"Superman & Lois" off to an emotional, high-flying start
"You may have fallen in love with Clark Kent, but you married Superman. Superman doesn't get to have a normal life, no matter how much you want one for him...or yourself." —General Sam Lane, to Lois
Leave it to Greg Berlanti to produce and co-write an excellent extra-length intro episode for the newest superhero series on the CW. The SuperProducer has had the golden touch, creating one success after another for the CW, as well as other networks. From Arrow and Riverdale, to Sabrina and The Flash, Berlanti's down-to-earth approach brings a human touch to his superhero and teen dramas alike, sometimes both at the same time. As is the case here, in what can be considered Smallville 2.0.
Berlanti has decided to borrow a page from the DC Comics, which currently feature a Superman & Lois with a teenage son, Jonathan. But Berlanti goes one son better: this CW series centers around the couple's difficulties and challenges raising twin teens. Jonathan is the confident, popular athlete; everything comes easy for him. Jordan is the brooding, disheveled brother with social anxiety; for him, everything is a struggle. The two teens do not get along, and Jonathan treats his brother so cruelly, it's hard to imagine he is the son of kind and gentle Clark. Ball-busting, sibling teasing is one thing; emotional abuse is another. Here's hoping for some character growth, asap.
As if that wouldn't provide enough family drama in this series, Clark (Taylor Hoechlin) and Lois (Bitsy Tulloch) have been raising their sons keeping secret that their father is Superman, to protect his identity and to prevent any angst if one son should develop powers and the other, not so much. It seems like a flimsy excuse, especially since Lois reminds Clark for probably the umpteenth time, that his parents revealed his otherworldly origins to him at a younger age. Predictably, this decision to withhold such vital information will blow up in their faces, Big Time.
Another difference from this series to the comics, is the relationship of Lois' father, Army General Sam Lane, to her husband. In the comics, Gen. Lane is most definitely NOT a Superman fan, has an obsession with controlling him, and at times, even trying to kill him. Here, the General and Superman are crimefighting partners; Lane even has a device that he can use to alert Superman when he is needed, much like Jimmy Olsen's famous signal watch. He is even aware of Superman's dual identity. It will be interesting to see if Lane changes his tune, and becomes a foe in future seasons.
The Kents are drawn back to Smallville after Clark's mother has a fatal stroke. It's been 10 years since Clark's father passed, but for us it's only been 10 minutes since seeing it happen in the opening sequence. It's an emotional one-two gut punch for us. When Clark gets the dreaded phone call, races to Smallville, and approaches his mother's deathbed, he is at first unable to bring himself to look at her. Whether this was in the script, or it was entirely Hoechlin's decision, it was an incredibly human and touching moment. Even at superspeed he wasn't able to get there in time; he heard her dying words in transit: "It's time. Come Home." The meaning and wisdom of her words later become apparent. It's sad to know that Clark will no longer benefit from his mother's advice while raising teen sons. However, it means he and Lois will lean on each other more, and that will make for better drama.
The seeds of another Smallville teen romance are planted when Lana Lang and her family come to Mrs. Kent's funeral. Lana's troubled daughter hits it off with equally troubled Jordan. She is present at an accident in the off-limits Kent barn, and an incident at Jordan's first Smallville teen party, both events leading to the pilot's first two Big Reveals, both drastically changing the Kent family dynamic.
The final Big Reveal may be borrowing an original plot point from the aborted Superman movie treatment by J.J. Abrams, where a high-profile villain is perhaps being reimagined and introduced to the CW-verse (formerly known as the Arrow-verse) in a very controversial way. If true, one I am definitely not a fan of. But the climactic segment did show off an awesome battle scene with some excellent special effects. TV effects have gotten as sophisticated-looking as movie effects.
However, I am absolutely a fan of the supersuit that has been designed for this series. It is inspired by recent versions seen in the comics (New 52 and after), before the reintroduction of Superman's iconic red shorts, and a definite improvement over the one Hoechlin wore in his Supergirl appearances and in the Crisis crossovers. It features muted colors, two subtly different blue shades and textures, a semi-transparent cape, a smaller S-symbol, and a red belt with a gold belt buckle that echoes the outline of the chest symbol.
Hoechlin makes for a solid, upbeat Superman and the best Clark Kent since Brandon Routh channeled Christopher Reeve. Unlike his earlier appearances where he was always clean-shaven, it appears that Hoechlin's very dark and heavy five-o'clock shadow will be everpresent in Superman & Lois. Bitsy Tulloch is also convincing as an assertive but loving Lois. She and Hoechlin make a good couple, and their scenes together show comfortable chemistry.
Besides the family drama, teen angst, and romance, several threads were introduced that promise to keep both Superman & Lois busy. Including a big challenge for Lois to investigate and expose: the growing evidence of a corporate takeover of Smallville, and the repercussions of the purchase of the Daily Planet, both by evil billionaire (and comic book baddie) Morgan Edge.
Stay tuned; this series looks like it will be enjoyable for fans (Easter eggs abound!) as well as those who know very little about the Superman mythos.
Watch Superman & Lois, Tuesdays on the CW, and streaming the next day at cwtv.com