Superman & Lois started with a strong first season that explored all the complications that come about when you combine the concepts of Superman and family. Season 2 started off fun with a great take on Bizarro Superman, but stumbled in the back half. Now the Kent family is back and starting off strong–hopefully, they can maintain. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 3, Episode 01, “Closer.”
Season three of SUPERMAN & LOIS opens weeks after Superman’s blowout defeat of Ally Allston. Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) are now working at the Smallville Gazette together and enjoying small town life. But the Kents’ romantic bliss only shines a light on how isolating “the secret” can be, as Chrissy (Sofia Hasmik) struggles to balance a new love interest and her friendship with Lois. However, Lois’ own work-life balance is put to the test when an undercover assignment reveals a deadly foe that promises to change the Kent family forever. Superman would move heaven and earth for his family, but with a villain this merciless, even that might not be enough. Meanwhile, the Kent boys find themselves being pulled in opposite directions. Amid all this upheaval, John Henry (Wolé Parks) is haunted by his doppelgänger’s past, leading to dangerous consequences for him and Natalie (Tayler Buck). Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Kyle (Erik Valdez) redefine their family post-separation, while Sarah (Inde Navarrette) explores what the future holds for her and Jordan now that she knows the truth about his powers. Having learned the hard way that no one else can be trusted to work with Superman, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh) reclaims his post at the Department of Defense, only to face his own conflict in working with his grandson, Jordan.
Jonathan Kent, Recast
Let’s get the messy stuff out of the way. At the end of the previous season, cast member Jordan Elsass, who played Jonathan on Superman & Lois, announced that he was leaving the show. A few weeks later, the network announced that Michael Bishop would be replacing Elsass in the role. Bishop makes his debut in the season opener and it’s surprisingly not at all distracting. I liked Elsass, but Bishop fits right in, picking up a similar tone to Elsass as a sort of vulnerable jock character. Additionally, he actually looks a bit more like the actors playing his parents and brother, and it just feels–thus far–like it all meshes better.
At Home in Smallville
Following the near-disaster that was Ally Alston’s attempted merging of Earth and Bizarro Earth, Lois and Clark are taking time to focus on each other. The couple is one of the bright spots in all of the CW DC shows. We don’t have the will-they-won’t-they of Arrow, the inability to cast a good romantic male lead in Supergirl, or the constant shuffling off of the female lead in The Flash. Lois and Clark are never a question, they’re a fact. There are strains on their relationship, but they never appear to be anything other than equal partners in the relationship with deep respect for each other.
One of the subplots this first episode explores is the question of whether or not they want to have another kid. With the twins turning 16, Lois and Clark have had more time to themselves, especially romantically speaking, and a potential pregnancy raises the question of whether they want to have another kid.
While Flash’s timey-wimey stuff has forced the show to treat Iris’ motherhood as inevitable, the potential of a third child brings up all kinds of questions for the couple. While they don’t discuss them explicitly, the combination of excitement and trepidation is visible on both Clark and Lois’ faces.
While seeing Lois and Clark together is genuinely enjoyable, some of the other relationship dynamics at play aren’t as much. Sarah and Jordan aren’t involved anymore and are having all of these awkward interactions. Are the interactions believable? Absolutely. Trying to stay friends with a former significant other is weird, especially if one of them still has feelings for the other. Does it contribute to the show, though? No, not really. It doesn’t make Jordan or his exploration of his growing powers more interesting and it doesn’t really give Sarah much to do, either.
The same goes for Sarah’s father, Kyle, who feels like a legacy character at this point; he was important in the first season as the accidental face and future patsy of Tal-Rho’s plan to Kryptonize Earth. He was the Joe Six-Pack that helped bring the townspeople into Tal-Rho’s orbit. Since then, however, his activities have pushed him further away from relevancy to the show’s plot. He seems thoroughly rehabilitated into a nice, sober, but beaten-down guy, but spending more time with him doesn’t serve any of the stuff we’re actually here for.
We don’t talk about Bruno (Mannheim)
The Superman stuff is what we’re really here for. There isn’t as much as I would’ve liked, but it’s enough to whet my appetite for what’s to come. One of the two major villains is a classic Superman foe, while the other is a carry-over from Green Arrow books but made far creepier.
Bruno Mannheim (Chad Coleman) is the leader of Intergang, a worldwide criminal organization. Coleman has been in tons of other stuff, but this role reminds me of his role on The Expanse–it has the same sort of quietly intimidating feel. This is a guy that you don’t mess with not because he’s demonstrated why you don’t, but rather because you know you don’t want him to demonstrate. Mannheim, as a longtime Superman villain, is an exciting prospect that hints at a very different kind of battle from the ones over the last two seasons.
Alongside him is a villain called Onomatopoeia. Like a mockingbirds and catbirds, this character is a master at imitating sounds outside of the normal human register. In the process of making the villain “Superman-grade,” though, the showrunners have given them somewhat of a power boost. Their mask isn’t a simple facemask with concentric circles, but rather this undulating white spiral–it’s proper nightmare fuel. He can also throw sounds in such a way that even Superman mistakes them as the real thing. While the character in the comics is entirely human, this one could be a metahuman, alien, or even machine–we’ve seen all three at different times. It seems like they’ll be subordinate to Mannheim throughout the show, but that could change.
Mannheim’s involvement is also beginning to hint at what this Earth’s John Henry–the dead one that the other Earth’s John Henry replaced–was up to that got him killed, and it seems likely that the dead guy’s actions will come back to haunt the living one, as well as his daughter.
Take the El, Jordan
The relationship between Clark and his sons is another place where the show walks a very fine line and has, at times, fallen off. Jonathan doesn’t get to do much this episode, while Jordan flies to Kuala Lumpur to clumsily try to stop a construction disaster on the way home from training at the Fortress of Solitude. Jordan is eager to grow up and to prove himself, but is far from ready to do so. While the scenes with Sarah veer into CW melodrama, Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark helps ground Alex Garfin’s Jordan and his whiny frustration. It helps make him look like the dumbass teenager he is, rather than someone whose parents just don’t understand.
The setup for this season has tons of potential. Jordan could step up as Superboy, and Mannheim should prove to be a frightening adversary for Superman on the level of Lex Luthor (at least in terms of danger). Onomatopoeia’s upgrade could be used in a very interesting way, especially considering that creator Kevin Smith specifically tried to make a character that would be hard to transition to live-action. This is a promising start.