I’ve been praising the quality of Superman and Lois each time I’ve written a review. That’s going to continue. The show manages to get in good special effects, plots that make sense, great characterization and acting, and working in family drama during an action show that doesn’t leave me rolling me eyes or wondering when they’ll get back to something interesting. There is some surprising action, but also some big drama moments in “Holding The Wrench.”
In an unexpected development, the episode starts off with Lois, clearly ill-at-ease, in an office having a meeting. The brash, fearless, confident (arguably over-confident at times) reporter is very out of character, fidgeting, stressed, and nervous. After a small bit of backstory about their relationship, with no real clue why Lois is there or who this is, we hear about her losing her temper and hurting someone. This shifts over to the Kent family talking about recent events, and, in a nice touch, fixing the damage to the truck from the boys’ rescue of their father last episode. Clark fixes the truck with his abilities, not taking the tools Jonathan offers, which is a great peek into what it’s like living with someone so powerful. Clark takes off to help General Lane question the captive John Henry Irons. I’m not sure how they swung this, but Irons’ RV is now in the Kent barn, and Lois plans to investigate. Jonathan asks to come along, especially since he couldn’t help with the repairs. Jordan, after the family discussed it, goes in to school to return the football uniforms since he and Jonathan are taking a break from the game. I’m not quite clear on how Jordan got to the school, but that’s a minor detail. So far, we haven’t seen him display flight or superspeed. Once inside, Lois and Jonathan end up talking to the AI (which really needs a name) and are surprised to find out Lois is an authorized user. They quickly make more discoveries.
Another thing the show does really well is giving secondary characters screen time that doesn’t involve them either being in danger or plotting against the heroes. We get a scene at the Cushing house, where Lana and Kyle talk about Morgan Edge’s leadership initiative, and Sarah finds out about auditions for a musical at school. She gets a lot of support from both parents, and it’s one of the rare scene where both Lana and Kyle seem to be on the same page. Later at school, Sarah tries to talk herself into signing up, Jordan gives her some encouragement, and we learn a bit more about his past as well. I’m not clear why either they are there when the school is closed, or Jonathan isn’t in class, and whichever way it is never gets cleared up. At the DOD, John Henry Irons sits in a cell and has another flashback to his previous life. Then he gets escorted to an interrogation room, where Superman waits. Superman asks him a few questions and points out that, as we learned last episode, Irons is dead, at least on this Earth. Which I guess means there’s no Steel in the Arrowverse, or at least not yet. After another flashback showing Irons fighting Superman, the inventor makes a few threats and says he won’t talk until he gets to see Lois.
They’ve done some great editing on this show, with scenes building off each other as they both progress, and they do that again here. As Irons rants about what happened on his world, we see Lois and Jonathan exploring Irons’ camper. They start learning about the link between Irons and the Lois on his world, and both Lois and Jonathan are shocked. Irons keeps saying things that surprise the Man of Steel, and then we cut back to Lois in the office she started the show in. Lois talks about the power of words, and her ability to hurt someone, and then frets that she let loose on someone who really didn’t deserve it. At the DOD, Superman talks to Lois on the phone, and they banter about what they’ve been through. Lois is off her game and Superman, rarely, gets the better lines. After they wrap up their chat, Lois tells Jonathan it’s time to take a break from the camper.
At her home, Sarah is getting nervous about the upcoming audition, and Kyle comes in with his guitar. It’s a rare scene with Kyle being a good and encouraging father, his jerk-like tendencies fully hidden. It’s a nice bit of characterization for both Kyle and Sarah. At the DOD, Superman and General Lane argue about how to proceed with Irons, and we meet Trask, an ominous “specialist.” Living up to the stereotype of dumb teenagers everywhere, but in a very understandable way, Jonathan goes back to the RV on his own. He pokes around enough to find things he shouldn’t and set off all the alarms and defenses. Unable to do anything else, a panicked Lois calls for Clark. Thanks to the miracles of super-speed and -hearing, Superman gets there just in time, makes a dramatic entrance, and saves Jonathan at the last possible moment. In the aftermath of that chaos, Jonathan reveals the surprising reason he was poking around, and Lois completely loses it. Afterwards, there’s a short scene with Lois and Clark that shows his heroism isn’t limited to either being in costume or using his powers, but Lois isn’t in the frame of mind to listen.
One of the things I’d been both wondering and worrying about comes to pass when Kyle goes to drop in on Lana at work. His great mood evaporates when he runs into Leslie Larr, Edge’s aide, who casually tells him something that stuns and enrages him. While I generally don’t care for Kyle at all, I completely understand where he’s coming from on this one. Lana is almost done with a meeting in her newest position when Kyle comes in determined to talk with her. It doesn’t go well, and leaves both of them shaken. General Lane takes his turn at talking to Irons, and gets more surprises. Also, considering how he’s been acting during the season, it’s nice to see General Lane being loyal to, and defending, Superman. Irons is so convincing that he’s rattling the troops and even giving Lane some pause. Then it’s back to the office we keep seeing, and Lois reveals some shocking things from her past, and another connection to the life Irons remembers from his world.
The surprises keep coming at the DOD, where Lt. Rosetti, the soldier we met last episode, is escorting Irons back to his cell. Trask, the large specialist we saw earlier, has some other ideas. The soldiers argue and Irons finally gets a turn to be surprised when one of them shows he’s a lot more than he appears to be. Back to the office, Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois gives a stunning performance of grief and anger and loss. Probably to counter that heaviness, we go to the school for auditions, and whoever it is on stage has a lot more heart than voice. Sarah is next, and, when she sees her dad isn’t there, is ready to just give up on the spot. Jordan, who came to cheer her on, makes a very generous offer, especially considering what we learned about him earlier. Jonathan, reeling from Lois’ tongue-lashing, goes to talk to Jordan (again, not sure how the kids are getting from the farm to the school), and there’s another great scene of brotherly affection. They really handle the relationship between those two amazingly well. Sarah goes on to do her audition with a little help from a friend, and does really well. Even Jonathan, with more than enough reasons to be upset, smiles as she sings.
Everyone is the hero of their own story, of course, and while Irons seems like a villain from our perspective, you have to admire his determination and wits. He’s in a really bad spot, hopelessly outmatched, and manages to, at the very least, make his new captor’s life difficult. Superman and General Lane get a lot of bad news, find out where the current problem is, and then Superman finds out some of what Lane has been up to. Because he’s not just a hero but, in many ways, the hero, he brushes off both what he’s learned and the warnings he gets, and goes to save the life of a man determined to kill him. What follows is an ugly fight with some nasty weapons, and Superman’s raw determination to do the right thing no matter what. There are a lot of reversals and brutal blows, but what turns the tide is someone’s surprising intervention. Even that almost leads to tragedy, but the right words from the right person defuses the situation.
With most of the major surprises and action over, there are some wrap-up scenes still to come. Superman and General Lane have a difficult discussion, but at least both of them are honest. They move on to what Edge is doing, and the theory they discuss is not at all what I thought was happening. Sarah confronts her father about letting her down, and while she’s nowhere near as mean as she could be, her simple directness wounds him, which he deserves. Jordan follows up on something he was doing earlier, while Jonathan wonders about a new guest on the farm. He makes a nasty comment that gets overheard, and then he and Lois have a talk that is hard to hear and very difficult, but needs to happen. Outside, there’s a different difficult discussion between Irons, Superman, and Lois. Even in the midst of a very important discussion, they take a moment to preserve Clark’s secret. Irons and Superman part under somewhat better terms than before. Irons leaves, making a few changes, and there’s one small continuity glitch as the damage done to the camper earlier has somehow been repaired. Everyone has a lot of thinking to do as the show comes to the end.
What I liked: Everything on the show continues to impress. The writing, the acting, the character work, and the time devoted to what would be minor characters on any other show. Superman’s big fight was really well done. A lot of the characters have clashing motivations, but each one of them believes in what they’re doing. Even Leslie Larr causing problems for the Cushings was unintentional. Superman is a true hero, and we see that when he’s both in and out of costume. Lois is a dynamic, determined person, and her vulnerability this episode just makes her stronger as she confronts her losses but also embraces what she has. Irons and Lane could be seen as villains, but they think they’re doing what they have to, and do have good motivations. Sarah got a few good scenes, although there’s a lot of trouble coming for the Cushing household. Even Jonathan’s singularly stupid action was kind of understandable.
What I didn’t: I’m not sure how some of the people are getting around. There’s not exactly a lot of public transportation in Smallville. I’m a bit curious about the RV getting repaired. Some of what happened isn’t the kind of thing Clark could just heat vision back to normal.
This show started strong and keeps getting better. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5. I’m really not sure what’s coming next, but I’m looking forward to finding out.