The latest addition to the Arrowverse (Sorry, I will call it that forever, it’s easier to say and type than the other suggestions) is also perhaps the most mainstream: They’re finally doing a Superman show.
I watched the pilot last night and here are some of my impressions, good and bad. This article contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, bookmark it and come back after you’ve watched.
Elizabeth Tulloch is growing on me rapidly as Lois Lane, and the writers have a solid idea about modern print journalism.
My mother-in-law is a retired print journalist and Lane’s rant about clickbait? I heard that in her voice. I’ve heard others say that it’s very authentic and rings true.
It’s also made quite clear that Lois is, in fact, smarter than Clark. Maybe not in abstract intelligence, but in practical intelligence. Listen to your wife, Kal-El, she knows what you’re talking about.
That Unfortunate Bit of Racism
CW? You know better. Borrow somebody from the Black Lightning writer’s room or something.
The storyline of this episode sets up for the Kents (Well, the Kent-Lanes, as it appears Lois didn’t change her name on marriage, and I’d be amazed if she had) to move back from Metropolis to Smallville. Ma Kent is killed off in this episode (Mild fridging, but I can’t quite see how the plot would work without it).
The family comes back for the funeral, and the Kent boys, twins Jonathan and Jordan (Jon-El and Jor-El, which made me think of something I’ll toss in later) meet the various Smallville kids, including Lana Lang‘s offspring.
There’s precisely one Black kid at the party Lana’s daughter, Sarah Cushing, invites Jordan too. Sean Smith is Sarah’s boyfriend, whom she doesn’t mention to Jordan Kent.
Who, entirely inappropriately, steals a kiss. I’d complain more, but there are immediate consequences when Sean winds up and starts trying to beat up Jordan.
Okay, so he’s justified, but having the only Black kid resort instantly to violence to solve a problem is not a good look, CW. It just isn’t.
There’s some ways they can salvage this, but if you hear about racism, this is probably what they’re talking about. My fear is that they will now go the “But when he gets to know them” root, screw it up, and turn it into a white savior narrative. Sigh.
You have some very good writers who know how to not be racist, borrow one. I’m going to give it a chance, because everything else is good and there are several ways to fix this. But somebody should have thought this through. (I actually think Sean Smith is going to be the twins’ Pete Ross).
The Kent Twins
The dynamic of the show is somewhat similar to that of Black Lightning. For us old school fans, we get an older protagonist (and some wonderful easter eggs, including a few lines of dialog straight out of a Reeve movie).
For the young adults the CW most likes to cater to, we have the twins. Somebody who actually watched Supernatural said they have a dynamic similar to Dean and Sam Winchester. I can’t vouch for that, but would be curious about other reactions.
The twins are ably played by two wonderful young actors, Alex Garfin and Jordan Elsass. But because the universe, or the casting director, has a sense of humor, Alex is playing Jordan and Jordan is playing Jonathan.
Jonathan is the jock and Jordan is the socially-awkward nerd. They have very much gone with the twins being opposites (they are also clearly not identical twins, although well matched). Both actors do an able job with the characters so far.
And Jordan is the one with the powers. I predict this won’t last, because Jonathan loves his football, and I doubt the CW can resist doing the “Football player gets powers and has to quit” storyline again. But right now, it looks like Jordan has powers and Jonathan doesn’t.
I suspect we’re going to head towards them being a double team, though.
Another interesting thought. Jonathan and Jordan are obviously named after both of Clark’s fathers, adoptive and birth respectively. What about Lois’ father? While it’s completely not impossible that one of them has the middle name “Sam,” it gave me an all-new Kryptonian headcanon.
Superman was created by Jews.
In Jewish tradition, you do not name a child after a family member who is still alive. You only use the names of people who are dead. So, from now on it’s my headcanon that Kryptonians also only name children after the respected dead, and thus “Sam” was off the table as a name.
But that’s just me being Jewish.
A Comic Book Nit I Have to Pick
So, first of all, did they think they had anyone fooled for one second as to the identity of the Stranger?
Chasing around, using lead to hide from X-ray vision, wearing a powersuit: Clearly, immediately, the Stranger is Golden Age Lex Luthor.
The problem is that his suit was the wrong color. You didn’t have us fooled, and while bright purple would have probably looked goofy in live action, purple highlights would have been nice.
Lex Luthor’s power suit is purple, dangit.
It’s Really Smallville 2.0
So, now to my strongest overall impression.
Superman & Lois is an apology for Smallville.
The creators of Smallville wanted to fix Superman by making him not a comic book character. While the show definitely had its moments, most of them involving Chloe, all they did was break it.
They didn’t understand a basic fact: Superheroes are camp. When you make them not camp, they cease to be superheroes. Or they believed that nobody would watch camp.
Arrow taught them otherwise, although I would also say that the Netflix superhero shows contributed. Arrow was shamelessly camp and also much more successful.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that somebody at the CW decided to come back and revisit the Smallville concept, in the Arrowverse continuity.
Maybe we will now get the show Smallville could have been if it hadn’t been ashamed of itself.
So, as a writer, I like to guess where a new show is going. Here are my predictions:
- Jonathan will develop superpowers in the middle of a football game.
- Sean Smith is going to end up one of their best friends.
- Lois and Clark will take over the struggling, failing, poor quality Smallville town paper and turn it into an award-winning bastion of journalism.
- Morgan Edge and Lex Luthor are going to be allied in some way, shape or form.
- Jonathan may turn out not to be straight. Maybe that’s more a hope than a prediction, but I have a feeling.
So, those are my first impressions of the show. We’ll see how it develops. I’m still concerned about the Sean Smith character. I would also like to see at least one Native American character introduced in a significant role.