Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 1 - Episode 21: "The House of Luthor"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: May 8, 1994
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Written by Dan Levine and Deborah Joy LeVine
Richard Belzer as Inspector Henderson
Phyllis Coates as Ellen Lane
Chris Demetral as Jack
Ryal Haakenson as Detective
Beverly Johnson as Mrs. Cox
James Earl Jones as Franklin W. Stern
Richard Stahl as Arch-Bishop
A flashback of "Barbarians at the Planet" is shown to bring viewers up to speed.
Lex Luthor is flying around Metropolis in a suit much like Superman's, differing only on the chest-symbol which has a stylized "Lex" insignia. Luthor flies to several different locations where he sees Lois who is getting ready to marry Lex; Clark who is now a failed author; Jimmy who is unemployed and homeless and Jack who remains in prison. Finally he flies across the country to where Perry is bored and retired, lazing in front of a television set. We discover that Luthor is experiencing this via a virtual-reality headset.
In his apartment, Clark is indeed struggling with his attempts to become a novelist. He calls Perry and tells him about how he has spent more time investigating what happened at the Daily Planet months previous than he has writing his novel. Perry coaxes Clark into admitting that he needs Perry's help, at which point the former editor-in-chief agrees to fly back out to Metropolis.
Lex and Lois continue their wedding plans, with Lois increasingly stressed by all of the preparations. She admits to Luthor that Mrs. Cox intimidates her, and Lex gladly agrees to fire her, should Lois wish it. Lois also reveals to Luthor how much she misses all of her friends from the newsroom.
Jack breaks out and tries to get Jimmy to help him. After a friendly but strained conversation with Lois over the phone, Clark finds Jimmy, Jack and Perry in his apartment. The team discuss how Jack has been framed.
Superman is alerted to a false-alarm at a Metropolis bank. While there, he experiences the effects of Kryptonite. Nearby, Mrs. Cox phones Luthor and assures him that the sample of Kryptonite they have retrieved is the genuine article.
As part of Clark's investigation, he, Perry, Jack and Jimmy discover the following: every criminal in Metropolis pays protection to a mysterious underworld figure known as 'The Boss'. The Daily Planet WAS insured under a company called 'Lexel Investments'. A young man named 'John Black' framed Jack for the explosion at the Daily Planet. Jack discovers that the board changed their minds about selling to Luthor.
Clark suggests that perhaps 'The Boss' is in fact Lex Luthor, to which the team agrees.
Lois happens upon Clark while she is driving around in one of Luthor's cars. Clark brings up the findings of his investigation. Lex listens in from afar, as the car is wire-tapped.
After luring Superman to LexTower, Luthor invites Superman and Clark Kent to attend his wedding, for it would please Lois. When Superman refuses, Luthor gleefully traps him in a cage made of Kryptonite.
Jimmy, Jack and Perry explain the new information they've discovered to one another in Clark's absence: John Black was a break-in for hire who framed Jack; the board member have had an 'attack of conscience' and have admitted to being bribed by Luthor; Luthor pocketed $75 million in insurance after he destroyed the Daily Planet.
While driving in Lex's limo, Luthor lies to Lois about the insurance scheme on the Daily Planet.
Perry goes to media mogul Franklin Stern and asks if he would be interested in bringing back the Daily Planet. Stern refuses on the grounds that it's not economically viable. Perry remarks that he hates seeing Luthor win and Stern (an enemy of Luthor's) rethinks the offer.
Luthor taunts Superman, who remains weakened and trapped in the Kryptonite cage. In his merriment, he leaves the key for the cage on a wine barrel nearby.
In the dressing room of the wedding ceremony which is about to commence, Lois realizes that she is marrying the wrong man and that she is neither in love with Superman or Lex Luthor, but Clark Kent. She believes it is too late to halt the wedding, however.
Using his super-breath, Superman retrieves the key from on top of the barrel and uses it to free himself from the cage. Lois hesitantly stumbles during her vows and refuses to marry Lex. As if on cue, Perry, Inspector Henderson and agents of the FBI all arrive to arrest Lex. When Lex boasts that he will have their heads for trying to arrest him, Mrs. Cox is shown in handcuffs and Lex realizes that she has probably revealed priceless information to the authorities. Luthor escapes to his penthouse and goes to kill Superman, discovering that the Man of Steel has disappeared from his cage. Luthor jumps from atop his penthouse. Still weak from the Kryptonite, Clark is unable to save him.
As the weeks go by, papers report Luthor's death as well as the breaking news that his corpse has been stolen. Franklin Stern buys the Daily Planet, much to the delight of the news team. Just as Lois is about to reveal her true feelings to him, Clark tells her that he's not in love with her and that he'd like if things went back to the way they were before. However, he has his fingers crossed behind his back as he says it. While Lois is talking to him, Clark hears cries for help and has to jump into action as Superman, leaving Lois tongue-tied. Lois makes note of how Clark always seems to duck away while she's talking about her feelings. As Superman bolts through the sky, she smiles and says that she's not finished with him, either.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): Lex Luthor is Dead. Long live Lex Luthor.
Like "Barbarians", this episode has a lot of ambition and slips a bit in its execution. The scenes where Clark and the gang are uncovering the depth of Luthor's evil are all fairly good but it just hammers home how unnecessary and detrimental a character Jack is. There's just too much going on for anything to make sense. It would have been a lot more interesting had Cat been embroiled in the investigation somehow, as she would have had a lot more to bring to the table as a character than Jack does. Even the resolution of Jack's part of the investigation (filming one of the married board members while he's on a date with a young, attractive woman) seems more along the lines of one of Cat's exposés.
Why does Mrs. Cox betray Luthor? What evidence could she have possibly provided that would completely disassemble any defense Luthor might have had (we've seen how super-powerful Luthor's lawyers are and he even boasts that Henderson hasn't a chance of incarcerating him)? What incentive was there for her to do so? The completely undeveloped enigma that is Mrs. Cox remains shrouded in mystery, as she is brought away by the police, never to be seen or even mentioned ever again. Was Tony Jay or the actor who played Asabe unavailable for these final two episodes? I know both characters eventually returned, but why didn't the writers choose either of them as one of the people who would ultimately betray Luthor?
There's all kinds of little things that have no real bearing on the plot or the internal logic, but annoyed me just the same. First off, I don't like how they suddenly turned Lex Luthor into Wilson "The Kingpin" Fisk. Turning Luthor into a crime boss seems like a lazy way for Clark & Co. to find a connection between him and all of his wicked deeds. What use would a corporate giant like Luthor have in protection rackets?
Kryptonite is supposed to KILL Superman dead. Most post-crisis interpretations theorize that the substance should drown out the life of the Man of Steel within twenty odd minutes of exposure. And yet, here we see Superman incarcerated for at least an entire night and while he's definitely weakened, he's still alive the next day. It's reasonable enough to assume that that's simply how Kryptonite WORKS in the universe of this series, but it certainly removes a lot of the dramatic tension, knowing that it would take days for the stuff to actually kill Superman. Then again, perhaps this is just a diluted, synthesized version of Kryptonite that Luthor specifically watered-down so that he would be able to deal the killing blow to his enemy.
Why would Lex build a cage with a lock on it? If he wanted to be the one to kill Superman so badly, couldn't he have simply shot him from outside the cage? Considering the cage worked via a trap-mechanism that saw the cage land on Superman, it doesn't make a lot of sense that Luthor would have a locked door as a feature. That's really nitpicking, but even if one were to argue that Luthor specifically built a door so that he could walk in and impale Superman, would he really be so ego-centric as to leave the key behind? Perhaps. It seems a bit forced, but I suppose that's the only way for a death-trap to be.
My final criticism is that despite Luthor's billions and his ability to hire the arch-bishop as the man to head the Luthor/Lane wedding, the ceremony seems to be taking place in the function room of a three-star hotel. Even low-budget soap operas are able to provide churches for wedding scenes and "Smallville" certainly had plenty of church-scenes throughout its decade-long run (I don't think its budget was THAT much bigger than that of "Lois & Clark"). Why no church?
Phyllis Coates, the first Lois Lane from "Adventures of Superman" and the second live-action Lois ever (her predecessor and successor was Noel Neill) appears (rather forgettably, unfortunately) as Ellen Lane in this episode. She's not given a whole lot to do, but it's nice that she was given a cameo. Jack Larson would be the only other cast member of the original series to get a cameo in "Lois & Clark" and his was a bit anti-climactic as well.
Anyway, I've listed so many gripes about the episode that I should probably outline the good things about it. Despite what you might think, I really liked this episode. It ties the Luthor/Lois/Clark/Superman love-square nicely and while Luthor's fall from grace is anything but seamless, John Shea nails it so hard that I find myself not caring. This was always one of my favorite episodes of the series for this reason. Lois really shines in this episode and her burgeoning romantic feelings for Clark provide excellent foreshadowing for the direction of the second season. The way the episode ends, with Lois criticizing Clark for running off just as she was about to talk about her true feelings is an excellent indication of where the second season was headed, as that became one of the most iconic recurring themes of the second season, if not the entire series.
One last thing: there's a really EXCELLENT landing in this episode, when Superman flies to the bank only to discover it's a false-alarm. The camera is positioned behind Superman as he lands and it's so casual and unpretentious that it looks effortlessly real. I've spoken a lot about how great the wire-work in "Superboy" was, but that show milked its flying-shots a bit much. While "Lois & Clark" was certainly weaker in terms of flying-effects, it really excelled at doing smaller effects like this one, that had more of an 'everyday' feel about them, that added to the quasi-realism of the series.
So here we are, a quarter of the way through our revisit to the wonderful world of "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Journeying through this pilot season with a more critical viewpoint has been an absolute treat and I always appreciate the kind comments (and some not so kind, but that's okay too) that you the readers have provided. I've always regarded this season as being the best overall and while it certainly has a smattering of brilliant episodes (with "Pilot" and "All Shook Up" coming as close as possible to being worthy of a Superman movie), I was surprised at how many duds there were as well. For every "Honeymoon in Metropolis" there was a "Vatman" and for every "Fly Hard" there was a "Smart Kids". What also struck me was how these early episodes don't follow on from each other as tightly as later seasons would. Most episodes of this premiere season are self-contained affairs that don't have much impact on any greater story arc. As we move into the second season, we see this trend quickly change, as the focus leans more towards arc-based storyline, similar to how "Smallville" adopted a serialized format in its own second season. Like the first season, we'll see some of the best episodes of the entire series, as well as some really, really bad ones. Most importantly though, we'll continue to enjoy the consistently solid chemistry between the two excellent leads, as they put their own stamp on one of the best love stories in superhero history.
I know I've been a bit temperamental when it's come to getting these out on a weekly basis, but believe me when I say I will try as hard as possible to get the review for "Madame Ex" posted on the main page as soon as this Monday. Remember to post your thoughts, send me a PM or add me on Facebook! And check out my blog at feelingthefury.blogspot.com where I'll be reviewing some "B-Movie Marvels" such as the "Incredible Hulk" TV movies and the 1970s Spider-Man series pilot.
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