Superman on Television
Lois & Clark: Episode Reviews
Season 4 - Episode 5: "Brutal Youth"Reviewed by: Rob Ó Conchúir
Originally Aired: October 20, 1996
Directed by David Grossman
Written by Tim Minear
Caroline McWilliams as Dr. Vita Duetsen
Kenneth Kimmins as Dr. Bernard Klein
John D'Aquino as Young Conner Schenk
Jack Larson as Old Jimmy Olsen
Sandy Ward as Old Conner Schenk
Don Keefer as Old Benny Rockland
Randl Ask as Mister Larry
Lynn Tufeld as Bank Teller
Steven Rodriguez as Guard
An old man arrives at the planet looking for Jimmy to tell his story and promptly dies. After Clark examines his ID, the seemingly-elderly man turns out to be 22-year old Benny Rockland, a friend of Jimmy's.
Later, Superman arrives at a Metropolis prison where a prisoner of 50 years has escaped. Dr Klein realizes that Rockland was exposed to something that has accelerated his aging at a rapid rate. He contrasts it to Superman's aging which will eventually stabilize and slow down and that he will still be in his prime long after Lois has died - this upsets her greatly as she realizes that she will age at a normal rate while Superman will still be in his prime for many more years.
Jimmy poses as a delivery boy for the pizza company Benny was working for - he finds the woman who broke Connor Schenk out of prison - Dr Vita Deutsen - and she subjects him to a procedure that transfers his youth to Schenk. Jimmy doesn't age immediately, Deutsen says it will take some time.
Schenk plans to get rid of Jimmy's body before anyone finds out where he is, but Jimmy manages to escape. While investigating an old folk's home, Lois imagines herself as an old woman being presented a flaming birthday cake by Superman.
Schenk attempts a bank robbery and brings hostages into the vault with him - when Superman arrives, Schenk has aged dramatically and Superman isn't able to identify him as none of the bank staff recognize him. Jimmy begins to feel very disoriented and has become short-sighted.
Lois and Clark interview Deutsen and Deutsen makes a disparaging remark about women growing old and their husbands' eyes wandering. Lois explains to Clark what Dr Klein told her about his aging process.
Lois and Clark return to the Daily Planet to find Jimmy has aged dramatically. Dr Deutsen agrees to reverse the process if Superman agrees to give some of his super life-force to restoring Schenk's youth. The machine overloads and Schenk regresses to an infant.
Superman engages in the process again to restore Jimmy's youth. He claims he feels fine, but he goes to STAR Labs for testing. Lois gets a message to meet her at the house 348 Hyperion Avenue. There she finds Clark who explains that he gave up literally years of his life to restore Jimmy, but that it may not necessarily make much difference to his lifespan and that the time they spend together is more important than the length of their lives. He then suggests to Lois that they buy the house.
Review Rating - 3 (out of 5): A functional episode of "Lois & Clark" served well by a sweetly good-natured central theme that doesn't get explored often enough in Superman lore: that of mortality. The nature of Lois and Clark's everlasting love has been explored in 'Soul Mates', now we get to examine how their differing degrees of mortality may affect their love for each other. It's handled with a degree of effectiveness. Forgettable villains, wasted guest stars and drab side-plots aside, this was a decent episode.
It's a ridiculous waste that legendary Jimmy Olsen Jack Larson's only function in this episode was to lie down on a couch looking decrepit and as though he was near death. When this episode was filmed, Larson was still spry enough that they could easily have had far more fun than they actually did - why not have him racing around the newsroom as an old man, recalling the good old days of the George Reeves' Adventures of Superman show? Instead the show awkwardly casts a man at the respectably age of 68 as though he were an octogenarian. It's the biggest shortcoming of the episode and a mortifying insult to Larson.
The villains of this episode are forgettable, but they do a good job - the actors playing both young and old Connor Schenck are credible enough as versions of each other and Caroline McWilliams makes for a decent arch villain and has exactly the right combination of vitality and aging distinction that her fountain-of-youth mad science isn't baseless. Surely ill-gotten finance shouldn't be such a concern to someone who is able to afford to finance such incredible science? I guess we shouldn't be reading too much into the machinations of criminals.
The highlight of the episode is certainly Lois coming to grips with the fact that the man of her dreams is an immortal - the episode throws an interesting tease at the end. Superman gives up his 'life' to preserve Jimmy's youth and he explains to Lois that he has lost something - but we're never really told how or if this will nullify his lifespan in any significant way. The viewer is left to decide whether or not Clark has lost a significant portion of his remaining years, but more importantly, we get the sense that Lois and Clark don't care - it's the time enjoyed, not the time spent that matters. Good stuff.
Special effects considerations:
- A terrific super speed effect where Superman is seen rapidly repairing the prison walls after Connor Schenck's escape
- The aging booths are fun, science-fiction nonsense
- Lois and Clark indulge in too much kissing all the time, come on guys. The moaning sounds they make when they're doing it is nauseating.
- There's a cute reference to 'Soul Mates' here when Clark assures Jimmy that it's going to work out with the redhead that Olsen has been eyeing up.
- The gang make a big deal about a nothing-story Jimmy writes on page 36...didn't Jimmy once boast two page one exclusives? Does anyone remember season one?
- "Don't be in such a rush - you'll have your day!" - says Perry to Jimmy. He's been saying that for three years. Given how the show grappled with possible cancellation so often, it's maddening that they never made the decision to develop Jimmy beyond an exposition machine.
- "I look 25 again!" "More like 30!" - This guy looks at least 35.
Join me next time when things go south for Lois in "The People vs Lois Lane".
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