Superman and Lois: Through the Valley of Death

Hey, I’m the black guy named John who shows up with random tech this season!

Superman and Lois has consistently been a pleasant surprise. The show excels on every level, and continues to impress everyone I’ve talked about it with, including surprised people who tell me they’ve never been Superman fans. This initial season has had a lot of surprises, and they keep adding more. Now, the Man of Steel finds himself in grave danger from a few different sources, and his fate is largely in his assorted allies’ hands. Things are serious and not looking great for the good guys as they move “Through the Valley of Death.”

Last episode ended with a call Lois really didn’t want to make. Now we see the other side of that call, as John Henry Irons is interrupted while following someone he was close to on his Earth. Trapped in the Ro family fortress, Superman struggles against the “Eradication” Morgan Edge/Tal-Ro is subjecting him to. Edge stalks around the suffering Superman, taunting and trying to get him to give up his struggle. We also find out which personality Edge is trying to land in Superman’s body, and it really doesn’t get to be much worse news than that.

On the Kent farm, Lois does her best to reassure the boys, who are shaken by their run-in with Edge. She offers the perspective of her long experience in dealing with similar situations, and we learn Superman has been around a lot longer than I originally realized on this post-Crisis world. She convinces the boys to try and get some sleep, and they do shuffle off. That’s about when General Lane gets there, and Lois finally lets herself break down a little.

One of the things that has really set this show apart from others is the time they give to secondary characters and the repercussions of thing that have happened. The Cushing-Lang household is trying to move on after the near-disaster last episode, with Kyle accepting some of the negative results of his own choices. His new-found attempts to move on get torpedoed when they have an unexpected visitor who comes bearing bad news. Never ones to accept a no-win situation, and even less so lately, the Kent boys decide to take some matters into their own hands. They don’t go charging off and get themselves in more trouble, or cause problems for the people trying to help. Instead, Jonathan offers Jordan encouragement and support as he tells his brother he can help save the day. As they go off to try, Irons arrives at the farm (once again, the East Coast Metropolis and middle American Kansas are apparently unrealistically close) and he, Lois, and General Lane have a discussion that gets confrontational almost from the start. No one is happy with the way the talk goes, and there ends up being a side briefing Lois isn’t part of.

Jordan is making impressive strides with his powers, and Jonathan makes a very good coach. Jordan offers a funny and true observation as they keep pressing ahead with their desperate search. Jonathan does his best to get Jordan past some very complicated emotions in the wake of the brief fight with Edge. Inside, Irons offers an option to Sam that Lois would be very unhappy about. Kyle goes downtown for some mandated check-ins, and the family has an unpleasant encounter with some of the others who were affected by Edge’s plan. There’s a lot of blame thrown around, and it’s a very ugly, tense scene. A bit uncharacteristically, Lois sees this but doesn’t speak up, waiting until things are over before approaching Kyle and Lana for some help. She interviews them about what happened when they were under the influence of Edge’s machine, learns a few important things, and leaves after thanking them.

Superman keeps struggling, and manages to free himself for a few moments. He takes a desperate gamble and gets a warning to Jordan. Edge catches up to Superman and adds a threat to the message. Downtown amid the military quarters in Smallville, Lois is surprised to find Diggle, having brought some technology that General Lane requested. They catch up a bit, Diggle finds out what Lane wants the devices for, and gets very angry at the general. Diggle also meets Irons, and has a lot more questions. The Cushing-Langs get home and find out someone stopped by in their absence to make their displeasure known. It’s a cowardly act and it both scares and infuriates the family. Lana manages to keep Kyle from flying off the handle.

Jordan and Jonathan share what they’ve learned, but don’t get the reaction they thought they would. The General talks to Lois and breaks some bad news, not listening to her pleas. Not one to take no for an answer, Lois moves on to Irons and shares a big secret in an attempt to get him to listen to her. He’s stunned, but undeterred. Sam Lane deals with an angry Diggle, and Diggle’s ranting response includes a lot of the things that happened to him in the Arrow finale. This is one of the few false notes in the episode to me. The man who fought by Green Arrow’s side, who was Green Arrow for a while, who has faced down all sorts of threats hears about a danger to arguably the world’s greatest hero, gets upset and lectures… and then does nothing? I know it’s not Diggle’s story, but this really seemed out of character to me.

Unaware of the serious events going on downtown, the Cushings do some home maintenance which turns into some family fun. It’s silly, but healing and necessary. Lois goes to her office at the newspaper, which is where the boys find her. All of them are shaken and worried. Where Lois’ boss is never comes up. Superman appears to be losing his struggle as the DOD’s sensors finally find him. As Irons prepares to take off, Jonathan goes to find him and makes another appeal. Irons gears up in a suit that’s something approximating his comic book incarnation, but not that close.

What follows is a big fight between Superman and Steel. Superman clearly has more raw power, but Steel has some really well-designed weapons and a great deal of focus, knowing how important this fight is. The fight covers a lot of ground, but Irons finally listens to Lois and gives Superman a chance. The Man of Steel draws inspiration from his memories, from Lois’ voice, and from Irons’ words. Finally, throwing off the influence of his enemy, Superman teams up with Steel for a big climactic fight with Edge. Aware of his loss, Edge tries one last desperate maneuver, but is no match for two powerful, motivated, and angry heroes. His defeat actually looks painful. Later, as the Kent family reunites, Irons stops by and reconciles with them, as well as getting an apology from Jonathan. He declines Lois’ offer of dinner, but leaves on good terms.

The episode wraps with a few good scenes. The Cushings get their younger daughter, Sophie, back from wherever she’s been and they have a special meal. General Lane comments on one loose end, and is optimistic about dealing with it. The General also offers something of an apology to Clark and leaves. In a special holding cell, Edge sits, and we get a hint that something happened in that final battle. I guess after his big argument Diggle skipped town, because he doesn’t turn up again or even get referred to.

What I liked: The writing really impresses me here over and over. The time spent on the Cushings, the ramifications of Kyle’s earlier choices, the family scenes were nicely done and we’d never have seen them on most shows. Superman’s greatest power might just be his ability to inspire others, and that’s arguably what won the day this time. Jonathan and Jordan make a great team. Lois’ faith in her husband is never shaken, and her experience and level-headedness help a lot of important things happen this episode.

What I didn’t: The Smallville/Metropolis issue has been a problem since, well, Smallville (the series). I don’t buy Diggle wouldn’t interfere or that he’d just disappear in the middle of a crisis. This episode really suffers from the shared world problem; if Diggle is there to help, we need an explanation of some kind as to why Flash and Supergirl, at the very least, don’t turn up.

I thought this was another great episode in a series that has gone way past any and all expectations. I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5. I guess the rest of the season is dealing with the aforementioned loose end and maybe a new threat.