Superman & Lois episode one spoilers follow.
Over the past 80 years, Superman has defeated every villain that even the most inventive comic book writer can throw at him. And back in the ’90s, there was a time when death itself was no match for the Man of Steel.
But that doesn’t mean Superman can’t be hurt. In fact, the first episode of Superman & Lois illustrates this all too well with nary a smidge of kryptonite in sight.
Things kick off in typically optimistic fashion with a montage that fills in Clark’s backstory. Longtime fans will notice a quick homage to Superman’s comic-book debut, recreating the cover of Action Comics #1 with that car lift and an old version of his “S” emblem that appeared in the Fleischer cartoons.
(Here is your final spoiler warning.)
However, nostalgia soon gives way to sorrow when we learn that Jonathan Kent, Superman’s adopted father, passed away at some point before the events of the show kick off.
This tragic news is revealed within the premiere’s first five minutes, which would come as a shock except this isn’t the first time that Daddy Supes has snuffed it on screen. Remember when Kevin Costner was (unnecessarily) swallowed up by that tornado in Man of Steel? Or how about when Smallville‘s Jonathan died of a heart attack in the 100th episode?
Superman’s father has died multiple times in the comics as well, but in the Arrowverse at least, his name lives on thanks to a new angsty Jonathan Kent who Clark fathers in the show. While this son is described as “always happy, always smiling,” his brother, Jordan, is “more challenging” thanks to his various tantrums and social anxiety.
It soon becomes clear that Clark’s struggle to balance fatherhood with super-heroism will be a core conflict for Superman & Lois moving forward. Early on, Martha Kent calls Clark and reminds him that he should be there for his children in much the same way that he is for the world at large. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but Martha has a plan that will kick in when she dies…
Martha won’t shuffle off this mortal coil for a while though, right? Well, very soon after that call, Clark’s mother suffers a stroke which proves fatal. And just like that, both of Superman’s parents are sent to “the farm”, leaving behind their Smallville property to Clark and his family.
It turns out that Martha wanted Clark to come back home all along. She believed that moving away from Metropolis could help bring the Kents together, and thanks to some remortgaging shenanigans, Clark’s mother manages to make this a reality.
Sam Lane tells Lois, his daughter, that “Superman doesn’t get to have a normal life, no matter how much you want one for him,” but it seems that the now-deceased Kents are keen to prove him wrong.
While that is a sweet sentiment, we can’t help but question why both of Clark’s parents needed to die to make this happen. What worries us most is that the show has already been accused of sexism by a former writer, and given the surprising lack of scenes featuring Lois, was it a smart move to kill off another major female character so soon?
Yes, it’s important that Superman & Lois should set itself apart from the many Superman stories that came before it, and sure, it’s not easy to challenge a character who is nigh on indestructible, but the premiere doesn’t exactly go easy on Clark.
Not only does he lose both parents in just under 30 minutes, Clark also loses his job while fending off a new villain — and then there’s also his two teenage sons to deal with all, both of whom hate Clark for trying to protect them from the truth. That’s a lot for any man to deal with all at once, let alone a super man.
It seems that the writers made all this happen in a bid to make the Last Son of Krypton more relatable for us regular human folk. But by doing so, it feels like Superman & Lois is veering dangerously close to the realm of trauma porn, much like Clark’s big-screen counterpart.
Saying that though, we’re only one episode in right now. While the death of both Kents did come as a shock, it’s entirely possible that the writers will use this tragedy to explore Clark’s humanity in ways that so many other Superman stories fail to do. Sure, we’ve been robbed of another “Maaartha” moment, but if the show can carve out its own path like this, then maybe it will all be worth it.
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