One of the notes I have made consistently since the colorization of Adventures of Superman started was how somehow, with the influx of color, the criminals have gotten smarter. The first episode I write about this week, “Money to Burn,” furthers that narrative. The second, “Close Shave,” goes so far in the other direction that it may invalidate my entire point.
This show loves to show Superman doing, well, super things. It’s sort of the whole reason the show exists. And yet in this episode, his most heroic moment comes from carrying a firehose into a building and putting out a fire. I know that the implication is that he was able to get places that the regular firefighters would’ve had trouble reaching, but his name isn’t ‘Betterthanexpectedman,’ its Superman. There are hundreds of ways the writers could’ve given Superman a daring and interesting way to put out the fire. We’ve seen Superman inhale a shit load of smoke before; maybe, have Superman suck all the oxygen out of the building, rendering the fire moot. In this same episode, we see the first real use of super speed – why not have him run around the building putting out fires, instead of just using a hose and walking through a burning warehouse?
I know that some of the reason is the writers want to keep costs down, but it seems like a fiery set is likely harder to pull off than some more interesting scenarios. It’s just disappointing in what is otherwise a really clever episode to have such a weak moment of superheroics.
2. A smart villain with dumb motivations
The plot of this episode hinges on the ‘Fireman’s Friend,’ a coffee/donut truck that has curried favor with the firefighters of Metropolis for good reason: it shows up at fires to provide free services for those in the action. It sounds noble, until you find out that the proprietors are using their proximity, the commotion of a fire, and the tray they use to bring the donuts and coffee around to rob all of these places that are on fire. They do so with a new ‘plastic’ suit that doesn’t catch fire and a re-jiggered hearing aid which allows the wearer to hear the various tumblers on a safe. The suit is hidden inside the tray, with the one crook wearing the hearing aid as part of his disguise.
Now, there are some logical problems with their plan – how do they know where in these giant warehouses safes and/or valuables are? And why did they make a small tray that needs to hold both a man-sized garment and also their loot, rendering their available haul to just things that can fit, essentially, in something the size of a large phonebook? Also, how are they able to enter these burning places without firemen seeing? It is stated multiple times that they are within in the area blocked off to the public, but I still cant’ imagine it’s too easy to get into a burning building around a fire department.
But the biggest question is raised by a bit of dialogue. Slim, the brains behind this plan, designed this plastic suit after years of research. He is asked by his dumb, wisecracking partner why he didn’t sell the suit to a company that could mass produce it? His answer? “That wouldn’t be honest.” So you’re telling me that a multi-million dollar idea, even in the late 1950s, is not attractive to a thieving criminal who wants nothing more than money, except, apparently, to be evil? Choosing crime over profit doesn’t make you a criminal genius, it makes you a sociopathic fool.
3. Why the storeroom?
So this has been a piece of Adventures of Superman since the pilot, but I never really thought about it until today. Why does Clark use the storeroom to change into Superman? His office seemingly has both a window and a lock, so he could escape and keep his office door locked, avoiding visitors stumbling in, mid-transition. But the dude has x-ray vision, just check the door first before changing/jumping out.
The storeroom is likely one of the most visited common spaces in the entire Daily Planet building. And wouldn’t a pile of clothes look a bit suspicious there? At least in his office, Clark could stash his suit in a drawer or something of the like. And if someone saw Superman fly into Clark’s window, couldn’t he just say he was looking for Clark? They’re well known pals.Continued below
I know this isn’t really relevant to either episode, but this decided to bug me today.
4. Excuse me?
So this episode’s central conceit is that there is a barber who is so persuasive, he can help you achieve your inner desires just by talking to you. For a show that refused to do supervillains, this is the second episode of this season (the other being “Tin Hero”) where someone has some sort of supernatural power, whether it is a sixth sense of where a crime will be committed or a hypnosis gene or some shit.
While I must recognize that I am watching a show about an alien who can fly and use x-ray vision, there is a clear reason for him being able to do those things. The show almost sounds like a mystic, talking about how some people have ‘the gift.’ It’s such a weird thing to have appear just a few times; you’d think if there were people who could do these things in the world, much more attention would be paid to them.
The most absurd parts of this week’s introduction is that this barber has no idea that he can do this, and decides to use it for good. This goes against all storytelling tropes, and so good for the show’s writers for doing that, but it also makes a less interesting episode than you’d expect from such a story.
5. Surprising super science
We’ve seen a few instances of Superman detonating a bomb in his hands, but this episode takes it a step further: before Superman can shake someone’s hand, he needs to wash them in cold water, because otherwise he hands would be too hot for a regular person to shake. That’s a rare instance of the show having a follow up thought to a heroic moment. Let’s get more of those!