Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 5: "Church of Metropolis"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: October 23, 1994
Directed by Robert Singer
Written by John McNamara
Peter Boyle as Bill Church
Dick Miller as Mike Lane
Farrah Forke as Mayson Drake
Dwayne L. Barnes as Baby Rage
Steven Gilborn as Silhouette Cop
Bruce Weitz as Martin Snell
Lois and Clark are enjoying lunch at Lois' Uncle Mike's restaurant, the Americana Café. Mike explains to the two reporters that the once prosperous neighborhood in which the café is located, has fallen into disrepair. When Clark gets food on his tie, he goes to the washroom to wipe it off. He spots a suspicious-looking individual planting a firebomb that goes off seconds later. Superman snatches the arsonist and extinguishes the flames with his super-breath before anything can happen. While Lois and Mike worry that there were no witnesses to testify against the arson, Clark assures them that he saw the arsonist commit the crime. The arsonist, tied to a dumpster by Superman, threatens Lois' life.
District Attorney Mayson Drake is pleased with Clark's willingness to testify against "Baby Rage" and even goes so far as to give him her home phone number, which Lois believes to be a romantic advancement towards Clark by the D.A. To everyone's surprise, Drake acts cold and dismissive when Superman is mentioned.
Perry White hosts the opening of a new Cost Mart store, owned by billionaire philanthropist Bill Church. Perry also offers relationship advice to Jimmy, who is struggling with the worry that he is leading a new girlfriend on.
Bill Church leaves the opening of the Cost Mart, going into his private office in the building, which leads to a secret elevator that brings him to a top-secret situation room, where he holds a conference call with International mob bosses. His lawyer Martin Snell informs him of Baby Rage's failure to destroy the Americana Café and Church angrily dismisses him.
Eager to learn who Baby Rage is working for, Lois receives a floppy disk from an elusive source. The disk contains information about the crime syndicate operating in the south side of the city. From this information, Lois and Clark learn about the organization dubbed "InterGang", an International criminal empire who topple other gangs, entire corporations and even governments, in order to gain control.
Using an ultra-high frequency beacon, Martin Snell contacts Superman and tells him to meet him in Centennial Park. When Superman arrives, Snell tells him that he is going to kill Lois Lane in ten seconds. From a remote location, Snell fires a motorized bullet which Superman manages to stop at the nick of time. However, a second bullet hits Jimmy - but it's only a paint pellet. Superman opens the other pellet and pours paint from it as well, realizing that this was just a warning. When Superman returns to the Park, Snell coaxes him into staying away from the South Side. Superman warns the lawyer that this isn't over.
After Superman delivers his testimonial to Mayson, she is rude to him, criticizing his vigilante activities. Later, Lois and Clark inform Mayson of what they know of InterGang, but she tells them to stay out of it. Lois finds a correlation between the opening of new Cost Mart stores and new factions of InterGang rising up throughout the world.
Superman tells Lois about his problem of not being able to operate in the South Side. He and Lois devise a plan for him to operate undercover instead.
Drake visits Clark to talk to him some more, supposedly about his testimonial. Clark isn't wearing a shirt and Mayson awkwardly suggests that he not put one on.
Bill Church talks to Snell about his plans for Metropolis - with a law scheduled to legalize gambling in Metropolis, he plans to build casinos, hotels and other resorts to cover the money earned by his criminal activities. He instructs Snell to kill Mike Lane as soon as possible.
Mayson tells Clark how much she admires him over Superman, given that he's just an ordinary man without any powers, standing up to such a powerful organization. She invites him to lunch, unrelated to the case.
Lois gets a page from Mike informing her that he's in trouble. Superman goes into action, dressed as a police officer, reading the Miranda rights to the criminals as he takes them down.
Lois discovers that Mayson has connections with Bill Church and Martin Snell, bringing them to Clark's attention. Clark doesn't buy it and suggests that perhaps Lois is just jealous.
Clark explains to Jonathan and Martha about the problem with Lois and Mayson and their differing feelings for his two different identities. Jonathan reminds him that when all is said and done, two gorgeous women are pursuing Clark and it doesn't rank very highly on the list of World Problems.
Clark ruins his lunch-date with Mayson by immediately bringing up her connection to Snell and Church. The case falls apart as a result of shoddy arrest warrants and lackluster Miranda readings - the warrants were issued by Mayson Drake's office. At this point, Lois and Clark are convinced she is involved with InterGang's schemes. They are caught by surprise however, when Mayson shares with them her entire files on InterGang.
A fly that has been irritating Lois, Clark and Jimmy for days is finally caught by a suspicious Clark. Using his microscopic vision, he sees that it is actually a motorized bugging device. He tracks it back to an operating centre that has been spying on the Daily Planet newsroom for days. Superman smashes their equipment to pieces. Church responds by firing one of the motorized bullets at an oblivious Perry, whom Superman successfully saves.
Just as the court case is about to resume, Mayson warns Snell that Lois and Clark are closing in on him. She offers her assistance at a price. Lois and Clark record the conversation as Snell reveals how much he has been paying his crooked cops. Together, Mayson, Lois and Clark sting Martin Snell and Baby Rage goes to trial.
Uncle Mike caters the extravagant Moonlight Ball and expresses with delight that his business is flourishing. A sullen Jimmy reveals to Perry that his relationship advice was useless and that his girlfriend has abandoned him for a new love in Switzerland.
When asked off-the-record by Mayson, Bill Church denies any involvement with InterGang. He then steps outside and kills Snell by remotely blowing up the room where the lawyer was being questioned, just as Snell was about to reveal the leader of InterGang.
Later, Superman visits Lois at her apartment and thanks her for her suggestion that he go undercover. They then share a dance together to one of their favorite songs.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): This episode was quite good and different from the previous action-oriented episodes (that trend more or less ends with this episode). With this episode, one of the most important arcs of the second season is well and truly built and there is a welcome emphasis on characterization and dialogue rather than simply matters related to the plot of the self-contained episode.
Where the episode fails however is in trying to jumble together all of its different ideas into one cohesive narrative. We're told that Superman is no longer allowed to operate in the South Side. This isn't as effective a warning as it's trying to be however. For starters, Snell and Superman seem to be suggesting that Superman is a patrolling vigilante (as he is usually portrayed in other versions of the character), but that hasn't really been much of a factor in the character's modus operandi in this series, where he's more of a reactionary character, leaving most of the crime busting to the reporting team of Lois & Clark. That might be just nitpicking, though. My real problem with this aspect of the episode is that it is quickly dusted under the rug with the obvious solution of Clark simply adopting a new, stealthy disguise for when he needs to do some Supermanning on the Forbidden South Side. Why didn't Clark just know that this was the best solution, straight away? It's plainly obvious that if he can't be Superman, he should just be Some Other Man with superpowers fighting crime. It hardly seems like much of a conundrum. Spider-Man's done it a thousand times in the comics. Truthfully, all of this stuff seems to only be in the episode to give Superman something to do in costume prior to the final act of the episode.
The episode's strengths come in all of the other, more character-driven parts of the story. This episode has some excellent performances from various character-actors, most notably Peter Boyle as Bill Church. Boyle plays Church with a subtle grace that's never played-for-laughs. This suggests to me that maybe he was phoning-it-in, but Boyle is an actor whose phoned-in performances are better than other actors' genuine efforts. The always-wonderful Dick Miller shows up as Lois' Uncle Mike and plays the character with genuine likeability and warmth. He has unusually strong character presence and it's a pity the writers never saw fit to give the character a few more appearances. Dick Miller has appeared in dozens and dozens of similar cult-TV shows in the past including (but not limited to) "Batman: The Animated Series" (and "Mask of the Phantasm"), "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Clueless", "The Twilight Zone: The Movie", "The Flash" (where he had a recurring role as the Flash's criminal informant Fosnight) and many others. I'm also convinced he was one of the train conductors who smiles at Superman after he's saved the train in "Superman: The Movie". If anyone could verify this I'd be very grateful.
In terms of disappointing performances, Bruce Weitz plays the now-stereotypical yuppie 1990s flashy-suit wearing lawyer/criminal who we've seen in plenty of episodes prior to this one. He's not quite as obnoxious as the other actors who've played this exact same role in other episodes, but we feel no disappointment when this two-dimensional character dies a one-dimensional death. The biggest acting disgrace in this episode comes from Farrah Forke, whose performance as Mayson Drake is so wooden you could buy it at Home Depot and build a spice-rack with it. She is of course disarmingly beautiful, but she's a fairly terrible actress. It seems like she was at least trying to make Mayson a tough-as-nails type character who never expresses emotion, but as is often the case with weak actresses who attempt something like this, it just comes off as under-acting. Luckily enough, Mayson is written as a character we grow to like, particularly over the course of her future appearances.
Perry and Jimmy are great in this episode and for the first time in the second season, Justin Whalin isn't annoying and comes close to the likeability of Michael Landes, who seems like a distant memory by now. All of Perry's jungle metaphors are goofy, but Lane Smith knows it and plays it up like crazy. There's this excellent moment where Jimmy asks Perry if he should buy a tie for the Moonlight Ball and Perry shoots him a look that is priceless - maybe my favorite part of the whole episode. It's a shame that Perry and Jimmy had practically no role in the central plot (this would happen more and more, unfortunately - a casualty of so many newer characters joining the series) but their little sub-plot worked just fine. And I found myself welcoming the fact that for once Perry was making metaphors out of something other than the life of Elvis Presley (even though I'm a fan of Elvis-loving Perry and will defend him to the end).
Special-effects wise, this episode has more "Cape Out" shots than any other episode in the series so far, sadly. Luckily enough however, it's saved by one very impressive takeoff shot. When Snell informs Superman that he's going to kill Lois in ten seconds, Superman zooms into the air, faster than we've ever seen him in the past. It's definitely not CGI, it's just a really well-executed, really graceful wire-shot; the kind we'd see less and less of as the season focused more on plot than on special effects (which is fine, when you really think about it, although it is a bit of a shame).
Yes, I know it's annoying that Vincent (and eventually Morgan) Edge were replaced by two Bills Church. For whatever reason, a couple of times in the series names of characters were changed, probably for matters dealing with rights. This would be most prominent in the "New Krypton" saga stretching across the final episodes of the third season and the first few episodes of the fourth, where General Zod was renamed "Lord Nor". In "The Green, Green Glow of Home" Clark's high-school prom date was changed from Lana to Rachel (although Lana herself would eventually make an unfavorable appearance). There are a few other examples that spring to mind. Ultimately though, Church and Edge are very different characters. It would have been interesting to see a rival Media organization go head to head with the Daily Planet, but we've kind of already seen shadows of that with all of Luthor's media influence in the previous season. The idea of an international crime organization like InterGang using discount grocery chains as their cover is priceless though, especially in today's recession-stricken society where the middle-class are increasingly reliant on real-life equivalents of Cost Mart, that dot up everywhere.
Before we go, I'd just like to reference the nice touch at the start of the episode, where Clark (having just changed out of his Superman 'stume) tells Lois and Mike that he saw Baby Rage plant the bomb. Lois and Mike are too busy examining the criminal to notice that Clark has forgotten to put on his glasses, which he quickly realizes he needs to do. If I'm not mistaken, "The Adventures of Superman" had a scene like this. "Superboy" certainly had some hilarious ones as well. Always a nice touch.
Next week, we get a really boring episode with a really awesome shirt-rip transformation. "Operation Blackout" is the name of the episode, and I'll see you there.
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