Superman and Lois: What Lies Beneath

Even the Man of Steel has problems when he gets a new boss

The first season of Superman and Lois really impressed me, and a great many others as well. Tyler Hoechlin has been a fantastic Superman and Clark Kent since he first turned up in season two of Supergirl. Elizabeth Tulloch, formerly on Grimm, debuted as Lois Lane during the Elseworlds crossover, and turned in a great performance of the famed reporter. The two make a very believable version of one of the world’s most famous couples, and their story through the first season may well be the best of the Arrowverse shows.

Season one ended with the big villain defeated thanks to most of the characters working together. John Henry Irons, a hero from another Earth, joined forces with the Man of Steel, and then, just as the final episode wound down, was suddenly joined by his daughter, Natalie, who everyone had believed dead in the chaos that claimed his world. Her appearance was emotionally fraught for several of the characters, and the scene didn’t go well for many of them. We pick up with “What Lies Beneath.”

After the first few moments of emotional chaos, we jump ahead three months. The Kent family males are getting ready to go out while Lois is working at her computer. Unlike the usual closeness we’ve seen, there’s tension between Lois and Clark, and it’s a striking change. Clark makes some suggestion to Lois, who takes them badly, and then he and Jonathan leave for football practice, and Jordan departs to welcome Sarah Cushing back to town. As they are so good at doing, the writers work in some drama and some very believable teenaged behavior. In downtown Smallville, there are a few stands selling various Superman memorabilia. Kyle is clearly not a fan, although he seems to be fine with Superman himself, whereas Lana maintains her usual sunny outlook and politely disagrees. Sarah gets off the bus, back from camp, and doesn’t seem quite herself.

At the Smallville Gazette, Chrissy interviews an applicant who seems remarkably promising. Lois strolls in, late, makes some cutting remarks, and shoos him out. Chrissy is understandably not pleased, and she and Lois have some words about the future of the paper. At the Lang-Cushing home, we see Lana’s new focus, and it spins out of events from last season they could have easily forgotten. It’s a nice nod to continuity. Kyle seems a bit less pleased with her new enthusiasm, but then, he’s often not pleased about much. Jordan makes an appearance, at first thrilled to see his girlfriend, but his super-hearing gives him a heads up all is not as he’d wish it, and Sarah herself is clearly not quite on the same page he is. Jonathan has a very frustrating football practice, and gets a ride home with his new girlfriend, Candice. What happened to the girl he was starting to see last season, Tegan, is never addressed. Clark gets them back to the farm and then has to rush off when he hears a crisis involving a submarine. We get a hint of what’s coming from her last line of the scene.

Superman arrives over the ocean to save the submarine, which shouldn’t be an issue for the hero that he is. Unfortunately, something new comes out of nowhere and the Man of Steel is having some new problems. The submarine seems like it’s going to be lost, but Superman finally shakes off the mysterious ailment in time to make a rescue and get them back to shore. In Metropolis, John Henry Irons runs Natalie through their cover story, and clearly all is not well with the family. Lois gets back to the farm and walks in on some teenage behavior that’s not exactly shocking, but not what any parent wants to see. As we are reminded several times throughout the episode, Jonathan, Jordan, and Sarah are all only 15.

One of the other complications from season one is General Sam Lane retired from the DOD. I thought it was, at least in part, to spend more time with his family, but I have no idea where he’s gone. His replacement is a man named Anderson. There’s some confusion about his rank. Superman addresses him as “Lieutenant” throughout the episode, but the position he’s in is clearly far too important for that, and he’s wearing general’s insignia. There is a rank of “Lt. General,” but they’re not addressed as “Lieutenant.” Whatever rank he is, Anderson and Superman don’t see eye to eye on a few important things, and their relationship is clearly not going to be as smooth as Superman’s was with Sam. Hearing a call from Lois, Superman speeds off, illustrating some of Anderson’s point. A concerned Clark arrives home, and has trouble shifting gears. He was expecting a crisis, and while what’s happening isn’t good, it’s not the kind of thing the ELT (still not sure what that stands for) is supposed to be used for. This provokes another disagreement between Clark and Lois, devolving to a stereotypical but believable couples’ standoff, Clark goes to a gathering at Lana’s place without her.

Jordan has arranged a nice romantic gesture for Sarah, and she’s clearly not receptive. There’s definitely something off with this situation, but she doesn’t seem to willing to share what it is. At the Lang-Cushing home, Lana is hosting a special event and doing a better job with some things than the person she’s supposed to be helping. Kyle, for his part, doesn’t seem to be happy with this gathering. Clark, arriving late, has a short but entertaining talk with Kyle. While it’s not great advice, Kyle is clearly trying, and not being a jerk as he was much of season one. To complete the sweep of no one having a good day, John Henry Irons gets increasingly frantic as Natalie is hours late from her first day of school. She finally turns up and throws a teenaged rant about how hard the day was, although I have to admit she’s in unique circumstances.

Moving in further out of character, Lois is working at home and snaps at Jordan because… he came home? He’s a bit confused as well by her reactions, and sends himself to his room, which was both a bit funny and made me feel bad for him. Getting upstairs, Jordan has another of those great brother scenes that were such a great part of the first season, and Jonathan warns his brother that they likely have a lecture coming later. Clark and Lana talk about their spouses and things being difficult, and it’s a nicely written and acted exchange between two old friends. Their chat is interrupted by a sudden minor tremor, which is, to say the least, unusual for Kansas. Out in the garage, Kyle does some bonding with Sarah over a project and we finally hear some of her issue with Jordan, although it’s both vague and unfair to him.

Clark finally comes home to find Lois on the porch, staring out at nothing. That’s never a good sign in a relationship when there’s been tension. He cautiously asks what’s wrong, and Lois finally starts talking about what’s going on with her. While she’s going through some bad stuff, I’m glad to hear her talk about it, open up to Clark in particular, and that they’re not going to drag out marital problems for our titular couple for the whole season. Their tender moment comes to an end when there’s another inexplicable tremor. I wonder if a guy named Shandor built anything around here… At any rate, there are various disaster movie-style shots around Smallville, and Superman flies around to do some damage control. Finding some problems out at the mine, he does another few saves, has an odd spell like the one that took hold of him earlier, and then sees something very confusing. Cleaning up after the shaking is over, Lois makes a few decisions and an important phone call.

Unclear-Rank Anderson has a meeting with some new and unusual agents at the DOD, and seems very pleased with himself when Superman arrives. Anderson explains some of what’s happening, and it ties back to largely off-screen events from last season. They disagree on what’s happening and what’s right, and Superman objects to some of the insignia the new ones are wearing. Anderson’s last line is ominous. John Henry brings Natalie to a diner, and then she finds out there was another reason for her to go there. Natalie is initially irritated, but then has an emotional conversation with someone and starts to come around. Kyle and Lana talk about her new project, which leads to them rekindling some passion, which leads to them embarrassing and grossing out Sarah. In fine Arrowverse tradition, their youngest daughter never shows up or gets discussed in the episode. Sarah gets what seem to me like thoughtful texts from Jordan about earlier, but she still seems less than happy about them.

Jonathan and Jordan suffer the bane of kids everywhere as their gaming is interrupted by a parental appearance, in this case Clark coming in. They have a slightly awkward talk about sex, and Clark manages to embarrass himself a bit, but keeps going. It’s a nice, believable family scene that gets interrupted when he hears something outside. After some earlier discussion, the Irons family has returned to the farm to stay for a while, making the Kent house the best protected place in Smallville, if not the state. Clark and John have a brief talk, and then everyone goes inside. Things are looking good until the final scene, which shows a menace underground, which is probably the source of the strange tremors, and calls to mind the early stages of a major Superman story from the comics.

What I liked: I’m glad the show is back. The writing and the acting remain top-notch. Lois’ odd behavior got explained, it made sense, and it didn’t turn into a season-long debacle. The new relationship between Superman and the DOD is trouble, but makes a lot of sense, considering how close Superman was with Sam and that he doesn’t really know the new guy. What Anderson is doing is troubling, but makes sense given his duties and the limits of his knowledge. I’m not sure what to make of that final scene, and I hope it doesn’t mean what I think it does. I commented on this a lot last season, but I like and am impressed by them giving screen time to the Lang-Cushing household without it being crisis events.

What I didn’t: It might make sense for the age, but I don’t like how Sarah is treating Jordan. She needs to speak up. There was a lot of bad communication throughout the episode, and I really hope that doesn’t continue. Similarly, whatever is going on with Clark is not something he should be keeping to himself. He’s one of the most powerful people on the planet, he doesn’t get to not share hallucinations or migraines or whatever he’s going through. Especially not when there are so many people he could talk to.

I’m glad the show is back, and thought this was another great episode. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5, and eagerly await the rest of the season.