This is a non-spoiler of the first episode of Superman and Lois premiering on February 23rd on The CW.
He’s faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings with a single bond. He has super strength, x-ray vision, and only one known weakness. One issue DC has faced since the charismatic grin of Christopher Reeves’s portrayal of Superman is how do you make the character relatable in a new age? A man that seemingly not bound to any physical limitations can’t possibly have any problems he can’t get out of. This is where the psychological aspects of the Superman character come in. While his abilities are alien, his heart and mind are human. There’s an inherent goodness to him that others want to aspire to be. While we are all not perfect, our intentions can be to rise with the man who dawns the S.
So, how do you give him trouble that has believability? You give him human problems that bring him down to eye level and appeal to the side that isn’t impervious to bullets. Superman and Lois’s pilot begins with a brief explanation of Superman’s history. The spaceship, his earth parents, and how cozy of a town Smallville is to accept an alien. Its meeting point is when Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) meets Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) for the first time at the Daily Planet. Here, it’s established briefly how Lois’s quick wit and tenacity draws Clark to her. As they fall in love and the episode progresses, you see how Lois is very much Clark’s anchor to earth. Not only is she a partner, but a voice of reason while he’s swimming in doubt.
A journalist by trade and a superhero by – well, forever, even Superman can’t be everywhere he needs to be. This is where the family dynamic of the episode comes forth. Clark and Lois have two sons, Jonathan and Jordan (Jordan Elsass, Alexander Garfin) who couldn’t be any more different from each other. In a way, they personify both halves of Clark’s personality. Jonathan is the charismatic star quarterback at this high school. Jordan is intelligent but also withdrawn – diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. While the pilot shows Superman in all his glory, it equally gives time to the strain it puts on his personal life. The man who can literally fly places in seconds can’t quite make that work with teenage sons who feel distant from him.
The story of the pilot written by both Greg Berlanti and Todd Helbing does a superb job to show a family unit that is very much still trying to figure things out. An unexpected circumstance brings the Kent family back to Smallville. There they see Clark’s old girlfriend, Lana (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and questions arise about what home means to the Kents arise. When you are somebody like Superman, can you truly go back home and live the life you once knew before you put on the cape? Situations occur that as a family, the Kents have to look at things from other perspectives.
Director Lee Toland Krieger gives specific detail to highlight the different aspects of both Metropolis and Smallville. The farm feels radiant with the sun and more open, whereas Metropolis is more constrictive. The heroic scenes are given the scale and space they need to feel larger than life. There’s a balance between drama and heroism. You get to see Superman in his crime-fighting glory, but also Clark and Lois with everyday issues. The performances of Hoechlin and Tulloch bounce off each other well. Hoechlin summons from a place of inter-turmoil because he’s trying to balance who he is and the mask he puts on. Tulloch is his equal in that she is the voice of levity, common sense, and empathy.
If you’re looking for something to make the red-blue blur appear more human with it making sense, Superman and Lois’s beginning will get you on board. Being parents is hard enough. Being parents with teenagers while one is trying to juggle a double life is even tougher.
Photo Credit: The CW