NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Memorial Day week has created a bit of a quiet stretch for the Arrowverse, with Batwoman, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash all opting to sit out this week. Despite that however, Superman & Lois ultimately continued without a pit stop this week (possibly because of time constraints on account of having to share its timeslot with the final season of Supergirl), but I’m certainly not complaining, considering that this series remains the Arrowverse’s most compelling show at this point. “Holding the Wrench” also does a pretty superb job of building off of the major developments from last week, particularly the unexpected revelation that ‘Captain Luthor’ was actually another Earth’s doppelganger of DC superhero, John Henry Irons/Steel the whole time!
The surprisingly casual manner through which Superman & Lois addresses the return of the live-action DC Multiverse (are Clark and Lois going to inform the rest of the Arrowverse’s heroes about this massive development at some point?) is the least of the problems facing the eponymous protagonists though. As we learn in this episode, John is out to prevent the all-out destruction of Earth-Prime, something that he claims is already in motion. After Clark insists on interrogating John himself, as Superman, naturally, John talks about how the return of the Kryptonians ultimately led to his Earth’s Superman betraying the world, and eventually annihilating it. As it turns out, this was catalyzed by the experiments of Morgan Edge and Leslie Larr, who, as we’ve now positively determined, have discovered a way to embed Kryptonian sentience, complete with Kryptonian abilities, into human bodies.
One of these synthetic Kryptonians, or, “Subjekts”, as Leslie calls them, even attempts to capture John, killing another of General Lane’s soldiers in the process. Clark quickly intervenes, but during their battle, it’s discovered that Lane has been putting together a secret cache of Kryptonite weapons, weapons that he never told Clark about. While Clark and John are eventually able to put down the Subjekt, Lane is forced to confess his contingency plan to Clark, causing a rift of distrust between the two. To its credit, Superman & Lois handles the ‘secret Kryptonite military cache’ trope with much more maturity and nuance than Supergirl previously did (those events on Supergirl were presumably altered in the Arrowverse’s new Earth-Prime history), especially when Clark doesn’t just coerce the destruction of all of the military’s Kryptonite, like Kara initially did on her own show. Still, this is an old trope, and the idea of Clark distrusting Lane over what is frankly a very reasonable contingency plan, especially considering the growing Subjekt issue (hell, Lois even references in this very episode that this isn’t the first time someone has had to clean up the mess of an evil Superman, even on Earth-Prime!), feels forced and contrived.
Despite John’s ominous warnings about the coming Subjekt attack, and Superman’s supposed betrayal of Earth however, this week’s Superman & Lois offering focuses much more heavily around the idea of vulnerability and getting hurt, specifically through two more grounded family plotlines. Lois and Jonathan end up occupying much of this week’s storytelling, which is initially framed around an en media res hook of Lois talking to a therapist, confiding that she lashed out at someone close to her. This mystery of Lois’ actions isn’t developed as well as it could be, since it’s made obvious early on that Jonathan is the recipient of Lois’ wrath, considering that the two are paired up on an investigation into John’s RV. Still, Lois’ emotional therapy session eventually culminates in another shocking revelation; Lois actually miscarried about eighteen months after giving birth to Jonathan and Jordan, and lost a daughter that she planned to name, “Natalie”, who just so happened to be her daughter with John on his Earth. Yeah, apparently said daughter isn’t Natasha Irons, but Natalie Irons, possibly to leave room for Natasha Irons to show up in the Arrowverse later.
In any case, true to Lois’ character, she responded to her miscarriage by burying herself in her work, and allowing the trauma to fester for years. Again, this doesn’t land with all of the potential impact that it could have, considering that we’re still in Superman & Lois’ first season, and this is the first we’re hearing about Lois losing a child. Still, Lois learning to accept her own vulnerability does lead to a very nice moment with Jonathan, after the two make peace again, following Jonathan almost getting himself killed by John’s RV defenses. Lois getting angry because she didn’t want to lose another child due to her own supposed actions feels valid, and both Lois and Jonathan recognizing their shared vulnerability as being necessary to hold their family together is a very nice moment, especially considering that Jonathan has gotten a little more lost in this show’s plotting compared to its other leads lately.
As gratifying as this emotional moment between Jonathan and Lois was however, it’s the Cushing family that once again delivered the most potent emotional heft in this case. We get another standout Cushing family storyline this week, as Sarah considers auditioning for a musical revue at Smallville High, which Kyle tries to help inspire her to do. Seeing this more human, devoted side of Kyle once again is great, as was Kyle unexpectedly learning from Leslie that Lana lied about Kyle’s interest in Morgan Edge’s job offer. This results in Kyle getting drunk and missing Sarah’s audition, something that Jordan nonetheless helps out with, conquering his own stage fright by playing the piano backing to Sarah’s audition song. Considering the huge amount of emphasis on Jordan’s burgeoning superpowers lately, it was very satisfying to see Jordan’s human side explored through Sarah once again, just as Kyle also comes that close to being a legitimately effective father, only to once again sink into a drunken stupor due to his inability to effectively communicate with Lana. Compounding the tragic irony there is that Lana knows she has to protect her husband from Edge’s sinister agenda as well, something that Kyle is almost willfully blind to at this point.
With Clark and John at least earning a tenuous truce, thus resolving their former conflict for now, I imagine that Superman & Lois will shift focus back to Morgan Edge, Leslie Larr and their growing Subjekt army in the weeks ahead. John may have given up his campaign against Superman for now, but his warnings continue to linger in the minds of the show’s heroes, especially as history from John’s Earth appears to be repeating itself on Earth-Prime. “Holding the Wrench” is another Superman & Lois episode with a great superpowered hook that nonetheless excels most from the perspective of its human storylines, spearheaded wonderfully by Lois, Jonathan and the Cushing family. Yet again, as much as Superman & Lois carves out its own confident niche as a fledgling DC superhero drama set within the Arrowverse, the real power behind the show is most often its surprising vulnerability and down-to-earth storytelling. Lois and Jonathan in particular nicely indicated why these kinds of storylines are essential as well, because the otherwise fantastical battles of Superman will inevitably have far-reaching consequences for those on the ground. This is also apparent from the perspective of John Henry Irons, as he’s forced to trust that Earth-Prime’s Clark can take a different path, even as the spirit of Krypton continues to take form in Smallville.