SUPERMAN & LOIS is a (super)breath of fresh air in a landscape currently littered with superficial support and performed understanding.
Now let’s be clear — this is still a CW/Berlanti joint, so certain pillars remain I(c)onic: world-ending brawls intercut with earnest teenage drama; social justice centric b-plots with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer; and everyone, everyone, says the subtext out loud except when crucially important/the plot requires such.
But it’s also a very welcome bolstering — and a necessary defining of — masculinity, in all its myriad forms. And there frankly isn’t a lot of that on offer right now — right now we’re still in the world of post-revelation, and there’s not a heckuva lot of stock (or advertising dollars) in supporting The Man (literally).
Unless, of course, you’re talking about the one, the only, lookupintheskynotabirdnotaplane: Clark Kent.
And the writers clearly took the moniker to heart, and thought about what it means now, in 2021, to be a “super” man. And what they came up with is an unexpectedly moving portrait of a father who more-literally-than-most has the weight of the world on his shoulders; two sons experiencing hardships emotional, physical, and metaphysical; and a father-in-law who’s motives and intentions are opaque, to say the least.
Which is a remarkably concise (if allegorical) portrait of the emotional landscape of the modern American male, to be honest.
There are a few choices here that really sell it for me:
Giving realistic adult drama equal billing with high-school heartbreak. This is key — Superman can beat up just about anybody, but he can’t stop the bank taking his mom’s house away.
Making Clark a father to two boys.
Engaging with masculinity in every avenue available to their narrative — toxic, mythic, compassionate, uncertain, familial, all of it.
Captain Luthor is a classic good-man-driven-to-extremes archetype, and the perfect vehicle to contrast with Clark. Both have tremendous power and both believe in their mission with rock-solid certainty. But one has a stable support system that serves as an emotional check-and-balance on his thought process — and the other lost everyone he ever loved to an Earth-X lookalike. Exploring how their respective senses of honor and duty therefore diverge is a good spine on which to build a season.
They choose to mine drama from misunderstandings, not arguments. That’s a small but fundamental choice, which means that no matter what happens the core family unit feels like a family. Like people who love each other even when they don’t particularly enjoy each other’s company. The boys are bummed when dad zips off to save the world — but thath
potential spoiler: I’m pretty sure they’re setting up a story where the kid’s powers only work when the brothers are in close proximity to each other. That’ll be a fun dynamic, and absolutely furthers the show’s theme of manhood being a partnership (just like everything else in this world).
If you’re not a CW devotee, this is a great place to dip a toe in, since it’s largely unrelated to anything that’s come before.
And if you are a CW devotee, you should also be watching LEGENDS OF TOMORROW because that is, bar none, the greatest superhero TV show ever made1