NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Superman & Lois certainly provides an odd follow-up effort to last week’s huge ending cliffhanger. Despite Clark and co. finally putting a stop to the Subjekt army being built by Morgan Edge/Tal-Rho and Leslie Larr, it came at the hair-raising cost of Clark having to use a Solar Flare, effectively depriving him of his powers for over a day. Clark has managed to stumble into the Fortress of Solitude before passing out as well, resulting in what appears to be a dream sequence, wherein Clark relives his origins in the Arrowverse. “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” is thus rather aptly titled as exactly that, being positioned as a quiet spot before Superman & Lois likely begins its climactic Season 1 story arc over the next four remaining episodes, namely the very Kryptonian invasion that John Henry Irons has spent most of this season warning the folks of Smallville about.
This side story is also being used as a way to firmly establish exactly how the Arrowverse’s Superman tenure began in Metropolis, and how Clark’s relationships with characters like Lana, Lois and Martha all originated and evolved on Earth-Prime. That latter point is important as well, because yet again, Superman & Lois never once acknowledges Supergirl’s continuity here, further begging the question of how exactly Tal-Rho was able to pose as Morgan Edge for so many years on Earth-Prime. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if Adrian Pasdar’s genuine Morgan Edge, the one from Supergirl’s Pre-Crisis Earth-38 universe, has simply been erased from Earth-Prime entirely. Either way, Superman & Lois’ backstory keeps hinting that it’s all but guaranteed that several major events in Supergirl’s backstory have now been altered and/or erased from the Arrowverse’s current canon, and if you’re wondering why I keep dwelling on Supergirl so much, it’s likely due to that series ending later this year, and its relationship with Superman & Lois still remaining frustratingly undefined, even when these two shows are supposed to take place in the same universe!
Another reason however is that I ultimately have very little to say about Superman’s backstory on Earth-Prime because, let’s face it, it’s not that interesting. Even people who have never touched a comic book in their lives, or are barely familiar with the concept of superheroes in general, let alone the Arrowverse, can probably recite Superman’s backstory verbatim. Superman & Lois going over the exact same backstory that’s largely unchanged from tons of other Superman Family shows that have all hit the airwaves over the past few decades isn’t noteworthy, least of all when both this show’s pilot episode, and various flashbacks throughout its first season, have already firmly established Clark’s and Lois’ backstory in the Arrowverse. This episode isn’t really giving us much in the way of new information, making a lot of it feel like a tedious slog.
On the bright side though, at least some new territory is plumbed in this latest origin tale that’s been done to death across DC’s small screen and big screen media recently. The most noteworthy addition on this note is how Clark and Lois begin their relationship on Earth-Prime. The idea of Lois initially being annoyed at Superman stealing the Daily Planet’s spotlight, thus burying pressing issues in Metropolis that occur on a smaller scope, is actually pretty interesting. The two stopping their first villain together (who may be a Post-Crisis revision of DC villain, Captain Nazi? It’s a little vague), and playing against the expectations of the other, also leads to their dynamic believably coming together as an intriguing challenge to the strong will defining the other person, making it very genuine and emotionally gratifying when Clark and Lois start dating, Clark tells Lois his secret identity, and the two ultimately get married. At least this backstory element manages to feel more modern and unexpected when it comes to the age-old journey of one of the longest-running, most beloved couples in the DC Universe.
It’s not until later in this episode that things finally become more interesting, somewhat at random. Eventually, a glitch in Clark’s memories makes him realize that he’s inside of an illusion, witnessing Lois interacting with nothing after she becomes pregnant with their twin boys. This is when it’s revealed that the entire trip through Clark’s backstory was caused by Tal-Rho, who hooked Clark up to some kind of Kryptonian gizmo, in order to explore his memories. This is admittedly a cool story turn for Tal/Edge. Rather than simply write off Clark in a fit of jealous rage, Tal is genuinely trying to study Clark and see his point of view, almost making Tal skim the feeling of being a tragic villain. This doesn’t really change the fact that Tal is a poor person’s General Zod at this point, but at least his character took some nice steps forward this week, adding more dimensions beyond being yet another Kryptonian radical that wants to turn Earth into a new Krypton, and kill/enslave all of the humans on the planet.
It turns out that Tal’s late father, Zeta-Rho has had a bigger hand in events than previously believed as well. Perhaps fittingly, Tal has his own Fortress of Solitude on Earth-Prime, this time in the desert, rather than the Arctic, and it has its own hologram of Zeta, one that aggressively urges Tal to conquer the planet. There’s a really cool dark mirroring to Clark and his own birth father’s mission to protect humanity through Tal and Zeta, and those stakes become even higher when Tal appears to destroy Jor-El’s hologram crystal, potentially permanently cutting Clark off from his birth father’s wisdom. Of course, this is undermined a bit by Clark unrealistically being forced to submit to Tal and his invasion merely because Tal threatens Clark’s family. Oh, come on, Clark, really? Is Tal seriously the first clown to try that in the Arrowverse?! I get that Clark doesn’t have his powers right now, but this latest story turn is positively eye-rolling, firmly taking the easy way out with John Henry Irons’ premonition. I suppose that Lois at least has the ability to call John for an assist on Earth-Prime though, which she does, that is, assuming she’s talking to John Henry Irons and not John Diggle, who we know is about to make a guest appearance on Superman & Lois before its first season is done. It wouldn’t be a leap to imagine that A.R.G.U.S. has their own strategies for battling rogue Kryptonians on Earth-Prime, after all, even if the DOD seems to serve as Superman’s primary handler in the Arrowverse.
“A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” thus fulfills John Henry Irons’ ominous prophecy, in a disappointingly lame and forced way. At least this week’s trip through Clark’s backstory had its moments though, as did Tal continuing to try and understand why Clark would choose humanity over Krypton, rather than just immediately labeling his brother an unflinching obstacle to be destroyed. Overall though, this episode felt too much like a filler offering for Superman & Lois, one that spent most of its duration recapping events that viewers are already largely familiar with, while also continuing to create more annoying plot discrepancies with Supergirl. Even the depiction of Superman & Lois’ Fortress of Solitude feels wrong on that note, with Supergirl portraying Clark’s Fortress as a massive, ornate, highly impressive ice castle that’s filled with tons of alien treasures and specimens, while Superman & Lois portrays Clark’s Fortress as a narrow, unimpressive ice cave that doesn’t even appear to have a front door, let alone any reliable security!
I know that I’m harping on this issue a lot, but it’s only because Superman & Lois has otherwise delivered some excellent storytelling throughout its first season, and now the show seems to be suffering a particularly clunky transition to Superman being ‘turned’ for the season’s foreshadowed climax, all while Kara and her friends in National City are never even mentioned. It’s becoming very distracting, and only serves to undermine what should be a very dramatic climax. Instead, Superman & Lois is now following the exact same well-trodden path as too many other Superman Family storylines from DC’s past, and that sadly leaves the show to kick off a lengthy three-week break on a disappointingly dull note.
- Interesting early foundation for Clark's and Lois' relationship
- Tal's honest effort to try and understand Clark's bond with humanity
- Zeta-Rho having his own hand in events
- Too many over-familiar Superman backstory elements
- Clark's turn to the dark side is way too hackneyed and forced
- Yet more irritating failures to acknowledge Supergirl