Adventures of Superman spends most of its episodes dealing with very small stakes and, most importantly, situations that present zero harm to Superman himself. However, the two episodes I’m talking about this week are different, as they are focused almost exclusively on how things may break bad for Superman. Let’s dig in.
1. The most action packed episode yet
“Shot in the Dark” begins in a way that no other Adventures episode has yet: with Superman in flight. That sets the tone for the episode overall, which is by far the most exciting episode yet. There are no less than 3 major action sequences, and while they aren’t overly long or complicated, they place the show squarely in more interesting territory than we’ve seen throughout most of its run.
Each of the last two action sequences is slightly sillier than the last, what with Superman preventing a train collision by ripping up train tracks(?), and then two mobsters ‘killing’ a mailman but not realizing that he isn’t bleeding from his gunshots. But there are so many episodes that have nothing of this sort, that it is nice to see something happen on this show.
2. A tale of two pictures
The episode deals with a pair of photographs: one of Clark mid-transformation into Superman, and one of a believed-dead mobster. The machinations behind how the photos came to be – a young boy took them with an infrared bulb! – are silly, but not as silly as Clark’s excuse for why it isn’t really a shot of him changing into Superman, but merely a double exposure of both Superman and him, caused by the boy not winding his camera. It’s a shitty explanation in any light, but especially with how clear the photo is.
Jimmy calls Clark on this, especially as he seems far more interested in getting the negatives to the transformation photo than he does to put away the crook. Eventually, of course, it all works itself out, due in part to Clark being shot by the crook, to prove that he’s Superman, but instead shows that no, he was just shot in the exact spot where he was keeping a half dollar in his breast pocket. Of course, everyone carried coinage in their breast pockets of their suits in the 1950s, right?
3. Everyone’s a prick to work with
In both of these episodes, we see Daily Planet staff be truly terrible to one another. Clark absentmindedly backs into Perry White in the hallway, and White basically says “I wish you’d quit, you asshole.” He really berates him about it, to a degree that seems problematic. Is the subtext that Perry is a drunk, trying to sober up, and so is extra sensitive to light, movement, and physical interaction? Is he on medication with irritability as a side effect? Does he have an undiagnosed condition?
But we also see Lois do just about everything she can to not just get a story, but to stop Clark from getting a story. Whenever she sees him walking around, she can’t just let him go, she has to follow him to basically cramp his style so he can’t get a story. Even Jimmy, a perpetual goody two shoes can’t resist the opportunity to give Clark the business. Did Clark shit in the coffee pot or something?
In “The Defeat of Superman.” we finally see an essential element of the Superman mythos: Kryptonite! There is some serious weird logic you have to buy into to get there, but it all sort of tracks: a scientist figures out that Superman must be from a different planet, and sort of guesses Krypton might be it. He then finds a meteorite with some Kryptonite in it, as one does when a scientist, I suppose. He puts it into a bullet casing, and by filming Superman getting shot with a machine gun and slowing down the film, he can determine that, yes, one bullet affects him differently.
He then synthesizes some more Kryptonite through…science, I guess… and he and his cronies use the synthetic stuff to harm Superman. It’s a pretty classic Superman story, and it is handled, more or less, well. Again, this shouldn’t be a rarity on this show, but it is.Continued below
Much of this episode is a conversation between the scientist and a thug, amazingly named Happy King, about how King will defeat Superman. He sends him notes to meet in various places tomorrow, though expecting Superman to show up a day early, which he does both times. King calls it ‘playing checkers’ with Superman. It is the first, and only, time I can recall someone talking about checkers as a game of strategy. Isn’t chess the most common expression?
This doesn’t just happen once or twice, but consistently through the episode, King says that his cockamamie schemes are part of the checkers he and Superman are playing. This, of course, makes no sense, especially when Superman continues to walk into his traps. That doesn’t sound like checkers or chess, it sounds like the games older siblings playon their younger brothers and sisters when they know they can’t lose.
Of course, King does lose, and he loses by the most absurd way possible. Eventually, they trap Superman, Lois, and Jimmy in a basement and drop some Kryptonite in there, and so Superman is weak and unable to do much. Eventually, Lois and Jimmy figure out, by being told explicitly by Superman, to put the Kryptonite in the lead pipe under the sink. So, safely behind lead, Superman picks up the pipe with the K in it (remember Smallville, calling Kryptonite K? Oh, the early 2000s…), and hurls it as far as he can into the ocean.
Oh, I forgot to mention the final checkers jump, or however you declare victory in checkers. King, the scientist, and their hood henchman are all driving in the front seat of a car, and they see something flying over the ocean. It’s obviously the lead pipe, but they don’t know that. All they know is that it is so interesting to look at that they crash their car into a ravine, killing them all.
So, tl;dr, Superman spends two episodes eliminating someone who can figure out his identity, as well as the only thing that can stop him. That’s some hero!