After last week’s bumped episode, I really couldn’t imagine how Superman & Lois could top itself again and, just like every week before, they’ve somehow managed to prove me wrong. As Superman dives headfirst into the mirror dimension after an escaped Ally Allston, Smallville, the world and his family have to pick up the pieces when he doesn’t come home.
There’s a lot to get into this week and I’m not writing over 3000 words on a Superman TV show again, so let’s dive right into Superman & Lois‘s “30 Days and 30 Nights.” As always, spoilers will follow.
1. Crossing The Threshold
Well, that escalated quickly. I have learned, time and again, to not second guess this show because it never fails to surprise me. After the way last week’s episode ended with Lucy drugging Sam to steal his access card in order to enable the escape of Ally Allston, I could never have guessed that not only would that be wrapped up in all of five minutes in this episode’s opening scenes, but that it would also lead to Ally and Superman breaching the barrier into the mirror dimension and then disappearing for the rest of the episode. It’s truly wild how much this season has managed to pull off these moments of storytelling subversion in a way that feels holistic to the story being told. If I had expected this episode to be a battle of wits between an escaped Ally and the might of the Lane-Kent family in hot pursuit, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, I find myself actually glad that this episode went in a direction I couldn’t have guessed in a million years after coming out of last week’s banger episode because, let’s face it, I’m a jaded old hand at these kinds of stories.
Cape stories have been my bread and butter for the last ten years. That’s not an exaggeration, this July will mark ten years since I started writing for Multiversity and if you remember me from back then, no you don’t. I’ve become something of an amateur scholar of the way these stories are commonly told and the tricks and shortcuts made to fit these huge stories into 22 four-colour pages a month or a 40 low budget minutes on the CW every week and to finally find a show that can not only keep up with, but exceed my incredibly high standards of storytelling is one of the reasons I keep coming away elated from Superman & Lois each and every week. It’s a show not afraid to make big swings with a character who has, frankly, been subject to some of the most softball storytelling in the past, let’s say, forty years, to be charitable. Taking one half of the show’s protagonist duo out of the picture is one thing, but to explore his absence over the course of a month just as the show is ramping up to its sophomore season’s climax? That’s a real big swing and, honestly, I think they pull it off.
2. A World Without A Superman
It’s episodes like this that make me question what I take for granted about this show. We’re only coming up on the end of the show’s second season and already we’re seeing the minds and hands behind the show examine and rearrange the pieces in a way that nine years of The Flash or six years of Supergirl could never hope to imagine. Tyler Hoechlin is a massive presence in this show and that’s not just because he was double dipping as Superman and Bizarro for most of this show. He’s the centre-point around which everything in the show operates from his marriage to Lois being the grounding aspect of his family life with the boys on the farm, his relationship with Sam and the DOD, and his connections to Lana and the rest of Smallville to his role as Superman being a way to contrast and juxtapose the character drama in Clark’s life with the heightened action of his Kryptonian exploits. Taking him out of the picture, even if just for one episode, does a lot to force the show to examine the web of connections he is at the centre of.Continued below
After a month of Superman’s absence, we see the world at large struggle to cope without the safety net he represents, as disasters loom large over the background of this episode. Lois is forlorn without her husband and confidante in what is surely the most trying times we’ve seen them face. Jordan seems to be training harder than ever, especially in the wake of his stint as Jonathan’s defender at the end of last week’s episode. Jonathan, thankfully, seems to be keeping his head down and his nose clean. Meanwhile, Nat and John Henry have got the warsuit back to full strength because Steel is having to fill in for Supes full time now. It got me thinking of the fact that this season opened by teasing Doomsday pretty hard before the Bizarro reveal and how this brings a lot of my feelings about that prospect full circle. I wasn’t particularly interested in this show retreading Doomsday and especially displeased at the idea of them going full Death Of Superman on us, but this has been a fascinating way of allowing the show to examine the rest of the cast’s lives in the wake of Clark’s absence. It’s toeing the waters of a world without a Superman without falling into the trap of simply dragging out and mercilessly beating the long dead horse that is his death and resurrection arc and it does so with far more grace given that the propulsion of the character arcs are predicated on the hope of his imminent return and the actions they will inevitably have to take if that doesn’t happen.
3. Moving On, Moving Forward
This has been a pretty rough season for almost everyone involved. Most of the individual storylines have been far darker and more mature than most of what the first season handled. And while that season’s overall arc was to take two families on the verge of complete breakdown and watch their journey of healing towards a much more settled and happier place, this season has systematically undermined a lot of the progress they made. Jordan has become a much more independent and distant and often cocksure young man since he’s started getting a handle on his powers. Jonathan sacrificed his place on the football team, his education and his parents’s trust in him to protect his girlfriend. John Henry and Natalie have struggled to find their place in this new world that was supposed to be a fresh start for them with the trauma of losing their wife and mother and home looming over them. Hell, Lana and Kyle’s marriage disintegrated after a season and a half of them trying to fix their troubles.
It can be hard to admit that you need to move on from something. It can be harder still to realise you need to in the first place. I think the scene that really stood out to me from this episode that exemplifies what I’m trying to say is John Henry watching the video of Natalie’s birth. Of finally admitting to himself that he has, in fact, been trying to bury the memory of his Lois in order to make his life here easier. Wolé Parks’s silent breakdown over the footage of his wife was incredibly powerful and stands a testament to the way this episode offers these characters a chance to move forward without Clark in the picture. Without that ever-present sense of a safety net that Clark represents for this world, these people have to face themselves and face the misery they have created for themselves by refusing to face the situation they’ve stagnated in and now they have to admit to themselves that they need to move on. They need to move forward.
It was a surprisingly touching throughline for the episode that found an apotheosis moments for all these disparate storylines strung throughout the season. Be it John and Nat sitting down to celebrate their Lois’s life over waffles or Kyle and Sarah decorating his new place or Lois admitting that her sons are growing up faster and faster as time goes on and allowing herself to put her trust in their independence, it was the perfect bow on a lot of what this season has built up so far.Continued below
4. The End Of XK In Smallville
While there is certainly still more to be seen of the whole XK operation, I’m glad to see the whole thing of Jon protecting Candice has been done away with as of this episode. As much as I did enjoy it as a way of exploring how a character like Jon can be seen to act with integrity, even in the face of his parents’s displeasure and even going so far as to jeopardise their trust in him, there was only so far the show could take it and I liked the way it wrapped up here. It not only went hand in hand with Jordan’s training plotline – since him taking off to go save Kyle from the out of control fire not only kicked things off for this episode’s dive into the XK storyline – but it also furthered it as Lois finally found out about that whole deal as well. It certainly felt like this episode took Clark out of the picture so that a lot of the lingering plot-threads the season has been stringing out to this point could start to be tied up before the end-of-season ramp up to the climax kicks into high gear.
Jordan’s arc over the two seasons has been something to behold: going from the troubled kid who everyone expected to turn out to be The Evil Son™ to being the one to inherit his father’s powers and his struggle to live this new life to now finding this independent sense of self as he begins to master his powers. It’s a commendable journey and one that eschewed the typical notions of what being Superman’s kid entails. Lois finding out that Sam has been training Jordan and that Jordan has been acting of his own volition as a hero isn’t something initially celebrated because Lois is a mother worried about losing her son. She’s terrified of having to let go and let him be the man he is going to become, but if this episode showed her anything it’s that she needs to move on from that more than anything. This season has excelled at exploring the growing pains of parents having to admit that soon their kids won’t be children anymore against the backdrop of superhero fiction and it continues to find new and interesting avenues down which to explore that theme.
5. Coming Second, Coming Next
Wooft, I can’t say I don’t side with Sarah here. As much as I find myself admiring Jordan’s arc towards the hero he is likely to become, it has been at the expense of the boy he is now. Putting his training, his family, his need to be a hero before everything else has completely ruined everything he had built with Sarah in a way not too dissimilar from the way Kyle kept putting his own life and his own troubles ahead of his marriage with Lana. It’s heartbreaking, sure, and those final moments between Lois and Jordan are full of powerfully conflicting emotions. This entire episode, to me, was full of powerfully conflicting emotions. Moments of celebration undercut with heartbreak. Moments of sorrow tinged with hope. Moments of togetherness swallowed by one specific absence. As much as this was an episode predicated on a number of characters having to finally admit to themselves that they need to move on and move forward in life, it leaves us with the lingering feeling of what could come next. It’s always the scariest step and, at the very least, these people at least have each someone to lean on and move forward with.
As for where the show is moving next, I can only imagine and if this episode has reiterated anything, it’s that trying to second guess Superman & Lois is a fool’s game. We’re all just along for the ride and this season has continued to surprise me every step of the way. It’s one of the most fulfilling and emotionally resonant cape stories I’ve ever experienced in my decade long tenure covering them. I couldn’t even guess at what comes next because I know I couldn’t by a mile even match what they have in store. See you back here next week.