From the beginning of Superman & Lois, this show has focused on the issues facing a family: the trials, the mistakes, what pulls families apart and what draws them back together. The fifth episode of the first season, titled “The Best of Smallville”, brings that focus in even closer with parallel stories involving parents and their children, specifically in how Clark deals with his mother’s passing and the issues his children face.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t seen “The Best of Smallville”.
Martha Kent has haunted the series from the pilot episode, with her passing being the genesis of the Kent family moving to Smallville and taking over the farm. Michelle Scarabelli was only in a short scene in the episode “Pilot”. In “The Best of Smallville”, we get to see in flashbacks the fateful period when Martha realizes she cannot keep Clark at home. Taking place a year after the death of Jonathan Kent Sr., Martha and Clark are still finding their bearings. Clark, in an attempt to do more, foils a robbery while in the midst of a conversation with his mother. Scarabelli and Dylan Kingwell (who plays the teenaged Clark) play well off each other but Scarabelli is clearly carrying the emotional weight in those scenes. Every parent has that moment when their child leaves the home for the first time. From listening to my own mother talk about the first time I moved out, it was heartbreaking for her to not have her oldest son in the same house. Scarabelli captures that heartbreak without giving words to it. Everything is displayed on her face and it is a magnificent performance.
Continuing with the themes of mothers and sons, the return of Sharon Powell and her son Derek takes a much darker path. The story of Derek suffering from amnesia is immediately suspect, as both Lois and Chrissy don’t buy it. I love that Chrissy is given a more prominent role in this episode, performing some of the same investigative story beats that would normally be handled by Lois in the comics. It also doesn’t hurt that Sofia Hasmik makes Chrissy adorably awkward but determined in equal measure. When Derek exhibits heat vision and destroys the collection site for Smallville’s Harvest Festival, Clark manages to save the day but not before one of the Smallville firefighters, Tom Mitchell, is badly injured from smoke inhalation.
We later see Derek and Leslie Larr in an abandoned building, using a device of some kind connected to X-Kryptonite that seems to be stabilizing Derek’s Kryptonian abilities. It’s during the fight between Superman and Derek that we see it is not just a case of Kryptonian abilities being given to humans but instead a human who is possessed by a Kryptonian (resurrected is the phrase used by Derek). Unfortunately, Derek immolates himself with his heat vision before we are able to learn more, bringing a tragic end to Sharon Powell’s story.
Captain Luthor also makes an appearance in this episode, sans his armor (which is still being rebuilt). Luthor shows a keen interest in Lois Lane, impersonating a Reuters journalist to strike up a conversation with her. At the end of the episode, we finally learn why Luthor is so fixated on Lois: in his world, Lois and Luthor were married. Seeing Lois and Clark cuddling on a park bench (that was recently dedicated to Martha Kent, no less) sets off Luthor. Coupled with the arsenal he carries in his RV, Luthor is fast becoming a major threat to the Kent family.
To round out the episode is the twins’ storyline. While Jordan’s budding relationship with Sarah Cushing is evolving into something sweet, Jonathan’s relationship with his girlfriend Eliza from Metropolis hits the skids. I feel badly for Jonathan, who had a promising football career ahead of him in Metropolis as well as his relationship with Eliza (who we’ve only seen briefly in “Pilot”). For the sake of his family, he gave all that up and moved to Smallville, where he is now overshadowed by Jordan. Bereft of everything he built his identity around in Metropolis, Jonathan lashes out, drinking excessively during the Harvest Festival and interrupting Jordan’s date with Sarah. When Sarah calls him out on his behavior, it’s a wake-up call to Jonathan, enough to snap him out of his morose anger and self-pity. Jordan handles his brother’s mistake far better than I would have in similar circumstances.
Clark’s handling of the situation was perhaps my favorite scene of the episode. Rather than scream and yell at Jonathan, he calmly explains that he understands Jonathan’s desire to move back to Metropolis, as shown in the flashbacks throughout the episode. Rather than punishing him, he reasons with his son, showing him that he understands the burden Jonathan has been asked to carry for the family. It’s moments like these that make Superman & Lois stand out to me from all of the other Arrowverse shows. Instead of manufacturing drama for the sake of having it, we see Clark and Lois treat their children with respect and understanding. The same can be said of Clark and Lois’ relationship as husband and wife. There are no secrets between the two of them, no moments of either one brow-beating the other. It is a partnership of equals, which is the most refreshing thing I have seen on an Arrowverse show in a long time.
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