Tuesday, July 13, 2021

REVIEW: 'Superman & Lois' - An Appeal to His Humanity May Be the Only Way to Save Superman in 'Through the Valley of Death'

The CW's Superman & Lois - Episode 1.12 "Through the Valley of Death"

Lois and John Henry Irons can't seem to agree on the best way to stop Morgan Edge. Meanwhile, Jonathan encourages Jordan to focus on strengthening his powers to help locate their dad. Lastly, an old friend is brought in to help with the search.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of The CW's Superman & Lois.

"Through the Valley of Death" was written by Katie Aldrin & Michael Narducci and directed by Alexandra La Roche

A lot of this episode is built around Superman grunting with a pained expression on his face while Morgan Edge tells him to submit while others still plead with him to remember what he is fighting for. Structurally, it all makes sense in context. And yes, the plot does develop nicely. This episode also hits the same note repeatedly in order to get to this big, climatic point. As such, it feels padded out a little bit just to carry the story through an entire episode. Sure, it concludes with Superman emerging victorious while Edge is in custody. That's not the end of the story though. That's affirmed by the grin on Edge's face at the end of it all. Moreover, the story makes it unclear what exactly he was doing when he flew off to space to complete the final stage of his plan. In fact, that's probably not even the final step of his quest towards world domination. That target has been incredibly fluid this season. That runs the risk of making it all seem like the creative team has no idea what the ultimate goal is. They are just making things up along the way and hoping that it all has merit in the end. Edge is kept around as a significant antagonist. His plans keep seemingly coming to fruition. They must all be grounded in emotion though. Here, so much of it is shrouded in secrecy. Yes, it teases the arrival of General Zod - one of the major villains Superman has fought in the legacy of the comics. But again, it's just a tease. Zod is the Kryptonian trying to take over Superman's body. Clark is in a battle of the wills with him. It's still just dramatized solely through Clark's face. It's specifically his eyes. Sure, characters know when Superman has been taken over. That doesn't mean he is gone for good. Again, the appeal to his humanity is still an effective tool in their arsenal. The characters left behind in Smallville argue the merits of that tactical decision. It's baffling to Edge and John Henry that Clark would choose humanity over his own people. They don't understand how someone could just abandon the loyalties to their people just like that. Clark was sent to Earth to ensure the legacy of Krypton could be remembered. It wasn't to infiltrate the planet and resurrect a civilization that feels entitled to existence despite how poorly they managed their original world. Kryptonian values differ based on who is passing down the lessons. Clark had the stability of a family in Smallville. Edge lived in hiding for his entire life. They were both trained by their Kryptonian fathers. Jor-El urged Clark to discover what he was fighting for on Earth. Meanwhile, Edge was trained to withstand pain while being solely devoted to the mission at hand. These two methods have fueled this conflict between brothers. Edge believes he has won. But again, the connection to humanity allows Clark to prevail even in the most dire of circumstances. Lois needs to explain that connection in order for others to get it. The citizens of Smallville need to have faith that things will get better in their lives. And yet, they were just manipulated by a diabolical billionaire looking to exploit their resources. More than that though, Edge is an alien invader looking to conquer the entire planet. That's how far his ambitions extend. The people of Smallville mean nothing to him. Their stories are crucial to the series though. It can be jarring to go from the dramatic stakes of saving Superman to the melodrama amongst Kyle, Lana and Sarah. Their stories are just as relevant in all of this. The clarity they have over recent experiences helps Lois keep hope alive. She makes that plea to John Henry. Jonathan does as well. They understand the importance of family and how it brings everyone together under a common purpose. It's simple but it's a powerful core thesis as well. That has been demonstrated significant throughout this show. It helps make the more fantastical beats work. And yet, only so much can be done when the show also has to juggle a lot of developments in one episode. Here, it's clearly holding for time a little bit. That can be a benefit in some regards. In other instances though, it can be too evident that the story is stalling for something else to happen later on. That doesn't even mention John Diggle's appearance here. He has popped up briefly on a few CW superhero shows as of late. He helps tie the various threads of the extended universe together. And yet, none of these appearances have done much to continue his specific story, which has been very much left open-ended to a puzzling degree.