After years of being super, in just about every way, the DC stalwart is suddenly getting the classic Marvel treatment. In addition to saving the world, Superman (and/or Clark Kent) now must contend with family issues as well as trouble in the office and on the Kent family farm. It might be reassuring to some that not even Superman has super parenting-powers in the special extended pilot of co-creators Greg Berlanti & Todd Helbing’s Superman & Lois, which premieres tomorrow on the CW.
Evidently, the pilot takes place after the big crossover event on CW’s other DC shows, but you can walk into S&L without watching any prior episodes. You know the basics—Superman’s escape capsule landed in Smallville, where he was adopted by the Kents. Eventually, he moved to Metropolis to work for the Daily Planet, where he met and fell in love with Lois Lane.
Unlike the Christopher Reeve movies and George Reeves TV series casual fans might be more familiar with, in this DC universe, Kent revealed his powers and true identity to Lane, who subsequently married him. However, they have kept the Superman business secret from their teenage sons, Jonathan, who happens to be a suspiciously talented athlete and his younger brother Jordan, who has always been a little “troubled.” Lane still has mixed feelings about this decision, but Kent believes it is the best way to protect them.
Lately, he has had a right to feel uneasy. An armored supervillain known only as “The Stranger” has been targeting nuclear reactors, leaving behind messages in the Kryptonite language. Superman has only narrowly avoided disasters several times already. Naturally, The Stranger will strike again right when the Kent family is in crisis.
It is surprisingly compelling to see Clark Kent finally have to live like Peter Parker. We can sympathize we him a lot, as he tries to relate to his two polar-opposite sons. Obviously, Lane does her best to cover, but he is constantly pulled in multiple directions simultaneously. His father-in-law, Gen. Sam Lane does a lot of the pulling, serving as a sort of Commissioner Gordon figure, who often summons Superman whenever national emergencies arise.
Still, there is one thing missing for old school fans. It is probably too much to ask for when there are Chinese rights sales to be made, but wouldn’t you love to hear “truth, justice, and the American way” again?
Supergirl and the other DC shows, so he has time to make it his own. The chemistry he shares with Elizabeth Tulloch is also quite strong. More than ever before, we can identify with this ultra-iconic couple. Jordan Elsass brings some humor as the BMOC brother, but Alex Garfin’s anti-social angst as the younger sibling Jordan (presumably named for Jor-El) is already beyond tiresome. On the other hand, Dylan Walsh is entertainingly gruff and aptly commanding as Gen. Lane.
At least in the pilot, Berlanti & Helbang do a nice job combining traditional Superman elements with fresh twists. They also set up some promising continuing story arcs. It deserves a chance to establish its own identity outside the shadow of the beloved films and TV shows. Recommended so far, Superman & Lois premieres tomorrow (2/23), on the CW.