This week’s Superman & Lois centers the classing superhero story push and pull—whatever is Clark Kent going to do about balancing his life with his family and his life as the Man of Steel? But while the episode has some smart approaches to an age-old trope, it finds itself asking a similar question of the show in the process.
“Haywire” pulls on an increasingly messy tangle of threads that all eventually try to converge into a similar debate, revolving around Clark’s renewed focus on spending time with his family as he continues to perform heroics as Superman. Clark is the uncomfortable target of a visit from the in-laws—this case in particular being his kinda-sorta boss at the DOD and Lois’ father, General Sam Lane (Dylan Walsh), who shows up to support Jordan’s first Smallville High football game and then proceeds to spend the rest of his time whining that Clark is being Superman 90% of the time rather than 100% of the time. Meanwhile, as Jordan and Jonathan celebrate the first win of the season, the latter discovers that picked-on, injured teammate Tag (Wern Lee) is hiding a strange secret beyond his broken arm.
And then there’s Lois, who, muzzled by the threat of legal action from Morgan Edge, tries to take him on before a Smallville council vote to give him rights to the town’s mines—and loses, frustratingly so, momentarily fraying her relationship with Clark when he’s not there at a time she needed him most. Throw in villainous scientist Thaddeus Killgrave (Brendan Fletcher) briefly breaking out of custody because of Clark’s lack of focus on Metropolis, and you’ve got a recipe for impending disaster as Superman has to wrestle with the idea of carving out a part of his life that’s solely his own.
Those are the interesting parts of those beats, and the bits where “Haywire” doesn’t threaten to collapse in a heap of set up and promise that, soon enough, Superman & Lois will fall more in line with its siblings on the CW. But even with those moments, Superman & Lois is slowly but surely being pushed from the more grounded, character-driven arcs that have made the first three episodes so interesting, and into larger, more explosive, more comic-book-y realms.
Sam might have left his argument with Clark humbled by Lois—she’s furious that he would try to parent her children for her—but he does so to go set up that mysterious Anti-Superman project hinted at by Captain Luthor (remember Captain Luthor? Superman & Lois barely feels like it does, despite being four episodes in). Lois being unable to stop Morgan from gaining the Smallville council’s support means he’s suddenly found himself a convenient pile of “X-Kryptonite”—a gimmick from the comics accidentally created by Supergirl of all people, that temporarily grants non-metahumans Kryoptinan powers—hidden in the town’s mines. And Jonathan and Jordan’s arc seemingly ties into that when it’s revealed the secret Tag’s hiding from the team isn’t the result of resentment from his teammates bullying him, but because he’s started displaying erratic, uncontrolled, vibrating superspeed abilities.
This all might be fine, but it means right now that every thread of the show is currently pushing toward comic book stakes. And in an episode that’s meant to be about Clark taking a stand that his priorities will favor his family more than being Superman, that’s not great, because it means those stakes are eventually going to require an escalation where the answer is decided for Clark. Yes, he can still be a goofball romantic and try his hardest for his boys, but no matter where he turns in the corners of his life, it’s all going to come down to problems that Superman has to solve, not Clark Kent. And that’s a shame, because the superhero side of things is where Superman & Lois feels the most aimless, like it’s slowly falling back into line with the rest of the CW’s DC oeuvre and not where it finds itself the most interesting. In spite of the encroachment by all the superheroic setup, there are beats and character moments in “Haywire” that really work, even if they are a little bit earnestly cheesy.
Every time Jonathan and Jordan’s relationship veers closer to setting the two on the arc of the former being jealous about the latter crowding his space as “the popular football kid,” it gracefully sidesteps to build out their relationship as brothers who genuinely, sincerely care about each other. Lois standing up to her father’s toxic helicopter parenting that she’s been through once already in her life—and emboldening Clark to take a firmer stand on his private life, too—is a fascinating twist in their usual distant, but still warm relationship. Hell, even the moment between her and Lana getting drinks together works beyond the “girl’s night” schmaltz; it gives us more insight into the latter’s relationship with Kyle, mirrored in turn by the goofy, lovably earnest move Clark makes at the climax of the episode, turning the Kent farm barn into a romantic fairy-light-and-candle-lit dinner date for Lois.
A move cheesier than an entire dairy farm’s output? Absolutely. But it makes good on Clark inevitably being pulled away from said cheesefest in a way that doesn’t read as the typical balance of power in superhero relationships that “the work” will always come first, strongly pulling Clark’s arc over the episode together in the process.
After all, what is the story of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, one of comic’s most iconic couples, if not earnest and cheesy? That remains Superman & Lois’ greatest strength now, even as its tone in these episodes so far has played with and inverted that lightness in equally interesting ways. Hopefully that human heart remains the dominating factor of the show, even as things inevitably ramp up on the superhuman side of things—otherwise the lesson about priorities learned by Clark here might ultimately go to waste.
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