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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Superman & Lois make the move to Smallville

Illustration for article titled Superman & Lois make the move to Smallville
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW
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“You know what, babe? You do your Superman stuff and I will do my Lois Lane stuff.”

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Second episodes of a new series are tricky. On the one hand, they have to reintroduce the world established by the pilot, and on the other, they have to expand it enough to keep us interested. Like a lot of second episodes, “Heritage” struggles to get that balance exactly right. There are new things to enjoy here: We meet the A.I. hologram of Clark’s biological father Jor-El (Angus Macfadyen) in our first extended trip to the Fortress of Solitude; get a glimpse into the tense halls and football fields of Smallville High School; and see Lois begin her official investigation into just what Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner) wants with Smallville. But, on the whole, “Heritage” doesn’t really broaden the show’s world beyond what we probably could’ve guessed was coming. In retrospect, it might’ve made more sense for last week’s supersized premiere to have spent more time establishing the Lane-Kent family’s life in Metropolis in order to make the contrast to Smallville land harder. As is, the most compelling thing about “Heritage” is Superman & Lois’ clear confidence in its own slow-burn approach.

After a premiere anchored in Clark’s point of view, Superman & Lois (sort of) delivers an episode that’s rooted in the perspective of the second half of its titular duo. “Heritage” opens with narration from The Daily Planet’s most famous journalist and gives Lois a newfound reason—and a newfound sidekick—to justify her move to Smallville. But especially compared to how deep last week’s episode went into Clark’s backstory, it can’t help but feel like Lois gets the short end of the stick here. We learn a little bit more about her nose for a story and see her make a seismic career shift based on her journalistic principles. But for a show that’s first and foremost a family drama, Lois’ place within her own family unit still feels just a touch too generic. It’s telling that her own father, General Lane, is a character who exists as a foil for Clark, rather than as a foil for her.

We do at least get a parallel for Lois and one of her children. The Lane-Kents officially make the move from Metropolis to Smallville this week, which requires Lois and Jonathan to give up more and gain less than Clark and Jordan do. It’s a sacrifice they make out of familial love, but one that still stings. There’s a quiet burden that comes from being a non-powered person in a superhero family. How can you compare your everyday problems to someone literally struggling with superhuman ones? On the other hand, how can you not resent them for making you think like that? Linking Lois and Jonathan in that struggle is a smart use of the show’s interpersonal dynamics.

Illustration for article titled Superman & Lois make the move to Smallville
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

In fact, despite Lois’ narration, it’s actually the Kent twins who emerge as the most interesting part of “Heritage.” The move to Smallville reverses their usually dynamic. The once ostracized, disconnected Jordan finds a new sense of connection and fun in his dad’s personalized lessons at the Fortress of Solitude. Meanwhile, the once popular, confident Jonathan finds himself starting at the bottom at Smallville High—especially as he bears the brunt of the fallout from Jordan’s misjudged kiss last week. But though the status shift leads to some tension between the brothers, the best choice Superman & Lois makes is to first and foremost root Jonathan and Jordan’s relationship in love.

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We see that most obviously in Jonathan’s big final monologue about helping Jordan learn to use his powers, but it’s threaded throughout the episode too. My favorite little moment is the warm hug that Jonathan and Jordan share after their first school day apart from one another. Alex Garfin and especially Jordan Elsass really convey the sense that despite their differing personalities and occasional sibling squabbles, these two brothers genuinely like each other as people too. That warm twin connection helps bring some of the sunny Superman ethos to this grittier take on the Lane-Kent family saga. And the idea that siblings can be jealous of one another and still love each other is exactly the sort of nuanced emotional storytelling that Superman & Lois needs to lean into if it wants to function first and foremost as a character-centric show.

Illustration for article titled Superman & Lois make the move to Smallville
Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW
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Plotwise, this episode’s biggest info drop comes from Wolé Parks’ mysterious Captain Luthor. The slow-build to the reveal that this Luthor comes from an alternate universe where Superman is an evil world-destroyer is effectively done. The flashback to Evil Supes mowing down an entire trench full of soldiers is deeply unsettling and gives Captain Luthor a clear motivation for his attempts to take down this world’s Superman. While plenty of comic book antagonists have feared the unchecked power that superheroes represent, the flashback gives Captain Luthor’s fear an immediately visceral quality, rather than an abstract or intellectual one. Superman might not be evil in this universe, but he has the potential to be—and you understand exactly why Luthor is haunted by that idea.

Still, there’s also something pretty rote about the way Clark keeps darting off to fight Captain Luthor in order to give this episode its requisite level of action for the week. It’s relevant to the Smallville stuff in that it’s the thing that keeps pulling Clark away from his newfound commitment to being a better father. But, thematically, Captain Luthor’s revenge mission is too removed from the main focus of the show. There are ways it could—and I suspect will—gain more direct parallels to the main family throughline. For now, however, it’s where Superman & Lois feels the most obligated to superhero TV formula.

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Instead of the big stuff, it’s actually the little details that make Superman & Lois sing. The shot of Clark casually flying around the Kent farm to complete some home repairs. The warm, lived-in dynamic between Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch. Inde Navarrette’s believably grounded take on a small-town teenage girl. The sweet joy of Clark taking Jordan on his first flight. “Heritage” reaffirms that Superman & Lois is committed to a tone that’s far more Friday Night Lights than Stargirl. And that means adjusting to a new kind of pacing for a CW superhero show.


Stray observations

  • So are Lois and Clark going to raise their family on her salary from a small town newspaper that’s literally owned and run by one person? Let’s hope Chrissy Beppo (Sofia Hasmik) pays well!
  • It seems absolutely wild that Morgan Edge would personally attend a Smallville city council meeting. That’d be like Jeff Bezos stopping by Springfield, Illinois to check in on a town hall event.
  • The idea that Clark can fly into space without a suit or ship is very different than the continuity established on Supergirl—a show (and a character) that’s yet to be mentioned on this series.
  • I really dug the score in this episode, particularly during Lois’ opening narration.
  • There’s a great little bit of physical comedy where Jonathan and Jordan both put their heads in their hands when their mom goes into full journalism mode during the city council meeting.
  • The sunglasses on the back of Kyle’s head are an incredible touch to his character-building.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Caroline Siede is a pop culture critic in Chicago, where the cold never bothers her anyway. Her interests include superhero movies, feminist theory, and Jane Austen novels.