The CW’s bread and butter is its superhero shows (the just-ended Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Stargirl) and it just launched yet another superhero series on February 23rd with the premiere of Superman & Lois. The developers of the show – Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing – have already told fans this take on the classic superhero sets out to answer the question of what if Superman and Lois Lane got married and had kids. With episode one, answering that question is front and center.
The premiere episode opens with a stylish voice-over montage of Superman/Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) talking about arriving on Earth and being raised in Smallville by his adoptive parents, the Kents. Clark moves to Metropolis and becomes its protector and champion, and is shown saving a young boy from a falling car wearing his very first Superman outfit which mirrors the classic animated look of the Max Fleischer animated shorts of the 1940s. The flashback continues with a scene (one of the best in the episode) that shows Clark’s first day at the Daily Planet and meeting the paper’s ace reporter Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) who seems to have instant chemistry with him. Another montage follows of the whirlwind romance between Lois and Clark and how they finally decided to marry, have a family, and raise their two twin sons in Metropolis.
The series premiere then cuts to Superman trying to seal and cool down a nuclear power plant that’s about to meltdown and destroy Metropolis. In a very impressive scene of computer-generated special effects, Superman uses his ice breath to freeze enough water to carry to the plant and cool it down so he can seal the leak with his heat vision.
Even though he just saved Metropolis from destruction, when Clark gets home he’s chastised by both his wife and his mother who calls him from Smallville to declare he’s just not around enough for his teenage sons who are about to start high school and need him more than ever.
“The world will always need Superman but your sons need their father now,” says Lois.
Lois and Martha (Michele Scarabelli) treat Clark as if he’s a roving reporter covering disasters instead of stopping them from happening. This is the main theme of the show; dealing with teen angst and growing pains is more important than saving hundreds if not thousands of lives.
The focus then shifts to Clark and Lois returning to Smallville with their sons to attend the funeral of Clark’s mother. While at the farm they discover that Smallville is a dying town and has been for the last five to seven years due to a farming crisis. Meanwhile, their sons – Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin) – have an accident in the barn, a place they’re forbidden from entering. Fortunately, they walk away with only mild concussions. This leads both Lois and Clark to believe that one if not both have superpowers just like dad.
Jonathan doesn’t think much of the incident but Jordan knows they should have been seriously injured and is wondering why they weren’t. It’s not long before they go snooping around in the barn again and discover the old spaceship Clark came to Earth in so many years ago. They confront their parents and Clark and Lois decide it’s time to tell them the truth. Clark reveals to the boys he’s Superman. Shocked and feeling betrayed, they tell their parents to give them some space.
Clark receives a message from Lois’ father (Dylan Walsh) who’s a military general about a lead on who damaged the nuclear power plant. Clark suits up and flies to the plant to find a man in a futuristic suit who knows his real name – Kal-El – and all about his origin. The suit gives the man super strength and flight ability and the Man of Steel gives chase and fights the villain but ends up getting stabbed by a kryptonite knife and having to break off the fight.
At the same time, Jordan meets up with Sarah, the daughter of Clark’s ex Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), at a bonfire and the two start to talk about private elements of their life and feeling like outsiders. Jordan kisses Sarah and is quickly attacked by her boyfriend; it seems Sarah forgot to tell Jordan she had a boyfriend. Jonathan shows up and defends his brother but is pounced upon by other guys. As he gets kicked and beaten, Jordan, feeling enraged, shoots heat vision out of his eyes into the fire causing it to explode.
Lois sees the report of the fire on the news and messages Clark to come back, informing him his sons need him. Superman, who quickly recovers from the kryptonite knife wound, flies to the location of the bonfire to find that the fire department has put out the fire and both his sons are fine.
The next day Clark tells Lois he believes his mother wanted them to move back to the farm and raise the boys there so he could spend more time being a family man and dad. Lois agrees and they decide to tell the boys they’re staying in Smallville.
Superman & Lois is less about the heroics of the Man of Steel and more about the trials and tribulations of raising two teenage boys in a dried-up farm town. It’s simply Smallville, The Next Generation.
One of the best elements of the new show is its cinematography, with stunning wide shots of the Kent farm and beautiful sunsets. Still, these aren’t really showing us anything new and seem to be inspired by similar and much more impressive scenes from the films Superman: The Movie and Man of Steel.
Working in the show’s favor is the strong chemistry between Hoechlin and Tulloch as Clark and Lois. They play off each other well and come across as a real couple.
Sadly, the show has many problems to rise above, first and foremost is the writing which is just terrible. (Case in point – Lois’ “The world will always need Superman, right now this family needs you more.”) Having Lois and Clark’s mother acting as though saving thousands of lives comes second to scolding his brooding son or spending an afternoon with his sons is incredibly stupid and insulting to everyone, especially the viewers.
The main focus of the show is one that’s not likely to keep Superman fans, or fans of other The CW shows, coming back week after week. Watching Clark disciplining his moody, brooding son Jordan while he yells and screams at his father about how unfair he is and how he fears superpowers is not what fans of the classic superhero want. Superman has always been and should always be a beacon of hope, a hero saving the world and leading by example. No one has ever wanted to watch Superman be a put-upon dad and have to deal with the daily, ordinary trials of dealing with teen angst.
Another big issue is the waste of the great character Lois Lane. Lois is supposed to be an award-winning, dauntless journalist always after the next big story in addition to being head-over-heels in love with Clark aka Superman. In this new take on the character, Lois is a loving wife and mother who really wants her husband to be home more to spend time with the family. It’s as though Lois Lane has turned into Harriett of Ozzie and Harriet or Donna Reed in the old Donna Reed Show. To have Tulloch standing around hugging her sons and lecturing Clark on how much he’s missing out on raising their sons is an absolute waste and, worse yet, a betrayal of a classic strong and independent female lead.
Superman & Lois is a superhero show that, unfortunately, is less about thrilling superheroic feats and adventure and more about moody, domestic melodrama. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.