Friday, February 26, 2021

Superman & Lois - Pilot

Spoilers Ahead! 
Looks like this is just going to be a rambling series of thoughts I had while watching the pilot. Enjoy?

There's not a lot of Jeph Loeb comics I really like, but I really like Superman: For All Seasons. So, you know, kicking off your new series with a reference to what is probably the best moment from that comic, wrapped up in references to the Fleischer cartoons and an Action Comics #1 homage is a pretty sure-fire way to get me on-board. 
That the next bit is an extended reference to the best Superman movie, Superman III, really kind of seals the deal. It's a fitting reference, since both this and that movie are about Clark returning to Smallville as an adult and reconnecting with Lana Lang. 

It's refreshing, after so many years of gruff General Sam Lane growing increasingly hateful and distrustful toward Superman, to have a version of that character who accepts all the facets of his son-in-law. We see later on that the friction in the relationship has shifted to Lois, which is another interesting dynamic.

The casting of Emmanuelle Chriqui as Lana, eschewing the characters usual ginger look, feels like an intentional attempt to echo the Kristen Kreuk version of the character. I wonder how long it'll be before we have some Smallville guest stars. I can imagine at least one of the principal cast who won't show up.

Lana's husband, Erik Valdez's Kyle Cushing, similarly evokes Smallville's Whitney Fordman and Superman III's Brad. Lana Lang has been a lot of different things in her 71 years of existence, but one constant seems to be her terrible luck in romance. 

Speaking of Smallville, it sure is nice to see teenagers played by actual teenagers.

I dig the super-vision effect, like Superman is sweeping through the spectrum. I hope they kind of stick with that instead of going to a more classic x-ray image. 

The Kryptonian ship design feels a lot more Snyderverse than Arrowverse. The color scheme evokes the monochromatic Smallville ship (though looking at pictures, I guess Kara's pod wasn't exactly colorful), and has the weird nanotech vibe that the tech in Man of Steel had.

The ominous bass note when Clark takes his glasses off is good, but it's better that the kids clearly aren't buying it until he does a Superman thing. It would be nice to see Hoechlin make Superman and Clark more distinct, but he also hasn't had a lot of chance to do so yet. 

The speed-slow effect of Superman flying through the wall toward the villain seems calculated—along with the muted color palette of the Superman scenes, seems designed to appeal to fans of the DCEU. I wonder how well that worked.

I like that the heat vision is red in this. Like, I thought it was really neat that they did the blue effect for Supergirl, but I always hoped when they brought Superman into the show, they'd make his heat vision red to make the two more distinct. It would also subtly indicate that Supergirl's heat vision is hotter. 

The Morgan Edge plot is a good hook to keep Lois in the forefront, and to explore some political issues the way Supergirl does, but obviously the politics of rural America are a little different from the politics in National City. 

The bit about Ma Kent being the Superwoman of Smallville is nice. If we're to buy Superman as an inspirational character, it helps to have people inspired by him in the story. 

I hope the inclusion of an alternate-universe Luthor doesn't mean we've seen the last of Jon Cryer's version of the character. I get the impression that Superman & Lois is going for a Black Lightning/Batwoman vibe, spending the first season more or less on its own to find its footing before it builds ties back to the larger Arrowverse. At least, I hope that's the case; it would be a shame for this series to reach its finale without ever bringing Melissa Benoist in for a guest spot. 

The kids won me over by the end, though I hope there ends up being more to the premise than "one has powers, the other doesn't." Although that is a helluva Silver Age Imaginary Story plot to build a modern series on. The only way this could be more Silver Age is if it were Superman & ???? and Bitsie Tulloch was just constantly in silhouette. 

Overall, I'm optimistic. The featurette that followed the pilot (which featured some people who...maybe weren't the best idea to put in promo materials right now) mentioned Smallville shortly before calling this a show about Superman when he grows up, and I think that's really the appeal. We've had a show about Superman in his prime, we've had a show about Superman starting out in life, and we've had two shows about Superman before he was Superman, but we've never seen something like this in an adaptation before (though I suppose Superman Returns came close). I can imagine some ways that this could break very badly—a Brightburn-style plot with Jordan, romantic tension between Clark and Lana, sidelining Lois, and of course all the behind-the-scenes issues I mentioned last time—but I think the building blocks are here for a really interesting series that does a good job exploring the Superman mythos in a way we haven't seen before. And I think, like pretty much all the CW shows, it's got the cast to pull it off. I'm very excited to see where this goes from here.

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