Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
About halfway through this episode I started dreading writing the review, not for the work, not for fear of being wrong, but because this is the kind of episode where it will work perfectly legitimately if you turn your critical brain off and go with the flow, but if you apply analysis, much falls apart. Those are the ones where the people who watch to just go along to get along REALLY see a good episode, and the people who aren’t having a good time don’t see why and just move along, because the flaws are tricky. And my compliments to the craft, if not the execution, for that. The writing here is clever, even if the plot sins are there.
Usually it’s more one way or the other, you get a situation where people are out of character and the plot doesn’t follow, and people can see the turkey on the plate, or it’s all there, and you can see the good. I’d say that’s how it is 95% of the time.
Here, everything, and I mean everything follows, the structure is great, but the actions that lead from one thing to another are less coherent because of the preceding episodes, which TV audiences (and often writers) easily forget. I’ll explain all that, but the point is, I know going in a lot of people aren’t going to see my issues here. And that’s fine.
Most of the sins of this episode are small. That’s why. It’s the first time this has ever happened in this kind of review for me, where all the sins are plot sins, and none of the sins, really (save one) are character sins. Usually it’s both. And I’m still not sure if I can forgive the plot sins.
We start off right where we were two months ago, with Jordan getting the tar whaled out of him by Tag. There’s a beat here that happens twice in the episode, where a character that was caught dead set by another is somehow far away from the person who had them in their clutches, for the sake of drama. Tag and Jordan, here, Jordan manages the “I escaped somehow!” from a person far more powerful than he is, only to be stopped, so we can start at a dramatic moment. People won’t see that, but it’s a cheap ploy.
It’s also bad to say “Trying to outrun me?” Because that’s telling, not showing. The old saw I heard from Bendis, I think it was, about how there was an apocryphal comic panel where rocks are falling on people from above, someone is pointing and shouting “OH GOD, ROCKS!” and the caption says “It was rocks.”
We are watching Jordan run from Tag, so he doesn’t have to confirm that for even the dumbest in the audience.
He has a motivation now, he wants to understand what Jordan did, because he’s drawn the cell phone connection. This is not implausible, and I dig this.
Jordan manages to hit the clicker, though why he isn’t just mashing it while he’s running is, you know, one of those plot sins, and Superman appears instantaneously, which is just bad timing. There should have been a slight beat. It takes me out, because it’s unrealistic. Superman doesn’t teleport, and several times it’s been shown that after the button clicks, you need a second or two.
Tag runs, and Superman follows (after a brilliant moment they didn’t have to do where he checks on his son, something very in character, and something you’d never see on Smallville in favor of the action), and we are treated to a great scene where he again shows the way he pragmatically uses two powers at once to both slow the train and catch it.
The show has laid the groundwork so well, the critical brain doesn’t say “is he watching out for the kinetic energy?” because of course he is. He is paying attention to every little detail, his character has shown, most recently stopping to see if his son is okay before pursuing Tag.
And they could even have done the “HE ESCAPED SOMEHOW!” cut, but instead they show Clark actively listening, looking, and pay attention to the fact that it’s hard to escape a man with superhearing.
Some incoherent actions, but solid storytelling. This will recur. People get plot dumb for this whole thing, but if you’re just along for the ride, it’s great.
In the after-action with the family, a lot is glossed over and jumped ahead on, and some conclusions are drawn that don’t follow, but since they are declared actively and consistent through the rest of the episode, it’s harder to fault. But it’s faulty.
Clark and Lois and the kids debate Jordan’s powers and Tag’s motivation, and declarations are made like “You’re evolving. You heal faster, but you can still get hurt.” For this show, that’s true. For the rest of the series so far, that’s inconsistent. It’s been explained that Jordan’s powers are temporary bursts, and that’s one of the major reasons him playing football was okay. So far as we were aware, he doesn’t have powers right now, save some slight strength and invulnerability. There is no evolution to that. But because Clark states it, it is then PLOT TRUE. It’s hard to evaluate, thusly, because following what is plot true, it stays consistent.
It’s also exposition like the “Oh, you’re running from me?” moment, because it’s Clark declaring what everyone at the table already knows, for the sake of the audience, which is clunky.
The close viewer then says “Why are they not immediately going to Jor-El?” And the answer is, because it serves the plot beat at the end where they have to go to Jor-El and it’s a DRAMATIC EMERGENCY. But it’s out of character here. These characters are smart and would immediately think of that.
One of the biggest dumb-for-plot sins happens right here, and it’s a big one, dual in nature. Firstly, Lois and Clark agree that Clark must watch after the boys instead of chasing Tag, and secondly, Lois and Clark agree that there is no possible way that Superman can solve the Edge dilemma, because there is lead lining on the caves and he can’t see in.
I hate the phrase “Let’s unpack that.” It’s always spoken by some dude in corduroy clothing who is just waiting to find things that are wrong with your short story to make up for the fact that he’s teaching instead of publishing, but let’s, I don’t know, “Blow that Krypton up,” shall we?
Tag is an existential and literal threat to Jordan’s life. Arguably. Or he’s not. He’s a person who wants answers that didn’t kill Jordan, and everyone knows that. Either way, he’s dangerous, and the MOST IMMEDIATE PROBLEM. In capital letters.
Instead, because it is convenient to the plot, Clark and Lois decide he needs time with the fam rather than immediately and vigorously hunting this child to save him and others.
This can play, oddly, because the idea is that he might come and hurt Jordan and Jonathan at any time. The problem with that is, they have established there is a little device that can make Superman appear instantaneously—less than five minutes ago—and also, they know he doesn’t mean them harm, he just wants answers. Also, there are many times in the ensuing episode where Clark is not actively watching his sons. At school immediately springs to mind.
You’ll hate me for pointing that out, and I most of you don’t see that, maybe, but it’s there, and it’s part of craft, and it undercuts the episode.
Secondly, the problem of the Edge mine completely ignores both the powers of Superman, and exaggerates the powers of Lois, which becomes a plot problem for the rest of the episode.
First, the powers of Superman. Superman can move so fast you can’t see him. He can hear things miles and miles away. This means that he can stealthily enter any facility without being seen, disable any security, and quickly see What’s Up (TM).
Superman would do that, given what he just saw with, you know, the flying missing guy who exploded and set barns on fire and caused him to get hit by a missile. To say nothing of the larger threat to the population.
But he doesn’t, because being plot dumb helps establish the premise of the episode.
BUT NEAL, you shout. Superman is a good guy! He doesn’t want to violate the law and break into a place.
Okay. Sure—if that’s something you believe about Superman. Then he has to take a stand against his wife breaking and entering, too.
And this brings us to exaggerating Lois and her powers. She’s brilliant, resourceful, and a great schemer. She is also not, and can never be, as strong as someone with superpowers.
So this puts us in the position, in the very same scene, of someone who thinks that her boys must be protected by another superpowered person, for fear of being attacked by someone with superpowers, of then deciding, almost in the same breath, to go to a place that’s run by people with superpowered flunkees that have, recently, attacked her physically, and expect it to be okay.
That is inconsistent.
You don’t see it unless you’re thinking across the arc of the whole show so far. That’s what’s frustrating about it. Most viewers, two months off, won’t see this at all. But I do, and it makes me go WHAT? at the screen.
And now you probably hate me for making you see what can’t be unseen. I get it. It’s pretty obvious on my end, though, because though I sometimes write reviews, most of my time is spent writing novels and scripts and comics, so this stuff is always going through my head as I put stuff together.
ALL RIGHT SMART GUY. HOW WOULD YOU FIX IT?
TELL ME ANYWAY. I AM YOUR PRIDE, AND I COMMAND IT!
Well, if you insist. I’d have Clark go after Tag and Edge and have Lois watch the boys with her signal watch in hand. That’s better dramatically, because it leaves Superman distracted by two problems, and if he’s focusing on one, the other can come after his family, which is his Achilles Heel in this equation. Either he’s finding Tag or chasing his mess while Edge moves for revenge on Lois, or he’s uncovering the X-K for its broader existential threat while Tag comes after his family and he somehow can’t help, and thus the boys have to learn to step up and manage their powers and fears.
BUT THE PRODUCERS SAID THESE ARE THE BEATS!
Oh. Okay. Well then I’d have a brief line or two where the objections I raised above are articulated and they resolve not to behave in this irrational way, but some catalyst that is in character forces the issue. Clark wants the boy grounded. Sarah is coming, so Jordan NEEDS to go, his character is desperate for it. Clark lets him, conditionally, but searches for Tag the whole time. He tells Lois not to go to the mine, he’ll go there soon. But Luthor shows, and he has a way in, and it’s now or never (not the passes, that’s garbage, as I’ll explain).
The point being, you don’t make the characters dumb so you can get from A to B to C, EVEN IF the audience will go along with it. And in this case, I think they will.
Lois thinks that Edge is The Stranger, which rang alarm bells at first, because that doesn’t fit in with Edge’s subtle nature. He’s done nothing blatant and belligerent. But then it made sense, for two reasons. One, they live in a world where billionaires who are on the surface innocent eventually suit up to fight Superman (Luthor), and two, he is the only major threat in the area Lois is aware of. It’s a good assumption, for her.
Marcus and Lois are present for the opening, which is weird—why wouldn’t Edge bar her presence? Private companies do that all the time, and he knows she has a (fair) bias against him. They’ve gone from “Marcus” having the cover of being a Lois fanboy to “May the best reporter win,” which is jarring, particularly given that later they go right back to “Let’s share that byline!”
Again we go back to the strange obsession Edge has with Lana that is not only creepy, it doesn’t really follow. I’m starting to buy it more, because love is strange, I get it, but still, it doesn’t play as well because while Kyle is dumb as a sack of hammers, he’s also, you know, standing right there. He’s not Arthur Pewty level dumb, he’s more, “still conservative in America and thinking it best serves my personal financial and health interests” dumb.
A sack of hammers vs. a metric ton of hammers. OOPS! Sorry. Not a metric ton, a gross ton, forgot. America’s afraid of the metric system. Kyle would probably shoot at it.
Lana accepts her personal assistant position, and is suddenly a corporate entity from the position of reverse-mortgage underwriter. Which is… odd? But also something they seem to always do with Lana. At least in this case, they justify it by giving her college and education and qualification, which I like. Usually it’s historically just been FACE IT LANA, YOU’RE AMAAAAAZING.
My favorite moment of the entire episode was when the sad Hulk song came on in the background (maybe it was just in my mind) when Kyle said, wistfully “I thought Edge mighta had something for ME.” Emphasis mine. I know it’s schadenfreude, but when leopards eat people’s faces, and those faces were calling for leopards, I take joy in it. This is what America has brought me to over the last few decades. I wonder if Kyle can hear my lack of pity all the way back to 2016, 2004, 2000, 1980…
Probably not, because that would require self-reflection.
Either way, great moment. And true to his form, he gains no insight going forward from this, he just smiles, keeps chewing his gum, and advocating for the man who is stealing his wife and trying to run his town into the ground because it suits his narrative.
You see what I did there? It’s got layers. He’s very small.
The next scene is unfortunate, and I think its excision could have helped a lot. Lois comes to Sarah and Kyle and says “Hey, you know, this guy is evil.”
Kyle has his typical response, which is wholly in character. “NO WAYS, IT IS YOU WHO ARE EVIL FOR TRYING TO HELP ME!” at which point he, I don’t know, drifts off into imagining cleaning his gun or something. That fits.
Lana, however, is college educated. They just spent time pointing out how smart she is. Lois is a person she trusts enough to have beers with and talk about her problems, as lamentable as that scene was, and they’re close, they’re not adversarial. Kyle is clearly in the wrong, she knows this, and she decides to disbelieve Lois and be dumb because the plot requires it.
You don’t need this scene. You could just cut it, or have Kyle leave and Lana express concerns but an unwillingness to abandon her healing marriage, or any number of things, but to have her take Kyle’s side hurts her character, and is out of character with what we’ve seen so far.
Her logic is “I can help people.” as stated in the show. That this is the greater good.
Pare it down. The problem is, the scene’s construction is “There is a man that is not helping people. I think he’s killing people.” “I will not object to this, because I want to help people.” More connective tissue is needed to get Lana there, aside from declaring it and going forward.
The training montage scene had me completely whipped around and confused, because I both liked it and hated it.
Regular Neal said to himself, “Look! They’re bonding. He’s training his son to be like him! They’re having fun as a family. That log looks cool! Neat, he made a punch just like his father before him?”
Critic Neal said “Wait, why did they keep that log right there in plain view where anyone could discover it? It’s really weird. It’s a log. They have sentimental value for a log? That’s not how logs work, actually. If you hit something hard enough with a hammer, it leaves dents like that, so it’s possible that those fists marks could occur, but more likely it would split. Logs split. You know, because you’ve split yard after yard of wood. Also, when did Jordan get super strength? Has that been declared?”
And the main problem, I think, is plot. Yes, this is a FUN scene, but the MINUTE, the very SECOND Clark sees that Jordan’s powers are escalating, that he can put a dent in a log that thick, his ability to play football fairly comes into question, particularly after a scene where Jordan declares “I just want to SHUT EM UP!”
And this is not addressed, in favor of the novelty of the scene. It needed to be.
The scenes with Lana and Kyle being parents continue to shine with their accuracy, if not as things we should emulate or sympathize with. Sarah, the kind one, the responsible, offers to watch the kid instead of attending to her emotional need (her friendship with Jordan), so her parents can go out to dinner and play the adults they’ve never really been.
This is very familiar to me. Much of my youth was spent watching my parent’s children while they went out to a bar to live it up, and I was an active, happy participant, because I had been conditioned to believe my parent’s happiness and drama was more important than my personal needs, ever. This is very realistic. It harms me to this day.
It’s also another good use of “Here is where I could be a normal happy teenager, but can’t, because I’m in this family.” Which makes this character, Sarah, probably more than any save Clark, my lens into this show. Clark is my hope for what I am as an adult, Sarah is the reality of what I was as a kid made manifest, and God, I feel for her.
It pays off well later, too, when they’re talking about the kids and their needs, and Kyle dismisses their emotional needs for his emotional wants with with “Whatever we gotta do, we’re gonna do!”
Yep, that’s how dysfunction works. And immaturity. And authoritarian parenting. I was going to go so far as to say conservative authoritarian parenting, but I didn’t. I just insinuated it lightly. Hey. Whatever I gotta do, I’m gonna do.
In the context of this story, it’s even worse, because the girl straight up gets kidnapped and knocked unconscious and taken to another city and traumatized, just on the cusp of coming off suicidal ideation, but that’s, you know, comic book stuff.
It’s also the problem with comic book stuff when used in this fashion, it (convenient kidnapping and unconsciousness injuries) takes away from the gravity stuff like that had. And this show is losing the thread when it comes to that. Perhaps it must, to serve the broader picture, but I do miss that they were talking about how teenagers can be suicidal and anxious, and we’ve eschewed that in favor of “random dude with powers has kidnapped the object of affection, oh no!” That’s bad soup.
Jordan’s anxiety disorder has almost completely disappeared, and I am pretty sure they’re not going to have Sarah in therapy next week talking about being kidnapped and traumatized. That’s a tool that sucks to lose from the toolbox for a show for the sake of drama with Tag, a largely forgettable character, and it is what the KO Count, that I now sadly have to trot out again, serves to draw attention to.
There is a brief scene where Clark speaks to Sam about Tag, and Sam makes it abundantly clear that he is treating Tag like a lethal threat and preparing to kill him. This is another scene that should have gone, because it telegraphs to Clark that Sam, a man he knows to be unhinged, a man that cannot solve problems in a good way, is going to try and kill a teenager. With this scene, it is both impossible for Clark to express the surprise he expresses later (cool though the scene is), and it also means that by his character, he would then immediately turn the focus to saving/finding Tag. Instead, he continues watching the football game.
There was a moment of brilliant writing here, where Jordan is directed to crush a player by his coach, and we think, “Crap, here’s where he goes too far.” That’s the expectation, and “What wouldn’t happen next?” is finely served by the powers as a complication, and then the quarterback is hurt, and then Jonathan gets his shot at the plate, to play with his brother.
This is how you solve that problem well. I’m bummed that it’s right in the middle of such a complicatedly distracted episode, but I like it, as a beat, a lot.
There’s a scene after, where Clark talks with Lois about what happened, that is just frustrating, because it lays out the problem with the motivations and just completely glosses over them. Lois learns that the DoD is at the football game, which in itself is a weird plot thing, and she says “The sooner we find this kid the sooner this will be over.”
No kidding, Lo, which makes it really odd that you suggested that the most powerful man in the universe not involve himself in that in favor of family time. Right? And then, contradicting herself, she insists Clark keep an eye on them. It’s plot dumb, like so many things here.
She immediately suspects that something is going on with Jordan, but it doesn’t play. Jonathan has reason for that suspicion. Neither Lois nor Clark have reason to believe he’s having episodes or that anything is wrong save the beating he took, which he is now healed from and playing football after.
It’s like when Edge suspected something was up with Lois and Clark moving to Smallville, later justified because it was true, but it doesn’t follow from what her character has experienced.
But step back. The military is present at a football game for teenagers and no one is asking questions? No one is worried? They don’t just cancel the game if there’s a threat that big? That’s not how people work. They panic in the face of threat. It’s throwaway, but it really pulled me out. That’s probably my age. I existed before the turn of the millennium, and I remember when the militarized presence at a public event was an uncharacteristically strange, threatening thing.
I mean, it still is, but people don’t perceive it as that now. I get it.
And I get why it works dramatically. We’re so used to a militarized presence in our lives, after 2001, we are just past the point of questioning it as a thing that happens.
I hate that I get why it works.
OH NEAL, YOU ARE JUST READING TOO MUCH INTO A COMIC BOOK UNIVERSE THING.
Even so, it’s national news if the military comes down on a small town to occupy it to neutralize a threat, even in comic book logic.
There is a moment that I can’t decide if it’s a problem or if it’s a good moment, and that makes it, by default, bad, because if it needs clarity and doesn’t have it, it’s a story error.
Jordan sees someone coming for Jonathan, a bully, singles him out, and tackles him. He stands over the kid and is gleeful at having inflicted pain on a bad person in context (that’s okay, no objections there). He then does not hold out a hand to help him up, as he did before (that’s bad, it shows regression).
Clark calls him over and scolds him, but it is unclear why. (“You know what it was.”)
This is an important error, because we need to know if it’s because Clark realizes that Jordan is hurting people and enjoying it, or if Clark is reacting to bad sportsmanship, and we also need to know if Jordan has a conscience about it, or is avoiding getting in trouble. In an episode that took such pains to spell every motivation out, this needed more polish, and it hurt the scene.
Lois wants a press pass and can’t get it. This is utterly incoherent, and weird, and no, just no. Lois worked for the Daily Planet, Lois works presently for a newspaper, and LOIS JUST ATTENDED A PRESS EVENT at the Edge Mine.
I think what they were trying to do here is indicate that with a press pass, she could tour the mine to research, but that’s just not how press passes work. They’re not a MULTIPASS. You don’t just hold them up at Google and then they have to let you in to see the room where they keep the pee bottles. God, if only.
“Miss Lane! What are you doing here!”
“Give me those tax returns, Agent Sheldon!”
“No way! They’re under audit!”
“Oh yeah?” Holds up PRESS PASS.
Door opens. “Aw shucks. You got me, lady reporter! Drat!”
And then everyone clapped.
“Why is your name Sheldon, by the way?”
“That’s none of your business, Miss L—”
Holds up PRESS PASS.
“Sigh. We’re all named Sheldon. It’s our weird IRS thing.”
Luthor shows up and he says “Look here! I have two inspector badges!”
The problem remains. They’re also not MULTIPASS. Lo Lo Leeloo doesn’t play.
Holds up PRESS PASS.
All right, Jesus, it has to play, fine. Go on. (Neal waves the plot by). Stupid press pass.
There is a moment where a legit commentary could have been made, and almost was made, where Luthor, a black dude, goes “Hey, you know, they see a black dude crawling around a place, they’re gonna call the cops and act weird, because the world is racist and awful and such.”
And it’s played at, a bit, softly hammered as a nail, but it doesn’t land as well as it could have, because the device is so weird, an inspector.
But even so, people would see a black inspector as opposed to a white inspector and add more scrutiny, that’s the nature of racism, it’s like that. That’s not what I’m questioning.
The question I have is in a situation where you’re trying to sneak into a facility, if you’re one of the people watching for intruders, your “black guy” flag will raise after your “OH GOD THAT’S LOIS LANE THE ONE WE WERE EXPRESSLY TOLD TO LOOK OUT FOR.” flag, even if you’re DAVID DUKE: SECURITY GUARD AT LARGE.
That was like, the worst eighties sitcom, for those of you under thirty. The part where all the main characters turn to the camera and smile was just boring because their expressions were hidden behind all the hoods.
Not today, though! Today they’re in congress, smiling away without consequence.
Oddly enough, after all of that ranting, I have to say, the acting sells the entry. Clunky device aside, the actor playing Luthor completely had me believing that they’d just used an inspector past to smooth their way into the mine. I’M SO CONFUSED.
So here we cut back to Sarah and Sophie, sitting, arguing about what show to watch, and God, that created such a flood of emotion with me. Personal tangent, but one of the things that I have a rather intricate knowledge of is cartoon shows from 1992-1995, the years that I was the primary caregiver, more or less, for my brothers and sisters while my parents decided they were more important than the kids that they had. And I remember this scene, so many times, the times when I wanted to read a book or play a video game or do literally anything for myself in between attending school, waking in the morning for my job (yes, at 12) at 3-4 AM, and doing my homework while half-asleep and malnourished.
You sit there like “God, just once, anything for me. Some joy. Some small get.” And there’s a six-year-old, going “I WANT BARNEY!” And then you get to be the one that does to them what adults did to you, or you break the cycle… before you’re even old enough for your voice to change.
This is what Sarah is going through, and it’s so genuine, so real. Now this show doesn’t show that it’s constant, but anyone who has had parents like Lana and Kyle know it is, so it resonates. At least with me. That’s reading a lot in. But my experience of the show is what informs my love or hate of it, so this is that. I loved that scene for what it meant to me, even if it’s a one-off, even if it was meant to just be a typical scene where a kid watches their kid brother or sister once in a while. I saw every time it ever happened, and became the starchild there. Excuse my indulgence in the middle of my otherwise normally circumspect, limited, terse and short review that is famous for its economy of prose.
You don’t—you’re not believing me?
Holds up PRESS PASS.
So anyway, Sarah gets knocked out and relegated to the damsel in distress, which is a poor choice, because there’s no reason Tag would focus on her save her friendship with Jordan, which is THIN gruel to base a story thread on, but they did. That is what it is, a poor choice.
More confusion comes when the parents get home, because they talk to each other for a while about how great things are, and then Sophie comes in there, and she’s like “YO!” and they’re like “Oh, we have kids?”
At first I screamed to myself “WAIT? You mean they came home and never once checked on their kids? That’s the first thing anyone…”
And then I go, “Ah, yeah, these are dysfunctional nitwits. Of course they just walk in and assume everything is fine.” IN CHARACTER. (Returns PRESS PASS to pocket without lifting).
There is a moment that appears to be tender, and in character, in the hotel room. Clark wonders with genuine care what’s going on with Jordan, asking him what triggered the attack. And sure enough, it was a wonderful moment, Clark holding his son while he let out the outburst of emotion. I loved that so much.
The problem is, everyone in that room knows what caused the attack, because it is the EXACT SAME THING that caused the last attack. Jordan was getting beat up, first by the bully, now by the other team. And making this even more weird and incoherent, Clark was standing right there watching, because as the plot has emphasized repeatedly, he is watching those kids like a hawk rather than solving the immediately solvable, somewhat minor problem of finding one kid when you’re Superman.
Jordan is petulant and angry about how both he has hidden what is happening, and how he wants to keep playing football. This is arguably inconsistent with his former self, who has acknowledged and admitted the complication of the decision to play, and has reverted to the rote “THIS IS WHAT I WANT AND WHAT I WANT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.” form of character—largely to serve the plot. The problem is not that it isn’t something he could think or say, the problem is that for him to think and say it now requires something change what he’s previously said or done to make the connective tissue work. He has learned through experience the complication of what he’s doing.
This was ignored so they could set up the big fight and the plot and the dramatic moment at the end, and that’s bad work. A to B to C to D. Not A to C because I declare it to be so. This will be forgiven, I know, because it’s within the realm of Jordan’s character, by the audience. But it is not within the realm of a coherent plot progression outside of being plot dumb.
So here’s where things get flat clumsy, and in a bad way. Clark has to solve Tag NOW, because he’s been ignoring the problem, and Luthor and Lois are facing the SUPERHUMAN PERSON. We’ll do one at a time.
So Clark is searching for Tag, and we see that he can find him in a matter of seconds. This is bad to do, because it undermines everything that came before.
It also undermines Superman’s priorities.
One teenager is in mortal danger (Tag) and he puts it aside to attend to the emotional needs of his boys.
Another teenager is in mortal danger (Sarah) and he immediately drops everything to save her.
That’s not fair, Neal! Tag was an aggressor, and Sarah was a victim!
Yes. This is true. Sarah’s danger is a bigger priority.
But that doesn’t mean Tag’s danger is not a priority worthy of Superman’s attention.
And the difference between the two dangers equally worthy of Superman’s time? Convenience to the plot.
Once you establish that Jordan and Jonathan’s threat is non-existent or minimal, or sufficient that Superman can be elsewhere (like when they’re in school), Superman should be after Tag both to stop and (more importantly) to protect him from Sam.
This is why the setup matters, why it must spring from character instead of the needs of plot.
APROPOS OF NOTHING SIDEBAR: I just now realized, though I should have earlier, that there is no reason for X-K to be in a mine. At all. It’s meteors from Krypton, irradiated fragments of Superman’s former homeworld. Smallville skirted it by saying Clark arrived way after the meteors, as I recall, but here it makes no such sense. Weird.
The shoes are a neat detail. Though it makes you wonder where he got them all. Was Tag like, spending half his time doing detective work, and the rest of his time super-speeding into shoe stores?
APROPOS OF NOTHING SIDEBAR 2: I have a pair of shoes that looks like that, and it brought up a fond memory. During that bad time I mention above, I had a paper route, and I had to use a cart to haul all the papers, and one of the things I would do, as mad as it was (at 12-14) was get in that cart at the top of a hill, at the end of the route, and just barrel down the streets all the way home using my shoes as a brake. One of the streets was a busy street, and I had close calls with cars more than once, but to be honest, I was suicidal and didn’t care. I would kick with my feet to steer at near twenty miles an hour (it’s a miracle my leg never got sucked under) and dig in my heels. After about a year of this, my shoes wore a hole that you could see the hole through just like this one here in the show, diagonally. They were my only pair, so I still wore them to school, and I kept them, as a reminder.
Anyway, that was a thing that this evoked, in a kind of happy memory way, oddly. It was carefree, as sad and dangerous as it sounds, and a good thing.
Lois and Luthor are somehow not expecting a superpowered intercession, which is both dumb and odd. And then it comes, they somehow magically are able to outrun someone with superspeed. I know why, because if Lois and Luthor die, the show ends. But also, I know that could have been set up better. A shadow in the hall coming, and Leslie’s voice, and then the next scene running from lasers. Not AHA! I see you, and I can shoot lasers from my eyes, to “I ESCAPED SOMEHOW IN THE COMMERCIAL BREAK!”
And then, when Luthor zaps Larr, I don’t know if you saw, but after, they were just walking to the car, and they had a long conversation, while Superman was who knows where and a superpowered person could just return and kill them quietly. Doesn’t track.
It’s a good conversation, actually. Lois figuring Luthor out plays, and it makes sense, and it’s A to B to C, and they don’t overplay the drama. They part adversarial, but not as enemies, because it’s clear Luthor has good intentions. I still think he’s an ally, not a villain, and that the villainy is a pump-fake.
I like the way they are introducing Jordan keeping his secret from Sarah. The execution this episode leaves a little wanting, but in principle, it’s a great way to do it. Realistic suspicion from Tag, the video, and plausibly deniability, from Jordan. Put that right smack in the middle of someone who knows she can’t trust anyone (Sarah in her dysfunctional family) with reason, and it’s a stew for drama warming up nicely, if they can pay it off.
There is one weird element of it, where Lois discusses it with Jordan, and Jordan’s like “I can’t tell my girlfriend I have superpowers!” And LOIS LANE, you know, the Lois Lane that suffered through having a boyfriend who was two different men for a while there, traditionally, who suffered the ensuing pain of knowing that a man lied to her and didn’t trust her with his secret, just kind of shrugs and says nothing in Sarah’s defense, or at least mentioning why it was important she didn’t know Clark’s secret. One or the other.
That’s… a really weird dramatic choice.
Superman takes kryptonite bullets to the arm, rips them out, and saves Tag. I have no problem with this. It happens sufficiently fast, and this is a Superman in his prime, he knows how to handle Kryptonite, and it actually displays a wisdom they usually don’t show. Typically someone puts Kryptonite on Supes and he just kind of moans and falls to the ground. Except when he doesn’t. Kryptonite is rough that way.
But if you’re gonna do it, you should do it one of two ways. One, it completely incapacitates him (large amounts), or two, it’s a small amount, and he immediately frees himself of it and destroys or gets rid of it. They’ve been pretty consistent about that (the necklace was large).
We even get (and THANK YOU FOR THIS, HOLY HELL) a moment where there’s an angry, glaring, red-eyed Supes that is wholly justified. Usually it’s just “You made me angry, so I’m gonna SCARE YOU!” over the last twenty years. But here, it’s a man who has been composed, measured, kind, and wise for the whole of the show, finally pushed to the bring for a good reason. Men with guns were about to shoot an innocent child with a machine gun.
It plays. It plays well, and it is chilling, and it is wonderful. This is how you show the angry God part of Supes without undermining him. He gets mad when people don’t live up to their potential—not simply when they piss him off. And this underscores the through-line of Jordan needs to learn from his father what maturity is, and how to solve people who seem like problems but are, in fact, victims coping poorly.
This is it.
Sam Lane: “I don’t know what you’re upset about.” “You put me in a bad position tonight.”
Sadly, Sam Lane is just a NYAH villain now. They’ve squandered that complication. Oh well. This is not the man he was at first, and it’s not a man he’s evolved into. They took the Sam from the lamentable fourth episode and just run with him now. Too bad. He had nuance.
And now, the part I really hate. HAH! I know, you’re reading the above, and saying “What have you liked?” Well, most of it, actually. I forgive most of these plot sins, and note them for the sake of analysis. This was not a bad episode. This was an average episode. My rating was a 3, until the scene I’m about to discuss. There was no character assassination, like there was in the fourth episode, there were just people acting out of character to forward the plot, generally, and that’s largely something you can go along to get along with, though there’s a LOT of it here.
The unforgivable sin is what they did to Jordan here. That’s what takes this to a 2 of 5 for me.
Just last episode, we had this wonderful, touching, dynamic interplay between Jordan, Jonathan, and Sarah. Sarah and Jordan go on a date, and Jonathan, wanting to be popular with his friends, drinks himself stupid, acts the fool, and destroys Jordan’s chances with Sarah.
That happened. It can’t unhappen.
Now, in this episode, Jordan gives up on being responsible with his powers for the sake of popularity and revenge (which is, notably, wholly out of his displayed character so far—he’s had the urge to do so, but always checks it owing to the presence of his father and his, you know, CONSCIENCE). He also, and this is the big one, decides that what he needs to do when things don’t go his way is what his brother did that hurt him JUST LAST EPISODE, go and drink with his chucklehead football buddies in order to be popular and act the fool.
Even JONATHAN would have stopped that this episode, after what last episode declared in terms of character. It’s WILDLY off base.
And this leads to the forced situation where yet again a random jock picks a random fight, not really acting like people act (at least, unprovoked), in a wildly convenient coincidence (a bunch of chaperoned kids in the middle of an abandoned area with no adults around, all drunk but speaking coherently), all so we can have the BIG TWIST.
Jordan is gonna try and use his powers on someone because he’s mad—but ends up hurting his own brother.
Now this is a GREAT idea for drama. It truly is. If it had happened any other way, organically, I would have been all over this. But the setup and execution of it here is pure hackery that undermines both characters to the point of where now, Jordan can’t play football any more and still be a sympathetic character, Jonathan has been made as dumb as a bag of rocks because he doesn’t learn from his mistakes (Yes, let’s go drink and act the fool! That works out well every time!), and now we as an audience must face the lamentable choice of simply accepting this as a premise though it’s false and moving on, or remembering it and having nothing going forward make sense.
I see what they were trying to do, but boy, did it get botched. Even the cliffhanger rang false, because there is literally no reason, if there was stuff going on with Jordan, not to do it right then. As a father of a young man, let me tell you from experience, my son starts getting a temperature, you take him to the doc THAT DAY. I mean, some parents don’t. My parents, notably, let me walk around on a broken foot for a month. But I mean, if you’re not awful, and your kid is sick, and you can do something about it, you do.
Because sometimes (and I learned this from experience last October), your kid has an upset stomach, and less than twelve hours later he’s wheeling into surgery to have an appendix pulled like a bad alternator. This is the joy of being a parent.
It’s not joy, it’s daily horrible terror. But you just hold up the MULTIPASS to all your misgivings and move on, waiting for the therapy bills and the inevitable accusations of bad parenting—some of which are gonna be true.
What you don’t do, especially if you’re Superman, is wave a hand and go, “Eh, it’ll be okay.”
That’s clearly what they did with the plot here, letting the characters be dumb to get through. And I get it. They can’t all be winners. But you can also mitigate some of the losses by staying true to the characters, and there could have been more care taken here.
BRIEF LOGISTICAL NOTE: I’ve decided to stop doing the super short video reviews, as they weren’t getting many hits and they were a lot of work. If anyone wants them back, shout.
Rating – 2 out of 5.
NOW, AN IMPORTANT NOTE.
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Until next week!