Everyone is in trouble with everyone this week. Jordan is in trouble with his parents and Lana and Sara. Clark is in trouble with Jonathan. Kyle is in trouble with Clark. Lana is in trouble with Sara. Lois and Clark are in trouble with Lex Luthor. Everyone just chill out for a second, will you? Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 3, Episode 12, “Injustice.”
Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) and Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) clash with Jordan (Alex Garfin) over his carelessness around using his powers in public, while Jonathan (Michael Bishop) struggles with Kyle’s (Erik Valdez) change in behavior at the firehouse. Meanwhile, Sarah (Inde Navarrette) grows frustrated with Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui) after she accidentally makes things more complicated with Jordan. And finally, after seventeen years behind bars, Lex Luthor (guest star Michael Cudlitz (“The Walking Dead”)) is set to be released from prison.
There are a couple of core events in this episode that work really well, but they’re surrounded by lots of chaos that makes it kind of hard to see them.
Suddenly, halfway through this episode, a tornado suddenly forms over Smallville, and it feels like a metaphor for what’s happening. Lex Luthor has been released from jail as a result of Bruno Mannheim’s confessions, and that’s going to bring disaster down onto the House of Kent.
At the same time, though, a storm is brewing in the form of a depressed, anxious teenager craving attention and recognition, who also happens to be one of a very, very short list of superpowered people in the world.
Around that, though, people keep trying to helpfully speak up, only to piss off someone else around them. Sarah is frustrated with Jordan, mostly because he’s an asshole and a creep, but also because he’s bragging about saving her while she’s trying to keep his secret. So she gripes to her mom. Her mom goes to the Kents and tells them about it, and they talk to Jordan. Kyle has started treating Jonathan differently after finding out his dad is the coolest and strongest man ever, and Clark catches wind of it and asks Kyle to treat Jonathan the same as he treats the other firefighters, and so Kyle starts giving Jonathan crap about that. About the only people that aren’t in hot water this week are John Henry and Natalie, and that’s mostly because they don’t even appear in the episode.
The main storylines of this episode feel big enough to be season cliffhanger kind of events–the kind of things you set up in the penultimate episode of a season. But everything around it just feels like bickering and drama. It’s weird for Superman & Lois, and it’s weird for this episode’s placement in the season.
Lex Luthor Returns
On the Lex side, the episode cuts between his release from prison and his first days almost 20 years ago. Leaving prison, he opts not to hitch a ride and instead walks on foot, down the middle of the road. Right to the Kent farm. Is the farm really within walking distance from Stryker’s Island? The show is officially playing by Smallville geographic rules here, where the distance between two things is always “whatever the story calls for.”
Actor Michael Cudlitz makes a good case for himself as Lex Luthor immediately. This stuff works. I loved John Cryer as Lex on Supergirl, but that was a campy, goofy show, and Cryer’s campy Lex Luthor wouldn’t work here. This Lex is more subtle and brutal. Prisoners try to intimidate him, and he’s already planned ahead of them. They have enough time to beat him up once before he has the Warden under his thumb. Soon, he’s sitting on one guy’s back while eating dinner, served by a guy whose teeth he took, while a guy whose legs he broke cleans up after him.
This is not a Lex Luthor who is going to clone himself or cover up his identity with a holographic face. He’s already thought of everything you can do, three steps ahead of you. He’s not scary because of his cool toys, he’s scary because he doesn’t even have to use such a thing. When he shows up at the Kent residence–geography qualms aside–it’s chilling. Lois helped to put him in prison based on information that she believed at the time was accurate, and he essentially threatens her family if she doesn’t retire from journalism immediately.
There’s a moment where Lois goes to speak and Lex screams–for just a moment. That’s where things go from scary to truly terrifying, and I have to credit Cudlitz here, because there’s no version of Lex I can think of that has had this particular kind of intensity.
The timing of the tornado, though, and the fact that this is Lex Luthor–I won’t fully discount the possibility that he has the technology to spin up a twister out of literal thin air, and that he didn’t intend for the tornado to just maybe hit the Kent house. It seems a little too coincidental.
While that’s going on, Jordan is struggling. Jonathan is a relatively well-adjusted kid, all told. He had his brief duel with drugs, of course, but that seemed distinctly out of character for him. Aside from that, he’s generally proven to be a good brother and friend and someone who values hard work and wants to be recognized for something he’s done, not who his dad is. Jordan was curled up in a ball having a panic attack for the season 1 premiere; he’s an outsider who has always had difficulty fitting in. For a while, he had a cute girlfriend and secret superpowers, but he’s handled both of them poorly at almost every opportunity.
This week that all comes crashing down. Frustrated with Sarah and his parents, Jordan decides to help his dad stop the tornado and then, instead of disappearing with the knowledge of a job well done, he stops for selfies with his adoring public. I don’t think someone will figure out who he is based on his face–Clark would be in huge trouble if that was the case. And the show doesn’t really bring that up. They’re more worried about him doing good deeds too close to Smallville too often and bringing additional heat and attention down on the small town (and the notable family that lives there).
After the aforementioned round of Talkings-To, Jordan approaches Sarah at work and the two argue while she’s trying to work, and it’s hauntingly close to a stalker ex following you around and harassing you–except this stalker is the son of the world’s best-liked man and has super powers that literally only his dad can truly deal with. This whole storyline reframes the idea of what it means to be Superman’s son and what it means to have superpowers when you’re young.
I keep thinking of the Flash’s storyline about Iris forcing Nora to hide her powers through meta dampeners and how that was meant to show how Nora was unable to express who she really is. Here, seems more like a kid with lots of emotional problems suddenly woke up one day with guns for hands and is, surprise, turning out to be super dangerous to lots of people around him.
He’s missed some of his father’s most important lessons thanks to the haze of depression he lives in, and so these superpowers look more like winning the lottery and not being able to spend the money than they do like the delicate gift that they are. Right now, Jordan is incredibly dangerous. Like lock-him-up dangerous, if he doesn’t get his crap together soon. And that makes me wonder if his irresponsibility is going to give Lex the edge over the Kents that he needs to really ruin their lives.
Chaos all around
These two storylines are so interesting thanks to Cudlitz’ performance and the rethinking of what Superboy can be that it makes a lot of other stuff that happens around these pillars seem inconsequential and chaotic. Some of it does help establish how dangerous Jordan can be under the right circumstances and shows how balanced Jonathan is by comparison, but it feels mostly just like people arguing. Even so, I love the potential these both present for the show moving forward, even if I’m a little worried about Season 4.
Also, we find Bizarro Superman in a broken subway car eating rats, so it seems like things are going well for him and he probably won’t be an issue.
IMAGE SOURCE: Shutterstock – Michael Cudlitz – Kathy Hutchins