Sunday, March 28, 2021

Superman & Lois - Haywire

A late post because I decided to let "Justice League" live in my head for a week. Spoilers ahead!
Not gonna lie, I was more excited to hear the name "Thaddeus Killgrave" than anything in any other superhero media I might have consumed in the last ten days. 

Though given Killgrave's appearance in the comics, it would've been nice to see them give the role to a little person. I was going to say something about how wild it is that a name that Silver Age didn't get attached to a character until 1988, but Google reminded me that the Purple Man (1964) is Zebediah Killgrave, and now I want to see that crossover. 

Teens developing unexpected superpowers due to kryptonite? A Kent parent fighting back against the billionaire industrialist with sinister designs on the town? Yep, "Haywire" is the episode where the B-plots go full "Smallville." And I kind of love it. Hey, look at how much better a "Smallville" plot is when it has tights and flights!

I feel like Superman stories are at their best when they pit Superman's priorities against each other, and this episode's A-plot is all about the Man of Steel's priorities. Sam Lane is here to be the voice of duty and responsibility—and, to a large degree, fear—repeatedly saying how Superman is the most important person on the planet and that changes to his routine scare the powers that be. Meanwhile, Clark's also trying to be a good father and a good husband, and all three of those responsibilities come to a head here when he's called away from Jordan and Jon's crisis to deal with Killgrave, and then called back to deal with that crisis, ultimately missing the town council meeting where Smallville approves Morgan Edge's plan.

Lois and the kids really get a chance to shine here. Lois confronts Morgan Edge and his henchwoman, and she gets some good bonding moments with Lana. I really do want to see that friendship develop, and I'm glad that they've veered away from sowing drama between Lana and Clark, at least so far. 

Jordan's success on the football field leaves Jon kind of adrift, and we see that he's got a nice mix of his mom's investigative skills and dad's compassion. He's the one who realizes that something's wrong with Tag, the football player whose arm got injured in the explosion Jordan caused back in the Pilot. Jordan, meanwhile, has dad's overactive sense of responsibility, and is sure that it's his heat vision that caused Tag's superspeed seizures.

The other source of drama in the episode comes from Sam telling the boys that they need to remember how important their dad's time is, and to not waste it—a warning which, naturally, almost leads to disaster (and leads to a big fight where Lois puts Sam very much in his place). 

It's a good episode that plays to the strengths of the concept, showing how very mundane domestic concerns and superheroic ones intersect, with the Kent family at the center of it to varying degrees. It's also a nice rebuke of so many of the problematic approaches we've seen to married superheroes, like the New 52 idea that a marriage is the end of drama, the '90s Spider-Man idea that a marriage only has drama when it's constantly on the rocks, or the Tomasi idea that a superhero family must be some picturesque picket-fence 1950s nuclear family. Conflict and tension arises naturally out of a long-term relationship, even a happy and successful one, and Lois's feeling like she's too low on the list of priorities—and her conflict about even expressing that feeling—is extremely relatable as someone who's in a marriage of two people who are often way too busy. 

So the episode ending on a romantic candlelight dinner for Clark and Lois—one which, naturally, gets interrupted by a Super crisis—is a really nice touch, and Clark's speech to Lois (and Lana's speech to Lois, too) is a good reminder about why they work as a couple. 

So far, the places where this show excels are where it explores how having superpowers affects everyday problems—trying to fit in at school, sibling rivalries, being a good parent and partner—and how everyday problems—overprotective parenting, disapproving grandparents—are amplified when you're in a superhero universe. It's a lesson that more domestic-style superhero stories could learn. 

Browsing through the IMDB page, there's someone credited as Dabney Donovan, though I didn't catch them in the episode. That bodes well for future stories. I friggin' love Cadmus. 

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