Superman’s half-brother tried to overwrite a bunch of humans with Kryptonian DNA. Ally Alston tried to merge two Earths from entirely different universes. What can Lex Luthor do that compares to that? He can kill Superman. Spoilers follow for Superman & Lois Season 3, Episode 13, “What Kills You Only Makes You Stronger.”
“What Kills You Only Makes You Stronger”
All of Smallville comes together to view a meteor shower, Lex Luthor (guest star Michael Cudlitz “The Walking Dead”) makes his move.
Fake-Out in Smallville
There was a fake-out moment in Superman & Lois Season 2. When a being was burrowing through rocks and making Superman’s head throb, that being was dressed up very similar to Doomsday, the monster that would go on to kill Superman. It turned out, though, to be the Superman of the Inverse Earth, shaken and twisted by his fight to save his own Earth.
This Bizarro Superman was much more down-to-earth than the patently silly version of the character we know and love from the comics; instead of a cartoonish monster made out of intersecting angles and backward letters, we learned about a Superman distracted by fame, and how that eventually tore his family apart. That Superman died fighting to save the Earth that Superman lives on, and we didn’t see him again until Bruno Mannheim stole his corpse from the Department of Defense. Why do they never destroy any of this stuff?
This week, Lex takes action, claiming the resurrected inverse Kryptonian for himself. A fair chunk of the episode is dedicated to watching Lex and his crew essentially torture him, killing him repeatedly and making him stronger and stronger in the process.
As he began to transform, my hope had been that we would see a version of Bizarro Superman more like the comics, all blocky and weird. Instead, though, the writers brought us full circle. In the world of Superman & Lois, the entity once known as the Superman of the Inverse Earth is now Doomsday. A hulking monster with sharp mineral deposits jutting out of its shoulders, a backward “S” symbol burned into its chest.
What began as a fake-out Doomsday has become the real Doomsday, and now Superman is fighting for his life.
The whole episode feels like it’s nervously inching toward that finale. Lois is feeling more like herself and suggests a vacation to Clark, though she’s still clearly working through some things. Chrissy reveals to Kyle that she’s pregnant with his child, and he reveals that to Lana with understandable trepidation. Clark talks to Jordan about his behavior toward Sarah and he finally makes some progress toward not being a creep with her–but he’s in uncharted territory too. Even Jonathan seems nervous as he helps set up Smallville’s main street for the meteor shower occurring that night; he’s hoping to earn back some goodwill with his coach, who doesn’t seem interested in offering any of that goodwill up in exchange.
Lois’ father, Sam, is meeting his first date from his “Senior Swipe” app, though everyone he introduces her to seems weirded out by her. Indeed, the second they get alone, she gets his phone away from him and ships him off to Lex. John Henry Irons has a job offer from the DOD that would take him to Metropolis. Both of these moves seem to set up the show’s cut-down cast for the next season; it seems like the showrunners were anticipating this move.
Season 4 Setup
The season ends on the Moon, set to Soundgarden’s “Blow Up The Outside World,” reminding us how much higher Superman & Lois’ VFX budget is compared to other CW DC shows. Superman and Doomsday are flying at each other when the episode cuts, giving us no resolution to the battle. It’s a good thing the show was renewed!
The pacing of this season has been weird–these last two episodes feel like setup for Season 4, more than they do an end to Season 3. I mentioned in my review of 3×11 that it felt like a season finale, and as far as I’m concerned, that episode marks the end of Superman & Lois Season 3, which focuses on Lois’ cancer battle and the lives of Bruno and Peia Mannheim–the fears of a newly-free Lex Luthor were on the horizon. Episodes 12 & 13 are preparation for the 10-episode Season 4. It’s still fun, and I still love this show. But it feels like network politics are forcing lots of really weird decisions.