“Superman & Lois” Review – S02E02 – “The Ties That Bind”

What Lies Beneath

Reviewed by: Michael Bailey

Originally Aired: January 18, 2022
WRITTEN BY: Kristi Korzec and Michael Narducci
DIRECTED BY: David Ramsey

REGULAR CAST:
Tyler Hoechlin (Clark Kent/Superman)
Bitsie Tulloch (Lois Lane)
Jordan Elsass (Jonathan Kent)
Alex Garfin (Jordan Kent)
Inde Navarrette (Sarah Cushing)
Erik Valdez (Kyle Cushing)
Emmanuelle Chriqui (Lana Lang Cushing)
Wole Parks (John Henry Irons)
Tayler Buck (Natalie Irons)
Sofia Hasmik (Christy Beppo)
Ian Bohen (Lt. Mitchell Anderson)
Daisy Torme (A.I. Voice)

GUEST STARS:
Nathan Witte (Daniel Hart)
Wern Lee (Tag Harris)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Dr. Faulkner)
Adam Rayner (Tal-Rho)
Mariana Klaveno (Lara Lor-Van)
Eric Keenleyside (Mayor George Dean)
Shaw Madson (Phillip Karnowsky/Barrage)

5Rating – 5 (out of 5): Well…there’s a lot to unpack here.

Brother vs Brother

The idea of a show bringing back the villain from the previous season is not a new one, especially for a super-hero show. So, seeing Tal-Rho return isn’t surprising. I wasn’t expecting it, but it wasn’t a shock. The fact that it was so well done is also not surprising because this writing crew has a good track record of making well-traveled tropes work for me. Superman visiting an imprisoned Tal like a red sun themed Hannibal Lecter was a nice touch and it’s neat to see how much Tal has changed since the end of last season. Adam Rayner has a natural charisma that makes you like the character, and it’s neat to see that the writers are playing with the idea of Clark having a brother beyond him being the Big Bad of the season.

The scene in Tal’s Fortress was a surprise, mainly because so much of last season was about grumpy holograms in ice and desert Fortresses. This made seeing Lara feel like a breath of fresh air. It also made for some great character interaction. Watching Clark talk to his mother and get the chance to introduce her to one of her grandsons was emotional, but I’m a mark for that sort of thing. On the flip side, seeing Tal talk to his mother was sad, both for her and for Tal.

The idea of Kryptonians reproducing through the artificial means isn’t a new concept. John Byrne established it in 1986 and Zack Snyder and David Goyer ran with the idea in 2013 and the fact that both the comic book and the movie versions of those ideas were explored in something called MAN OF STEEL is just a neat bit of happenstance. Having Clark be the product of a rare physical birth (HERESY!) is not only another 2013 MAN OF STEEL reference, but it further separates Clark from his brother. Not only do they have different fathers, they have different physical origins. Lara wanting to see the good in Tal is natural and the back and forth between the two made for some well written and well-acted drama.

It also set up a dynamic between Clark and Tal where Clark is acting somewhat out of character. Usually when someone writes that a character is not acting “in character” it’s a complaint, but I tend to see it as a character working through something that is making him or her act out of the ordinary. People are not themselves when dealing with emotional issues and the betrayal Clark feels from Tal both for his actions last season and lying to him in this episode is real. Because of this, he is less likely to do that very Superman thing and try to see the best in people. I’m hoping this gets explored further as the season progresses, depending on how certain story beats play out.

The scene was also good for Jordan. He didn’t have a whole lot to do in the previous episode and here he not only gets to go off and do super stuff with his dad he also gets to stand up to Tal. To be fair, it didn’t go well for him, but he’s just starting this journey. The mind games Tal played with Jordan regarding his place in the Kent family and how Lois might prefer Jonathan to him served to further explore the relationship between Tal and Clark. It’s a continuation of exploring the theme of nature versus nurture. Tal was raised with an abusive father and even after he came to Earth he was always in some kind of prison, whether it’s being locked up by the humans or his father torturing him in the desert Fortress. Clark was raised by two loving parents and Tal just can’t relate to that. His attempts to play mind games with Jordan all came from the fact that he assumed that Jordan could have a similar relationship with Lois as Tal had with his mother. Tal’s failure to succeed stemmed from the fact that he can’t fathom being raised by a loving mother.

There’s a lot going on there.

More than anything this part of the episode was an organic way to bring Tal into the story. Clark believing that his visions could come from the Eradication process naturally led to him seeking out Tal. So, it wasn’t like they created a problem that only Tal could solve to bring him back. This was not only entertaining, because I like that character, but it was also really good writing.

Lana Lang For Mayor

In my review for the previous episode I mentioned that I would have preferred to see Lana as the person running against Mayor Dean and that I hoped this would happen down the road. It turned out that it was a really short trip. It speaks to how well the writers and actors have developed Lana and Kyle as characters that I am so invested in their part of the story. This sub-plot has a lot of potential to be really cool, mostly because I don’t think Hart dropped out of the race for the reason he said he was dropping out of the race. Mayor Dean has run unopposed for a decade. There’s something going on there and now Lana and Kyle are potentially in danger.

Political intrigue makes for good television when it’s done right. I trust this crew to do it right.

More than anything I loved seeing Kyle supporting Lana without getting lost in the typical macho thing that some male characters get lost in when the woman is on the road to becoming the more successful person in the relationship. The final scene between the two characters was very strong and I love how they were on the same page without talking about it to the point that Kyle was getting signatures while Lana was looking into the application. It was touching.

Sarah and Natalie and Jordan

The drama between Sarah and Jordan continues to feel authentic when it comes to a teenage romance. Them not connecting and not talking about it until Nat pushes Sarah into talking to him and then his reaction to the reason she has been distant all rang very true for me. Teenaged romances can be very flaky because it’s usually the first time that the people involved are navigating that sort of relationship. Sarah making out with a girl at camp is something that happens to teenagers and Jordan asking if Sarah wants to be with this girl now instead of him was natural question to ask. The fact that he didn’t want to talk it out after her admission also worked for me because it was a lot to take in. I’m fairly sure they are going to work things out somehow and I’m looking forward to seeing where everything lands.

I also like the idea of Sarah and Nat being friends. Nat has a similar problem to Jordan in that she has to lie about certain things because her life is so extraordinary, but after going through what Nat went through it was cool to see her find a way to fit in and feel more at home.

Lois and Chrissy

I wasn’t quite sure where the whole thing with Chrissy freaking out about the podcast that accused Lois of being overzealous in her reporting was going. It seemed at first to be a thing that the two could butt heads about. Chrissy and Lois have some things to work out and I thought that Chrissy’s reaction was the start of really digging into that. It turned out to be the start of something bigger and the cool part is that this is a Lois sub-plot that is not tied to any of the other stories going on. At least for the moment. I like seeing Lois do things on her own and this whole cult idea (which sounded kind of familiar…cults and Smallville…hmmmm) is a good plot to hang that on.

Bits and Bobs

The rest of the episode played out great. Seeing Lois and John working together was neat and I like that they are exploring the issues John would have since he was married to the Lois on his world without it being a thing where he gets all creepy. John as the science guy makes my Post Crisis heart swell and having him be part of the scene where Clark and Lois put together that Clark’s visions coincide with the earthquakes was great. SUPERMAN AND LOIS doesn’t follow the hero with a super cool support staff model and having John be the scientific advisor with a suit of armor gives Clark someone he can go to with a problem he can’t figure out on his own.

Jonathan noticing one of his teammates is taking steroids gives him more to do and could end up being a fun sub-plot. Tag returning was cool and the whole thing with Anderson and Superman is chugging along just fine. The tension between the two characters is making for some fun scenes and Anderson is quickly becoming the dude you want to hate but can’t quite bring yourself to completely despise.

There were some great deep cuts in terms of the Post Crisis era of the Superman comics in this episode. Dr. Faulkner has to be a reference to Kitty Faulkner, who was introduced early into the Post Crisis books and even became the supporting hero known as Rampage. The villain brought in for Superman to hit was named Phillip Karnowsky, who was the armored, one armed villain called Barrage in the comics. While I could take or leave Karnowsky becoming a thing, I am all in on Faulkner working for some unknown villain that will be revealed down the road.

I’m hoping that it’s Lex Luthor on the other end of the phone, but I’m not sure that that’s the direction they’ll go in.

And the Doomsday scene was just cool. It reminded me of the 2007 animated film SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY and I can’t wait for the next episode when we get the promised full reveal.

Silly Doomsday Theories

It occurred to me that by the end of this episode, there were a lot of pieces in play that could make for a cool take on the comic book version of “The Death and Return of Superman”. So far we have at our disposal thanks to this show…

  1. Tal-Rho, who used a device called the Eradicator.
  2. A Superboy in the form of Jordan (or potentially one of the kids from Anderson’s group).
  3. John Henry Irons, complete with a suit of armor and a hammer.
  4. Doomsday.
  5. A guy that is head of a government organization that is a jerk and has issues with Superman who has the ability to use one of his people as a replacement for Superman if needed…kind of like Cadmus Director Westfield in the comics.

Again, I am completely biased when it comes to “The Death and Return of Superman”. I love that story and can’t believe we might get a live action show that is adapting that saga without doing so beat for beat. I make no apologies for this.

I’m just so excited for what comes next.

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Superman2878
January 21, 2022 1:07 am

Spoiler Alert! Don’t read my comments if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Superman and Lois. Spoiler Alert! Don’t read my comments if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Superman and Lois. Spoiler Alert! Don’t read my comments if you haven’t seen the latest episode of Superman and Lois. Ok here I go. There was a lot in this episode. And I mean a lot! I’m going to talk mostly about Superman’s part of the episode because I really do think that his part of the episode should take the spotlight. But before I do, I will talk… Read more »

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[…] Michael is writing the reviews for Superman and Lois over on The Superman Homepage.  Check out his review for The Ties That Bind by clicking here. […]

igiggal
January 25, 2022 10:03 am

I have to agree with the review so far, this season is shaping up very well, even measured against the excellent first season. But I am disappointed that this show has fallen in to one of my pet peeves, inaccurate military ranks. Sure it is not as egregious as G.I. Joe but the fact that Clark keeps calling Anderson “lieutenant” when he is wearing the insignia of a lieutenant general bugs me. I have never served in any military, so maybe this is a thing, but I doubt it. In casual conversations Anderson would be “general” not “lieutentant”, especially in… Read more »