Welcome back to Smallville, where nothing is as it seems, everyone’s masks are slowly falling apart, Lois Lane is excited to do some Capital J Journalism, and Superman’s real enemy of the day is his own gut instinct. And maybe high school football?
“The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower” feels like the CW’s Superman & Lois finding itself in a bit of a rhythm already. Lois (Bitsie Tulloch) is off digging herself up a seasonal storyline over at the Smallville Gazette in the B-plot, while over in the A-plot, Smallville’s finest himbo is once again learning that he’s not as perfect at this whole dad dealio as he’d hoped. While the show’s first two episodes were mostly about how Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) dealt with the ramifications of revealing his double life to his sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin), and how much that changes their relationship, his arc this episode is more human than it is really metahuman. Because, oh no: it’s time for school sports.
Clark tells the boys he’s spent his entire life tuning out sonic waves to hear only the sounds of distress he needs to, say, ditch painting up the Kent family farm to go stop a bridge from falling down on the other side of the world. But he inadvertently also reveals the direct opposite thing any teenager wants to hear: their dad is always listening. After Sarah’s (Inde Navarette) boyfriend turns his eye from harassing Jonathan on the field to just out-and-out bullying Jordan in the corridors at school, Clark comes super-running just before Jordan can accidentally expose his burgeoning powers as his anger overwhelms him. Good news? He doesn’t turn a poor kid into pulp thanks to being a quarter-Kryptonian. Bad news? He and Jonathan are pissed that Clark super-monitors them. Which is fair, because, holy invasion of privacy, Superman!
Sorry, wrong DC show.
While Clark might mean well, the fact that he at first doesn’t understand his boy’s frustration that—Superman or not—their dad has been keeping tabs on them their entire lives, we quickly learn thanks to Lois this isn’t the first time he’s done this to people near to him. While it’s framed as a lovey-dovey moment of Lois recalling what a dope Clark was for spending weeks of his salary on flowers to apologize for super snooping on her when they were dating, it establishes a pattern that the rest of this episode begins to pick up on, especially with Jordan. If Clark wants to set an example to his sons, especially one beginning to wrestle with his identity as a potential metahuman, well-intentioned but insensitive uses of his power, repeatedly, is not the way to do it.
Because like father, like son, Jordan decides to emulate his dad a little by signing up alongside Jonathan for the school football team. While Jonathan’s there because, as he later intones to his brother, football is his thing, Jordan is there explicitly to leverage his burgeoning abilities to get one over on his bullies. Rough tackle after rough tackle might impress the machismo-drenched environs of a high school football field, but between it and his own near-brush with fighting early in the episode begins to lay the groundwork for something more sinister for Jordan, as he wonders why he shouldn’t use his power for his own gain, whether on the field or through violence.
There’s a stark difference, but there are still parallels between father and son: a confidence in that what they’re doing is the right thing for those they care about, undercut with the dangerous power that they believe it’s the right thing because they know they are something more than human. For Clark, it’s his loved ones, and for Jordan, it’s Sarah, as the two begin to fumble through friendship in a typically teen fashion. At the very least, Jonathan knows to temper his brother when things might go too far, even though he’s clearly a little upset that the thing he’s good at is being co-opted by his brother all of a sudden. Whereas Clark, discovering that his second son has joined football practice, immediately flies off the handle out of concern (rightful concern, in some ways!) that Jordan could expose his abilities for some pretty selfish reasons. Long story short, more arguments abound in the Kent-Lane house, and more wondering for our titular superhero about whether or not he’s cut out for this dad stuff like he is the superpower stuff.
It takes Jonathan being a really good kid for both his brother and his father to come to their heightened senses. Thankfully, Superman & Lois doesn’t immediately dive into a brotherly-jealousy arc with the siblings, even though the potential is there. After all, Jonathan is presented as the athlete star of the family, and now Jordan’s encroaching on his young life’s livelihood just because he has latent powers to make up the deficit. Even outside of football, their increasing friendship with Sarah—herself going through some familial strife with her strained relationship with Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who, like Clark, just wants to know what is up with her kids, even if that frustrates them—sees him pushed a little to the wayside while Jordan and her bond over their mental health issues.
And yet, Jonathan’s arc doesn’t go there. Instead, he goes to bat (sorry, wrong sports analogy) for Jordan with his dad. He begs his father to do what his namesake grandfather couldn’t do for Clark as a kid—allow him to play sports—because he sees how happy Jordan has been being able to start bonding with other boys on the football team. It’s incredibly sweet, and an act of love more powerful than whatever Clark thought he was doing super-spying on them and trying to keep their secrets hidden—even though two teens are unlikely to really be able to express that to each other in such a manner. Ultimately, it means both boys get to bond over a shared interest, and Clark...well, he learns there are other ways he can look after his sons without leaning on his powers to do so, signing up to manage the football team so he can look after the boys as a dad first, and as Superman second.
Which is a good thing, because he’s probably going to have to save his Superman-protection for his wife before he goes back to snooping on the kids. While the Kent-Lane men go through metahuman Friday Night Lights, elsewhere in the episode Lois quickly finds herself getting in the deep end with her investigation into Morgan Edge. When a lead from another small town Edge set up shop in (only to abandon) puts her in the sights of a metahuman assassin—who starts by burning Lois’ car to prove a point before just trying to straight-up kill her source and her—she finds herself truly in her element. Not only is her hunch proven right, something dodgy is up with Edge, but she also sets the stage for Clark to have even more problems than he already does with the mysterious Captain Luthor. After failing to silence Lois, her mystery assailant himself is offed by another shadowy figure: a woman who uses a very Kryptonian-looking ocular blast to do the deed.
It turns out Clark might have a few more problems than football kids to deal with in his immediate future, then. But at least he knows now that if he does have to keep his eye off the football field, Jonathan and Jordan will have each other’s backs, powers or otherwise.
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