Confession time. As unbiased as I try to be with most things it’s unavoidable in some instances. The Pilot episode of Superman & Lois confirmed a number of concerns I had with this premise for The Man of Steel and the world’s greatest reporter. That doesn’t mean the show lacked reasons for optimism, but I’m not sure if it can overcome the basic premise.
Let me backtrack for a bit. DC was underway with its New 52 universe, which started in 2011, when the powers that be realized it wasn’t quite working. They decided to bring back the pre-52 Superman and Lois, who were now raising their infant son, Jonathan.
When the excellent DC Rebirth kicked off, Jon was slightly aged up to early pre-teen status and getting the hang of his still developing powers. Of all the heroes, Superman not surprisingly, took to the parent/superhero mentor role the best and those stories by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Dan Jurgens were highlights of Rebirth.
Then writer Brian Michael Bendis came in and one of his first acts was to age Jon up to a teenager, losing that genuinely cute father/son dynamic for one that was less engaging. And Bendis didn’t have anything new to add to the teen/parent dynamic so it felt flat, uninspired and cliche.
Now fast forward to the Pilot, which took all the wrong lessons from the recent stretch of Superman comics.
We’ve been treated to Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark Kent/Superman making guest appearances on Supergirl and the two most recent Arrowverse crossovers. His Superman felt classic. A refreshing departure from the less all brood all the time nature of most of the Arrowverse leads.
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Over the course of an hour, Superman & Lois threatened to tear away all that goodwill by forcing Superman into the narrow confinement of a typical Arrowverse show.
It starts with his father dying while he’s a teen. Then we learn one of his twin sons, Jordan (Alex Garfin), has social anxiety disorder.
Clark has been burdened with keeping his secret identity from Jordan and Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) so they don’t feel pressure or less than each other if only one has powered. He gets fired from the Daily Planet on the same day his mother dies.
That’s…a ton. The writers immediately go for the jugular in trying to make Superman sympathetic. Poor Superman is immediately unrecognizable from the happy-go-lucky smiling hero from the last few years.
After the last year and change we’ve endured, I’d rather see that cheery optimistic guy than the one that makes you want to reach into the bar for another vodka.
As Lois puts it — your life falling apart doesn’t mean you’re special. It means you’re human. Elizabeth Tulloch was a great casting choice for Lois. She was fine in the Crisis crossover, but the Pilot shows she’s going to be the glue for the series.
Making the twins teens already feels like a mistake. That’s not a secret Clark would keep this long from his sons and sharing that with them when they were younger would have avoided of this parent/teen tension. Still, nice touch in having Jordan playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and playing as Raiden to fight Superman.
Teens are typically full of attitude, which doesn’t make them all that likable. Better to start them off as cute toddlers where the audience can form that attachment to them before the hormones kick in.
Also it seemed silly not to have Kara at the funeral. This is a dumb logistics issue that could have been avoided by holding off Ma Kent dying.
At least there was some point to it in forcing Clark and family to return to Smallville; reconnecting with his high school sweetheart Lana (Emmanuelle Chirqui), her likely red hat wearing husband Kyle (Erik Valdez) — a big Morgan Edge supporter — and their daughter Sarah (Indie Navarrette).
It did seem odd that Lana doesn’t know Clark is Superman. That’s always been a major component of their relationship and seems to limit their interaction now that they’re both married.
Jordan likes Sarah and tries to impress her by restarting the WiFi router, which is in the least helpful spot possible. This leads to the twins getting pipes dumped on them. Martha wasn’t losing a lot of sleep on barn maintenance.
Since neither of them are hurt, Jordan is convinced Clark is keeping a secret and they promptly find the ship. So much for a prolonged buildup…Clark then has to try and explain his identity to two angry teen boys who predictably want nothing to do with him now.
Clark can’t deal with it though as the mysterious force triggering nuclear sites is striking again and he knows Superman is Kal-El.
Plot issues aside, the special effects seem several notches above the usual Arrowverse show. The visual aesthetics of the show look so much like Zack Snyder that it seems intentional.
The big fight in Pilot delivered and in a very welcome switch, Superman’s heat vision is now red instead of blue, which never made sense. And his suit? So much better.
It was a little annoying that this battle was cut between Jordan and Jon getting into a fight after Jordan kisses Sarah.
I kinda figured Sarah being an LGBT character would have flipped the usual dynamic. Instead her boyfriend Sean (Fritzy-Klevans Destine) maintains the other Arrowverse staple so he’s a black guy.
In a switch, Jordan has the power and not the varsity starting QB Jonathan. Why does it feel like the show is setting him up to be the villain though?
With the bad guy dealt with for the time being, it’s time to pick up the pieces. Turns out Martha Kent took out a reverse mortgage to help Smallville residents and Clark understands her faint message of coming home now. With no job he wants to relocate the family to Smallville.
Lois is the one making a real sacrifice here, but she can telecommute just fine I suppose. But what’s Jonathan gonna do about football?
Oh and that mysterious bad guy? He’s Captain Luthor, apparently a descendant of Lex. This is why Supergirl liberally using all of Superman’s major villains wasn’t the best move.
Pilot showed the potential for Superman and Lois and while its two leads delivered, I’ve still got some concerns this could quickly just turn into another CW superhero show. At least for this initial episode, Hoechlin, Tulloch and company have me interested in seeing how a new CWVerse show will play out every week.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW