For the first time in 10 years, Superman has his own live-action television series. With so many iterations of the character having already had their story told on the small screen, does Superman & Lois offer us anything new?
The answer is yes. In fact, it offers a lot of new value to having the Man of Steel on our television screens.
Previously, on Televised Superman Stories
From 1993 to 1997, we watched an adult Clark Kent begin his career as both a reporter at the Daily Planet, and as Superman. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman sought to provide viewers with a new take on the old story, one that put Lois Lane’s name on an equal footing with that of Clark Kent’s, and had both characters as co-leads
By the time it reached it’s conclusion, Lois & Clark had shown us the titular duo getting married, and left us with the hook of a mysterious baby left for them to care for. TV network executives decided that we didn’t need to see how that would turn out.
At least not yet, anyway.
2001 saw the debut of Smallville, a show that told the story of a teenage Clark Kent growing into an adult ready to wear the Superman uniform. Whilst we’d get teased numerous times, we never did see Kent put on the famous outfit until the final episode of that show.
We never saw the real Clark Kent make flight until that same episode, either.
Smallville would conclude in 2011, with 10 seasons in the bag. Whatever one’s feelings on the show (I think it was great!), it was an incredible achievement to last that long in a TV era where very few non-crime procedural shows could get past a small handful of seasons. At least on American network television, anyway.
A Notable Absence
Following the conclusion of Smallville, The CW chose to replace it on their schedules with Arrow, a stripped back version of the character that more in common with The Dark Knight Trilogy than it did the Green Arrow that was a regular character on Smallville.
Arrow would go on to spawn multiple spin-off’s, but there was one DC Comics character who was a notable absence: Superman.
Upon completion of it’s first season, Supergirl (starring Melissa Benoist) moved to The CW.
This move led to a few changes, from budget, to filming location, and even to the style of storytelling on the show. It also saw the second season open with the first-ever Arrowverse appearance of Clark Kent/Superman.
His first time in the role, Tyler Hoechlin would go on to make several appearances over the next four years, most prominently featuring in two of the big crossover events that saw The CW’s Arrowverse shows come together for big November sweeps events; Elseworlds and Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The latest Lois Lane, played by Elizabeth Tulloch, was first introduced to viewers in Elseworlds. In this continuity, her and Hoechlin’s Clark Kent were already married, and we’d soon find out that they were expecting a baby, too.
With Earth in safe hands (read: Supergirl’s hands), Kent was excited at the idea of winding down his superhero career, and beginning life as a father.
Two Teenage Sons
Following the destruction of the universe, and the birth of an all-new one (long story… watch Crisis on Infinite Earths), Supergirl and Superman found themselves now on the same Earth as our heroes from every other Arrowverse television series.
It also rewrote a lot of their life experiences which, whilst they regained their original memories in the final part of Crisis, meant that a lot of what we had seen in previous seasons no longer played out the way we had known it to.
Confused? Stick with me.
In this new timeline, we discover that Clark is no longer a father to a newborn baby boy, but instead has two teenage sons! He seems almost as surprised by this news as we are.
And with that, we never see Clark Kent or Lois Lane onscreen again. At least, not until their own show launched, which is the reason you are reading this.
Superman and Lois
After Crisis on Infinite Earths revealed the huge change to the Kent family, we soon found out that their upcoming television series would be more of a family drama, than a superhero action adventure.
Superman and Lois, we were told, would provide us with a Superman story that we had thus far not seen onscreen; Superman trying to balance life as a hero, and father.
Despite the name of the show, it was quite evident from interviews and press releases, that Clark Kent would be a much greater focus for this show than his superhero alter-ego. We’d also seemingly be seeing a prominent role for Lois Lane again, too, who’d not felt like an important part of Superman’s story in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
Clark Kent, a father-of-two, trying to juggle life as a parent, and Earth’s strongest and most famous superhero? Lois Lane as the working mother, also trying to keep her family together every time that Clark’s secret identity could begin to tear it apart?
It sounded brilliant, and a welcome change to the type of show that The CW typically added to it’s Arrowverse.
The big question is, with a promising premise and marketing campaign, does Superman and Lois stick the landing?
The answer is yes.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
In this extended first episode, the new superhero series gave us our first glimpse at a show that prioritised it’s family drama, and character relationships, as much as [if not more than] it’s famous Superman.
Not Quite a Reboot
For a character that had been established in quite some detail on Supergirl and the various crossovers, crafting a story that would appeal to fans of it’s sister show, and new viewers intrigued by the idea of a new Superman show, must have been a daunting task.
And yet, within the first five minutes of this first episode, we’d seen Superman’s previously unseen origins [in the Arrowverse], and the start of Clark’s relationship and eventual marriage to Lois Lane. It felt as though we were meeting this Superman for the first time, all whilst feeling familiar and comfortable with Tyler Hoechlin’s face and voice in the role.
At no time did it feel like this wasn’t the same Superman and Clark that we had met on Supergirl, but instantly they had taken him from a supporting character on that show, to one who felt more than deserving of carrying his own show here.
Even Tulloch, who most definitely had not been anything more than a secondary character in her previous appearances as Lois, immediately steals the scene before she’s even spoken a word. The work she does, with just her eyes, immediately tells you why Clark falls so hard for her, and why we as an audience have always fallen so hard for Clark and Lois as a couple.
In that first moment we see her, and her first exchange with Clark, Lois Lane steals the heart of both Superman, and the watching audience.
More impressively, perhaps, this one brief scene quickly established Tulloch as the strongest lead actress in the Arrowverse who does not dress up in superhero outfits, to fight crime.
Honestly, I was never enamoured with this incarnation of Lois Lane, in her previous appearances. However, it’s very likely that this was due to the short nature of said appearances, and the fact she was typically surrounded by countless superheroes fighting to save mankind.
In just one scene, I realised that Tulloch’s was my favourite of all the Lois Lane’s we have been lucky to have on our television screens.
Some incredible casting has been done with the Kent’s children, too.
Jonathan Kent, played by Jordan Elsass, could easily be the asshole sports jock. In fact, on any other Arrowverse show, he very well might have been.
Here, Elsass takes a Jonathan who appears to have been handed everything on a plate (possibly because he appears to be developing powers similar to those of his father), but injects him with a warmth, and family-focus, that keeps him humble. This is no easy task, and Elsass deserves great credit.
So too, does Alex Garfin, who plays Jordan Kent. Suffering from social anxiety, and pulling away from his father as a result, Garfin’s Jordan has not been gifted with the ‘natural’ abilities of his brother, and finds life much harder to navigate than Jonathan. Watching Jordan’s struggles is painful, both as a viewer, and as a father.
Despite various digs at each other, and clear differences in personalities, Jonathan and Jordan clearly share a brotherly love that helps drive the final third of this episode.
We’re entering spoiler territory, so read on at your own risk.
The Family Secret
Given his build, and incredible success on the football field, all signs point to Jonathan having the same powers that his father has. Despite this, Clark is in denial, and isn’t ready to entertain the idea that he may be raising a super child.
After Jonathan seemingly prevents an accident at Kent Farm from crushing Jordan, it’s clear to Clark and Lois that he is just like his dad.
Before Clark can get ahead of the situation, Jordan pushes Jonathan to help him investigate the barn, and find out why their father always prevents them from going in there, as well as why the aforementioned accident didn’t kill them both.
This investigation leads to a huge discovery, forcing Clark’s hand in revealing his secret. This perhaps is not quite how Clark envisioned things going, when he pictured his children finding out their father is Superman.
But, justifiably, Jonathan and Jordan are pissed. Particularly the latter, who is now convinced than his half-Kryptonian heritage has played a part in his mental health issues.
One Has Powers, the Other Does Not
With the entire first episode leading us to believe that Jonathan Kent is a future Superboy, you’ll find yourself punching the air in celebration when Jonathan comes to the aid of his brother, who finds himself on the end of a physical beating after putting his lips somewhere he shouldn’t.
In that moment, you feel a rush throughout your body. These bullies have messed up, and now Jonathan can knowingly use his strength to kick their asses. And, he does.
For a short time.
After holding his own, Jonathan is overpowered, and beaten on the ground. This goes down in front of Jordan, who himself is on the floor, taking kicks.
The sight of his brother being harmed is too much for the troubled Jordan to handle, and his eyes suddenly light up, and he uses heat vision to create a huge explosion from the fire behind them. Jordan has powers, too!
Actually, it turns out that Jordan was the one who rolled over to protect Jonathan in the earlier accident, avoiding what would have been an inevitable death for his football ace brother.
It turns out that Jonathan really is just that damn good at football, despite his age. No super powers have helped him on his way. As he tells Jordan later, he’s actually quite proud of that.
It’s a twist that I never saw coming, as the episode had never previously suggested that anything else took place other than Jonathan coming to Jordan’s rescue, during the barn accident. And, it was a very enjoyable twist, too.
When this episode ends, we have an emotionally fragile Jordan displaying abilities that Clark has, and Jonathan who appears to have none.
How will this evolve, as time goes by? I have no idea, but I’m completely invested in finding out.
If it hadn’t been for Smallville, I’d likely have no idea who Lana Lang is. But, because of that show, I’m fully aware that she was Clark’s high school sweetheart.
In fact, the “will they, won’t they?” aspect of Lana and Clark’s relationship was the driving force of that entire series for it’s first six or seven seasons. Admittedly, you could say that it was a storyline that went longer than it should have.
Whether she outstayed her welcome, as Clark’s love interest, is still something that fans debate to this day (most agree that she did, for what it’s worth). What is not up for discussion, though, is that Smallville elevated Lana’s importance to Clark’s young adult years across all aspects of the Superman franchise.
In Superman and Lois, we meet Lana Lang at the funeral of a key Superman character. In this iteration, Lana is married to the chief of the fire brigade, Kyle, and has a daughter with him. So, a big change. But, what hasn’t changed, is that Clark and her were in a relationship in High School. We discover this at a very awkward moment, when it’s highlighted as the reason why Kyle was so mad [offscreen] when he’d caught Lana on Clark’s facebook profile.
As I write this, it cracks me up to think that Clark Kent has a Facebook profile. He better hope that face recognition tech they use in in photos, doesn’t match him to Superman!
What none of us expected, when this show was announced, was that it would be set predominantly in Smallville.
As events unfold, throughout this episode, Clark and Lois realise that relocating their family to Smallville might very well be exactly what they need. Combine that with Lois having discovered that Morgan Edge might be up to no good in Smallville, and you’ve got two very legitimate reasons for keeping the show set in Clark’s hometown.
It was clearly established that the Kent’s may struggle to pay off the 50% of the farm that they need to, so I can only assume that they’ll sell up their Metropolis home swiftly, and put every penny of it toward buying the farm back entirely.
Superman or Superdad?
At one point in this episode, when General Lane (Lois’ father) informs Clark of a supervillain who has been sighted at two nuclear plants that were going into meltdown, we are presented with something that will likely be an issue most weeks, on this show. That issue? Can Clark be Superman for the world, whilst still trying to be Superdad to his two teenage sons?
Lois is the one to step up, in this instance, and make it clear that she was not going to allow Clark to fly off to find the bad guy. Not on that specific evening, anyway. Family comes first, is clearly her point. And, I sense, she was trying to reinforce that Clark himself comes first, too. He needed to be mourning, not flying around the world fighting bad guys.
This does lead to a lovely confrontation between Lois and her father. It’s short, but certainly sweet.
In it, Gen. Lane points out that he warned her, before she married Clark, that he would always be required to run off and help as Superman. He’s not wrong, either.
I loved this exchange, because it helped drive home that Lois’ father actually has no issue with her being married to Clark. Hell, he likes Clark. But, and here’s the issue, he sees Clark as Superman, whereas his daughter sees Clark as Clark.
The father and daughter clearly do not see eye-to-eye on this particular matter, and it feels like it has been that way for years.
The Secret Identity
The big reveal, right at the end of the episode, saw us discover the secret identity of the villain who had bested Superman in this episode. Turn away, to avoid huge spoilers.
In those closing moments, we hear the attacker referred to as Captain Luthor. Presumably, this makes him Lex Luther, famous adversary of Superman. Except, at least on paper, that must be impossible as we’ve already seen Luthor on Supergirl, and he’s definitely not a black man hiding underneath a mask.
My only assumption, based on Luthor’s dialogue in this episode, is that he comes from an alternate Earth that was destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
He made mention of his home planet being destroyed, seemingly knows Superman’s own history well, and appears to have access to some sort of spaceship. With that in mind, the obvious guess is that he’s from elsewhere in the multi-verse.
If that turns out to be the case, it’s a good way to give the show it’s own Lex Luther, separate from the baggage that would come from using Supergirl‘s version of the character. I do wonder how the show would explain this, though, given it explicitly avoided any mention of Crisis in this first episode, despite the impact it had on Clark’s own family.
One would be forgiven for having been very surprised, when the first trailer dropped for Superman and Lois. Visually, the show did not look anything like any of it’s Arrowverse siblings.
That aesthetic wasn’t just for the trailer, it turns out. That is exactly how the show looks, with a visual style that would be much better suited to the cinema screen, than it is The CW network.
Whatever the budget for this show, they’ve made it look leagues above everything else we have seen in this narrative universe, thus far. The filters, and shot choices, create a visual style that is enthralling, and leaves you sitting in front of your television, wondering how this show airs on the network that it does.
This has obviously been a deliberate move on the part of the producers. As the streaming war picks up, and Warner Bros., ViacomCBS, and more, dive into the world of DTC services, content has become key. And, not just any content. Content that looks like a movie, but on a fraction of the budget.
With HBO Max, the DC projects how have a new forever home, once they complete their run on linear television. With this in mind, and the pull that the Superman character has with the wider general audience, it suggests that the visual cues taken in Superman and Lois have been guided by the knowledge that this will be a show that Warner Bros. want to use to attract people to HBO Max, once it debuts on the service.
This makes perfect longterm business sense, and leaves us with two big winners: The CW itself, and us, the viewers.
The CW have a show that now looks unlike anything else on their network (in a good way!), and viewers get treated to a weekly episode that feels like it should be watched on the big screen, with a bowl of popcorn in your lap.
Despite his familiar face, Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman is not one we have seen before. In just one episode, the Supergirl guest character has believably taken back his crown as the strongest and most impressive superhero on this Earth, and it’s done in an authentic way that leaves you wanting more and more.
Visually, Hoechlin looks brilliant. He has added some bulk onto his frame, and his new suit looks absolutely incredible on him. This is a Superman who you don’t want to mess around with.
As I wrote earlier, Elizabeth Tulloch has made this Lois Lane into a character I am routing for, both professionally and personally. She feels the equal of Clark, and even Superman, which is a testament to the fantastic work done by Tulloch onscreen.
There will be many people sat at their keyboards, using social media to complain about this show. They’ll call it boring, I suspect. But, the honest truth, is that it is anything but.
This show is going to be a deep dive into the characters of Clark Kent, and Lois Lane, unlike anything we have ever seen onscreen with them previously. To do that, the writers must take their time, and also give the actors the opportunity to bring this to the screen in a genuine and believable way.
If folk want to see a Kryptonian having super-fights, Supergirl is right there for them. Hell, Superman and Lois has already had some impressive action scenes, given Superman’s smaller role in this episode.
You check in to Superman and Lois for the characters, and you stay for them, too.
This was a brilliant start to a series that promises to not only shakeup the Arrowverse, but also the famous titular characters. We’ve often learnt lessons from the Superman character, and now I can’t wait to learn some parenting ones from him, too.
As wonderful a start as I could have hoped for.