Friday, February 26, 2021

TV Review: Superman and Lois (Pilot Episode)


I am an unabashed fan of Superman.  He is one of my favorite fictional characters.  

When Superman was first introduced in the CW Arrowverse I was not terribly impressed.  No offense to actor Tyler Holchin, but with the iconic nature of the character, I just didn't think that they did the Superman justice.  On Supergirl, it felt like they were terrified that Kal-El would overshadow his cousin in her own show.  

But as the promos for the new show emerged, I became very interested.

The concept for this show is the Lois and Clark are raising two twin teenage sons.  This is a side of Superman we really haven't seen.  His romance with Lois has been the subject of lots of stories.  And the idea of them raising a child has been explored in great detail by writers like Peter J. Tomasi.  But the dynamic of two teen sons is incredibly intriguing.

Quite rightly, the show leans into the mythic father/son dynamic at play.  Teenage sons can see their fathers as old-fashioned and out of touch.  In the same way, Superman is often looked at as a relic, lacking the edge that modern pop culture looks for.  And despite this, the father towers over the son's life like a superman.  

The plot involves Clark and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) coming back to his hometown of Smallville just after Clark has been fired from the Daily Planet.  With them are Jon (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin), about to enter their freshmen year.  The boys act as foils to each other.  Jon is outgoing, athletic, and charismatic.  Jordan is introverted, pensive, and has a social anxiety disorder.  Clark has been keeping his identity a secret from them, worried about if his sons develop his powers or worse if one does and the other does not.  Once back in Smallville, they encounter Clarks old girlfriend Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who is married to fire chief Kyle (Erik Valdez).  Their teenage daughter Sarah (Inde Navarrette) seems to instantly connect to the Kent boys.  Through the course of the story, they decide to move back to Smallville.

First, I have to say that this is a beautifully shot pilot.  It feels like something out of a Terrence Malick movie.  The landscapes are gorgeous and when you get to Smallville, you really feel the wide open spaces and the pastoral beauty of this world.  

Second, the portrayal of family life is fantastic.  Superman can turn back tides, but he struggles with making the right decisions for his family.  It's also really refreshing to feel like Clark and Lois have real struggles like losing jobs or having to go to therapy appointments for his kids.  Smallville has also seen better days, with family farms being edged out by big corporations.  There is something incredibly grounded about this superhero show.  It's this take on the characters that I really love.  Shows like Smallville explored Clark as a teen growing up into Superman.  Shows like Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman looked at his early days as a hero and his courtship of Lois.  But just as I've gotten older, it's nice to see Superman's life mature along with me.

Holchin is actualy terrific as Clark.  He plays the duality of invincible super hero and struggling father very well.  His chemistry with Tulloch is fantastic.  Their relationship has a strong, lived-in quality of a couple who are decades into their relationship.  The love and affection are still there, but all of their focus is outward towards their kids instead of inward.  Elsass and Garfin do a good job capturing the angst and arrogance of teenage life.  Their relationship is written well where there is rivalry, but they are not cartoonish enemies.  They are siblings, with all of the complexity that goes along with it.  

The pilot was not perfect.  The special effects are a bit on the cheap side sometime.  Also, there is a political conversation that takes place between Lois and Kyle that feels awkward, particularly because one side is clearly prefered by the writers.  

Despite this, I am hooked for at least the rest of the season.  And honestly, I think this is exactly the shot in the arm that the Arrowverse needs now.  Arrow is gone after dippping in quality in the later seasons.  The Flash has been starting to lose some of its steam.  Batwoman is a disaster.  Stargirl is a CW DC show, but not officially part of the Arrowverse.

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