NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Superman & Lois” are present in this review
Having proudly divorced itself from Arrowverse continuity as of last season, Superman & Lois has seized a golden opportunity to fly high on its own terms with Season 3. This also no doubt gives the acclaimed CW series a better chance at survival over the next season or two to boot, as The CW is preparing to retire the Arrowverse as a whole this year, following the ongoing ninth and final season of The Flash, while DC’s movie and TV divisions are all seeing a massive reset, and subsequent overhaul under the freshly-minted DC Studios banner. DC Studios’ co-leaders, James Gunn and Peter Safran have specifically cited Superman & Lois as one of the few veteran DC TV shows that have been given a stay of execution however, no doubt due to how well-liked this now-standalone DC series is. Fortunately, the show seems to be staying on a reliably strong gear going into its third season.
On the negative side, the usual formula for Superman & Lois isn’t really shaken up as much as hoped with the start of its latest season. “Closer” presents a lot of familiar family drama to kick off Season 3, most of which is still fairly strong, but a few disposable subplots and an openly slow-paced mystery do drag down what’s otherwise a promising new direction for the series, now that it’s operating in its own self-contained universe. This change in continuity has been confirmed to eventually lead to an all-new take on Superman Family arch-villain, Lex Luthor this season, now played by The Walking Dead’s Michael Cudlitz (replacing Jon Cryer as the Arrowverse’s Lex), as well as a revised introduction to villain faction, Intergang, who saw a less-than-stellar appearance in the Arrowverse proper within Supergirl a few seasons back.
For now though, Superman & Lois’ third season premiere is instead headlined by more developments close to home in Smallville: Lois discovers that she might be pregnant again, Lana encounters a black mold problem at Smallville High, Sam tries to spend some time with Natalie, and predictably botches it, while Jordan continues his superhero training, and Jonathan prepares for his driver’s test. This is a lot of family storylines to juggle for this season premiere, and it seems like several of them only exist to fill space, while the series tries to lay the complex foundation for its Intergang conflict throughout the rest of this episode.
Oh, on the note of Jonathan as well, his role has now been recast for Season 3, after Jordan Elsass left Superman & Lois for unspecified personal reasons. Michael Bishop is now portraying Jonathan from Season 3 onward, and regarding his performance, it seems to be a pretty comfortable fit, even if Bishop isn’t currently standing out in the ensemble. There’s plenty of time for Bishop to find his place though, and credit where it’s due, his appearance and manner doesn’t feel like a jarring switch from Elsass’ performance during the first two seasons. Bishop appears to have Elsass’ same natural rapport with Jordan’s actor, Alex Garfin so far, and once Bishop is given a more interesting Jonathan storyline, I’m very interested to see how he makes his mark on the character in later episodes.
On the more successful end, Clark and Lois trying to mentally prepare for possibly having a third child makes for better Smallville material. It’s the best way that the Kent family charts some new storytelling ground in this season premiere. Better still is that the doctor Lois consults happens to be the sister of this universe’s John Henry Irons, who apparently had ill dealings with Intergang while he was alive. This doesn’t currently connect to the alternate John Henry that’s very much alive in this universe, working under the superhero mantle of Steel, but it’s a cool tease that the life John has appropriated used to mean something to certain Metropolis citizens on this show’s Earth, even if it’s something very bad.
“Fortunately, the show seems to be staying on a reliably strong gear going into its third season.”
The idea of the Irons family carrying major dramatic weight this season is also explored through Sam, after he tries to go to the movies with Natalie, only to use it as an effort to talk her into being recruited to a DOD school. Natalie, naturally, doesn’t take this suggestion well, and it angers John in turn. This doesn’t make for much of a conflict in the end though, because it’s resolved during Sam’s and Natalie’s next interaction, at Jonathan’s and Jordan’s subsequent 16th birthday party. In fact, most of this episode’s subplots are cleanly resolved around that point, such as Jonathan discovering that Coach Gaines, who still carries a grudge against him, is overseeing his driver’s test, only for Jonathan to pass it anyway. Likewise, Jordan and Sarah are awkward around each other while attempting a friendship after their breakup, especially after Jordan botches a superhero rescue in Malaysia, but they seem mostly fine at the party anyway, so this doesn’t really feel like a big deal so far. Hell, even Lana getting a threat from Smallville’s former mayor at the party regarding using the town’s financing for the high school’s black mold problem currently doesn’t feel like it means much.
It’s when this episode moves outside of Smallville that it feels more engaging, in a bit of a rare reversal for Superman & Lois’ usual dramatic strengths. The show is doing a great job teasing Intergang so far, particularly after the surprise return of former villain, Atom Man. After Clark, as Superman, discovers that Atom Man has now developed Kryptonian-esque superpowers, the two have a brief battle in Metropolis, only for a mysterious hooded figure to get away with Atom Man’s body, after disorienting Clark somehow. Apparently, Intergang is experimenting with Metropolis’ criminals, overseen directly by leader, Bruno Mannheim, something that also involves resurrecting Atom Man, after he dies from a formerly unknown brain tumour. As much as Superman & Lois is taking a well-placed break from cosmic and interdimensional threats this season, or so it would appear, it’s good to see that the series is making the most of its new earthbound threat, one that’s only bound to improve further once Cudlitz’s new Lex Luthor makes his debut on this show.
It was also nicely shocking to hear at the end of this episode that Lois isn’t actually pregnant, and could in reality be quite sick. We don’t know at this point. That development alone feels like it’s more interesting than most of this season premiere’s disappointingly disposable Smallville subplots, even if the surprise hookup between Kyle and Chrissy was fairly cute and nicely unexpected. “Closer” may be showing some signs that Superman & Lois is slowing its momentum, and settling into a more familiar groove, but the series is still easily one of the best CW shows overall at this point, let alone the network’s best DC show. The looming threat of James Gunn’s 2025 Superman movie reboot, Superman: Legacy already seems to cement that Superman & Lois will probably be concluded or cancelled in a couple of years, if not sooner (hell, Gunn has all but directly confirmed this after bluntly stating that Superman & Lois will, “Run for another season or two”), but I’m happy that the show’s strong writing and presentation doesn’t currently seem to be disturbed by that harsh reality, even as the age of DC superhero dramas on The CW quickly appears to be meeting a rather awkward and unceremonious end.