Superman & Lois (The CW)
Written by Greg Berlanti & Todd Helbing
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Superman in popular media has been a tricky thing for the last decade. I don’t disguise my absolute disgust with Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the character in his films. He seems relegated to a villainous figure in video games if you look at the Injustice series and the upcoming Suicide Squad game. I’ve enjoyed the direction he’s gone in the comic books, and despite some little annoyances, I think writer Brian Michael Bendis has taken the character down some fresh avenues.
I’ve attempted to find a way into the Arrowverse on the CW, but it simply isn’t made for me. If I was a middle school kid, then I would be thrilled beyond compare for the number of shows and characters on that network. But as an adult, the poor writing and production quality shines through more. However, I was very interested when I saw the promos for this newest take on the Superman story.
The Superman story played out as we know it. He grew up in Smallville, came to Metropolis where Superman debuted and fell in love with Lois. But the story keeps going. After they were married for a few years, twins were born. Lois & Clark were worried about the children developing powers, and they seemed to be normal human kids. Clark kept his heroic persona secret from the boys, Jordan & Jonathan, using his job as a reporter as the excuse for absences. Jonathan became the golden boy of the family, exceeding at everything he did from athletics to academics. On the other hand, Jordan had a volatile personality and was eventually diagnosed as having a social anxiety disorder. The pilot episode deals with the fallout of significant changes in the Kents’ lives, both mundane and supernatural.
This is the first CW Arrowverse show that looked amazing, in my opinion. I don’t necessarily think the production budget is probably much more than any other show. However, this pilot episode does quite a bit with cinematography and lighting to make it feel like a larger production. The showrunners are very much mimicking Man of Steel’s look but not following Snyder’s philosophy of who Superman is. They touch on the angst that someone like Superman would naturally have but without making it so dour and bleak. He is a grand figure, given the proper epic treatment, but also kept warm and human. The episode reminds us why people love Superman.
I’ve always thought there is a lot to explore about the conflict between Superman’s personal & public lives. That appears to be the entire crux of this series. As a kid, I hated Lois & Clark on ABC because it wasn’t what I wanted out of a Superman show. I don’t know how a child would feel about this version of the characters, but I think it is finding a much better middle ground. It is very character-centered, clearly introducing the developing Clark, Lois, and their family but also has excellent large-scale superhero moments. There’s an intriguing villain introduced with ties to Superman used as a great hook to keep viewers watching. If the show can keep this episode’s quality up, I expect it will eclipse anything going on in the DC films.
On the downside, I found some of the acting to be distractingly poor. The characterizations of Jordan & Jonathan Kent are very broad and deeply cliched. As the series continues on, I hope that they become more nuanced, but when I think about the other Arrowverse shows I’ve seen, I’m not holding my breath. The moment where Clark reveals his powers to the boys feels sort of rushed, and I think it would have been better to build up to that moment in the first three-episode arc of the season. Let the show breathe and have the boys notice strange details and lead to a scene where we know the characters better and feel their emotions more intensely.
I do not think I will continue watching Superman & Lois, but I could see myself coming back after the first season concludes. If the buzz is positive, I wouldn’t mind watching through it over a weekend or so. I have to applaud them for going with the Superman & Lois as parents angle. Superman works best as a father figure, so he should really thrive in this new series.