“No one dreams about the problems, but every life has them. Even the extraordinary ones.”
I’m not sure there is a more perfect quote to sum up the CW’s new series, Superman & Lois, which debuted on the network last night, than the words that came from Elizabeth Tulloch’s Lois Lane during the pilot episode. Yes, being Superman means big fights with intergalactic threats and saving the world on a regular basis. But he also has a life as Clark Kent. He has a wife and kids and a job and he has the same problems that come with those things as everyone else.
Over the last three decades, there have been a few attempts to put on a television show with the focus on Clark Kent rather than Superman. It helps to humanize a character that many – wrongly – feel is simply too powerful to be interesting. Underneath all of those “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men” is still a Kansas farm boy who grew up, got a job and fell in love.
There have been so many attempts to modernize or change Superman to make him more marketable to a wide audience, but he always returns to his core concept: that he’s here to help, and he’s doing it to benefit the greater good, not himself. His responsibilities to the world as Superman come before the needs of Clark Kent, and that tenet strikes the central drama behind the new CW series.
In Superman & Lois, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are married with twin sons who are getting ready to start high school. As much as Clark wants to be there for his sons, his duties as Superman frequently come first. Maybe sons Jonathan and Jordan would understand, if Clark allowed them to know his secret. While the popular Jonathan seems nonplussed about his father’s busy life, Jordan struggles with it, and it likely feeds into his social anxiety disorder. Clark struggles with balancing his duties as a father with his duties as Superman, but he refuses to let the kids in on the secret.
Adding extra pressure to the secret is the concern that one or both of the twins may develop powers of his own. The spotlight there is on Jonathan, a stellar athlete who made the varsity football team as a quarterback in his freshman year.
More excuses are needed as Superman investigates a series of breeches at nuclear power plants, aided by Lois’ father, Gen. Sam Lane, who is also in on the secret – a distinct change from the usual status quo. And then Clark’s adopted mother, Martha Kent, suffers a stroke and dies as Clark is about to be furloughed from his job at the Daily Planet – a scene that felt all too FAMILIAR to me.
Martha’s death sets off the show’s central narrative, bring Clark, Lois and the twins back to Smallville for the funeral. With Clark losing his job at the Planet and the struggles of big city life raising twin teenage boys, Clark and Lois decide to make a change: moving the family to Smallville to take over the Kent farm. Which still houses the rocket ship that brought Clark to Earth as a baby. So, of course, Jonathan and Jordan discover it, forcing Clark to reveal his secret.
Which of course leads to more drama, and the eventual reveal that it’s Jordan and not Jonathan that has some of Clark’s powers.
Making a modern Superman doesn’t require making him a grim, joyless character or taking away the central tenets that has persevered since the 1930s. I think writers Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason did an amazing job when they started writing Clark and Lois as parents at the start of the Rebirth reboot 5 years ago. Superman & Lois manages to keep the essence of Superman while also bringing a new perspective, as the Lane-Kent family faces new problems that are unique to a modern era. The show has heart, it has action and it may put actor Tyler Hoechlin – who has played the character since being introduced on SUPERGIRL in 2016 – at the top of the list of best Superman actors.
I truly loved everything about the show. The chemistry between Hoechlin and Tulloch – and their kids – was perfect. The little nods to Superman’s history (his debut in the 1938-inspired suit and catching the green sedan; “My mom made it for me;” nods to Shuster, Siegel, Richard Donner and more) made this old Superman fan smile.
I hope the show gets a good run on the CW, as the Arrowverse begins to shift away from the original favorites. If the series continues on as it did in the pilot, Superman & Lois deserves to get a long run on the Network. As a lifelong Superman fan, the pilot episode is an easy thumbs up, and I can’t wait to see where the season takes me.