Adventures of Superman avoids the threat of someone finding out Clark’s identity for exactly one (1) episode, and then is right back on its bullshit.
1. A plan too sinister to be true!
“The Man in the Lead Mask” is predicated on the idea that, to paraphrase The Royal Tenenbaums, “Everyone knows that fingerprints can’t be changed. What this episode presupposes is…maybe they can?”
There’s a wanted man who claims he’s had plastic surgery on his face and fingertips to avoid being able to be arrested for his various crimes. Everyone who hears this claim spoken out loud has some other character shout in their face “THAT AIN’T POSSIBLE!” I love how the denizens of Metropolis can believe a space alien landed on Earth to help us, but not that medical science can’t progress.
There is also the titular subplot about lead masks that these crooks wear, ostensibly so Superman can’t identify them. (Also, side note: Superman straight up concusses a dude in a lead mask, which seems like it would give you instant CTE) That winds up being a part of the incredibly convoluted endgame of the episode, which reveals that, psych!, that crook didn’t have any surgeries, he and the doctor on his payroll just had a dude study his mannerisms and voice, and pretend that he was him. It’s all revealed very quickly and bizarrely, and in a way that makes little sense, but at least it proves that SCIENCE CANNOT CHANGE FINGERPRINTS.
2. The only romance on the show
So much of this show is based around things that are easy/cheap to film. Ain’t nothing cheaper to film that characters on a date, and yet the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle is never even hinted at. It doesn’t appear that either Clark or Lois takes much interest in the other, and Lois may have a crush on Superman, but she’s far from demonstrative about it.
In fact, the only person Clark flirts with at all on this show is Inspector Henderson, who here he plays darts against with a dinner for two (them) on the line. I truly doubt any bit of it was intentional, but it is pretty over the top in just how friendly these two bachelors are.
3. Holy shit, I remember this one!
It’s so odd how certain things from childhood stand out. As mentioned in last season’s recaps, I first came across these shows on the old WPIX Thanksgiving marathon, hosted by Jimmy Olsen himself, Jack Larsen. “Panic in the Sky” is an episode I remember three very specific moments from: 1) Clark unbuttoning his dress shirt with his back to Jimmy, nearly exposing his Superman shirt and, therefore, secret identity, 2) the closest within his Clark’s closet that hides his various clean (?) Superman outfits, and 3) Jimmy saying he’s going to go out for ‘sandwiches and coffee.’ I don’t know why, but that phrase has stuck with me for 30 years now.
4. (Pseudo) Science!
Just last week I was praising the show’s internal consistency with certain science facts. That’s all thrown out the window in “Panic in the Sky.” At least this episode has Superman doing something super that no one else could do, which is try to land on/destroy/steer an asteroid from hitting the Earth. It causes him amnesia for some reason, but really specific amnesia. Like, for instance, he doesn’t remember who he is or that he’s Superman, but when he lands back on Earth, he knows enough to remember where to find Clark’s suit/hat, change into it, and hide the fact that he’s wearing his Superman duds under his work clothes.
The logic doesn’t really get any better from there, but I did like one bit, which was that Clark figures out he’s Superman, and though he still doesn’t have his powers back, he still opts to potentially sacrifice himself to deter the asteroid. It is one of the rare moments of Superman’s selflessness, much like when he allowed himself to be irradiated earlier this season.
5. Best flying/worst meteor
This episode, they debuted a new bit of flying footage, which showed Clark flying on a 45 degree angle into space to meet the meteor. If he wasn’t holding an explosive, this would be great footage to reuse, as it was easily the best flying footage the show has used thus far. It’s not overly ambitious, and yet it was pretty convincing for the era.Continued below
Unfortunately, it was paired with an absolutely garbage meteor. I’m still not sure if I was supposed to be looking at a meteor in front of the sun/a star, or if the bright light was part of the meteor. What was definitely clear on screen, however, was the piece of rope/wire that was used to hang the front part of the meteor. That was clear as day, and they cut back and forth to the meteor, let’s call it, 600 times, and it got cheesier and cheesier looking each time.
I can’t get too mad at the poor practical effects on a television show 65 years old, but it does seem to me that the producers were taking chances, so that’s good! The bad is that most of them don’t really seem to work.