It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s…Yet Another CW Superhero Show
Can Superman & Lois Breathe life into the oldest comic book franchise?
Let’s be honest: After nearly eighty years, it’s hard to find any life left in Superman. It doesn’t help matters that he’s always been the least interesting superhero of the DC universe and maybe the entire comic book world. Movies and television owe him a debt — and for some of us, a curse — but its been really hard to make his story which has been told and retold so many times any fresher. The movies have tried to make him darker, the animated series have generally paled in comparison to those involving Batman, and the TV series have been running on fumes for awhile. It’s very telling that the most successful one — Smallville — followed a young Clark Kent until he donned the cape and tights and then left him alone. The closer Clark came to his destiny, the duller he tended to get.
One might be encouraged that Greg Berlanti, the genius who, for better or worse, has changed how television approaches superheroes has taken on the franchise in Superman and Lois. The problem is, however, most of what made so many of his early shows work — Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, at least in the early seasons — was that so many of their heroes were obscure properties. Berlanti and his creative team were given a fair amount of range mainly because no one was as invested in them as the ‘major’ DC players. By taking on Superman, he puts himself in a quandary because really, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be anything new to say about them.
What Superman & Lois has tried to do in its early episodes is take a different approach. Clark and Lois have already fallen in love and been married for at least fifteen years. They are now trying an angle that hasn’t really been tried (I expect to be told me where and in the comics it has been). Superman and Lois as parents to teenage twin sons. This is at least, a little more interesting. Clark/Superman and Lois have been shown as the paragons in just about everything that it’s interesting to see that neither is a particularly good parent. Jonathan is relatively well adjusted; Jordan has anxiety disorder and is particularly withdrawn. It is telling that they have yet to tell their children about Clark’s extracurricular activities.
The Kents are drawn back to Smallville, when Martha suffers a fatal heart attack. A series of events leads Jordan and Jonathan to find out about who their father is, and understandably they are not thrilled to know that their dad has been keeping the mother of all secrets of them. Some people were upset that Jonathan and Jordan were not happy to learn their father was the greatest hero in the world. I actually found it one of the more refreshing — and believable — parts of the series. Jordan is still stewing, and to add to the problems, may have some of the Kryptonian genes.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the series involves Clark’s Smallville sweetheart Lana Lang. Lana has generally taken a lot of abuse in whatever Superman franchise she’s been a part of, because she’s not Clark’s soulmate. Now we see Lana grown up, she’s actually far more sympathetic than she’s ever been. A question that’s never been asked was: how did Lana get over the loss of the boy of steel? And the answer appears to be not well? True, she’s married and has two kids, but the marriage has been clearly falling part and Sarah, her daughter attempted suicide a few months earlier. Jordan is drawn to her, but this doesn’t seem so much like a cliché and rather like two damaged people trying to find something to hang on to.
The chemistry is good between Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch in the title roles; they have an easy rapport that comes not just from being soulmates but partners that have weathered the storm together. And its also refreshing to see that they’re not the best parent in comparison to Martha and Jonathan Kent. The family dynamics are so much more interesting that I almost wish we didn’t have to have the superhero battles and the villains staking Superman and Lois. I realize it’s a necessity for this kind of show, but by this point it’s actually the least interesting part (so far, anyway.) The villain is a Luthor, whose fighting Superman. He’s from the future (or maybe an alternate universe, I’m not sure). Lois’ storyline, trying to bring down media mogul and Superman heavy Morgan Edge is a little more interesting, but it also involves Kryptonians, which got a little tired on Supergirl after awhile.
There are more interesting things about this series than I was willing to give credit for after the Pilot. It grows on you after awhile, by exploring avenues that most of the films and TV have missed but are in Berlanti’s wheelhouse. Almost makes you wonder how the inevitable crossover event will happen. (For the record, I humbly suggest they start with Stargirl. There at least, most of the costumed heroes are in the characters age range.)
My score: 3.5 stars.