We gotta get this show on HBOMax next year, I’m telling you, I am sick to death of this CW schedule. Is it too much to ask for a show that only has 15 episodes to not be spread out over 23 weeks? We coulda had this shit wrapped up in April, ,y guy, but here I am in the tail end of June still writing about this show with another episode still to go. That’s not on. The worst part is? This episode was an absolute banger and I’m opening yet another one of these write-ups complaining yet again about the atrocious release schedule.
Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s dive into the episode proper because there is a lot to chew on from this penultimate episode of Superman & Lois‘s second season. As always, there will be full on spoilers down below.
1. World Without A Superman (Reprise)
Boy, this season has really put our boy through the ringer, huh? It seems like at every turn, this season of Superman & Lois was determined not just to challenge Superman, but to put him out of action as much as possible. Whether it was the debilitating visions and headaches that signalled Bizarro’s arrival, being imprisoned by Anderson at the DOD, spending a whole month of our time in Bizarro World and now being de-powered by Ally, Superman hasn’t exactly being firing on all cylinders for most of this season. I’ll admit, it takes some chutzpah to make a superhero show in which your title superhero is down and out for most of the episodes. What I have appreciated, though, is that each time this has happened, it has been a new and unique challenge for Clark to overcome. I don’t see this as a case of the show writing out Superman because his powers would inherently solve every problem they introduce, but more that each problem has pushed Superman to and beyond his limits.
Not only that, but going into this season’s penultimate episode where Ally’s apotheosis is complete and the final strokes of her plan are being enacted with a completely de-powered Superman means that the spotlight must shine on the other players that this season has developed. Clark can’t just suit up and fly in to save the day, in fact, he can barely make it up a flight of stairs. He’s not just weakened, he’s vulnerable and helpless and Hoechlin once again does a fantastic job at portraying that. His perpetual kicked puppy expression he wears for this episode is heartbreaking and when he learns the extent of the damage, that his cells will have to heal fully before they can restart the process of solar absorption, it’s a devastating blow, but it’s one that highlights that the people around him are not helpless. Quickly, he and Lois begin to rely on Jordan and Jonathan as well as Natalie and John Henry in ways they haven’t had to up until now and it allows the show to elevate them as players in the game.
2. The Tech Team
From the jump, this episode had me worried about how they were going to handle the Irons. This show has worked, in part, because it has bucked the trends that have become a staple (and, often, a crutch) on shows like Arrow and The Flash, namely, the supporting cast of technical geniuses who would spend their monster-of-the-week episodes crowded around computer screens yelling advice to the title hero over some earpiece. The fear ran through me when the first we saw of Natalie and John Henry in this episode was of them crowded around computer screens trying to come up with a solution to the Ally Allston problem. Thankfully, though, this episode not only gave them much more to do as the episode progressed, but, in many ways, justified their reason for being in this season all along. I’ve griped a few times about the seemingly aimless direction the Irons have had through this season, but having them both working in tandem in operational warsuits for this episode is exactly what I wanted to see from them.
It all comes to a head when John Henry takes off through the portal to fight Ally Allston (a plan I’m not sure how they convinced themselves would work) and shuts down Nat’s suit so she can’t follow. It’s a bit strange to see these two run through the motions of the same dramatic argument again and again, but this worked for me because it wasn’t built out of the need for dramatic miscommunication. Keeping Nat on the ground so that she could monitor John Henry’s progress and guide him back and him assuring her that they’re still a team helped to smooth out the edges on the whole thing. Naturally, the plan goes about as well as you’d expect, but having the episode end on Nat back at the Kents, almost exactly where she began this season, without her dad was a pretty bold choice. I still feel like the show needs to bite the bullet and do something drastic with the pair of them instead of having them hang onto the Kents, but I’m interested to see where this goes next episode.Continued below
3. A Red Sky Crisis / Armed With The Truth
You know how every other week in Gotham, some lunatic in a ridiculous costume is taking over the airwaves to hold the city hostage just to mess with Batman and everyone constantly wonders why anyone even lives in Gotham. I’m starting to wonder why anyone lives anywhere in these stories. Last year, some asshole was giving people in Smallville superpowers and the whole town was nearly turned upside down between the occupation by the DOD and the battle between the Kryptonian brothers and now I’m on my way to work and all of a sudden, there’s another, cubed, red sun in the sky. I’m immediately giving up on life.
Anyway, what I actually did enjoy about the middle of this episode is that, with Superman out of action, a different course of action had to be taken to mitigate and combat the psychological and existential terror caused by Ally’s crisis. The episode works as a throwback to where we were last season as Lois, Sam and Chrissy were at war with each other over how to tell the truth to the people about the events that have shaken their lives. We’ve come full circle and now the people of Smallville are staring down the barrel of the end of the world as they know it and it once again puts Lois and Chrissy and now Mayor Lana in the position of how to deal with it on the ground level.
What works here is that, given what they learned from this situation at the end of last season, they quickly agree to share the whole truth and it gets thrown in Lana’s face. The news doesn’t cause a panic so much it is a level of ludicrous that these smalltown folk can’t do anything but laugh. I genuinely empathise with them. If I had to skip work to hear about the red sky thing and heard that the cubed sun in the sky was because two worlds were merging, I’d laugh it off and want to leave too. It’s a truth too big to comprehend until, all of a sudden, there stands Superman. To hear it from his mouth gives it the gravitas to support Lana. He doesn’t speak over her, he doesn’t show up because he can tell them something she can’t. He’s an icon living in a world they can’t understand the inside of. They can only look in and see him as the person to catch them when they fall. So, to see him, standing there, supporting every word Lana has spoken, turns everything on its head. Suddenly it all feels too real. Suddenly, “take shelter with your loved ones” seems like the only thing worth doing.
4. Worlds At War
And then, just like that, what’s left of Ally’s army comes out of the woodwork. First, it’s Lana-Roh who manages to take down Jordan with ease on the farm and is only sent packing by the arrival of the Irons before John Henry jets off through the portal to fight Ally. Then, Lana-Roh returns with Jon-El in tow to take down the collected Kent family in the Smallville High School. What I want to highlight here is the confrontation (if you can call it that) between Jon-El and the depowered Superman. Not only was it crushing to see Jon-El just walk through Superman like that while Lois and Jonathan could do nothing but stand and watch in terror, potentially witnessing their husband and father’s death, but it brought up an idea that I hadn’t really considered before now.
While everyone on our Earth has been rightfully afraid of the merging process for fairly obvious reasons, it’s become easier and easier to see things from the perspectives of those under Ally’s sway. Jon-El’s life has been crushingly empty from what we’ve seen of it. A shallow, vainglorious father who has turned his life as a superhero into status a celebrity and who ushered his son into the family business under a series of marketing gimmicks. When his controlling nature eventually ripped his family apart, the promise of merging with another world in order to feel complete must have been so important to Jon-El. And yet, here he stands, in front of his father’s doppelgänger, knowing that their merging can never take place because of his father’s death. It’s a tragic underpinning to this whole endeavour, that all the pain that has been wrought on this journey and, at the end of it all, Jon-El wouldn’t even get his father back.Continued below
Meanwhile, Jordan is in the middle of trying to comfort Sarah when Lana interrupts them. Before then Lana-Roh interrupts that.
And when I tell you that I screamed.
I’ve been wondering, on and off, if the awful schedule and ridiculous breaks has tempered my enthusiasm for this show somewhat. This season has been fantastic sure, certainly more solid throughout than last season, but it hasn’t necessarily hit the same emotional highs that it did last time around. Then this happen. And I almost threw my laptop away, forewent all attempt to take notes, and just lived in the experience of watching Jordan finally able to let loose. It’s a fantastic moment, one that the show’s clearly been building to throughout the season, and timed perfectly. The push and pull of Sarah half knowing why Jordan’s been so distant only to have Lana interrupt only to have Lana-Roh crash through the ceiling culminating in Jordan turning to Sarah, eyes glowing red, telling her to run was a masterfully crafted moment that paid off a lot of what this season had been developing.
Then to see Jordan take on Lana-Roh and Jon-El? The eye beam battle between the two brothers on opposite sides? Natalie showing up just in time to put the hammer down? That slow mo shot of Jon-El ducking the hammer only for Jordan to catch it and lay him out? I have nothing to add. This is the hypest I’ve been watching telly in a minute and it’s a fantastic reminder of the pure, unabashed joy of watching a good superhero show. Sure, the scheduling has been horrendous and has drained a lot of the flow out of the season, but moments like this more than make up for it.