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Five Thoughts On Superman & Lois‘s “All Is Lost”

By | June 9th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Wow, it feels so good to be writing about Superman & Lois two weeks in a row without a massive break in between! Let’s see how long that lasts. Now, last week, we saw the fallout from Clark’s decision to tell Lana about his secret identity (spoiler alert: it got a bit messy) and saw Clark team-up with his dastardly brother, Tal-Roh, in order to destroy the pendant Ally has been using to catalyse the merging process. With that out of Ally’s grasp and things seemingly settling back to a sense of normality, let’s see what surprises are in store for us in “All Is Lost” as we gear up for the incoming Season Two finale.

As always, remember, massive spoilers below.

1. Being Born Incomplete

The main throughline with this episode is the returning Lucy Lane. Lucy has been recurring throughout this series and, while we haven’t seen her since “Into Oblivion” where she helped Ally escaped custody, this episode seems to round off her arc with Lois nicely. The troubled familial relationship between the Lanes was a really interesting way, I thought, to have Ally appear as a pretty grounded protagonist when she was first introduced. Ally was set to be Lois’s primary antagonist for the season and she was nicely grounded with some interesting, emotional character drama, contrasting the big, universe-crossing stuff of Superman’s conflict with Bizarro. A liar and manipulator, Ally was introduced as the leader of a Heaven’s Gate-style cult and was the thing standing in the way of Lois being able to reconcile with her sister. Now, with things having escalated to a point where Ally is literally on the verge of godhood, and Lucy stands firm as the last true believer to the cause.

This episode kicks off by looking back at how Lucy first met Ally and illustrates just how quickly and effectively Ally was able to get her claws in Lucy. She immediately saw to the core of Lucy’s vulnerabilities and just as quickly went about manipulating Lucy by offering Lucy the support she so desperately craved. I think it’s crucial we saw that here in order to reaffirm just how expert of a manipulator Ally is, so that when the meat of the episode comes down to Lois and Sam driving out to the cult’s hideout to find out where Ally is, we can see why Lucy continues to stand firm at Ally’s side. We’ve seen attempt after attempt by Lois and Sam to reach out to Lucy in order to make amends and bring her back into the fold and none of them have stuck. The conditioning runs too deep. Ally has been the only person to ever consistently give Lucy the sense of validation and support and security she needed, even if it was a means to manipulate her into blindly following her. Seeing that level of manipulation at work went a long way in showing how all of this started, how far we’ve come from the days of Ally simply being a cult leader, and what it would take to finally free Lucy from Ally’s grasp.

This is at least the third time, I believe, we’ve seen the Lanes sit down and air things out and not once has any of it stuck. Even now, Lucy cannot bear to think that her perception of Lois and the relationship they had growing up in the wake of their mother’s departure was in any way false. It’s the thing she’s clinging to the most to justify herself in still siding with Ally all this time. If she was to admit that things were different than how she perceived them, she’d have to unravel a lot about her relationship with Ally. It all comes to head when Ally does, in fact, show up and shows the extent of her newfound powers by torturing Sam in order to force Lucy to call Superman so she can drain his powers and kickstart the merging process on a planetary scale. We’ll see where things go with Lucy as we barrel towards the finale, but I have to believe now that seeing Ally attack Sam with her own eyes is exactly the dramatic act needed to break Lucy of that conditioning. I’m actually hoping now that we see Lucy return in the third season not just because I think Jenna Dewan is doing far better work here than she ever did on Supergirl, but also because I’m interested in this show exploring the aftermath of someone living under the thumb of a manipulator like Ally for so long and then finally being freed.

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2. Getting Back To Normal

It’s been a minute since anything has felt “normal” on Kent farm. First, Jonathan went ahead and got in trouble by taking the fall for Candace and her XK operation and then Clark went and disappeared for a month and by the time he came back, Jon-El was painting the town red and Clark had to deal with the fallout from that. The Kent family hasn’t really had the chance to spend any amount of downtime with each other and it has definitely frayed their familial bonds. So, it was lovely to see this episode take the chance to take a bit of a breather and have Clark spend some quality time with the boys. Of course, Clark’s idea of quality time is them all doing chores together, but that’s why I love him.

What I especially loved here is Clark and Jonathan finally getting a chance to reconcile and talk one-on-one with Jonathan. Not simply because it was a chance for Jonathan a chance to vent his anxieties and frustrations to his dad and for his dad to be there to reassure him, but because it gave Clark (and, by extension, the show) a moment to really nail what was important about this whole storyline with Jonathan and the drug dealing. It wasn’t just about the mistakes Jonathan made, but what he did in the aftermath of getting caught. He stuck to his principles, but, more importantly, he set about the hard work of making amends and, as Clark says, he has been putting the work in. After all, making mistakes is easy, doing better going forward is the hard part.

And it was so incredible to see the way Clark opened up and allowed himself to be so emotional and vulnerable in front of Jordan when he admits that, as a father, the hardest thing for him to do is to step back and let Jon be his own man and make his own mistakes and to put his trust in Jonathan to then do the right thing. It was powerful moment that showcased the emotional range Hoechlin has brought to the role. He knows exactly how dive into the heart of Clark Kent, the man behind the S. We, as the audience, get to see that trust Clark has placed in Jonathan rewarded and we see how their relationship has developed over the two seasons. It also nicely spins out of everything we’ve learned about the relationship between Bizarro and Jon-El. Bizarro was a such a controlling, patriarchal figure who couldn’t bear to let his family operate independently of him so seeing this much healthier reflection of that and of everything Clark has experienced has been a balm after how strenuous and stressful this season has been.

3. The Cushing Crush

Meanwhile, Jordan has been having a rough go of things in his own way. After learning, Clark’s secret identity, Lana’s entire life has been turned upside down. Again. And she’s come to the conclusion that the best thing for her family is to distance themselves from the Kents for the time being, lest Sarah and Sophie get caught up in the lie as well. That means that Jordan, who has been pining like a puppy dog after Sarah ever since their breakup won’t be a part of Sarah’s life at all for the foreseeable future. He takes that about as well as you can imagine, but, impressively, takes a quite a mature road in trying to resolve it. Instead of saying anything to Sarah, he goes to Lana to plead his case. That also goes about as well as you can imagine and Jordan leaves with his tail between his legs, but as much as he might be hurting bad, he very maturely understands Lana’s reasoning behind her decision. It’s nice to see how much he’s grown from being the more emotionally volatile of the boys.

Which leads into the real highlight of this episode as Clark tries to take Jordan’s mind off of it all by taking him under his cape and starting his training in earnest. Much like Clark and Jonathan’s emotional reconciliation, this entire sequence has been a balm after how dramatic and fraught with tension this season has been. Simply getting to see the father/son bonding and the support Clark gives Jonathan now his control over his powers is far more than what it was when this season began. Who knows, we might even see Jordan suit up beside his dad next season. Of course, Jonathan doesn’t take too kindly to that fact that his dad and his brother ditched him to go flying in the arctic and leaving him with the chores. There might still be a long way to go before the damage done between Clark and him is repaired, but as long as nothing too bad happens in the next couple episodes, I’m sure things’ll be back to normal in no time.

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4. The Irons At War

If I’ve said it once this season, I’ve said it a dozen times: the writers have really struggled so far to really justify bringing Natalie back in last season’s finale. Her and John Henry have been background players this season while the conflicts have been really personal to the Kent family. It’s the closest this show has come to their supporting cast feeling like they’re bit players in your average Arrowverse show. Last week revealed that Natalie has been working on her own warsuit and this week, surprise surprise, John Henry finds out about! Cue emotional disagreement that’s quickly resolved just in time for them both to suit up and fly in to save the day. It’s honestly pretty rote and I’d say it’s easily the least interesting part of the episode because none of the framework has been built to get us to this point.

Every time John Henry and Natalie get the spotlight, it’s the same argument they have where John Henry is overprotective because Natalie’s the only thing he has left of his old life on their world with his Lois and Natalie wants to be more involved in his life because she feels at odds with this world and cannot find a sense of normality here. It’s done well here and Wolé Parks and Tayler Buck bring more to the material than it deserves, but I am desperate for the show to give them more to do than be an episode’s B-plot. Maybe CW or HBOMax or whoever is waiting to pull the trigger on giving them a pilot for their own spinoff or maybe that ship has sailed and the Superman & Lois crew are stuck trying to figure out what to do with them long after they thought they would, but something needs to be shaken up here. Compared to how interesting and evocative the writing has been in every other area of the show, the Irons have consistently felt like an afterthought and despite being the big goddamn heroes in this episode’s final moments, that feeling still lingers.

5. The Process Of Losing It All

As I mentioned earlier, this season has brought Ally a long way from where she was when she was introduced. Going from a pretty grounded antagonist with more ties to Lois than to Superman, she has increasingly grown in focus and power until now she is the singular antagonist for the season going into the finale. It’s been a fairly seamless transition, I must admit, and one that has deepened my interest in her as a villain at each and every turn. There was still a lingering expectation I had for the show to reveal who she really is. Whether she was Granny Goodness in disguise or a new twist on a classic villain or what, it felt to me like there was still another piece of the puzzle to click into place. That piece clicked into place finally when Lois called Ally a parasite. Parasite. Goddamn, now Ally’s out-of-nowhere ability to drain Tal-Roh’s life force makes a whole lot of sense.

It’s actually one of the most interesting interpretations of the Parasite concept that I’ve ever seen. At least she’s not a big, pink slime person. Grounding her in being an emotional parasite, preying on the vulnerabilities of the weak and manipulating them into doing her bidding, and then over time literalising that now that she’s merged and has her god-like powers is, frankly, a really impressive feat for a show like this. I never saw this coming, but now that we’re here, it makes total sense and it tees her up to be a genuinely threatening villain for the finale. Hell, she’s seconds away from straight up killing Superman by the end of this episode. Going into the last two episodes with Clark barely holding on for his life and potentially being seriously de-powered while Ally starts the process of merging two entire planets is pretty dire stakes and I’m so eager to see how this season wraps up and what surprises are still in store for us.

//TAGS | Superman & Lois

august (in the wake of) dawn

sworn to protect a world that hates and fears her, august has been writing critically about media for close to a decade. a critic and a poet who's first love is the superhero comic, she is also a podcaster, screamlord and wyrdsmith. ask her about the unproduced superman screenplays circa 1992 to 2007. she/they.


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