Reviewed by: Neal Bailey
Premiered: May 25, 2021
Written by: Jai Jamison
Directed by: David Ramsey
First things first, compliments to a twist that I didn’t see coming that I absolutely should have. It takes skill and talent to hide something, and at the same time telegraph it, and I didn’t see that “Luthor” was Irons. I should have. “Man of Steel,” it’s right there in the title. Bald black dude with a battle suit that even looks a little bit like the only screen John Henry we’ve seen.
It’s stupid, really, how right there it is, and I laugh at how easily I was fooled. That’s just great, and I love it.
Also, I like seeing, and my radar is up for, characters swapped around in gender and color as a way to make new and better story, and thought that was what’s going on here—I just made a mistaken assumption that they were going for a black Luthor.
I forgot the potentials of multiverses, which is hilarious, if any of you have read my longform multiverse-based comic. You might be surprised to see a multiverse trick get past me. I was. It’s good work.
I know that’s a heated issue, those swaps, for a myriad of reasons worthy of exploration. And this thought brings me to a proper side tangent, before the meat of the review starts:
SIDE TANGENT BEGINS
I just typed the sentence “A lot of people on this site seem to really hate that kind of thing, sadly, gender and race twists for better story.” I cut and pasted it and put it here below the tangent line, because I’m making an effort to not generalize in that way, going forward. Not for fear of hurting the feelings of those who might object to race/gender swaps (I don’t care, go away), but because it’s sloppy writing.
It was pointed out to me after my last review that I was saying things like “People will think ____,” or “People have thought _____.” and generalizing about the readership of this review and the viewership of “Superman & Lois”. That’s bad. I gotta own that. I can explain it, but mea culpa. Here’s why I made the mistake:
From the minute I started writing reviews, twenty-one years ago now, to today, if there is one constant, it is that I get a response for writing about Superman. Loud and angry commenters insist I get fired from a job that doesn’t pay that I do for fun that they can take or leave. Loud and happy commenters applaud what I say and want me to write more, and some even send cash my way for my other projects (http://www.patreaon.com/nealbailey) and read them too, avidly. I really like those people. Quiet folks simply read what I write and go about their day and don’t even know my name, the vast bulk majority of the readership. I really like those people too.
I see and hear, despite all of my efforts to avoid them, the loud and angry comments most. A lot. Some because they seek me out to call me names and threaten me and email me and call my phone number. Some because “friends” will say “Hey, did you see what this person said about you?” HINT: That’s not a friendly thing to do. Some I hear/read because I pop on Facebook or the comment section to make sure I haven’t made some egregious error of some kind I want to be responsible for (like the generalization error I’m addressing now), and instead get a load of brigading and anger and desperately wrong hot takes on my intentions, what I’ve actually said, and what I actually mean, with many having clearly not read the review in question.
There was a really great one last week where someone took me to task for a typo, insisting that I should have a proofreader, and their fifty-word comment had no less than 10 grammatical errors.
It pays dividends at times, reading the comments, when done once or twice before running for your life. It was rightly pointed out by a saintly patient person last week that I was getting snarky and cynical about “people” and what they do, owing to the fact that I was tired and torn-down from the flood of anger coming my way. I give fewer craps and pay less close attention after having a kid and writing for twenty-three years seriously and being tired all the time, but that’s no real excuse.
Having seen that, or had it brought to my attention, I can then write something like this and make efforts to stop generalizing and be more attentive. I can address bad opinions rather than “people.” That’s an improvement. Because “people” are often not monolithic. Mean people can have a point. Nice people can be dangerously naïve.
There are exceptions. Sometimes people are monolithic. Some groups are just bad and need to be spurned. A good example is the way that the Snyder Cut/Snyderbro people in general have behaved over the last eight years. At this point, it’s very hard to divorce someone proudly proclaiming their love for the Snyder movies with people who service Alt-Right, sexist, bigoted causes, to the point where Snyder himself has to come out and say “Hey, you know, I’m not actually a Nazi.” in public, because the line is so very blurred.
On a whole, the negative traits of the Snyder fandom as a whole tends to overshadow those with perfectly valid enjoyment of the movie, because the sum of their behavior is more insidious and toxic than the constituent parts.
If you think I’m crazy, and that’s wrong, watch out. With a blind spot like that, you might accidentally join Alt-Right Nazis for Feeding the Homeless.
My point being, if you’re part of a large, awful, brigading and violent group of people whose members are often belligerently sexist, bigoted, and awful for fun, and you think that’s okay because it holds one position you agree with, the problem isn’t mine. It’s yours.
And it has a solution, and it’s easy. You form groups that actively and passionately disavow Alt-Right behavior, in favor of Snyder’s movies for their artistic value.
The problem is, few of those form, because the two circles of the Venne are closer than anyone is comfortable admitting.
And in the face of that complicated dynamic, I get quick to condemn, because oh, how I hate a Nazi. Oh, how I hate a person who is actively feeding the monster that is destroying good faith and tearing my country apart from within. And if you hear hoofbeats and start seeing as many zebras as you do horses, it gets easy to falsely tar with the wrong brush.
I have a responsibility not to do that. But I also have a very fair reason I made the mistake.
The vitriol coming now, as opposed to how readers were ten years ago, with “Smallville,” is a lot harsher. It’s a lot more political. Pointed, violent, and cruel. It’s not just anger about an opinion, it’s a blatant expression of tribal exclusion, an ongoing personal attack. And it doesn’t ever let up.
When I said “people,” to be clear, I wasn’t saying “the general rabble” with my pinky in the air, which is a pretentious position to take. I expressly mean “those who will come online and be vocal and take others to task angrily without thinking trying to find a tribe to exclude or include others with.”
I was trying (and failing) to cut off their inevitable, unending concerns at the pass even though I know that’s impossible. Why? Exhaustion. I shouldn’t validate that behavior or even address it. I just moved to Canada and finished a novel and I’m lettering comics and raising a child and budgeting and I’m on month 14 or 15 (I forget at this point) of not leaving my house to protect the wellbeing of others. I’m beat, frankly. No one sane got time for that $#*^. But I am, alas, human.
I will make one more generalization, though. People will see that admission and see a weakness and come at me for it, thinking it’s a place to put a pry bar. Save your time. It’s not a weakness to admit fault and change your behavior. It’s a strength. You’ll never persuade me otherwise. Weakness is clinging to a belief and never examining it. Not having principles that were founded in long, hard-fought examinations of things over and over, but believing a thing because it’s what your camp believes, at the expense of all logic and personal growth. Stop it, people. Cripes.
So why do it? Why make the tangent at all? You’re either preaching to the choir or you’re talking to people who will never listen?
Well, mostly to say thanks to that person who helped me improve my writing. You do a thing for twenty years, you don’t miss too many tricks, and when you do, it’s a joy. It’s an opportunity to learn. I am grateful.
END SIDE TANGENT
The show itself suffers from the exact same problem the last episode did, plot over character, only vastly exacerbated. It benefits this time from not cutting the legs out from under one of the mains in a permanent way, but it does do a hell of a number on Sarah, and she’s my favorite secondary character, so that irks me, a lot.
On the surface this episode seems compelling, but a little scraping at the plating reveals it’s gold paint, not gold plating. There are genuinely good moments, as in the last episode, but the show is, in the main, taking a turn toward the dreaded (at least with me) CW-verse “just go along with it,” MST3K “I should really just relax.” school of television.
It seems like the rest of the show is fighting that with all its might. The music is still amazing, the cinematography, the acting, all top notch. The call is coming from inside the house. Motivations are from being plot dumb. Characters act out of character. Conclusions aren’t logical.
It’s sad, because it takes a really cool, really spectacular twist, and it relegates it to the background in an episode that folds under its own weight.
Blow by blow:
Jordan has new powers. This is compelling, and I like it, and it’s one of the better parts of this episode. They really slow down things to focus on him learning how to control it, and it only falls apart when they use it as a cheap device for jealousy that doesn’t make coherent sense.
Seeing him struggle is an echo of the many times we’ve seen Clark struggling with super-hearing for the first time, and it’s awesome to see the “next generation” version of this. What would Clark do vs. what Pa Kent might do, for example. Sadly, all that’s made of it here is Clark going “FOCUS!” for that first try, and then abruptly disappearing to serve the plot.
This episode would have been much better served dwelling in this problem and spinning plot from it. A lot. They come close to it, almost, when they show that Jordan finds his peace seeing Sarah’s face, and then it rapidly becomes lost in the jealousy hay they’re spinning. To what end? Meh (shrug).
There is one weird, really brief moment that I still am unsure actually happened outside of my strange brain, where Jordan isn’t paying attention, and Clark basically freeze-breaths his son to get his attention.
Hold on. Experiment. I’m gonna see something.
Okay, so I went over to my son, who is distracted doing his homework right now, and to get his attention, I breathed in his face. The unexpected occurred.
He looked at me, smiled, and went “You warmed my face with your air!”
Kids are pretty amazing. Unexpected results. I thought he’d run screaming. Oh well.
My point is, that’s just really, really weird, I don’t know what to think of it, and it’ll haunt my nightmares I’m sure.
There’s a scene where Lois and Clark are talking and a line is “I know we already went over this, but…” That’s a good cue that anything after that is bad writing, saying stuff for the audience’s benefit, and it’s something I can’t believe still happens on professionally made shows. How does that get past everyone? Just how?
I get that sometimes something needs to be made clear to the audience. But a character saying that thing, out loud? Calling attention to it? Sadly, this show has started doing that a lot in the last two episodes. Arguably four.
The dilemma they are establishing (HAMMERING, more) with the conversation is that Marcus Bridgewater is not the man they think he is. He has, you ready for this? A SECRET IDENTITY.
This, they conclude immediately, makes him a villain.
He lied about who he really was.
Well, okay, yeah, having a secret identity might make you a bad person. I mean, if someone comes up to me and say “I want to do some work with you!” and I find out that McLovin isn’t actually a grown man who wants to write with me but in fact a kid who just wants me to get him beer, I’m going to say “SHENANIGANS! VILLAINY!”
So sure, okay, I’m with you, maybe he has potential to be a villain.
Except then he says, generally, “Here’s the thing, I’m against Morgan Edge, I have proof that he’s going to destroy the world, and I only lied about my identity because I knew you wouldn’t listen to me otherwise.”
Now maybe it’s foolish to fall for that. But of all the people in the world who would fall for “I lied to you about who I was so I could save the world,” Lois Lane is the highest person on the list. She is the lowest person on the list of people who would then jump to angry screaming constant berating and assumptions of homicidal villainy.
Which she does. And she gets away with it because the writing justifies her stupid assumption by making John a villain in the end. This doesn’t make her initial assumption logical, note, it makes it correct. Correct but illogical is bad plot. Writing to the writer’s plot want, not the character’s story need.
It’s an easy fix, too. I mean, REALLY easy. It’s so easy, I thought they were gonna go with it. They hinted they might, and then didn’t. It was right there.
“Okay. I get it. You said your name was Marcus because you were worried what I’d say, how I’d react. What’s your real name?”
“John Henry Irons.”
“And what’s with the tech?”
“I worked for Lex Luthor. I was a techie.”
“Okay, John. Show me your evidence.”
(John pulls out tech.) “Look. X-K. My scanners detect [description of plot location need]…”
Lois goes back to the truck. Clark’s there.
“Turns out this Marcus guy ain’t half bad, Clark, he has—”
“ZOMG THAT DUDE IS LEX LUTHOR FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSE! THAT LITTLE TALKING TENNIS BALL IN HIS BREAKING BADMOBILE CALLED HIM CAPTAIN LUTHOR!”
“Wait. How did you just say an acronym in dialogue?”
“How does that work?”
“I told you.”
“No you didn’t, Clark!”
“OMG, BRB!” [whooshes away]
But anyway, that way the knowledge that it’s LUTHOR gives Lois and Clark the same plausible distrust that brought us to the conclusion it was a bad guy. Easy-peasy.
But no. Let’s go with “Lois distrusts a man with clearly good intentions because he has a secret identity.”
And Clark going right along with it is making me want to pull out the “DUMB AS CLARK” bit from “Smallville” again.
And I realize that when I used that, way back when, it was simply an articulation of hating the plot dumb stuff we’re seeing here.
Lois and Clark debate telling the kids about Marcus Bridgewater, and I’m confused as to why this is even in there at all. The kids aren’t asking for this information, nor would they. They have no need of the information. If they did have need of it, there’s no reason that Clark and Lois would hide it.
There’s a kind of nod later to “this is classified,” but there is also no reason to keep the kids out of the “classified” loop, being direct participants. But even if there were, hey, last episode the DoD straight up tried to murder a kid. Remember? What do Lois and Clark give a crap about anything those murdering maniacs want at all?
“Well, Neal, you know, Clark’s alignment is Lawful Good.” He respects the law.
Right, but Lawful Good has an important part of it that saying he’d just go along with soldiers who murder kids misses. The “GOOD” part.
Clark (and Lois) have completely forgotten, or pretend they don’t know, what happened last episode. This is becoming a common thing on this show, and it’s terrible. Jordan’s, “You got drunk and hurt me last episode, so let’s get drunk and hurt people, dude!” level of inconsistent and stupid.
The next problem that is declared, which never becomes remotely clear, is that Morgan Edge is going to be moving X-K, and that this is a concern, because, well, we don’t know, and we never learn. I gamed it out a bit, to try and make it make plot sense.
MORGAN EDGE WANTS TO GET THE K OUT BECAUSE IT’S NOT SAFE FOR HIS PLOTS TO KEEP IT IN THE MINE!
Well, sure. Except he already has X-K outside of the mine. He’s obviously done it multiple times. The dude who blew up. Larr. He has a way to get the K out and into his Krypto-MRI thing and make people super, and Clark can’t find it.
Or if Clark can, he hasn’t been, and should be, so that’s a worse plot problem.
MORGAN EDGE HAD SOME OUTSIDE THE MINE, AND NOW HE HAS NONE, SO HE NEEDS MORE.
Except the plot doesn’t say this.
BUT, UH, MORGAN EDGE CAN’T GET IT OUT. SUPERMAN IS WATCHING!
He has a super-powered henchlady. Said lady can move so fast that she can get something from A to B faster than Superman could register. Especially with, say, any slight distraction. She listens, waits for Clark to be busy, ZOOM! “I’m in Bermuda, boss!”
But say she couldn’t. He’d see her. The mine is lined with lead. That’s “why Superman can’t go in.” She can dig under and out. What better cover for a person mining than, you know, A MINE?
BUT HENCHLADY CAN’T TOUCH IT? MAYBE?
This hasn’t been shown, said, articulated, anything like that. But assuming that’s so (it’s not), LEAD BOX. Also, they showed Superman standing right next to it. And Larr, in the cave.
And what’s stopping Edge from just sending ten people out in different directions all with lead boxes. Or getting in lead-lined cars. Or just PUTTING AN MRI MACHINE IN THE CAVES SUPERMAN CAN’T GET INTO BECAUSE THEY ARE LEAD LINED?
Someone breathe on my face.
So what does Edge want? Let’s knuckle down. Come on:
MORGAN EDGE NEEDS TO GET THE X-K FROM A TO B BECAUSE IT SERVES THE PLOT AND IT FALLS APART IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT AT ALL.
Actually, that one makes sense. Wait, that’s not Edge, that’s me! Beal Nailey.
AHA! CAUGHT YOU! THAT’S A PSEUDONYM AND YOU ARE THEREFORE A VILLAIN.
And you won’t believe this, but I’m actually talking to myself here.
OH CRAP. THAT MEANS I NOW HAVE TO GO AWAY.
And now, a moment on gun fridges.
I think John’s gun fridge is pretty cool, myself. It’s a great moment. I’m not knocking it, and it’s so fun, I look past its incoherence. But it IS incoherent.
Like, there are compartments and drawers in a trailer. And it takes a lot of effort and time to make a gun fridge. So game that out. Why did you make a gun fridge, John?
“I don’t want the cops to find my guns if they check out my super sketch trailer. And hey. Where will cops never look? THE FRIDGE!”
Okay, maybe. I mean, maybe. Sure. Not really. Kay. But they’ll also never check under your cushion without a warrant, and if they get that warrant, they’re gonna check the fridge. If you’re smart enough to make a gun fridge, you’re smart enough to suss that.
“Well, of course I am. So it’s clearly the element of surprise!”
I gotcha. No one ever expects the ole GUN FROM THE FRIDGE move! At least, my grandma never did, anyway. Gotcha, you old bat!
But still. Like, say your enemy is in your sketch trailer. They’re sitting there like “I figured you out, Marcus! You’re really someone else.” Is the move then, “Excuse me for one brief moment while I get my leftover spaghetti from last night. Boy I’m famished. I’ve been looking forward to this reheated Ragu all damn d—SURPRISE, FRIDGE GUN!”
“That’s it. That’s it exactly. How did you know?”
(whistles Billy Joel’s The Stranger)
This is what keeps me up at night. Like, in a world where things like this are possible, I imagine waking up in the morning, going to greet my son, breathing hard on his face to get his attention, and then he just pulls a SURPRISE BED MACHETE out and there I am, in twain on the carpet, one dead Beal Nailey.
I laughed, though I shouldn’t have, when Lois and “Luthor” were making out, mostly for the trope it exposes. “We’re in bed, and though we’ve been together for many years, we’re still having sex like newlyweds. Everything is so great, nothing bad could ever happen!” And the daughter comes in, which is in no way (in every way) awkward. “Oh Mom and Dad, you do the sex so much!”
Dewey Cox pokes fun at this trope the best, when the two boys are going out in the prelude to the “DEEP PERSONAL TRAUMA” moment for Dewey’s character, fairly obviously, and one of the boys says something along the lines of “This is gonna be a great day, and ain’t nothing bad gonna happen here to stunt or interrupt the beginning of our long and fruitful lives!” And then of course, one of them is cut in half by a machete not minutes later.
That’s the second time in a few minutes here I’ve mentioned death by machete. Maybe my subconscious is giving me a warning. Hang on, I’m gonna check the kid’s toy box.
We’re good. Just some weird Bob the Builder thing. It’s ticking, and there are sticks of dynamite taped to it, and a note that says TAKE THAT FOR BREATHIN’ DADDIO! but I’m sure it’s fine.
Okay, so, Sarah. We’re to Sarah.
Last episode, Sarah sees the bonfire video and suggests to Jordan that Tag said Jordan might have powers or have caused the fire. Subtle, and low-key, Jordan denies, Sarah believes him, and the emphasis is that Jordan feels bad for lying, but it took, and makes sense. That’s where we were.
This Sarah, just after, the next episode, is now viciously angry that Jordan is missing a day of school without any real reason to care. She rants to Jonathan about how she’s suspicious that Jordan is sick rather than, say, accepting that when a person is out of school they are sick unless you have reason to disbelieve them. She gets Lana in “Smallville” level livid over this.
It’s to the point that Jonathan pleadingly says “See, he’s not such a bad guy!” after she buys his excuse to avert her reaction that Jordan is the WORST PERSON FOREVER for, uh, missing a day of school?
Sarah then later apologizes and about-faces for this not because it’s irrational and nuts, but because she didn’t notice that Jonathan had a broken arm. That’s the literal catalyst for a complete reversal of position.
People do behave like that. But not people like Sarah. Dopes.
She expresses surprise that the bruises come from Tag. She was, you know, KIDNAPPED by Tag, and knew it was all about Jordan. Was she like “I know he was all bruised up, but I’m sure that was just some other thing, and I’m mad I don’t know what it is!” Is that what we’re supposed to believe?
For that matter, Sarah was just kidnapped and knocked unconscious, and SHE is in school? She has no fallout from this?
We instead focus on the drama of Jonathan being offended no one noticed his cast.
That’s definitely a choice. Just an exceptionally bad one for character and enjoyment.
Jonathan is all over the map. Standing there accepting someone saying awful things about his brother, validating that assumption, and then deciding to suddenly get petulant because she…doesn’t notice his cast? That’s the thing that makes him mad?
There’s also another bit back at the beginning where Sarah comes to Jonathan’s rescue after Jonathan is stupid and awkward around pretty girls. It’s not his established character. They have always made Jordan out to be the socially awkward one, and Jonathan was the one that was easily social and popular and got along with everyone. He’s one of the jocks. The Good One (TM). He wouldn’t be awkward with pretty girls. If anything, he wouldn’t know how to handle a down-to-earth Sarah because of her lack of pretense and airs, generally. But even so, it’s perfectly find for him to be easy with both. He’s well-adjusted, generally, when in his comfort zone. High school.
WAIT WAIT WAIT NEAL! I’M BACK!
YOU FORGET, THEIR ROLES ARE REVERSING!
Whose? Jonathan and Jordan? YEAH! JORDAN IS THE JOCK, JONATHAN THE SECOND-STRING! IT’S ALL BACKWARDS NOW. HAH! GOTCHA!
No, I saw that. I’m just pointing out it’s inconsistent depending on the needs of the plot. Who did the group of jocks come to drink with last episode? Jonathan. Who is still right there with them and not a pariah or ostracized? Jonathan. Who are the pretty girls hitting on just for how he looks and his social status?
JONATHAN! That’s right.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
You’re just a shouting alter-ego. No one likes you.
I’LL CRY AND RUN AWAY.
Then you’re not Jonathan Kent. Get it?
OHHHHH. YEAH. I SEE IT NOW.
Good. Go away.
It makes sense to say that Jordan is now popular, as a character beat. But why? Because he has become like Jonathan was… and IS. Jon hasn’t been socially ostracized, he’s just not first string. That matters. You don’t drop to the bottom of the social rung like that. And even if you do, you don’t suddenly lose your personality. He’d still be, as they say, easy with the ladies and chill in crowds.
They wanted Jordan for this scene, but they had Jonathan, so they made Jonathan Jordan.
And the worst part of it is, they didn’t NEED this scene. It accomplishes nothing we don’t already know, and ends in the place we already were. Sarah is suspicious of Jordan but believes in him. We were already there.
It exists to set up the “jealousy” trope later, which is also terrible, because it too flies in the face of what’s been established.
Yes. Brothers who like the same girl might have awkward moments where they worry one might be after “their girl” or whatever. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that the show has gone to great pains to show that Jonathan totally gets that Jordan likes Sarah, and that Jonathan is not going to get in the way of Jordan finally having something he wants, even if Jonathan likes Sarah. And they both know he does, because he makes that “Hey, it’s HER!” comment/behavior in the pilot. Jonathan makes a point to get out of the way, and, in one of the most redeeming parts of his character, he pumps Jordan up to her, explains away Jordan’s anxiety and shyness to stick up for him, and essentially plays the great wingman as much as he can, save, you know, that time he got drunk and screwed everything up everyone seems to have forgotten.
Jordan has seen this. Jonathan knows this.
So to have Jonathan say something like “You can confide in me.” to Sarah and then have Jordan jump immediately to “He’s after my KOOL-ADE!” and punch a wall is just bad drama, inconsistent character.
It’s lazy. And it’s now becoming a larger problem, because if episode 4 was the accident, and episode 6 was the coincidence, episode 7 is where it’s three times a pattern, and “Superman & Lois” is edging toward “This is clunky and clumsy and lazy” until it earns “This is hard-fought, hard-written character work.” back.
That’s how you can squander a thing this beautiful, and I really, really hope they get on the ball with this, because otherwise this’ll be just one more bad show in a sea of bad shows.
These characters are great. They have wonderful foundations and a strong dramatic engine. They want to throw that out, what, to trot out the “woman as jealous shrew” trope? That’s the hill you’ll die on?
The larger sin, clearly, is “This serves the plot, so it stays, damn the character consequences!” which the last two episodes have bowed at the altar of. “Woman as jealous shrew” is just a subset of that primary sin.
Back to John, his weird plot with Lois and Clark.
Lois meets with John in the diner and he is perfectly ready and willing to work with her, and she’s in a safe public place with him, and a call comes in. Chrissy’s there (with a Chloe-style cringe line about getting her source from an ex), and she has a line on a delivery that Edge is going to make.
I suppose this is necessary to show us Chrissy still exists, but also, notably, Clark still exists as well. If the idea is that Clark needs to find a shipment, he has super hearing and flight. He can go above the mine, watch, and chase.
This whole “Clark won’t do anything illegal to stop Edge.” excuse is crap. Someone got shot at last episode, Clark did get shot, and multiple people have died. If Clark were bound by the law, he’d be a cop, not Superman. Again, the GOOD of Lawful Good. He’s bound by what’s right, and what’s right is very clear here. The needs of the people whose lives are threatened outweigh any pedantic need not to violate property rights, even for a boy scout.
Especially for a boy scout, arguably.
But assume the logic of the plot is true (it’s not) and Beppo is the only way to get this information, and now we know when and where the delivery will happen. Fine.
Lois then has to go? Lois? And without John. She abandons John in the diner right that instant rather than take his vital, important information that can take Edge down.
Say the problem is speed. They need to get there RIGHT NOW or they miss the delivery. There is a man in the truck outside who is invincible who can move at practically the speed of thought. Send him. Lois would sit down with John. That makes more sense to any sane character.
Say the problem is that John is dangerous to her, and she needs to get away from him. Then you’re not in that diner in the first place.
It just doesn’t make sense. Dumb character moves and chess piece arrangement to justify the ACTION SCENE. The action scene is therefore not the desert at the end of a long good meal, it’s making everything else dumb and tedious justify a rather tedious action scene.
There was one good bit, the van being placed in the desert, but even THAT only served to highlight the poor construction.
Clark and Lois follow the truck and the van in their farm truck. The guards are armed and ready to kill over a chunk of X-K so small it doesn’t even dent the stockpile shown in previous episodes. Somehow, though Lois left IMMEDIATELY to stop this shipment, John is there ahead of them, waiting in the road with a machine gun. Trained mercenaries ready to kill then do nothing to deviate course and/or shoot to death the completely helpless man in front of the mobile home outnumbered vastly by armed mercenaries.
Superman shows up, swoops the van away. So then Superman is on the scene, right?
But no. Superman is gone. He doesn’t return. John doesn’t question this. Which is odd for a dude who seems to really want to see Supes.
And then, incoherently, Clark returns to the truck in his secret identity and continues along with Lois. It almost feels like the van being taken away wasn’t the original plan, and that Superman wasn’t supposed to be there in that scene, it’s so glossed over. Why go back to being Clark? It’s life and death now. He’s not a reporter here. He has no vested interest in being Clark here. Being Clark here only increases the danger to everyone and his secret identity.
Is it because the people in the truck might have seen him as Clark? If so, you must declare that.
Lois and Clark then simply drive toward the man they are desperately sure is dangerous (because he has a pseudonym, recall), AS HE IS HOLDING AN AUTOMATIC WEAPON.
Here’s where you STOP trusting John, because he has just become homicidal over an object.
But no. They stop. They get out. Lois is barky, yes, but there is no concern or fear of danger. She’s mad they didn’t find “where the shipment was going,” which is now, apparently, their concern.
If so, their logic has to be that somehow a farm truck well known to be property of Lois Lane, the Lois Lane they will ALL BE LOOKING OUT FOR, is the perfect tail no one would ever notice. FAR better than, I don’t know, Superman watching from the mesosphere.
“She isn’t worried or afraid for her life with John and his weapon because Superman is standing right there, Neal.”
Well sure. But also, John doesn’t know that. So he’d see them unafraid and be curious, right?
Note that here, though he clearly has technology and is using it to get into the truck, neither Lois nor Clark get that he’s The Stranger.
And what about the people sitting there in the truck. God. Imagine their conversation.
“So, ah, you see that new Winchester model gun fridge?”
“I’m actually looking at the Smith and Wesson Machete Armoire.”
“Oh yeah, that’s nice, with the little scallops in the woodwork. I like that. Put a nice doily on that, get you some tung oil. Hoo wee.”
“Breathe on my face again, Stanley.”
“Always, Bill. Hhhhaaaaaaaahhhhhh.”
“You warmed my face with your air!”
All the while, Clark just kind of stands there, letting this all happen, a participant observer of sorts. He could literally not be in the scene and not much would be missing. That’s bad.
They then, impossibly, bargain with John. “I want to meet Superman, and if I don’t, you don’t get this rock!”
I don’t know if anyone noticed, but his gun fridge is like, way back there behind him. Clark and Lois could just disappear, and Superman could appear, holding the X-K that’s been stripped from John’s hands.
“What rock? Oh, you mean this rock? See, I WAS gonna talk to you, but because you were being irrational and trying to kill people, I won’t talk to you, I’ll just do what I’m doing, which is zipping Clark Kent and Lois Lane to safety, taking this rock, and going to watch me some World War Two in Color or fart Krypton’s national anthem. Peace!”
Whoosh! John is left with an empty road and no Lois or Clark.
The point being, John has no bargaining position. At all. And Lois and Clark let him continue to make them do things, things necessitated by the plot but bearing no resemblance to logic, for REASONS.
And honestly, John has no reason to even want to see Superman presently. He’s not prepared. He doesn’t have Kryptonite on him then. And even when he DOES have time to prepare, he doesn’t have Kryptonite later. He tries to beat Superman to death with a big hammer.
That…is a plan. It’s just not the plan of a smart person. It’s the plan of a plot dumb person. Or the plot of a writer who thinks we’ll be so happy to see John Henry with his hammer we’ll forgive the stupid of it.
To be clear, I’m insanely happy to see John Henry with his hammer. But boy, do I loathe the stupidity of it. They can coexist.
This is the problem with establishing people as smart and full of nuance. When they’re not smart and full of nuance, you notice.
Another BIG frustration. Clark takes the X-K to the DoD? After what they did last week?
Edge is only passably interested in any of this. His focus is (yes, really) cueing to Lana that he’s a villain by going around her head to choose the exact person Lana didn’t want for the executive position, just to, what, make her sad or afraid? It’s unclear. Because that’s how you win over the girl you’re obsessed with! That’s what Edge would think! Wait.
So either he’s not obsessed with her, and he’s just screwing with her, and the hiring then makes no sense, or he is obsessed with her, but he wants to screw with her too, and that’s just inconsistent. Possible? Yeah. Consistent? No.
Also the bit where Kyle is going to be one of the people Edge takes in. That’s a major drop, and it’s just shifted to the side so we can have time for, what, jealous Sarah? Weird, man.
I mean, it’s obvious where this is all going. X-K superheroes being made by Edge. And it’s clear to Lana what’s happening. And Lois. And Clark. This is the point at which any moral person forces a confrontation. Instead, I fear, they’re just going to let these five people somehow get mutated or damaged, end up fighting them, and all for the sake of plot. If Clark and Lois and Lana did not know these things were happening, fine, but they do, and they’re just allowing them to go on.
“What can they do, though, Neal?”
Oh, I know, it’s impossible to get into that place because it’s lined with lead.
“That sounds silly.”
I know. It does, huh, now that you’ve thought about it.
“I’m ashamed with myself.”
At least you’ve stopped shouting in all caps.
“I’m finding my true self.”
Stop breathing on me. Right now.
I like that Natasha (I presume) is alive. Bring her and John into this show as regulars. And I’m almost positive that’s where they’re going, and if so, I love this. It’s such a great way to develop a relationship and give it a past. Solid plot pieces, if they actually give them proper use.
They’ve done the Emil Hamilton thing here, to a degree. The mad scientist who was working for your villain for misguided reasons who then becomes a close friend and a powerful ally. It also opens up dramatic tension, because John was married to Lois. A dead Lois. A dead Lois Clark of his universe killed. There’s a lot you can do there. A lot.
Back to Jordan and Jonathan. There is a fight between the brothers. The ending, where they make up instantly and just going back to normal, actually plays—brothers can be like that, and the acting REALLY sells it. Even the “You’re just a terrible person!” comes off as brothers being brothers.
The thing that irks me is the gnat’s memory thing. Again. Jordan, who so recently had a tizzy about when his father listened in on him, is now doing it to his brother, and no mention or touchstone with the previous plot point is made, and this was a good opportunity for that, squandered.
The end sequence is even clunkier than the desert sequence, for a myriad of reasons.
First off, Larr is now listening in on what’s happening. They show that. She has super-hearing. If she’s listening, she’ll be listening to Clark and Lois, and she should know that Clark is Superman. It’s not like Edge wouldn’t tell her to listen in on Lois. And it’s obvious that she has been—this is how they knew to spike that story earlier, recall.
Lois calls the DoD and there’s a moment of sheer panic that makes no sense. She is told that “Luthor” is John, and that he died six years ago. From “This man you’ve met looks like a dude who died six years ago.” Lois suddenly deduces “Superman, the invincible person who shoots fire from his eyes, is in mortal peril from a human, and the only person who can save him is I, another frail human, Lois Lane.” She then borrows a car to rush to the villain meet cute.
You mean this guy is dangerous? She didn’t know that?
Arguably, she’s going in such a hurry to tell Clark that the dude was actually dead. But does that change the situation? At all? That John LIED about his identity. They both already know.
It does not even imply sinister intent, much less immediate rushing danger.
She also concludes, from this information, that he’s The Stranger. Presumably because he worked for Luthor? But that’s a big leap.
Recall she worked for Luthor, presumably, when Luthor owned the Planet. If I know my Arrowverse well enough. I may be wrong on that.
The point being, it’s not enough to make you grab keys and run.
Jordan and Jonathan do the same thing. Jordan hears his father, and two teenage boys decide that the only possible thing to do when they hear the fight is bring a truck to stop the person beating the living tar out of Superman.
“He’s got a hammer than can flatten a Kryptonian and is, in fact, defeating Superman? GET THE TRUCK! That’ll save him!”
And there is something to be said for “They were worried for their Dad and wanted to come help in any way they can.”
But there’s more to be said for “We are your parents and we have told you to stay out of danger.”
And also for “Perchance that I may be fourteen, and forsooth, all fourteen-year-olds have a lot to learn about life, but even I, the relative Philistine, understand that a hammer that can flatten Superman is more powerful than a farm truck, and so goeth I.”
Not that it matters. Both parents applaud this stupidity, which is really the writer applauding a plot device that doesn’t make sense at the expense of the characters involved. Boo, I say.
Back a step, though.
John Henry, a man smart enough to make a gun fridge, somehow doesn’t hear a roaring truck come into a warehouse (wait, how did he get a warehouse if he was living in the Breaking Bad—ah, forget it), and is blindsided by it. He saves his own life by blocking the truck with the hammer and somehow, without any armor, survives a 40 foot throw without injury. The hammer, which can flatten Superman, somehow doesn’t stop the truck.
Well, okay. Whatever, at this point.
Superman, seeing this downed assailant, does the most Superman thing ever. He rolls on up on this defenseless dude who legit believes he is doing a noble thing, makes his eyes glow red, and lifts a fist as if to hit him. And Lois screams “STOP!” because she really believes that Superman would hit a downed opponent in anger.
This makes Lois look dumb. Or it makes Superman look evil. One or the other, and both suck.
Take that example last episode, where I pointed out how one should do the red eyes, angry God Supes right. When you threaten a child, and Superman is warning you off is a great example of when to do that.
Now do the exact opposite, where it’s just red eyes for the sake of cool, completely out of character, and showing the angry God threatening to beat on a defenseless person because, well, why?
Yes, it makes sense to be angry when someone hits you with a hammer.
Not Superman. Superman is far past that, and, as we learned last episode, he has control of his anger outside of the most extreme situations. This is his character. He is supposed to be the epitome of how best to judiciously apply unlimited amounts of power.
Another facet of this needs to be mentioned. And addressed. And discussed. I feel morally compelled, even though I really don’t want the vitriol this will bring my way. I’ve written and deleted this thought five or six times, because I can just not say this, and be quiet.
But that would feel like a great personal sin to me, and so:
Superman is a white agent of the law. John is a disarmed black man in custody who is clearly no threat.
The story has Superman approach that man in those conditions and threaten him with deadly force.
I don’t think they thought about it, doing it. I don’t think this is any kind of statement. I see it as an honest accident.
It’s still a problem. A big one.
I don’t even know what to say about it, but I know I’m disappointed it made it out there. The optics are pretty obvious.
To this day I’m sure the “Smallville” folks never meant to draw a parallel to 9/11 when they had Clark stand in black and destroy twin towers with his heat vision, but that doesn’t excuse the complete lack of craft that allowed such a situation to make it to the screen.
Like that moment in that scene back then, this moment in this episode is utterly, offensively tone-deaf to what’s going on in real life.
The only way it isn’t is if it’s suggesting something about how even Superman cannot handle the authority vested in police figures, that it drives even the most noble of us to potential murder. And if they want to tell that story? Good. Tell it. But there is absolutely no indication that’s what’s happening here that I can see.
I also did see, and do see, that they used it as a moment to justify John’s fear. There is Clark, his suit turns black, he’s everything John feared he would be. But that’s the ultimate failure of the scene. What he’s seeing, and what Clark, our Clark, is choosing to be, MATCH.
He’s not seeing what he expects. Clark has literally made his eyes glow red and is threatening this man in the “just” universe.
The only saving grace, I suppose, is that it shows that Lois stops him. Though arguably, that’s what any decent human being would try to do. Any Superman I support would never, ever do a thing like that in the first place, and it’s so sufficiently out of character to rock me to the core, in a bad way.
On that sad note, they turn John in to the DoD. The guys who try and kill kids. The guys run by Sam Lane. And then instead of interrogating him immediately, Clark decides to wait. Why? Who knows. Convenience to the plot.
There are some good things here. Great acting. Top-notch cinematography. Fun music. A great twist. The writing is entirely abysmal, but the rest is tolerably good in many ways. That’s the only reason it’s a 2 of 5, not a 1.
Rating – 2 out of 5.
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Until next week!