Superman is arguably one of the most popular and enduring heroes ever. From his humble beginning in issue #1 of Action Comics, he has been interpreted and re-interpreted in cartoon shorts, television, movies, more animated features, and back to television again. Can Superman still resonate with TV audiences today?
We first met this latest version of Superman in an appearance of the CW’s Supergirl. He had been talked about and hinted at during the first season of that show, but when the second season premiered they did so with a bang by bringing in Kara’s super-powered cousin played by Tyler Hoechlin. Tyler had already cut his teeth in genre programming in the series Teen Wolf so fans were understandably curious to see him as Kal-El. The response was quite positive and naturally, he came back when the CW unveiled their much-hyped crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths. This time we were also treated to another wonderful surprise as Elizabeth Tulloch (from the still beloved series Grimm) was brought in to play Lois Lane and the positive fan response was so strong that it was inevitable that they would be brought in to take on their own show.
From the first episode, this series behaves quite differently than anything we might have expected. While Lois may have been pregnant towards the end of the Crisis crossover, here she is a mother (obviously still married to Clark Kent) of teenaged twin boys. They start in Metropolis, but when a family situation happens it puts the Kent family in the position of moving back to Smallville. Almost immediately Lois and Clark encounter some unpleasant threats to the community of Smallville as well as to their own family, but none so difficult as trying to deal with their sons, one of whom has started to develop latent powers. There is a mystery regarding Lois’s former boss buying up land in Smallville as well as Superman dealing with more than one super-powered threat to him and his family, but all of these take a back seat as Clark tries to be a responsible father to both of his sons. Unfortunately, being Superman has little to no positive effect when it comes to his boys.
After three episodes only this series has thrown so much at us, and yet it never became overwhelming. Since this is a CW show it has to have all of the “angsty” material that is prevalent in almost every bit of nighttime programming they have. This is all part of the deconstruction of superheroes we have been seeing for almost the past 10 years on the CW, starting with the series Arrow. One of the biggest problems with superheroes in the past is their reputation for being perfect and in the case of Superman he was about as perfect as anyone could hope to be. It’s no surprise that the character of Batman came as a response to that for no one was as deeply flawed and haunted as the Dark Knight, which made him another one of the most popular heroes in all of the superhero pantheon. Now show creators Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing are taking their winning formula and playing on the duality of the Superman/Clark Kent identity. As Superman, he is about as heroic as anyone could imagine, but as Clark Kent, he is so flawed and unsure about how to be a parent that Lois comes off as the super one in the family. It speaks to the nature of families and how they manage to stay together, or sometimes even break apart, in some of the most difficult social times we can think of. It can serve as a message that what makes a person super isn’t about any powers they might have, rather it is about perseverance. Clark is determined to be as strong a father as he is a hero, and Lois is equally determined to be as effective an investigative reporter in Smallville as she was in Metropolis.
The main cast is quite good. Hoechlin and Tulloch have already proven themselves in these iconic roles and they continue to shine here. Rounding out the family are Alex Garfin as Jordan Kent and Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent, the twin sons of Clark and Lois. They bring out a lot of the teenaged angst but this time with an added element. Sometimes their reactions seem a bit over the top, but as Lois reminds Clark, these are just teenagers and they are lashing out in frustration, making their reactions seem perhaps a bit more believable and maybe to serve as a tool for parents who are trying to understand their teenage sons and daughters.
Superman and Lois has done a lot with only three episodes. It will be very interesting to see how well it develops with the remaining 13 of this first season. What I can say is that so far it has the rhythm of a comic book with the multiple threats and problems that are being thrown at both Lois and Clark. The stories have been strong and the performances have been powerful. I look forward to seeing how high Superman and Lois will fly!