There’s a lot going on with “Superman & Lois” before we even get to Tyler Hoechlin wearing the worst Arrowverse muscle suit in memory. There’s also Hoechlin wearing spandex dress shirts to look more ripped. There’s also the zero Arrowverse crossover aspect—Melissa Benoist really should’ve shown for her aunt’s funeral, and Hoechlin’s recap of his life-to-date has a Lex Luthor-sized hole in it—but it’s also post-Crisis crossover and apparently Hoechlin’s forgotten he remembers life before he had two teenage sons and instead just an infant one.
Also, it’s unclear if Jenna Dewan’s Lucy Lane (from “Supergirl”) exists anymore. Also in Crisis the Sam Lane character changed entirely, no longer character actor asshole Glenn Morshower (on “Supergirl”), now more affable Dylan Walsh. Walsh is still a hard-ass and a bit of an asshole, but he loves both his grandsons, not just the jock.
“Superman & Lois” is two parts teen drama—Jordan Elsass and Alex Garfin play the super-twins, no discussion yet on how mom Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) got through labor without one of them kicking a hole in her—one part parent drama (“S&L” is running with the Superman Returns Superman as bad dad plot, though downgrading Hoechlin to a distracted, absentee dad), and one part superhero action. Muscle-suited Hoechlin circles the globe fighting a bad guy in a super-space suit who knows his Kryptonian name (which is usually public knowledge but, hey, post-Crisis continuity, right); the bad guy likes causing disasters at nuclear plants, so the first action sequence is basically a CGI Superman III iced lake riff. It’s all right. The muscle suit is annoying, but it’s far from terrible live-action Superman.
I was going to make a Dean Cain joke here but let’s just talk about the Trump politics.
The premise of the show is simple. Ma Kent (Michele Scarabelli, in a somewhat forced but not bad performance) has died, and the show will be the big city Kents coming back to the farm. Even though Elsass has just made quarterback as a freshman in high school, and he’s got a girlfriend, he’s the actually good sports bro, so he doesn’t care. He also doesn’t care he didn’t get the superpowers. Instead, Garfin, who’s got depression and anxiety, gets the more powerful than a locomotive gig. Hoechlin, Garfin, and Elsass will do old-time farming while Tulloch, I don’t know… works remotely. The Daily Planet lays Hoechlin off in the first act (the pilot runs an extra-long sixty-four minutes, and they have no idea how to pace it past forty-two), so he’s ready for something else.
Back in Smallville, the only people they really know are Hoechlin’s high school girlfriend, Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and her dog-whistle-blowing husband, Erik Valdez. Maybe they’ll do a subplot about Valdez falling for “Supergirl” white supremacist Sam Witwer’s movement. Probably not. Post-Crisis plus Arrowverse is post-institutionalized racism. Even though Valdez sounds like he’s about to start spouting MAGA (or Q or anti-mask), he’s just a sad regular working-class guy who’s upset all the intelligent kids moved away for college degrees and never came back to Kansas to improve his life for him. He’s a firefighter, after all, and Smallville’s full of meth cookers who burn down their houses and kids.
The pilot’s a mix of comics references (the 1930s-inspired suit looks terrible, but the Superman for All Seasons nod is cute), Man of Steel imagery and editing, and earnestness. Is the earnestness going to make up for Hoechlin’s okay but definitely not ready for the lead Superman? We’ll see. The show’s biggest ask as far as willful suspension of disbelief is the family dynamics. Sure, Hoechlin’s supposed to be aging at a reduced rate, and Tulloch’s forty, but she’s not having two teenage sons forty. Especially not since she was already a world-famous reporter when she and Hoechlin met. So maybe she’s supposed to be playing older too? Elsass and Garfin are playing fourteen. They’re not fourteen. Is “S&L” going to be able to gin up good character relationships when Hoechlin looks like his kids’ older brother? We’ll see.
I just hope they fix the ridiculous muscle suit.