Superman & Lois Featured Image The Last Sons Of Krypton Television 

Ten Thoughts on Superman & Lois‘s “The Last Sons Of Krypton”

By | August 18th, 2021
Posted in Television | % Comments

It’s finally time. After trying to keep up with this show’s bonkers schedule, I’m finally getting to sit down and talk about the season finale of Superman & Lois. There have been ups and there have been downs, but this has honestly been one of my favorite seasons of television in years. With the cliffhanger of the century setting us up for a family showdown, let’s stop messing about and dive into the season finale of Superman & Lois, titled “The Last Sons Of Krypton.”

Oh, and spoilers ahead. Obviously.

1. The Lost Son

In their introductions, it felt easy to call where Jonathan and Jordan’s respective arcs would take them. As the high jock and star football player, Jonathan seemed a shoe-in to be the clueless, needlessly hypermasculine and, frankly, toxic brother to Jordan’s overly sensitive and fragile sensibility. That we would eventually see Jonathan become the favourite son and the Superboy expy while Jordan strayed further and further to the dark side felt almost written in stone from those first scenes. What we got couldn’t be further from the truth, frankly. Jonathan ended up a sweetheart, a protector with a heart of gold, and Jordan has become something of a well-rounded teenager thanks to his powers allowing him a measure of social amplification that he was never afforded in Metropolis. Their development has came in leaps and bounds and brought them to a wonderfully rich and interesting place.

Ending the lead-in to the finale with Jordan’s kidnapping and eradication was a pretty big shocker and this episode devotes its entire runtime to the stakes of that situation. It’s a real endgame move for Edge, a desperate attempt to externalise his father once more in order to enact the last moves in their grand plan to resurrect Krypton. While I mentioned last week that Edge moving towards this stoic villanous figure wasn’t quite to my taste, the way the utilise him still works. His kidnapping of Jordan and huge blow to Lois and Clark and completely shakes their foundations going into the finale. They’re distraught and desperate and that pushes Tulloch and Hoehclin as performers to a place of vulnerability they haven’t showcased yet. They’re in a situation where neither of them have any gameplan, neither of them know what do from here. It’s a scary place to open and perfectly sets the stakes for an explosive finale.

2. The People of Smallville v. The DOD

This episode moves at an absolute clip, powering through each element of the story in maybe one or two scenes before moving onto the next. It doesn’t linger on any one moment, but is weirdly better for that. There’s a lot going in this episode and most of what I’m going to cover will honestly be breakdowns of either one scene or a pretty short sequence of scenes. Take, for instance, the rally against the DOD by the people of Smallville where the Cushings resolve to stand firm and help the town they call home. It’s a pretty short scene, but one that follows on from and begins to close out the DOD and the Cushing plotlines that’ve been running for the past couple of episodes. For Sam, it’s the last time he can lie to the faces of people who expect him to protect them. Even if it’s for their safety, keeping the peace requires compromise and sometimes that compromise ends with the world turning against despite the fact that you’re doing everything in your power to help them.

For the Cushings, it’s a resolution to stay, to stand, to help. It’s an extension of the ethos we’ve seen permeate throughout the show: families are stronger together. Now, as a queer person, I don’t have time to unpack that in a way I would like, but it’s a positive showing of a family who has pretty earnest, realistic problems allowing themselves the space to communicate, to process and to heal as a unit and when they have to, they will stand firm together. It’s everything we’ve seen play out amongst the Kents expanded in scope to explore how a proximity to the Kents and to Superman changes the lives of those around them. It’s a short scene, but one that contributes to the tapestry of what makes this finale something special.

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3. Preparing For Eradication

If there’s anything this episode does dwell on, it’s the preparations for war as the finale conflict brews. The Kents retire to their farm and we get to see a moment of quite, desperate certainty fall upon them. John Henry finally feels a part of the family here and his time spent with Jonathan finally feels like it’s come to something as they quickly fall into supporting roles while Clark and Lois fall into spearhead positions. With the safety of their son in jeopardy, they must divide and conquer as Superman and Steel bring brute force to combat Tal-Roh and his new band of subjekts while Lois and Jonathan bring something a lot more wily in order to separate Jordan from the influence of Zeta-Roh.

It’s a pretty straightforward plan, one in which the deck is firmly stacked against them, but it comes with the feeling of having their backs firmly against the wall. Their family has been threatened. There’s nowhere left to run. This is do or die. Which is great for setting up the stakes of a finale. This really does feel like a last stand for them, like everything up until now has lead entirely to this, and giving them this time to dwell on that made the payoff all the more sweeter.

4. Terrible Odds, Better Together

This and the next two points will be kind of weird to structure because I need to separately talk about three different sequences that are intercut simultaneously in the episode, but need to be addressed in their own right. First up, I want to talk about Superman and Steel’s initial fight with Tal-Roh and his subjekts. This is the big, bombastic action setpiece at the centre of this episode and I gotta hand it to them: they nailed it. There have been times where, despite the average level of quality befitted from the HBOMAX budget, the action in this show has felt kind of stale, but this is not that. Tom Cavanagh directed this episode and he showcases a level of experience with the material that no other actor slash director have ever shown thus far. This is the most fun I’ve ever had watching people in silly costumes pretend to punch each other really hard in a quarry. Like, yeah, let’s face it: this is no more elaborate than your average episode of Power Rangers, but it’s delivered with such genuine, earnest love for the material that it needn’t be any more elaborate than that. This doesn’t come down to a massive throw out, devastating fight in a city that levels buildings because we got that out of our systems last episode. This is, fittingly, a fight within a family.

It’s a really weird family feud because it involves the entire world being threatened by your dad’s brother who he only just met two weeks ago and thinks he’s been betrayed by your dad’s choice to stay with you and his family all the while he’s being helped by a guy who, frankly, is essentially your uncle because he married your mum in an alternate dimension and your dad killed that version of your mum and he came here to kill your dad, but they’re friends now and they’re all fighting in a quarry. That’s the level we’re dealing with here in terms of soap operatic drama. It’s high and it involves a lot of moving parts and it’s pretty commendable to Tom Cavanagh’s direction that it all lands. Sure, it might just be another superhero TV show fight in a quarry, but it’s still the most fun I’ve had with one of those in a long time.

5. A Mother’s Odyssey

And that’s just the stuff with Superman, Steel and Tal-Roh. On the other hand, you have Lois and Jonathan’s attempt to use the mind melding, memory reading device that they used to break Superman from being controlled by Zod (God, so much happens in this show) to try and break Jordan from being controlled by the spirit of Zeta-Roh. Which, yeah, when you put it like that, it sounds insane. It sounds like the most bonkers, unintelligible level of superhero nonsense that it’s hard to convey just how well it is delivered. Because underneath all the bluster of the mind-reading and the Kryptonian consciousness is the story of a desperate and petty and cruel man who has already destroyed the life of his own son for the sake of immortality and is now looking to destroy the life of the son of Superman in order to finalise the resurrection of Krypton. And through that do we see the connection between Lois and her son. Her beautiful, brilliant, and troubled so who she has been there for his entire life to see each and everything pain he has ever struggled with. The comfort of a mother who knows just how strong her son is versus the cruelty of a father who could never accept he could be succeeded.

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It’s beautiful storytelling and I can’t sit here and preach to you about this show and pretend like I didn’t bawl like a child during this sequence. The relationship Lois has with her sons is foundational to this show and it’s just so nice to see a show admit and embrace that instead of forcing these kinds of personal relationships to the background of other superhero shows. This is how you handle this level of soap opera drama: you treat it like a soap opera. Sure, the plots are convoluted nonsense full of intricately woven personal encounters, but all of the emotions are resonant and right on the surface and it’s a way of marrying this complicated family drama that this show has created throughout it’s first season with the admittedly very silly superhero plotting that comes with being a show about Superman. What can I say? They nailed it.

6. The Boys Of Steel

If you had told me when I sat down to watch the premiere of this show that I’d be here, fifteen episodes later, and Superman’s kids are my favourite part of the show, I… might have believed you. Honestly, these kids impressed me from the very beginning in a way that totally caught me off guard and they’ve only impressed me more as time has passed. This show’s had it’s fair share of missteps on the way here, but the overall narrative told of these two brothers has been the strongest and most consistent part of the show. Here, theie reunion is everything to me. Actually being worried about Jonathan’s fate and then even more worried about what Zeta-Roh would do to Jonathan if Jordan didn’t power through and fight back to maintain control is what grounds this big, dumb, silly plot about aliens and flying and laser eyes. These kids matter to me. I love them the way Clark does because I see them through his eyes, I see them the way I would myself at that age.

As a mentally ill queer person, Jordan, especially, has become a character who is really special to me. He’s an extension of every fear I’ve ever had about feeling isolated from the world because of who you in a way his father could never be. Clark’s journey is so specifically drawn from a narrative established on in the 30s and elaborated on every few years. It captured a point in that doesn’t really exist anymore. Making that relateable to someone like me requires someone with a life experience closer to my own. I was a shy and awkward teen who liked video games. I didn’t figure out my dad was Superman and get to go play football because I’m half alien, but I know what those feelings feel like. These kids are perfect and this show really means a lot to me know that I’m sort of packaging this season away. I am so happy to have taken this journey with these characters.

7. Kyle Cushing, (Most Improved) Father Of The Year

Meanwhile, back in Smallville, we get to see just a nice little moment for Kyle. Kyle Cushing’s a weird idea. Putting a guy like him, a guy who is designed to be immediately read as a beer swirling redneck with all the involved connotations, in a Superman show and then trying to get me to like him and care about him and his family is one thing, but making it work is something else. I don’t really know how they managed to pull this off, but Kyle’s turn from a pretty standoffish asshole into a down on his luck dad who made some bum decisions and has had to pay the price actually worked for me, despite all my critiques and reservations. I thought it was cool to see him stick to his initial principles of saying with Smallville no matter how tough it gets in a positive and reinforcing way. He saw the error of his ways and he also saw the error of his response to being the bad guy. He wanted to get out of dodge and run away and had to be reminded that his principles would tell him to stick out and know he’s not the bad guy and to let it blow over. And illustrating his change of heart by having a dramatic fake-out death that held the suspense for a second and a half might be an overly cheesy way to do it, but it’s still pretty cool to see this really average dad be treated like a hero and he’s not a cop.

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8. We Were Brothers

Gotta admit, though, as much I loved how this episode set up and played into the big, climactic conflict of this finale, I was a little letdown by the resolution to the conflict with Tal-Roh. Like, sure, they kind of downplay the relief of eliminating Zeta-Roh as a threat in favour of the relief that Jordan’s back, but eliminating Tal-Roh is like Superman’s only job here. They have this whole death of Raditz plan where Superman has to hold Tal-Roh in place while Steel throws his hammer and the timing has to be just right and I honestly thought it had to be that needlessly complicated because it would turn out that Superman was putting his health on the line and he sacrificed himself to stop his brother. But nope. He’s fine, it was just to look cool. And once Tal-Roh is taken out in one swing, he’s just dropped for the rest of the episode. It’s a shame because I actually really did get invested in their conflict as brothers and what it meant for this story be about an extended family feud. It’s a core part of the story and as much as I will praise this episode for not linger on building tension, this was something I definitely think needed more room.

I don’t think Tal-Roh won’t be back next season because he was very clearly left alive for a reason, but it does little to really sum up what his conflict with Kal-El meant for him. I certainly hope that if he is in the second season, we’ll get more exploration of the fallout of his actions and what he’ll end up like now that he’s both free of his father’s cruel destiny for him and alive and well and able to live for himself as a free man now his plans are foiled. I don’t often want these shows to linger on one villain past their season, but I really think there’s more story to be told with Tal-Roh. Hell, he might even get to be this show’s Vegeta.

9. Picking Up The Pieces

There’s something so perfect about a Superman show that understands that the resolution people would want from Superman after a crisis like this is for him to sit down and explain it to them. Being as open about his action as he can with the public is a core tenet of being Superman in the modern day because they’re who hold him accountable. If he is to be their champion, he has to have their honest and open trust and that has to go both ways. We had a whole episode about what happens when that trust is broken. So having him reach out through Chrissie and the Gazette and showing it as this simple interview in which he lays out the honest facts and what happened and what he did to stop it was really incredible to see. This is the heart of the show, right here. It’s telling to me that the show decided to give itself ten minutes to explore the aftermath of the destruction, to explore the ways in which the community of Smallville is strengthened by adversity. It’s tiptoeing right up against the line of the appropriate amount of American exceptionalism I can generally stomach in superhero stories, but it’s the kind of American exceptionalism that champions values I actually agree with.

Seeing a small, largely self-sufficient community thrive in the face of total devastation is exactly what I want from this show. It’s exactly the right exhalation of breath after this really intense, private and familial conflict. Expanding the scope in the immediate aftermath to watch everyone involved come together to help out is what makes this show special. It’s not just that these heroes are out there in silly suits fighting the same five guys in different silly suits in quarries, but that there is a community of people dependent of each other to keep themselves safe and Superman is a part of that community. It’s not just about him or about his family, it’s about all the people around him which, technically, covers the entire globe. And this show gets that and I think that’s neat.

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10. It’s All Right Now

Of course. We gotta end on a barbecue. It’s actually a really cute parallel to the second episode where a barbecue hosted by Kyle was seen as a nightmare social scenario for the Kents who had just had a huge row. Here, it’s the exact opposite. The sun is shining. Music is playing. Meat is frying. Beer is cooling. It’s all right now. This is how a small town celebrates and they’ve never celebrated harder than surviving this year. Which, when you put it that way, is probably why this show has meant so much to me. This has been a hard year for me and for a lot of people everywhere. And while a silly little thing like a cartoon show about Superman isn’t going to fix the world, it brought me a moment of pure, uninterrupted joy once a week when it wasn’t taking stupid breaks. What I mean to say is that this show isn’t perfect. It definitely had its peaks and valleys and certainly the behind the scenes stories paint a terrible view of the production, but in the end what matters to me is that in the midst of the hardest time in my life, I got to tune in and find out how Superman and his wife and his kids were spending their time this week.

This show is a comfort in the dark. It’s scary as hell right now and every so often I really find myself worrying about when it’s going to all break and then… I watch Superman & Lois. And there’s a little part of me that’s like, yeah, it’s all right now. And I needed that this year. Whether you care about this show or not, I’m happy it exists and I hope to see much more from it and I hope it only gets better from here. Hopefully with a production not marred by racism or pandemics because life is a fucking nightmare. But at least we got each other.

//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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