blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Superman & Lois (2021) s01e05 – The Best of Smallville

Way to go on the distracting cliffhanger, “Superman and Lois.” After a reasonably complicated—so many emotions—episode, the cliffhanger is a hard, survive-or-perish number for one of the characters. Maybe not the most fragile character, though the episode does put likable if uneven Sofia Hasmik in more danger than is preferable. But still.

Hasmik’s got the indomitable reporter arc this episode. Elizabeth Tulloch’s having a combination date night and mom night, so Hasmik picks up the slack. Only Hasmik doesn’t have a Super-beeper. She’s following recently returned from the dead Clayton James, who’s the prime suspect in a town arson job. It leads to a very contrived Superman fight sequence, which proves a nighttime flying fight at super-speed in a cornfield (so the corn debris can garble the fight visuals) is not a good Superman fight sequence. It’s too bad because otherwise, Rachel Talalay’s direction is pretty good. I remember when she started on “The Flash” for the CW; she was terrible.

Though she’s not very good with the actors. They don’t need a lot of help this episode—the heavy lifting is Inde Navarrette being way too aware of having an alcoholic dad, Erik Valdez, and a callous mom, Emmanuelle Chriqui, is going to do her damage. But Jordan Elsass has his first string of selfish teenage boy scenes; Elsass had been the ever considerate super-twin, so it’s kind of a breaking bad arc. Elsass is fine and has the requisite emotion, especially with the previous episodes’ character development, but Talalay doesn’t know how to help the performance. Baby steps, I guess. She does direct the heck out of the Tulloch and Tyler Hoechlin scenes.

And Hoechlin does a lot better this episode. Possibly because there are a bunch of flashbacks to his teenage years. They hired very teenage Dylan Kingwell for the flashbacks. Kingwell’s playing older than Elsass and Alex Garfin, but he’s clearly younger. Maybe the Kryptonian aging thing—which they use to explain Hoechlin looking early thirties but playing mid-forties—means Kingwell looked thirteen when he was eighteen, which would explain why (unseen) flashback Chriqui dumped him for Valdez.

A couple developments on the Chriqui and Valdez front, in addition to Navarrette’s awareness. Valdez gets wasted because his best friend is in critical condition after the aforementioned fire. Chriqui gets shitty with him about all of it, making her a lot less sympathetic than usual. She’s also changed her mind on (also unseen) Adam Rayner because he’s performatively nice. Meanwhile, Valdez—playing a cracker—drunkenly sings Navarrette a Spanish lullaby, so maybe there’s more to his backstory. Smallville’s got enough Black people in supporting parts to suggest the white people leads aren’t all a bunch of racists, but there aren’t any Hispanic characters so far. It’s a diverse but not inclusive show.

Michele Scarabelli—who appeared in the pilot—is very good as Ma Kent in the flashbacks. Especially since Kingwell’s a little asshole. “Superman and Lois” is, in addition to being about Superman being a C- dad, is about Superboy being a dick teenager to his widowed mom. Interesting flex.

Oh, and Wolé Parks finally comes back. Daisy Tormé is terrible as his digital assistant. It’s hard to be so bad as a digital assistant the performance makes the regular actor better, but Tormé’s awful enough. Parks isn’t very good, though. It turns out—thanks to a reveal—the part’s tricky, and Talalay doesn’t direct actors, so maybe he’ll get better.

Interesting show canon details—Smallville was incorporated in 1949, so long after Action Comics #1, and Lex Luthor does exist. Somewhere out there.

The family drama, albeit unevenly executed at times, is compelling. “Superman and Lois” might finally get going in a few more episodes. Might.

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