NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Superman & Lois is back after a lengthy three-week gap since its previous episode, being set to finally deliver a payoff to John Henry Irons’ premonition about Clark’s turn to the dark side. “Through the Valley of Death” also doubles as the latest re-appearance of Arrow’s John Diggle in the Arrowverse to boot, after Diggle inadvertently ends up assisting in General Lane’s efforts to form a plan that may involve putting down Superman once and for all. At the same time, the Cushing family also deals with the fallout of Kyle’s high-profile trust in Morgan Edge, which has naturally left Smallville reeling, as its citizens struggle to recover from the Subjekt experiments.
Superman & Lois hit a rough patch at an awkward point before its brief break, with its previous episode wasting time focusing on a predictable backstory for Clark and Lois that most of us are already well aware of. That wasn’t a great time for the series to then take the next two Tuesday’s off, but fortunately, “Through the Valley of Death” represents a return to form for Superman & Lois this week, as everyone tries to reckon with the possibility of Clark being beyond saving. This naturally also means that John Henry Irons finally returns to the series as well, after Lois calls him for assistance against the coming threat, while Edge and Zeta-Rho prepare for the next phase of their planned conquest of Earth.
Another great twist occurs on this note as well, when we see that Clark has been compromised by being infected with the consciousness of famed Superman Family villain, General Zod! Zod already made a brief appearance on Supergirl, as a hallucination that Clark saw while hypnotized on Supergirl’s former Pre-Crisis Earth-38 setting, but it seems that Superman & Lois’ Post-Crisis Earth-Prime setting has changed Zod’s history so that he seemingly no longer battled Clark on Earth in the Arrowverse. Instead, Zod is just the latest disembodied Kryptonian consciousness in Zeta-Rho’s arsenal, and the idea of Zod possessing Superman and wielding him as a blunt instrument against Earth is one with a ton of potential.
That’s why it’s a bit disappointing that this episode handily resolves Clark being ‘turned’ within just one storyline this week, despite the heated debates and ticking clock between the heroes, as Lois, Jonathan and Jordan, and eventually Diggle, try to plead with John Henry Irons and General Lane to try and save Superman’s life. These scenes result in all sorts of great character moments between the heroes, as Lois finally confesses to John that she’s married to Superman on Earth-Prime, before Jonathan reveals to John that he learned all about John’s life on his home Earth, and wants John to remember that Clark is also a good dad on Earth-Prime. Speaking of the multiverse, Diggle is also taking the revelation that a new multiverse has been born in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths in relative stride as well! On a related note, it also felt weird that Diggle once again states that he’s rejecting the mysterious destiny opened to him by the glowing green box that he found during Arrow’s final episode last year, but perhaps this could be an indication that Diggle’s Arrowverse cameos may be out of sequence. This could be explained by Superman & Lois’ unscheduled two-month hiatus from mid-March to mid-May, which possibly took what was meant to be the Arrowverse’s first Diggle cameo this season, and inadvertently forced it to be the third one.
Clark also struggling to resist the consciousness of Zod, while calling out to Jordan right as Jordan continues to grapple with his volatile super-hearing, also makes for some great intensity, eventually allowing John to fly to Superman’s location, complete with a single red sun missile brought to General Lane by Diggle and A.R.G.U.S. Facing the prospect of having to use the missile on Clark, which would leave John unarmed against Edge, Lois begs John to get through to Clark by any means necessary, as a pretty exciting fight ensues. This is a nicely engaging confrontation between Clark and John overall, but it would have been ideal if it didn’t have such a lame ending. Clark simply uses the memories of his Earth family to permanently suppress Zod’s consciousness once John gives him a pep talk, and that’s that. Oh come on, Superman & Lois, you’re so much better than that dumb Arrowverse trope! Oh well, take a shot, people.
So, it would seem that a major component of Edge’s and Zeta-Rho’s conquest plan has now been foiled, by a pep talk of all things. Still, Zeta-Rho nonetheless appears to have a contingency plan in place with the Eradicator, as Edge suddenly flies out of Earth’s atmosphere and detonates it, ultimately dodging destruction at the hands of John’s red sun missile. Subsequently falling to Earth and being thrown in a Kryptonite-laden cell, Edge then appears to smirk during the final seconds of this episode, seemingly being right where Zeta-Rho wants him. As much as it’s annoying that the premonition of Clark being turned is solved in just one episode, the fact that Edge seems unfazed about being imprisoned, while Leslie Larr remains in the wind for now, would appear to suggest that Earth-Prime isn’t yet safe from its Kryptonian threat. Has the Arrowverse avoided one Kryptonian disaster, only to invite another?
Outside of the growing alien menace facing Earth-Prime, the Cushing family once again headlined a standout subplot this week. After Kyle is told not to come into work by one of his subordinates, the Cushing’s go to get tested and debriefed in town, only to return to their home and find it vandalized. It’s great to see that the show isn’t ignoring Kyle’s big push to get Smallville behind Morgan Edge, now that the truth about Edge’s background and agenda has been made known. It’s also great that the show used this opportunity as a surprising moment of healing for the Cushing family too, as Kyle, Lana and Sarah work together to clean up the vandalism, having a well-earned moment of reprieve that even sees Sophie eventually return home. The Cushing family has been through the ringer in their own right since Edge came to town, and seeing them come back together amid a difficult moment made for an awesome bit of emotional solace, while everyone else debated the fate of the compromised Superman.
“Through the Valley of Death” rushes through Clark’s possession by Zod to a fault, but it nonetheless gets Superman & Lois back on track as a smart family drama with Superman-worthy stakes. The out-of-sequence Diggle cameo will certainly be distracting for Arrowverse fans, though it is also rewarding to see Superman & Lois finally acknowledging its larger place in the Arrowverse timeline, as characters and events from Arrow are finally brought up on the series, even if Supergirl’s characters and events remain bizarrely ignored at this point. In any case, the dramatic confrontation between Superman/Zod and John is well worth the buildup, as is the Cushing family having to reckon with the damage caused by Kyle’s misplaced faith in Morgan Edge/Tal-Rho. There’s a potent air of hope at the end of this episode, almost to the point of being worthy of a season finale, but obviously, three episodes still remain in Superman & Lois’ Season 1 order. Clearly, Edge’s plans for Earth aren’t finished yet, even after Clark’s liberation from Zod’s consciousness, and while the future John warned about may not have come to pass, that certainly doesn’t mean that Earth-Prime is out of danger!
Superman & Lois finally returns with an impeccably dramatic and exciting episode this week, as the heroes debate whether Superman can be saved from Edge's influence.
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THE GOOD STUFF
The Kent family's faith being tested by Clark's possession
Exciting confrontation between Clark and John
The Cushing family coming together amid Smallville's judgment
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Clark inexplicably purging Zod's consciousness due to a pep talk