Oh, it feels good to be back! After a whole month away, it feels simply fantastic to be sitting down in front of Superman & Lois again. Last time, if you remember, the world was left without Superman for a whole month after he went through the portal in pursuit of Ally Allston and Lt. Anderson. Lana won her bid for mayor, John Henry and Natalie finally found a place to settle down and the rest of the Kent family was left struggling to move forward without Clark. What’s he been up to on the other side of the portal? Well, that’s what we’re digging into today.
Join me as we dive into what might be Superman & Lois‘s wildest episode to date, “Bizarros In A Bizarro World.” As always, major spoilers will follow.
A Preface: Dealing with an episode which is explicitly about doppelgängers and mirror dimensions is going to make specifying which version of which character I’m talking about extremely convoluted if I don’t make it clear up front. “Our” Superman will be referred to as Superman or Clark and Bizarro World Superman will likewise be referred to as Bizarro or Kal. “Our” Jordan and Jonathan will be referred to as such, but their counterparts will be referred to as Jord-el and Jon-El, respectively.
1. To Get To The Other Side (Superman)
It’s safe to say that Bizarro World has exceeded all of my expectations. I was blown away by our brief glimpse in “Tried & True,” at the red sun bathed Kent farm that’s been ravaged by time and neglect, and here we get to pull back and see the wider world through Clark’s eyes. From the red sun to the cuboid celestial objects to Bizarro’s museum-like Fortress to the dilapidated farmhouse and burned out barn, Bizarro World is a shell of a reflection. “Our” world, but not just off; almost completely unrecognisable. While the rest of the episode’s chapters take a specific perspective and use it to flesh out the wider narrative that has gone unseen until now, this opening with Clark is all about establishing this sad, sorry place. As much as I was bouncing in my seat at the sight of a cubed Earth, it’s an overwhelming melancholic view of a world gone mad. One in which the hollow void inside all of us is louder than it ever is “here.” A world where someone like Ally Allston providing a voice for people who feel unheard, providing “an easy way to fix everything” has resulted not in a fringe, underground cult, but a massive counter-political movement that has seemed to fairly easily sway the hearts and minds of millions.
It’s bittersweet watching Clark walk through the wreckage of Bizarro’s life. His death still sits heavy over this show and as we come to learn more about him over the course of the show, that death becomes ever more tragic. Bizarro, in being a reflection of Superman, has been many different things over the years, but Superman & Lois uses him to take a new look at the concept of a “bad” Superman. What’s important to me here is that Bizarro was just like Superman, once. Okay, maybe not just like him, but he was a hero to this world once and all he has left in his wake now is a legacy as worn down as the farmhouse we saw a few episodes ago. He was a shell of his former self, who already paled in comparison to “our” Superman as this episode explores, by the time he crossed over into “our” world. A broken man who had made many mistakes and finally had the opportunity to do one thing right by trying to save his son and, in turn, the world. While we know now how that went down, that wider context of his journey to that moment has made “our” Superman’s subsequent fight against Ally all the more powerful.
2. World Turned Upside Down (Bizarro Jonathan-El)
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think that ship has sailed by now: Superman & Lois continually manages to surprise me by how willing it is to play with form. Shifting the perspective with each chapter break to a different character that not only allows the episode to non-linearly build the wider narrative that has been running parallel to what we’ve seen thus far, but also to look at Bizarro through a different set of eyes each time is a masterstroke decision for this episode. First, we see Kal as the overbearing patriarch to Jon-El. Kal’s world is completely unlike Clark’s. It’s full of media appearances, interviews and events. Kal was not just a hero to his world, but a celebrity. It’s a big swing and allows this episode to touch on some really interesting reflections on the Kent family we’ve come to know. While his family linger in his shadow, Kal’s off taking selfies with the masses. It’s so easy to see the fall coming from here as he Becomes lost in the adoration heaped upon him. The pressure it puts on him to be unbreakable. It’s here we see the cracks forming from through Jon-El’s eyes as he becomes this world’s Superboy.Continued below
I will admit, I did happen upon set photos of Jordan Elsass in the Superboy get-up a few weeks ago and I tried to put it out of my mind. I was annoyed that I’d inadvertently spoiled myself for an upcoming reveal and I certainly didn’t want to think about what that entailed for the show, but, here, I can look at it with fresh eyes and I love what they did with Jon-El here. While Jord-El languishes as the painfully shy, painfully normal son of Kal-El, Jon-El becomes the bad boy of the hero world after a shocking debut. Seeing him go from the kid who’d jump to save someone’s life without thinking while his father laps in the praise of the adoring masses to him becoming frustrated with the way his look and actions are dictated by Kal’s overbearing tutelage and his need to play to the media, it’s easy to see how he’d come under the sway of Ally upon meeting. It happens so quickly that it’s barely noticeable just how far under her sway he is until it stands revealed, but each beat is served just right. In a world without Clark Kent, Kal-El’s family lives in service to the pressures of his role as Superman to this world. We’ve seen Jonathan struggle against those same pressures in our world so seeing how far he can be pushed by someone who promises to fill the void inside him is genuinely heartbreaking. Jordan Elsass has been one of this show’s shining lights since the pilot and letting him get a fill of the hero side of things is just what he needed to show how good he really is.
3. The Void Inside (Bizarro Lois Lane)
It’s through Lois’s eyes that Bizarro becomes truly tragic. There are hints at it from early on in the episode, but seeing him revealed as a hysterical, crumbling shell of a man in their fight was genuinely harrowing. It’s such a fantastic choice to have this one scene, this one fight say so much about Lois and Kal. This one fight not only allows the episode’s narrative to skip ahead to the aftermath of Jon joining Ally, but it speaks volumes about the entire history of Lois and Kal’s relationship on this world in a way that actually seeing their lives in a montage could never live up to. Hoechlin and Tulloch are on top form here. Hoechlin’s embodiment of Bizarro mid-fall as a vainglorious Kryptonite junkie on the verge of losing it all is a stunning leap in character that still feels rooted in who we know “our” Superman to be. Tulloch’s Bizarro Lois, meanwhile, still has all that same fire inside her, but it’s been tempered by her need to stand at Kal’s side and be his smiling wife for the cameras. That same love that we’ve seen in “our” Superman & Lois might have been there, once, but it’s nowhere to be seen now. Instead, all that’s left is a man whose job keeps him at arm’s length from his family and a wife and son who need to leave before he finally falls too far.
There’s a fantastic moment where Lois is yelling at Kal about how Jon felt like he was never truly heard or seen by his father and how that pushed him into Ally’s arms and the camera shifts to focus on Jord-el, standing off to the side with his hands stuffed in his pockets, glowering and silent. It’s a little thing that shows the miserable lives these people have lead. One in which Kal never seemed to have a normal life as a young man, where never learned the humility that was instilled in Clark by Jonathan and Martha, where his Kryptonite heritage and his ability to save people was all he ever had in life, and where his family feel like they have lived, glowering and silent, in his shadow. And all he is left with is his impotent rage as he burns down the barn while he everything and everyone he had leaves him.
So when Lois sees Jon-El again and Jon is fully under Ally’s sway, it’s so easy to see how that could have happened. How the overbearing patriarch that Jon saw and the absent man that Lois knew could have pushed him so far away. It’s the button on the tragic life of Kal-El on this bizarre, curbed earth.Continued below
4. Stranger In A Strange Land (Lt. General Mitchell Anderson)
Where to begin with Anderson? It’s almost strange to remember him being introduced as Sam’s replacement as the head of the DOD. So much has happened in this season that he’s now stumbling through a backwards world, going insane as he tries to figure out a way home, only to be confronted by the family of the Backwards Superman that he killed. There’s a lot to touch on with Anderson in this episode, from him attempting to merge with his other self and said other self being subsequently barbecued by Jon-El to him stumbling into the Gazette, but I cannot stop thinking about him having to come face to face with Jord-El and Lois and Sam. For him to admit, to himself as much as anyone, that the Superman that he saw as a monstrous threat, that the Backwards Superman that he killed with his own hands, was just a man like any other is a big moment for Anderson as a character. I find myself really compelled by his arc that’s formed over this season. He started off as the standoffish military liaison that the show smartly sidestepped Sam around and that rocky relationship with Superman become more and more actively hostile under he was left with nothing except two pendants, some X-K and wild, blind faith in Ally Allston.
I think coming face to face with Jord-El and realising that this Superman was just a man like any other and that he had a family made Anderson finally admit to himself that his Superman must be a man like any other. I’ve been waiting for weeks for Anderson to see the man behind the S and it’s incredible that it took him to here to finally see that. The subsequent reunion he has with Clark before his (somewhat) heroic sacrifice is such stuff as what makes this show worth tuning into each week. Anderson has become so much more than the stock pseudo-antagonist he was when he was introduced and I think Ian Bohen brought a genuinely surprising depth to the role that’ll leave me chewing on this character and his turn for a long time to come.
5. Every Person Is Lost (Bizarro Tal-Roh)
I cannot believe how much I love Tal-Roh. There was genuinely a moment during the big superhero punch up (which was good!! but there is simply too much in this episode to really go into it) where I thought to myself: hang on, I wonder how Lana and Tal-Roh got together? Cut to a title card of “BIZARRO TAL-ROH” as country music plays. Shut the hell up, I thought. You’re not doing this to me.
They did do it to me.
When Morgan Edge was revealed as Tal-Roh, Kal-El’s brother from another father, I didn’t know what to feel. It was a big swing and one that, in the long run, I think has served the show for the better, but it still took some getting used to. Here, though, I couldn’t imagine the show without him. Getting to see a world where Kal and Tal stood shoulder to shoulder on Earth as the last sons of Krypton… it just makes Kal’s fall even more tragic. Seeing Kal in such high spirits when he tells Tal that he and Lois and having a baby and then seeing them at Tal and Lana’s wedding only for it to cut to the aftermath of Lois and Jordan leaving was heartbreaking. It’s such a stark look at how hard and how far Kal-El really fell. There’s so much more I want to dig into with this episode and what these visions of a reflected world say about these characters we’ve come to know, but I’ve already stretched these Five Thoughts as far as they can go on more than one occasion. For now, I’m just glad that Superman & Lois is back and I cannot wait to see what surprises still lie in store for us.