Turns out when “Superman and Lois” wants to do a fairly straightforward “Superman” episode, they can do it. Like it balances out well, even if Elizabeth Tulloch gets shockingly little to do but stand around in a show where her character’s name is in the title. And there are some performance problems, but it’s a solid action suspense episode.
The episode starts with a resolve to last episode’s two cliffhangers, beginning with season villain Adam Rayner dropping a truth bomb on Tyler Hoechlin. Everything Hoechlin always knew to be true was a lie—or at least a truth from a certain, lying point of view—and he spends the first ten or fifteen minutes recovering from it. There’s not a lot of time because eventually, they’re going to have to run Emmanuelle Chriqui through the Kryptonian brainwashing machine to stop Rayner.
Despite being relatively thrilling—it’s the end of the world as we know it, after all—Chriqui’s pretty terrible in her new part this episode. One of the things I’ve always liked about CW Arrowverse shows—outside “Arrow,” I suppose—is they clearly tested the actors with material not in the pilot. They really should’ve tested Chriqui with this plot development. She completely fumbles it. The new part—essentially an extended cameo—is difficult, sure, and underwritten (Adam Mallinger gets the script credit, which bungles a lot while still being effectively plotted)… but Chriqui’s bad in it.
And it’s an otherwise well-acted episode. Like, even Angus Macfadyen. Okay, maybe Macfadyen isn’t good, but he’s better than he’s ever been before, as he reveals his Jor-El is kind of… not super… smart? Like, if Macfadyen’s overcompensating, his performance makes a lot more sense. As well as Hoechlin being sort of mediocre at being Superman without Dylan Walsh around to tell him what to do.
A lot of the runtime is Inde Navarrette trying to figure out what’s going on with her parents, as mom Chriqui teams up with Hoechlin, Tulloch, and Walsh—since Rayner’s basically uncovered as the season villain now—and dad Erik Valdez has been possessed by an evil Kryptonian. Of course, no one was going to tell Navarrette until Jordan Elsass (fed up with adults lying and not learning from their mistakes) tells her the whole story. It’s a good arc for Elsass and eventually Navarrette, with Alex Garfin doing an all-right support job.
As for Rayner… I mean, given the way the plot’s going I guess he’s better post-big reveal. He’s still not really good, but it’s also a fairly bland character. It’d be nice if “Superman and Lois” had something up its sleeve besides recycled Man of Steel or “Supergirl” plots.
But still, pretty good “Superman” action episode. Pretty, pretty good.