On Superman & Lois, No One’s as Special as They Thought They Were

On Superman & Lois, No One’s as Special as They Thought They Were
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Superman & Loisdebut last week was all about bringing the CW’s own Man of Steel back down to earth a little bit, with familial struggles that he couldn’t solve with a punch or an eye beam blast. But when certain revelations about his family life brought the Kent-Lane team back to Smallville, the show presented the idea of a special little family in a small little town…before promptly skewering that notion in some interesting ways.

Much of “Heritage” is about, thankfully, taking a bit of a handbrake to the pilot episode’s superheroic escalation, which saw Clark reveal to his teen sons Jonathan and Jordan that he is indeed Superman, and that the latter of the brothers — in spite of his parent’s speculation — is the one that inherited Clark’s powers. It seemed to wrap up rather abruptly: that in revealing his secret Clark had immediately begun the path to being the better father he was questioning his capability of, that in being the one who inherited his powers, Jordan would be able to open up and connect with his father after years of struggles with his mental health and his ability to understand himself. Problems over!

After an episode that had largely focused on a more human side of the DC’s CW material, the indicators were there that we’d be neatly wrapping it all up in a bow to get to the Superman-Superboy power hour. But for now, Superman & Lois is at least thankfully intent on taking as slow a burn as possible in turning its main family into the network’s latest superteam. The second episode takes a little step back to instead knock a little of that special Kryptonian wind out of basically everyone’s sails in the Kent-Lane unit, to remind them that they’re still just as fallibly human as the rest of us whether or not they know (or are) a certain red-caped man of tomorrow.

Initially, Clark and Jordan bear the brunt of this, as the two are quickly eager to re-established their frayed bond with frequent trips to the Fortress of Solitude so that Clark can a) introduce Jordan to his holo-grandad, and b) begin learning the extent of his powers. At first, everything’s going well, and the distance between father and son that had dominated so much of the pilot feels like a distant memory. But when early tests by Jor-El’s monitoring systems seemingly detect that Jordan cannot store energy from the sun like his father can — that, as Jor-El puts it, his humanity is holding back what Kryptonian is within him to truly manifest abilities — father and son face huge blowbacks again.

Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

Jordan returns to lashing out at the world around him, his family included, believing this as further proof he’s some sort of freakish abnormality. Clark, meanwhile, already stressed out at having to deal with a new villain who knows discomforting levels of things about him, once again finds himself wracked with self-doubt over whether or not he’s doing the right thing, either as Superman or as a father to both his sons. But it’s not just one Kent-Lane sibling who’s struggling with a reckoning over whether they’re as talented as they’d been lead to believe.

As Clark and Jordan begin spending more time together (and Lois is off doing her own thing, which we’ll get to), Jonathan, formerly the athletic wunderkind, finds himself in a strange spot of not being held upon high by his new school peers or even at home. Fallout from the fight at last week’s party has put many of his new teammates on Smallville High’s football team on a warpath to make Jonathan’s life on and off the field miserable, leading to his performance there suffering. That, combined with his parents’ focus on Jordan in the wake of his manifestation, leads to an explosive outburst with the brother at their rawest, screaming about how focus on the other is undermining the sacrifices they’ve all made relocating to Smallville.

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Lois — who thankfully gets much more of a plot thread this week compared to the pilot’s focus on Clark — faces a knockback that is a bit more professional than it is personal, but it’s still one that galvanizes her in her new quest to expose Morgan Edge’s myriad wrongdoings. Already on the hunt over Edge’s plan to pump venture capital into Smallville’s failing economy, Lois decides that she — embracing the figure of the know-it-all out-of-towner coming in to fix all the dumb boonies’ problems persona that’s been lobbed at her by people like Lana’s husband, Kyle — is the only one who can expose Edge’s sliminess after his takeover of the Daily Planet. Instead, she quickly learns what any journalist whose workplace is owned by private equity does: sometimes the people with infinitely more money than you will in fact hold all the power over you, and are willing to exercise it in some very petty ways.

After Edge orders a radical re-write of a piece Lois filed about his predatory funding practices in small towns before his interest in Smallville, Lois is shocked to discover that she — intrepid reporter, bright star of the Daily Planet masthead, a woman who has never faced a re-write in her entire career! — is just as easily screwed over by Edge as anyone else, whether at the Planet or in Smallville (even if, like Kyle, people are desperate enough to risk a chance on Edge potentially screwing them). It all leads to a moment of climax that blows out on the Kent family farm’s staircase of all places. Lois, frustrated by Edge’s sliminess, Clark, pulled between the mysterious stranger’s growing threat and new revelations day by day about Jordan’s superhumanity, the siblings both being pushed further and further about their own stresses, everyone lets the mask slip a little, the kids especially. That is, until Lois has to remind them all that no matter what setbacks the family faces, they’re not problems that can be solved with superpowers, but problems confronted and challenged by standing together as a family.

It seemingly works, at least for a little bit — Jordan and Jonathan apologise to each other for not having their brother’s backs like they have their whole lives. Lois, meanwhile, realises that she can’t do what she needs to do at the Planet anymore, handing in her resignation to become the, uh, second employee of the Smallville Gazette to continue investigating Edge on her own terms. As for Clark, it remains to be seen, as a Lois Lane pep talk really doesn’t get him any step closer to uncovering what we the audience know about Captain Luthor’s true identity in the first place. At least, on the home front, he’s beginning to get a better grasp on the problems his family is facing and decides that its time for him to be there as much as he can. Handing over a pocket receiver to his sons, he decides to let them call him — him being Superman specifically, obviously they all have mobile phones — whenever they need, just as General Lane can summon Superman to save the day.

And speaking of the General, he’s going to need Clark more than ever — after Captain Luthor’s quest for more Kryptonite (and, after a scrap with Clark along the way, materials for a new suit) puts him on a collision course with the DOD. But instead of just levelling the building and getting what he needs, the “Stranger” gives General Lane a warning that someday he’ll become like the Sam Luthor knew on his own world — just as Kal-El will, too, Luthor darkly wonders. Here we’re treated to a flashback of a dark-suited Superman on Luthor’s alternate earth, eradicating a unit of soldiers (Captain Lane, included) with his heat vision with a cold emptiness.

Turns out not even Superman’s so special for now — in a world of multiverses, he’s not the only last son of Krypton. But in revenge, Luthor’s now got plans for him to be exactly that, and it might take a bit more than Lois, Jonathan, and Jordan standing beside him to prevent that from happening.