Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 1: "Madame Ex"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: September 18, 1994
Directed by Randall Zisk
Written by Tony Blake and Paul Jackson
Emma Samms as Arianna Carlin/Mrs. A.C. Luthor
Earl Boen as Dr. Heller
Gregg Brazzel as Construction Worker
Denise Crosby as Dr. Gretchen Kelly
Jessica Hecht as Daily Planet Staffer
Barry Livingston as Sheldon Bender
Joe Ochman as Daily Planet Staffer
Thomas Ryan as Detective Ryder
A plastic surgeon named Heller explains to Dr. Arianna Carlin how he has successfully physically transformed an unnamed woman so that she is physically identical to Lois Lane. When Heller refers to Carlin as "Mrs. Luthor", she scolds him, reminding him never to call her by that name. After she is shown the doppelgänger of Lois, she shoots Heller dead.
Superman saves a construction worker who is accidentally knocked off the side of an under-construction high-rise building. When the Man of Steel touches down on street-level, he finds himself being criticized and heckled by citizens, blaming him for the death of Lex Luthor. One pedestrian claims that Superman thinks of himself as a 'super-God'.
The Daily Planet has been remodeled by its new owners and Lois is having difficulty adapting to the new technological upgrades. She is also frustrated by the watercooler-talk regarding Superman and Lex Luthor. Jimmy shows Clark statistics that show 20% of Metropolitans are now anti-Superman. Perry White announces that the Daily Planet has hired a new staff psychiatrist, Arianna Carlin. When Lois loudly opines the idea of a psychiatrist as ridiculous, Carlin points out that she looks forward to talking with Lois further.
While investigating Dr. Heller's mysterious death, Lois and Clark bribe a homeless man into revealing information. He spotted two women disposing of the body, one of whom was Lois.
That night, at an anti-Superman rally, Lois passionately states live on television, that Lex Luthor's blood is on Superman's hands. This is Lois' doppelgänger, who is later criticized by Arianna Carlin for using her left hand prominently in the television segment, as this could give away the fact that this is not the real Lois (who is right-handed).
Lois is treated with hostility and criticism from the news-team who saw the broadcast the night before. When Perry shows Lois the events of the Superman rally, Lois is shocked and confused, desperately convinced that the woman on the television is not her. Perry insists that she discuss the matter with Dr. Carlin.
Superman reads up on psychiatry while flying out to Smallville to discuss the matter with Jonathan and Martha Kent, while Lois speaks to Dr. Carlin about the stress she has been under lately. The similar conversations intertwine, recapping the events of the finale of the previous season, with Lois leaving a doomed Luthor at the altar, followed by Clark's retraction of his supposed love for Lois. Clark reminds his parents that he had his fingers crossed while telling Lois that he didn't love her.
While at the reading of Luthor's will, Lois discovers that Lex was married before, something she never knew, and that a sizable chunk of his fortune will be sent to his ex-wife's estate, managed by "ACL Corporation".
Carlin meets Gretchen Kelley who has cryogenically frozen Luthor's stolen corpse, in an attempt to restore him back to life. While speaking to the frozen body, Carlin reveals that she has secured the sample of Kryptonite from the Season One finale.
A police officer named Detective Ryder arrests Lois for breaking into Luthor's penthouse and stealing the engagement ring Luthor gave her, valued at $500,000. He shows her security camera footage of her and takes her into custody. As soon as she is released, Lois decides to track down her doppelgänger and manages to persuade Clark to help her. Lois and Clark suspect a connection between the death of prominent plastic surgeon Dr. Heller, and the sudden appearance of someone who looks exactly like Lois, intending to ruin her life. While investigating Heller's records, Lois and Clark discover that ACL Corporation funded an operation right before Heller's death.
Lois and Clark visit the captain of the ship on which Luthor and his mysterious ex-wife were married. He shows them a photo of the wedding, and the duo discover that Arianna Carlin is Lex's former wife.
"Lois" gas-bombs the Daily Planet newsroom. While entering the building with Clark, the real Lois follows her doppelgänger, while Clark goes into action as Superman, neutralizing the gas and turning it into harmless snowflakes with his super-breath.
Lois meets her doppelgänger and the two size up to each other for a moment, before Carlin arrives and holds Lois up at gunpoint, taking her captive. Clark explains Carlin's plot to Perry and Jimmy and makes the discovery that Carlin used subliminal advertising in her psychology books to turn citizens against Superman.
Carlin lures Superman to Lex's penthouse where she shoots him with a Kryptonite bullet, with a gun purchased by the doppelgänger-Lois, with the intent of framing the real Lois for the Man of Steel's murder. Luckily, Superman manages to wake an unconscious Lois who fishes the bullet out. Superman's wound quickly seals up and heals and he sets out after Carlin and the doppelgänger, not before requesting that Lois dispose of the Kryptonite, joking that she do it preferably somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.
Carlin and the doppelgänger escape in a BMW. The weakened Superman attempts to stop them, but they crash into him, knocking him backwards. Abandoning their damaged car, they steal an oil-tanker and continue their escape. Superman manages to halt the truck just as it was about to crash into a neighborhood playground.
Lois writes the story, stating that it is the final chapter in the House of Luthor. She reveals to Clark that she discovered something about Superman (his weakness to Kryptonite) but that she doesn't feel the public need to know, however newsworthy it is. When Perry suggests that Lois take some time off, she agrees, much to the surprise of Clark and Perry. She mentions that she'll take a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle.
Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): We're back with a bang! Despite the usual handful of plot-holes, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this episode. With "Madame Ex" the show has been given a facelift; the environments are more colorful, the scenes are more kinetic and less talky, we're seeing the beginnings of recurring plot-threads (instead of one-off, self-contained stories) and there's generally a more lively pace to the episode.
First off, I really just want to praise the costuming department (or whoever else is responsible) for Dean Cain's revamped 'look' as Superman, starting with this episode. Instead of the flat, familiar colors the suit had in the previous seasons, the suit has changed considerably. The blue is sparkly and the yellow on the shield has been replaced by a more orangey gold. It sounds like it really, really shouldn't work, but it looks AMAZING. The sparkly blue helps Cain's Superman look like he's truly bursting with power and the gold in the shield helps the classic logo 'pop' in ways that the 3D "Superman Returns" S-shield tried to and failed. I just love this new costume. It still has basically the same homespun, Martha Kent-look to it that I loved so much about it in Season One, and the design has remained consistent with the design of Season One. It's just the excellent use of color that brings it to life. Love, love, love it.
Emma Samms is excellent as Arianna Carlin. It's quite unusual that such a charismatic, charming actress was cast in disposable roles like these throughout the series. Unfortunately most members of the Luthor clan that appeared throughout the show (with the exception of Lexy himself, of course) were privy to awful casting. Samms is the notable exception. It's of particular note that they even went to the trouble of casting an English actress. International actors were a rarity on this series. Perhaps Arianna was originally primed as a recurring character? Once again, the idea of an evil psychiatrist with Luthorian connections, playing tricks with Lois' mind seems like fodder for a few episodes rather than just the one. Heck, they even did it in a later season...
One of my favorite things about this episode from the get-go is that it's clear that Season Two will be more arc-oriented. In some ways, this is detrimental to the season, as its best episodes have to be watched in context with the rest of that year's episodes (unlike Season One, where you can jump straight into episodes like "All Shook Up" or "Honeymoon in Metropolis" without watching the four or five episodes that came before). That's probably why so many people flock to "Tempus Fugitive" as the best episode of the entire series; great as it is, it's a filler episode. Personally, I love the arc-nature of Season Two. It really cemented the legacy of Lex Luthor on this show, making him as interesting dead as he was alive (am I still allowed to make comparisons to "Smallville"? I'll let this one slide...). It's also clearer than ever that the writers of the show were taking more and more nods from the comics of the Post-Crisis Steel Age. Gretchen Kelley (played by "Star Trek: The Next Generations"'s Denise Crosby, who also appeared in an episode of "The Flash") is prominently featured in Season Two and while she's slightly more youthful and quite a bit more fanatical, she's still recognizably similar to her comics counterpart. We see that the previously faceless "Metropolis Taxi Company" has been renamed "New Troy Cabs", an extremely welcome nod to the geographical enhancements of the 80s/90s comic universe. Metallo, Toyman, The Prankster and even random villains like Dr. Light all show up in episodes with varying levels of effectiveness. And while we didn't get Morgan Edge, we did get Bill Church, Jr. who is pretty much the same character and InterGang plays a huge part in the formation of the season. There's lots of great little nods like this peppered throughout this great year in the life of "Lois & Clark".
In the beginning of the second season, the intention was to revamp "Lois & Clark" into more of an action series and this episode shows it. While there's only the usual amount of flying and wire-work, there's a few notable additions to the usual amount of action. The oil-tanker chase at the end is the most significant. A couple of times we've seen the classic gag of baddies trying to drive away in a car that won't move, only to see Superman holding up the rear of the car. This episode included a (possibly forced) tanker chase that actually provided a physical challenge for the Man of Steel. It was an interesting inclusion and it worked surprisingly well, considering how the show wasn't an action show at all prior to this.
So Michael Landes has been replaced by Justin Whalin as Jimmy Olsen. This is always the most crushing change when you start watching Season Two, but frankly, the transition is at least introduced quietly. The script and the episode doesn't give Jimmy a whole lot to do or even to say (although he does get a few memorable lines). While Whalin's Jimmy is recognizably inferior off-the-bat, his inclusion over Landes is immediately understandable. Whalin looks nothing like Dean Cain, which apparently was a problem certain idiotic viewers had with Landes, while watching the show. Not only this, but Whalin is younger than Landes, so he provides a suitable alternative to Chris Demetral's thankfully-never-to-be-seen-again Jack. If the show required a young face to appeal to the teeny-bopper schoolgirl crowd, I'd rather they just recast Jimmy Olsen than continue awkwardly stuffing youthful characters into episodes. It's still a shame though, as Landes was the most three-dimensional Jimmy ever. I would have loved to have seen his character evolve into a journalist on a par with Lois and Clark themselves, instead of remaining frozen in time for four years as a glorified exposition-dispenser. Sadly, Michael Landes' Olsen developed more as a character in the first dozen or so episodes of the series than Justin Whalin's Olsen managed to in three years. Certainly this was a fault of the writers, but Michael Landes' charisma and presence demanded development. Justin Whalin was suitable as the forgettable wallpaper he was supposed to be.
I mentioned plot holes. How were Lois and Clark able to find Heller's records of patients so quickly? Something like that would be scattered among masses of indecipherable ledgers and records. Why would Perry allow Lois to write a story she's so personally connected to? Are acrostics really able to install such extreme subliminal messages? Wouldn't Bizarro Lois have to provide some kind of official identification before buying a gun from a gun shop? Doesn't it take weeks of clearance and background checks before you get your gun?
There's other small problems as well...very little is done to connect this episode with the Daily Planet relaunch. The staff act as if it's business as usual, other than the short little bit about Lois not knowing how to retrieve her faxes from within her computer (I'm young enough that I have no idea what a fax modem is or how to receive one). Again, this is a minor thing. None of these impair my enjoyment of the episode too much, but if there hadn't been such exciting, well-written plotting and characterization.
Here's a bit of fun before we go: Jessica Hecht, better recognized as Susan, Ross Gellar's ex-wife's lesbian lover in "Friends" plays a Daily Planet staffer in a small bit at the beginning of the episode. For years, my good friend Parker (better remembered as Planet-Man, a legendary Superman Homepage message-board poster along with myself, back in the days surrounding the release of "Superman Returns") has suggested that, for the sake of fun, there's no reason "Lois & Clark" doesn't exist in the "Friends" universe, just as "Adventures of Superman" existed in the same 'universe' as "I love Lucy". While Superman is mentioned and referred to a handful of times in "Friends", at no point is he expressly said to be a fictional character. My counter-argument to this is that "Friends" is very much placed in the same continuity as "Mad About You" and in the very first episode of that show, Cosmo Kramer of "Seinfeld" makes an appearance, and as many Superman fans know, specific references to Superman as a fictional comic book character are constantly made on "Seinfeld". HOWEVER (we're really good friends, okay?) in "Seinfeld", George Costanza is seen watching "Mad About You" with his girlfriend and repeatedly, specifically states how much he hates it. Perhaps Kramer's appearance in "Mad About You" is rendered non-canonical by this continuity error, allowing Lois, Clark and the Daily Planet to be proud occupants of the "Friends" universe and Susan worked for the Daily Planet before she started dating Carol? Or maybe Parker and I really just need to get out more.
Next week, join me as Lois goes groupie as she tries to penetrate Michael Des Barres' "Wall of Sound".
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