Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 4: "I'm Looking Through You"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: October 10, 1993
Directed by Mark Sobel
Written by Deborah Joy LeVine
Leslie Jordan as Alan Morris/The Invisible Man
Jack Carter as Murray Brown
Patrika Darbo as Helene Morris
Jim Beaver as Henry 'Goldenboy' Barnes
Thomas Ryan as Detective Burke
Shaun Toub as Asabi
Superman attends 'Superman Day' in honor of the Man of Steel's accomplishments during his short time in the city. As the previous receiver of the award, Lex Luthor awards Superman the Key to the City, followed by a speech from the Deputy Mayor. Superman is disoriented and shocked by the amount of various Superman paraphernalia that he notices within the crowd.
Following the event, Lex instructs Asabi to drive him to the airport so that he can board a plane to the Everglades, to hunt some snakes with which he will make himself a new pair of boots.
At a meeting in the Daily Planet newsroom, Jimmy presents an issue of The Daily Whisper a tabloid that features a story on an invisible man committing Robin Hood-style crimes. Perry scolds him for this and confiscates the newspaper. Meanwhile, Clark sneaks under the table and out of the room, to save a plummeting stunt plane.
After Lois, Clark and Jimmy watch a TV news story reporting on the invisible man stealing a van full of cream cakes and delivering them to a homeless food drive, a distraught woman shows up, claiming that her husband is the man responsible and that he has disappeared. Lois reluctantly goes along with the woman, at Clark's insistence. The woman, Helene Morris, claims that her husband discovered the power of invisibility some weeks ago and that one day he simply walked out of the house and that she hasn't 'seen' him since. Her and her husband had stopped speaking for some time, as she suspected that he had lost interest in her. She wants Lois and Clark to write an article about him to find out if he's coming home. Lois is skeptical that the woman simply made up the parts of the story about invisibility and that she simply wants to see her husband again. By the time they arrive back at the newsroom, Helene Morris is on television telling her story.
Later, an invisible man robs a jewelry store. The police put out an APB for Alan Morris, believing him to be responsible. Lois and Clark return to the Morris household discovering that Helene has been attacked and the house (and Alan's lab) ransacked. However, she doesn't believe for a second that her husband is in anyway responsible.
That night, Lois and Cat attend a charity auction where women bid on dates with eligible bachelors. Lex raises a very respectable $10,000, but Superman brings in $50,000, much to Lois's chagrin, as she and Cat bid a lot of money on him as well. Superman is accosted by Murray Brown, an agent who wants to represent him in the media, but the Man of Steel is not interested. Clark finds Lois (who has had a lot to drink) and offers to see her home.
Another invisible man crime takes place as vintage gold coins are stolen and the owner is put in hospital. Clark discovers that Alan Morris had been working on an advanced fibre-optic suit that gave him the appearance of invisibility.
Clark dreams of everyone in the Daily Planet wearing mock Superman outfits, laughing at him. Lois is visited in the middle of the night by Alan Morris, who explains his story. Morris created the suits after becoming 'invisible' to those around him, including his wife to whom he stopped speaking, believing that she had lost interest in him. Morris points out that he created a number of suits as backups and that they have obviously been stolen.
The evil invisible man breaks a group of criminals out of prison. Lois and Clark discover a pattern in the invisible robberies: they all revolve around gold. They suspect Henry 'Goldenboy' Barnes, a notorious gold robber who is currently at large.
Lois and Clark bring Alan to stay at Clark's and they share a moment outside where Lois notes that they have something in common: Clark wants to fly like Superman and she wants to fly with him. Clark grimaces, wishing that Lois could simply appreciate him as a normal man.
After Lois falls asleep in Clark's apartment, Superman appears in the apartment to discuss the problem of how to defeat the invisible criminals in spite of his inability to see them - even with his x-ray vision. Lois comes up with the idea to reverse the process in which the suits work. Superman goes to investigate further.
Lois and Alan go to the gold repository wearing invisibility suits, but they are captured by Barnes and his men and left in an airtight safe to suffocate. Superman arrives, dropping sacks of phosphorous on the criminals during a shootout with the police. He saves Lois and Alan from suffocation by breaking through the wall of the safe. Murray Brown arrives at the scene once again annoying Superman. This time Superman agrees to be Brown's client - as long as all proceeds go to charity.
Alan and Helene are happily re-united. Lois concludes by telling Clark that there is no such thing as an invisible man. When she has sat back down at her desk, Clark says quietly to himself that there is.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): "Superman on TV?...I don't think so."
Here is a decent episode that is mostly inoffensive but nothing special. It opens strongly, examining the effect of Superman's sudden super-stardom on mild-mannered Clark Kent from Smallville. I almost think the most definitive Dean Cain-as-Superman scene is found in the opening of this episode, where he nervously freezes during a speech, because of the pressure and the expectations of the people watching. Once again, Cain is great at playing a Superman who is for all intents and purposes, a facade pretending to be a man. Clark never knew that when he 'created' Superman, that the persona would become a franchise appearing everywhere, pressuring him to live up to an impossible vision people had of him. Superman being hounded by the showbiz agent was also a nice touch, even if it was all played for laughs (actor Jack Carter played one of Shame's henchmen 'Hot Rod Harry' in the 1966 Batman series). Unfortunately, this sub-plot was given no real resolution outside of Superman agreeing to be represented by Murray Brown (provided that all proceeds went to charity). In typical 1990s style, Murray Brown is never seen nor heard of ever again. Did Clark/Superman really continue working with him, for the sake of charity or otherwise? How did Brown contact him? Oh, never mind.
The 'Superman Day' scene features cameos from DC Comics editor Mike Carlin, writer Louise Simonson and artist Jon Bogdanove. It's really cool that the creators of the comics were awarded cameos on the show, but I do agree that it's a huge pity that comic book writers never managed to (or were never allowed to) write actual episodes of the show. "Lois & Clark" is the only long-running live-action Superman show that didn't have any major influence from comics writers and I think it's a real shame (the George Reeves show had extensive influence from Whitney Ellsworth, the "Superboy" show had many episodes written by various comics writers including Denny O'Neil and Cary Bates and "Smallville" had a couple by Geoff Johns as well as some original artwork by Gary Frank in the finale). There's a script written by Elliott S! Maggin that's available at the "Superman Through the Ages!" website called "The Ghost of Superman Future" written for the show. According to Maggin (who says he loved the show and Dean Cain), the story editor he spoke to loved the script, but unfortunately the series' story arc at that point had altered too much to accommodate Maggin's script (two words: "clones" and "frogs").
The main plot is much like the episode itself - harmless, but ultimately forgettable. The reason the episode gets a 3 and not a 2 is because I like what the writers were attempting here. The plot was not completely unlike the kind of plots seen in the later episodes of the George Reeves' "Adventures of Superman", which had an abundance of friendly mad scientists (like Sterling Holloway's Uncle Oscar) having their crackpot inventions stolen and abused by the criminal element. Here though, there's the added layer of three-dimensional humanity, with Alan and Helene's marriage in jeopardy as a result of years of going-through-the-motions, with no excitement. It's a realistic problem that is no doubt faced by thousands of marriages all the time. And it's typical of this show to lift a simple superhero plot into something we can really sink our teeth into. Unfortunately, instead of being subtext, the irony of Alan's 'invisibility' is driven to death in the weak script. Count how many times Alan says, "Invisible to become visible" in this episode and you will surely find yourself laughing at the number. There's just no subtlety at all.
A problem I had with the plot was the way in which it claimed Superman's powers work. Superman notes that he can't see the invisible men because his x-ray vision still needs to see visible light in order for it to work. Personally, I don't buy this. Comics from the 80s onward usually establish that this particular power is more complicated than merely 'looking through one thing and seeing the thing behind it' and that it involves seeing every layer of the spectrum of light. Superman should still conceivably be able to tune his vision in such a way as to see the criminals. In the 'invisible man' episode of "Smallville", the show correctly allowed Clark to use his x-ray power to find an invisible man. Not to mention, beyond all mention of his vision powers, if Superman knew roughly where the villains were (as he eventually did in this episode), couldn't he simply use his super-hearing to track down their exact location? It's not a huge goof and seeing as how "Lois & Clark" generally do a great job of exploring the processes of Clark's powers, I'm willing to let it slide.
Leslie Morris, a fun character actor who appears in various shows and films (he has a fairly memorable bit-part in "The Help" and appears in a few entertaining scenes) does a good job about making us care for Alan Morris, in spite of his excessive puns about invisibility ("If anything happens I'll just...fade into the background!"). The actor is noted for his campy nature and some people might be a bit repelled by this, but I think he's entertaining and does the job well. The same is more or less true of Patrika Darbo as his worried wife Helene. Her performance is a bit maudlin and over-the-top, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for her when she burst into tears and fell into Lois's arms because her husband had gone missing. The two characters are so animated they sometimes seem more like cartoons than real people, but as would often come to be the case, Cain and Hatcher keep us grounded in the reality of what's going on. Many fans will recognize Leslie Morris from the later episode "Resplendent Man", where he plays a down-on-his-luck man who is unwittingly granted with Superman's powers after the two men are struck by the same bolt of lightning. "Resplendent Man" was an episode I taped as a child and rewatched repeatedly, largely because of the cool-factor of seeing another character endowed with Superman's powers. When I first bought the Season One DVDs (which would have been around 2006, about six or seven months before "Superman Returns" came out) I watched a lot of these episodes for the first time, as I had been too young to remember them the first time they aired. I was surprised to see that Morris had been in a previous episode and was disappointed that he wasn't the same character. Again though, it was more common practice back then to use and re-use actors (although "Lois & Clark" were nowhere near as notorious for this as "Adventures of Superman").
Fans of "Supernatural" will notice a youthful Jim Beaver in this episode as the villainous Henry Barnes, who's notable as the first villain in the series to shoot Superman only to have the bullets bounce off his chest (unlike other shows though, most villains stopped trying early on in the series). Beaver does a decent enough job as the typical cackling gold-robbing villain. He's nowhere near as effective as he would ultimately be in "Supernatural", but that show wouldn't come about for another decade and change, so I'll grant him the extra years of experience. A fun fact that I should address is that Jim Beaver's character in "Supernatural" is named 'Bobby Singer', who is named after Executive Producer Robert Singer. Singer was also an exec on "Lois & Clark" from seasons two through four following Deborah Joy Levine's departure. Jay Gruska who provides the music for all four seasons of "Lois & Clark" also wrote the theme tune for "Supernatural" and regularly provides the music for the episodes. What's even more fun is that "Supernatural" has made a BUNCH of fourth-wall-breaking references to "Lois & Clark" (not to mention its occasional references to the Superman mythos in general) that there's no use in me trying to explain. Please go and start watching that similarly awesome show, even if only for that reason.
One thing I really liked in this episode was Superman busting through the wall to save Lois and Alan. The shot is spectacular and completely realistic and reminiscent of the many scenes where George Reeves would be seen bursting through a wall to save Lois and Jimmy in "Adventures of Superman". It's a really nice touch and it's followed by a tender moment shared between Lois and Superman. The "Superboy" show had a scene similar to this in a second season episode, but it wasn't executed nearly as well.
There's one really jarring goof in this episode that needs to be mentioned. In the scene where women are betting for dates with Luthor and Superman, there is a painfully obvious shot where Superman is entering the room and he is wearing the suit from the pilot (it's clearly a reused shot from when Superman confronted Luthor in that episode). In the next shot, when Superman is standing inside the room, his hair is different and he is wearing the now-traditional "Lois & Clark" suit. This blooper really, really bothers me because there's no conceivable way that the editors didn't notice what they were doing. I understand that a shot of Superman entering the room from outside was probably needed, but I don't believe for one second that this wasn't just a quick way of saving some money. There are a few similar goofs scattered across the series (usually involving Cain's ever-changing hairstyles), but none of them are quite as offensive as this one.
As I don't really have much else to say about this episode, I quickly want to mention John Shea's performance in this episode. While Lex isn't front and center in the plot of this episode, he has some great moments that display why he works as a main character even if he doesn't have to be the villain in every story. Between the opening scene where Lex hosts the ceremony where Superman is given the Key to the City and the later scene where Lex and Superman are bid on for thousands of dollars and Supes beats Lex by $40,000, John Shea is seen sporting a hilarious expression akin to someone being snubbed at the Oscars and still maintaining a cool reserve. Even though Lex is angered and disappointed that Lois has bid on Superman rather than him, he never stops smiling and raising his glass to the Man of Steel. The moment where we see him wiping his snakeskin boots from his hunting trip to the Everglades is hilarious in a very dark way and it was fun that that was put in. In many ways, Season One of "Lois & Clark" belongs to John Shea.
In conclusion, this was the first true 'filler' episode of "Lois & Clark" and while it had some interesting ideas and continued to build the world of the characters, there's not much here you can't afford to miss. Next week we meet Lois's dad for the first time and the series makes its most awesome reference to the greater world of Superman media, ever.
(I very quickly want to thank people for leaving nice comments after my reviews. It's a huge honor to be featured as a reviewer on this wonderful website I've been visiting for nearly a decade. It blows my mind though that people are actually READING what I write and care as much about this wonderful show as I do; so for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart).
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