotionally mature version of the characters. I’m not saying there can’t be conflict. It is just jarring that these people let it fester for so long.

Lock The Door, Dummy

It was delightful to see Lois in angry mom mode again bursting in on Jonathan and Day player Girlfriend about to have 32 seconds of fun. It is a teenage boy’s worst nightmare for mom to walk in when the little soldier is saluting and it is even worse if you aren’t alone. These scenes really contrasted the different parenting styles of Lois and Clark. Lois is the law. She’s the one you fear. Clark is the kind one. More of what could be considered the traditional mother role. He’s the one who tells you that your little soldier doesn’t have to go into the trenches quite yet, but when it does it should be respectfully.

These scenes led to confirmation that Lois is the only woman Clark has had sex with. I did ponder this last season when I thought it was possible he could have lost his virginity to Lana, but I’m glad the show made it official. It does make sense that Lois would be Clark’s one and only. He never told Lana the secret, so that was always a barrier between true intimacy. He also met Lois after the two years of training at the Fortress of Solitude so he would have felt more confident in not killing a woman via pelvic thrust. 

A man only having sex with one woman in his entire life could be seen as pathetic by some, but it is romantic in this case. Clark found the one and he built a life with her. Let other heroes be dumb sluts. Clark is a one woman man.

A Promising Start

I was slightly nervous about this season because I’ve watched so many shows go through a sophomore slump after having an epic first season. Who can forget One Tree Hill‘s second season which had no plot, just vibes? Thus far that isn’t the case with Superman & Lois as they’ve set up many intriguing threads for the season that I’m slightly less worried about the show face planting. This is the beginning so many things can go awry, but I’m hopeful this show can continue to deliver Superman excellence.

Random thoughts about “What Lies Beneath”:

  • I do like Lana being a campaign manager. I assume the candidate is not going to be as nice as he seems. 
  • Jordan and Sarah were the weakest part of the episode. I want to care about them more, but I was just meh on them.
  • The town of Smallville cashing in on Superman saving them with t-shirts, bobbleheads and action figures was both funny and realistic. Small towns will take any claim to fame they can get. It doesn’t matter if it involved townspeople getting possessed by evil Kryptonians. This reminds me that this series desperately needs to start selling merchandise. Take my money!

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