Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 2: "Wall of Sound"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: September 25, 1994
Directed by Alan J. Levi
Written by John McNamara
Michael Des Barres as Lenny Stoke
Richard Balin as Dr. Green
Scott Colomby as Dr. Derek Camden
Barry Cutler as Wino #2
Corinna Everson as Amazon Woman (as Cory Everson)
Richard Gross as Wino #1
Morgan Hunter as Waiter
Pamela Roberts as Mayor Sharpe
Lois and Clark are on their way to work one morning, when Clark asks Lois if she's excited for the announcement of the Kerth Award Nominations (a journalism award which Lois has been nominated for every year she has been eligible - winning three awards). Lois acts as though it's not that big a deal, but invites Clark to be her date nonetheless. While Clark rents a tux, Lois goes into a bank to make a withdrawal. Clark leaves the Tuxedo Rental store expecting Lois to be back waiting for him. When he heads over to the bank, he finds all of the customers unconscious and the vault empty. As the customers begin to regain consciousness, a recorded message is played from mysterious black speakers. The message warns the people of Metropolis that they are about to feel the power of sound.
Lois tries to interview the Police Captain over the phone regarding leads the police have, to no avail. Jimmy eavesdrops from afar and jokes about Lois' comments. When Lois asks him how he heard her conversation from so far away, Jimmy shows her his spy-pen, which acts as a bugging device, feeding audio to an earpiece, with a range of 500 meters. He also shows her how the earpiece acts as an AM radio.
Clark shows Lois and Jimmy the surveillance tape from the bank and quickly notices Jimmy and Lois becoming drowsy during the sequence in the tape where the mysterious black speakers play a low-pitched frequency. Clark deduces that the sound must have put everyone to sleep, enabling the bank robbers to enter the bank without alerting the staff or the customers. Jimmy comments on one of the bank robbers having a cool biker jacket.
Perry announces the Kerth Nomination. To Lois' surprise, Clark has been nominated for a story about a Retirement Home scandal, over Lois' story about the toppling of an international drug-network. Despite showing signs of shock, confusion and heartbreak, Lois vows to focus on the story, getting straight back to work with Clark. Lois and Clark dig up information about the two foremost authorities on heavy-sound research currently residing in the city, tracking down Lenny Stoke, a rockstar with great reviews but no sales and Derek Camden, a scientist whose experiments with heavy-sound effected his mind to such an extent that he was institutionalized. Lois and Clark get to work on finding Stoke.
While working, Clark overhears the frequency from the bank robbery with his super-hearing. He is forced to abandon Lois, awkwardly excusing himself while she becomes suspicious that Clark is following a secret lead that he doesn't want to share, so that he'll win more awards.
Superman arrives on the scene just as the mysterious Sound Gang are about to rob a jewelry store. The leader of the gang reveals a sonic-blaster gun which he uses to incapacitate Superman. The high-frequency sound attacks the Man of Steel's equilibrium, leaving him helpless and grounded. The Sound Man then turns his attention to the police, blasting them away with his powerful weapon. Superman makes a hasty escape, unable to stop the criminals.
Metropolis receives another message from the 'Sound Man', warning them that he is going to introduce a 'Sound Tax' of 50% of all money in Metropolis banks. Angry with Clark for being so secretive, Lois stubbornly resolves to work on her own.
While taking crowd-shots of people examining the jewelry store robbed by the Sound Man and his gang, Jimmy spots a man wearing the leather jacket from the bank robbery placing one of the speakers on a building wall. He follows the gang member on his motorcycle.
Lois finds pictures of Lenny Stoke and discovers that he has a fondness for brunettes.
Clark interviews one of the psychiatrists who worked with Derek Camden, who reveals that Camden was released to the care of Lenny Stoke, who insisted that Camden had been healed. The psychiatrist gives to Clark the last-known address of Camden - The Stoke Club. Clark heads there in the hope of finding some clues as to Camden's whereabouts. He sneaks into Stoke's private office and finds an address for Camden at Echo Canyon, before being shooed out of the office by aggressive female bouncers.
While exiting the club, Clark clumsily trips over a patron of the hard-rock club: Lois in disguise, wearing a revealing leather outfit and sporting a tattoo.
Lois pretends to be a groupie to get Stoke's attention while he and his band play a song entitled 'Wall of Sound'. At the close of the song, he offers Lois his plectrum and invites her over for a drink. Lois, pretending to be named 'Linda' acts completely enthralled by Stoke's sleazy attempts at wooing her. Just as he goes to kiss her, Lois spills a drink on him, intentionally dropping the spy-pen into his pocket at the same time. Stoke is alerted by one of the bouncers that there is a message for him in his office. He leaves 'Linda' and goes into a secret lair full of computers and sound equipment, where he watches the Mayor's televised press conference.
Lois tries to listen in on the conversation, but only hears radio ads.
Mayor Sharp vows not to negotiate with the Sound Man, which doesn't bother Stoke in the slightest. He informs his bouncers to remove everyone from the club and sends out another city-wide message, alerting them that he is going to topple every building within a certain block in the city.
Jimmy is tied up in one of the buildings, after the man in the leather jacket spotted him taking photos. Superman saves him in the nick of time, just as a support beam was about to land on him. Superman investigates the area, discovering sound-emitters everywhere. He attempts to destroy them with his heat vision, but is knocked out of the air by a sound that the Sound Man informs him is a 500,000,000 MHz signal that is attacking his nervous system. Superman manages to neutralize the sound-emitters by tossing a steering-wheel from a car at them.
At the Planet, Lois non-verbally scolds Jimmy for using her computer, as well as supplying her with the completely-useless spy pen. Clark ensures Lois that she's still the best reporter in the city, despite her lack of a nomination. Jimmy shows Lois that she simply had the earpiece set to the AM radio setting.
Lois and Clark go to Echo Canyon, where Camden lives. After earning his trust, the eccentric, psychologically imbalanced Camden babbles about how Stoke is harnessing some kind of unknown power source, enabling him the intensely powerful sound frequencies he's been using.
Stoke continues threatening the Mayor and making new demands. Lois and Clark listen in, successfully this time, using the spy-pen, discovering that Stoke plans to destroy city hall. Clark x-rays the surrounding area and discovers men from the Sound Gang siphoning power off the underground city-grid.
Lois diverts the bouncers' attention while Clark sneaks into the Stoke Club. Lois fights the bouncer who threw her out of the club earlier, narrowly winning by literally pulling the rug from under her opponents' feet. Clark knocks out two of the Sound Man's guards by throwing them to the floor with his super-strength, transforming into Superman in an adjacent room.
Superman enters the Sound Man's lair just as Stoke grabs Lois and pulls a gun on her. When Superman tries to approach them, he is blocked by a sound barrier, surrounding Stoke and Lois, referred to by Stoke as the "Wall of Sound". Despite Stoke's taunts, Superman is forced to flee once again. However, unbeknownst to Stoke or Lois, Superman flies into the air, gaining altitude and speed, until he breaks the sound barrier, enabling him to pass through the 'Wall of Sound' and grab the gun from Stoke's hand, rescuing Lois. The Man of Tomorrow then shuts the main power down, halting the destruction of City Hall.
Clark wins the Kerth Award while Lois sincerely congratulates him. Lois claims that the awards don't mean that much to her anymore and that she keeps them at the bottom of her closet.
Later, as Lois arrives home, she opens her secret Awards display-case, which is lit-up extravagantly. Superman lands in her apartment through her open-window and smiles as he sees her awards. He thanks Lois for her help in defeating Stoke and Lois gives him a rose and a kiss on the cheek as he flies back into the night.
Review Rating - 4 (out of 5): "Simply put, this is your brain and this is your brain on sound! Any questions?" How could I not give this episode less than 4/5?
I'm forced to give this episode such a high score not even because it's that 'good', but just because it's so much fun and there's sackfuls of nostalgia for me rewatching it. The episode has such an endearing camp appeal, but in a way that's entertaining and somewhat thrilling, rather than just the awkward and goofy atmosphere the series would quickly plunge into midway through the second season. This episode proves that the show really worked as an action series, as long as the action was toned down from time to time in favor of the low-key characterization popularized in the first season. This was one of the first examples of a "Superman Filler", where it was another filler episode with no relation to the overall season-plot, but there was more of an emphasis on superheroics and crime-fighting than Lois & Clark dialogues. And again, I'm fine with that from time to time. The show's troublesome dalliances with possible cancellation meant that it had to play around with different kinds of types.
First and foremost, the main thing I like about this episode is Michael Des Barres as Lenny Stoke/The Sound Man. The idea of Superman fighting an English rockstar who uses high-frequency sound as his main weapon couldn't more 90s, and I love it for that. The scene where Superman faces down The Sound Man and his gang, dressed in leather jackets and motorcycle helmets just as they are about to rob a jewelry store is iconic in my mind, from my memories of watching this episode when it aired for the first time back in 1995 here in Ireland. Des Barres has such a distinctive voice that it's laughable that Lois doesn't immediately recognize his voice when she meets him at the Stoke Club, as being the man from the mysterious messages broadcast over the city. But who cares? Outside of all of the camp/nostalgic appeal, sound is a credible weakness for Superman (some might argue that his super-hearing should PREVENT him from being more susceptible, but pick-your-own super-science) and it's a shame they never brought Lenny Stoke back for a team-up episode with another original villain of the series (like Tempus). He was certainly a more entertaining villain than some of the villains from the third and fourth season.
In terms of characterization and sub-plots, the stuff with Clark winning a journalism award for the kind of story Lois would typically ignore was nice. The show has done better with the Lois/Clark dynamic, but it gave Lois good reason to rethink the importance of her line of work, as well as rethinking Clark as a journalistic adversary as well as her partner. As the show moved the two characters closer and closer towards romance, the idea of Lois and Clark being professional rivals became something of a non-issue, which I think is a bit unrealistic. It would have been interesting to have seen the two competing while dating each other.
I have one nitpicky disappointment regarding this episode. When Lois and Clark are discussing Stoke's Stolen Sound Technology (say it fast ten times) with Derek Camden, he panickedly explains that he was never able to find a power source as strong as the one Stoke appeared to be using. A quick x-ray of the city (or rather, the ground) later and Clark discovers that the Sound Man is using the rather obvious idea of siphoning power off of the City Grid. To me, it would have been much more interesting had Stoke been using a sample of Kryptonite leftover from the previous episode (possibly unseen by Lois or Arianna). Had the writers gone this route, it would have been the first time we'd seen Kryptonite as a power-source and it would be excellent foreshadowing for the appearance of Metallo, a few episodes later. Oh well.
The final scene of this episode is really interesting. Being a filler-episode, it's more of an excuse for 'shipping' than anything else, but I really liked the look of Dean Cain's face as Lois hands Superman the rose. We see a flicker of hesitation on his face before he allows himself to smile, almost as though he's reminding himself not to allow Lois to become too close to his identity as Superman, as she did in the previous season. I'm not sure if it was written that way in the script, but I sincerely doubt it wasn't going through the actor's mind while he was performing. Also, once again, the freakin' suit is awesome in this episode. The fact that 19 years after the end of the show, there are STILL people who wish that that hokey Halloween costume from the pilot had appeared in the rest of the series is baffling. The Season Two costume is God-like.
An interesting thing to note about Michael Des Barres is that I think (I THINK) he was the first actor to play a villain in both "Lois & Clark" and the "Superboy" show which ceased production around a year or so before "Lois & Clark" first aired. Curiously enough, in the episode of "Superboy" entitled "A Change of Heart" he played a villain who used subliminal advertising in JumboTron-like video-screens he had installed all over Capital City (the city in which "Superboy" was predominantly set) to trick Lana Lang into falling in love with and agreeing to marry him as well as other nefarious deeds. Some fans of "Superboy" have yet again called plagiarism insofar as the villain Des Barres plays in both shows revolves around setting up distribution devices all over the city and using technology to manipulate how people function. Personally...I still think all of those theories are grasping at straws. Entertaining as it is, the sound-technology ideas in "Wall of Sound" are chock-full of comic-book sensationalism and bravado. Lex Luthor had a sonic-blaster in a Season One episode of "Superboy" as well. Hell, Barry Allen went up against guitar-shredding rockstars in an episode of "The Flash" as well, where he played a guitar solo so fast that the resulting sound knocked out one of the baddies.
The bit with the two drunks discussing the science of a sonic boom was a fun little bit in the midst of all of the super-action. I can't help feeling that seeing as how the show was leaning more towards the action side of things, the producers felt the need to throw in little bits of education for the broader family audience to whom the show was now trying to appeal. In "Madame Ex" there was a ham-fisted explanation of what an acrostic was (to Lois Lane, an award-winning journalist who once again appears to have not had an Elementary School-education). In this episode, the obligatory moment of learning is handled a lot better and in a way that actually generates a few throwaway laughs. I'll admit that I probably learned the specifics of how sonic booms occur from watching this episode of "Lois & Clark" as a kid.
This episode had loads of good special effects. The building collapsing around Jimmy was convincing enough and the shot of Superman catching the beam was cool. There was another great wire-landing as Superman confronts the Sound Man outside the jewelry store and there was an entire sequence based around wire-work when Superman found himself being attacked by the ultra-high frequency sound later on in the episode (it was possibly a bit shakier here, as it was more ambitious). My favorite effect in the episode (and probably the series) was when we actually see Superman tearing through the sky trying to break the sound barrier. There was a really cool 'zoom' effect as Superman's cape left a red trail behind him as he raced across the cityscape. I wonder why they didn't use this as stock footage in later episodes where we'd only be able to hear Superman breaking the sound-barrier. It's not like it would cost anything to re-use the effect.
Next week Superman saves a fairground and then...something happens...the bad guy plays G, C and D on a guitar...or something...more filler-fun in "The Source"!
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