NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Superman & Lois completely put aside most of its comic book-inspired elements this week, to instead go all in on its more grounded, humanized family drama. Aside from one brief scrap during the climax, “The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower” doesn’t even involve any sort of confrontation between Superman and some foe like Captain Luthor, with Luthor entirely sitting out this episode in fact, alongside General Lane. Instead, Clark and Lois face another challenging parenting issue at home, right as Lois starts getting a big lead in her efforts to expose the truth about Morgan Edge.
Some of the family squabbling in the Kent house can be a little scattered here, making for a bit of an uneven result at times. Granted, Superman & Lois is still currently running (flying?) circles around every other Arrowverse series at this point, but it does sometimes feel like this episode can’t quite nail down a consistent issue for the Kent family. Lois, meanwhile, is given a bit more consistency and structure at the Smallville Gazette, where she’s forced to reckon with not having the resources of the Daily Planet at her disposal, all while Chrissy starts questioning Lois’ drive to get to the truth about Edge. Yeah, this is a bit of a sudden switch from Chrissy’s over-the-top enthusiasm about Lois working for her, but in Chrissy’s defense, Lois does have a habit of rushing after stories half-cocked, in pretty much any DC Universe that’s existed to date!
Then again, Lois is naturally proven right about something being suspicious surrounding Edge’s dealings in Smallville. After her car is firebombed as a gesture of intimidation, Chrissy starts to realize that Lois’ story, which is first kicked into gear by a concerned mother telling Lois that her son disappeared after taking a job with Edge, probably has a good degree of truth to it. Again though, Lois has nothing but her wits to carry her forward for now, since she’s merely working for a small newspaper that virtually no one reads. This presents yet another interesting new dimension to Lois’ ongoing battle against Edge, especially when many Superman Family fans would naturally take for granted that Lois can always rely on indefinite travel expenses and massive media exposure through the Daily Planet.
Lois’ arc thus ends up dominating much of this episode’s best material, outside of another key twist with Jordan anyway. Before that however, Lois ends up being cornered by a man that appears to have super-strength, one that also appeared to attack her witness! Clark is able to intervene and save both Lois and the witness, but even Clark finds himself struggling to do battle with the mystery man, who can overpower even the incredible strength of Superman somehow! The man gets away from Clark in the end, though he’s nonetheless killed by an unknown woman at the very end of this episode, using Kryptonian heat vision! Before this as well, the mystery man talks about informing, “Leslie Larr”, which appears to be a reference to Lesla-Lar, an evil Kryptonian scientist that battled against Supergirl in DC Comics lore. Could Leslie/Lesla be a new recurring villain that’s ready to menace Clark and his family? It would certainly explain why random guys are suddenly running around Smallville with Superman-level strength!
Beyond that brief encounter with a super-powered thug though, the entirety of this episode goes all in on grounded family drama, as I mentioned. Both the Kent and Cushing households face separate dilemmas with their children, beginning in earnest when Sarah dumps Sean, and Jordan joins his new high school’s football team. The Cushing material is universally exceptional in this case, with Lana and Sarah struggling to connect and communicate amid a rapidly declining family life, leading to them simply lashing out at each other every way they know how. Sarah quits the school’s cheerleading squad as a result, which Lana appears to coach, but the two do nonetheless find common ground in the end, after Lana makes an honest effort to hear out her daughter’s concerns. Sarah also confides in Lana the reason that she formerly attempted suicide, specifically because she was afraid of being trapped in a life that doomed her into becoming her mother. It’s harsh, but honest drama, and it works excellently here, especially in further fleshing out the strained family dynamic behind the Cushing house.
Where the drama is a bit weaker however is on the Kent end, mainly because it can’t pick a direction. This episode’s narrative begins with Clark being busted for using his super-hearing to spy on his sons, which he has to apologize and make up for. This is an interesting idea, but it’s resolved and dropped far too quickly, especially when it averts Jordan seemingly using his powers against Sean and his squad of bullies. Nonetheless, Jordan joins the high school football team, refusing to tell his parents at first, only for Lana to accidentally reveal this fact to Clark later on. While this is going on, Jonathan is also struggling with Jordan stealing his ‘thing’ (i.e. football), only to later claim that he’s just as concerned as Clark about Jordan abusing his powers. Again, Clark and Jordan manage to find common ground in the end, after Clark confides in Jordan that he once almost tried out for the high school baseball team in order to impress Lana back in the day, but why couldn’t this episode pick one Kent family conflict and stick with it? It managed this for the Cushing’s, but the Kent’s felt all over the map, likely leaving viewers unsure as to who they’re supposed to be concerned about and why.
Even so, “The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower” definitively proves that Superman & Lois can still thrive even without a huge emphasis on its comic book plotlines. The Kent family drama doesn’t soar to the degree that the Cushing family drama does, but there’s still plenty of earnest heart all around, especially when the Cushing issues in particular feel like they come from a relatable place for many struggling families. Likewise, Lois’ investigation into Morgan Edge’s business is already bearing some pretty exciting fruit, especially when it exceptionally picked its moment to pit Clark against a goon that had strength on par with Superman’s own. Even with General Lane and Captain Luthor completely absent this week, Superman & Lois remains one of the most lovable, engaging DC dramas currently on The CW. You can come for the Superman-worthy spectacle, but you’ll no doubt stay for the down-to-earth family drama!
- Lois' investigation into Edge leading to a bigger conspiracy
- Heartfelt Lana/Sarah subplot
- The human-focused narrative excels without needing to fall back on comic book plots
- Kent family drama is too unfocused