NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Superman & Lois seemingly resolved the defining conflict of its premiere season during the previous week, but with a handful of episodes still remaining in the show’s Season 1 order, it’s pretty evident that Morgan Edge/Tal-Rho has one last ace up his sleeve in his bid for global conquest. Even while languishing in a Kryptonite cell within the custody of the DOD, Edge seems unfazed, while the Kent family, alongside the rest of Smallville, struggles to move on from what they’ve experienced thanks to Morgan Edge and Leslie Larr. Speaking of Leslie, she remains in the wind as of the start of, “Fail Safe”, as Clark and co. brace for another attack, while the Cushing family continues to suffer the brunt of blame for the Subjekts, alongside the rest of Edge’s agenda.
Kyle in particular being made into a scapegoat for Edge and Leslie is something that’s both heartbreaking and tragically logical. Kyle truly was one of the biggest believers in Edge’s plans for Smallville, through no fault of his own, and now that he’s become the target of Smallville’s collective anger and trauma, alongside his wife and daughters, Kyle has to reckon with some really difficult disillusionment. Lana is pretty much in the same boat as well, even finding herself forsaken by Smallville’s mayor, despite sinking all of her spirit and livelihood into the town throughout her life. Eventually, this appears to culminate in a shocking decision by Kyle as well; A declaration that the Cushing family should pack up and leave Smallville! That said, we can’t be sure if this is really going to happen, or if it simply foreshadows that the Cushing family may see a major shakeup ahead of Superman & Lois’ already-confirmed second season, perhaps with Kyle and/or Lana possibly not surviving the end of this season in a few weeks.
Sarah, similarly, is also acting out in her own way, as she becomes shunned by her own friends. Once again, Superman & Lois excels when it comes to the Cushing family drama, and thanks to the freshly-minted romantic relationship that Sarah now shares with Jordan, it can tie into the Kent family’s own struggles even more. At the same time, Jonathan also ends up lured away from school by a Smallville High Junior who quickly proves to be very nosy about the DOD’s presence in Smallville, something that eventually has Jonathan storming off. Jonathan’s arc proved to be a little more engaging than Jordan’s in this case, since Sarah and Jordan are simply arrested for trespassing and dumped back at their respective homes while skipping school, while Jonathan instead bears the brunt of Lois insisting that no one can know about the Kent family’s true stake in events, making Jonathan logically hurt and suspicious of what his new friend may be after.
Lois gets her own fairly decent storyline this week as well, though it doesn’t keep pace with some of the better storylines in this otherwise standout character-focused episode for Superman & Lois. After Chrissy pressures Lois to tell the real story of what happened in Smallville, despite Lois knowing that she can’t divulge every secret behind what really happened to Chrissy, Lois tries to get the DOD to release a statement, only to be denied by her own father. Lois struggling with the need to expose the truth, while knowing the incredible cost that would place on her family, makes for some really engaging material, though Lois’ brief spat with Chrissy as a result of this conflict also feels forced and not well-earned. Moreover, Chrissy kicking Lois out of the news office for, “Lying” feels like a tired, annoying Arrowverse trope, one that Superman & Lois really doesn’t have to stoop to, considering its often great writing so far.
Arguably the best story element behind this episode however is the examination of what’s to be done with the DOD, after Superman is proven to be corruptible for the first time. Once again, Superman & Lois frustratingly fails to acknowledge the not one, but two times Clark was briefly brainwashed on Supergirl, but maybe that never became public, or was unique to Supergirl’s former Pre-Crisis Earth-38 history. In any case, after General Lane volunteers to destroy 7734, effectively removing any defense that the DOD has against Kryptonians, Clark surprisingly urges Lane to keep the Kryptonite weapon stockpile present, and the Kryptonite weapon research active. This naturally angers Lois, who believes that the existence of Kryptonite weapons at the DOD will eventually come to empower Superman’s enemies in the future, though Clark sees this as worth the risk.
This right here is a perfect example of why Superman & Lois is a massive improvement over its progenitor series, Supergirl when it comes to its storytelling. Supergirl sported this same Kryptonite weapon debate at one point, one that involved Kara simply throwing a tantrum, and all of the former Kryptonite left on Earth-38 then being destroyed because no one wants Kara to be upset. This was an idiotic, simplistic resolution that further undermined Kara as a superhero. Clark, meanwhile, presents a much more mature, nuanced and challenging look at the same idea in Superman & Lois, ultimately feeling that the existence of Kryptonite weapons is worth the risk, because Earth needs a way to defend itself against Kryptonian invaders, and potentially even Clark himself, should he become corrupted again. Even then though, Lois also raises a good point when she brings up that the mere existence of Kryptonite weapons creates an opportunity for Superman’s enemies to strike at him with truly lethal ambition, eventually leading to Clark and Lois compromising on a, “Fail safe” albeit one that can’t be trusted to the DOD.
This is where another really inspired narrative turn occurs. Clark and Lois collectively agree that the only person worthy of carrying the key to 7734 is John Henry Irons, who is now tasked with looking for a new purpose on Earth-Prime. John reluctantly agrees to the 7734 burden after Clark entrusts him with it, and thanks to this, John now has a permanent, essential place in Superman & Lois’ character ensemble, regardless of whether or not he opts to stay in Smallville. This also comes with the advantage of delivering a story conflict and resolution that thoroughly embarrasses Supergirl, a show that’s just looking more sub-par and obsolete by the week at this rate. I suppose that’s not of much consequence now though, considering that Supergirl is going to end its run later this Fall.
“Fail Safe” provides an emotional and smart examination of how Edge’s actions have irrevocably changed Smallville and its citizens. It also allows the Kent and Cushing families to entertain new destinies, even while the threat of Edge remains unresolved. Despite Clark, John and the DOD eventually recapturing Leslie during a failed breakout effort, Edge nonetheless fully gives himself to the Eradicator in the end, effortlessly escaping his Kryptonite prison as a result, and thus setting the stage for the true endgame behind Superman & Lois’ debut season. I would say that Clark made the right call by preserving 7734, but it looks like even Kryptonite is going to be helpless to stop Edge now, particularly after he ends this episode by absorbing a massive amount of energy from the sun.
Superman & Lois is off until August 10th at this point, meaning that we still have a bit of extra time to wait for the resolution to this storyline at the time of writing, but that’s just fine, thanks to a fantastic setup for the end of this season. Superman & Lois is poised to cement itself as the best new Arrowverse series debut since The Flash’s premiere season at this rate, and I have every bit of faith that the wait to see Edge’s Eradicator-powered endgame will be worth it, even if it will no doubt come at a hefty price for the Kent and Cushing families alike.