The weight of being a parent is one that many describe as being often overwhelming but satisfying. Now imagine for a moment that you’re not just a parent but you’re also a superhero, the most recognizable superhero on the planet. The immense weight of responsibility carried on the broad shoulders of Clark Kent, aka Superman, in Superman & Lois makes for excellent drama, even when the episode in question isn’t the most even entry in the show.
Spoilers ahead for episode four of Superman & Lois, titled “Haywire”.
Up to this point in my watch of Superman & Lois, I’ve given the show high praise for how it’s handled both the source material and how it approaches topics like living with mental illness. While not as good as the first three episodes, “Haywire” does have some excellent character moments, particularly when dealing with General Sam Lane (portrayed by Dylan Walsh of Nip/Tuck fame).
General Sam Lane in the comics is similar in character set up as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross from Marvel Comics and the MCU: a no-nonsense career military man who does not trust super-powered individuals (meta-humans as they are referred to in DC Comics). On Superman & Lois, Sam Lane is fully aware of who Superman really is. Dylan Walsh carries over the stern, militaristic persona from previous iterations of the character, putting Clark’s responsibilities as Superman above Clark’s responsibilities as a father. In the opening moments of the episode, Sam quickly realizes that Jordan has developed abilities, chastising both Clark and Lois for allowing him to play football.
From a certain point of view, General Lane’s criticism is justified. The more attention Jordan brings to the family, the more likely it is that someone will notice the frequent absences of Clark and put two and two together. Unfortunately, the delivery of Sam Lane’s concerns is where he falters dramatically, especially in the scene where he tells Jonathan and Jordan to not call for help from their dad because Superman’s role in the world involves saving countless lives. Sam’s heart is in the right place but his method of ensuring the world’s security reveals that he doesn’t quite know how to treat his family, something Lois points out later.
The argument scene between Lois, Sam, and Clark near the end of the episode puts all of their issues on front street. Sam’s insistence that Clark cannot lead dual lives as a father and the world’s greatest superhero have a point but it is Lois who brings the argument to a close, reminding her father that his “duty above all else” rhetoric is part of the reason why she and Sam do not have the closest relationship. Sam’s devotion to saving lives is commendable but it is also myopic, and it’s clear that his relationship with his eldest daughter has suffered greatly because of his inflexibility when it comes to choosing between duty and family.
One of the subplots of the episode is Jonathan and Jordan’s continued high school story arc, specifically the emergence of powers in a classmate of theirs, Tag Harris. Tag has been sidelined since the bonfire explosion in the first episode with a broken arm. Over the course of the episode, Tag begins shaking and vibrating, as if his body is involuntarily moving faster than it should. While this does result in his arm healing faster than expected, it also means he is unable to control his movements, potentially causing a danger to others. Jordan is much more like his father than he perhaps realizes at this point, taking on the weight of responsibility for Tag’s misfortune due to his heat vision causing the explosion. It’s revealed by Sam Lane that Jordan’s heat vision caused an expulsion of some unknown particle that gave Tag his powers. The Tag Harris storyline of the episode felt like the weakest part to me, largely because Tag has been given so little characterization at this point that his predicament didn’t really resonate with me. If there had been more scenes between Jonathan, Jordan, and Tag before now, it would have struck home a lot more for me as a viewer when Tab begins to experience his powers.
The unknown particle is later revealed to be X-Kryptonite and it is the reason Morgan Edge has taken a keen interest in Smallville. Edge makes his presence felt throughout the episode, mainly through his acquisition of the land around the Shuster Mines (the location of the X-Kryptonite deposits). Morgan Edge seeks to use the X-Kryptonite to resurrect Kryptonian souls, which explains the super-powered man who attempted to kill Sharon Powell and his assistant Leslie Larr’s abilities.
The quiet moments of the episode are where the writing continues to shine through. My favorite scene is the Girl’s Night with Lana Cushing and Lois Lane. Both actresses are clearly enjoying themselves in the scene and it’s good to see the two of them bond and commiserate over the states of their marriages. The side effect of that conversation is both appreciating the little things their husbands do for them, with Lana and Kyle exhibiting the first real sign of affection shown during the course of the season. Call me sappy but I like seeing couples depicted in realistic terms, even in bombastic superhero shows. The arguments the Cushings and Kents have are grounded in the reality of long-term partnerships, which can sometimes grow stagnant if one or both parties involved take the other for granted. While not as strong as the first three episodes of the season, Superman & Lois continues to provide a delightful story surrounding the adventures of Superman and his family. I continue to be impressed by the performances of the lead actors in the series, who manage to balance the superhero scenes with the same level of empathy as they show in the more mundane, family-related scenes.
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