The story of Superman is a key part of modern mythology. Even those who have never picked up a Superman comic in their lives can tell you the story of how Kal-El of Krypton came to Earth, gained powers far beyond those of mortal man, and started fighting a never-ending battle for truth and justice. Along the way, he fell in love with a woman because she was as dedicated to truth and justice as he was, and she was fearless without the benefit of being bulletproof.
Because most of us are familiar with the story of Lois Lane and Clark Kent (even without the benefit of having seen Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch play the characters before on Supergirl) the pilot episode of Superman & Lois doesn’t waste much time on telling us who Clark Kent and Lois Lane are beyond a quick montage showing Clark’s childhood, his first public outing as Superman, the day het met Lois, the day he revealed his secret identity to her, the day he proposed and so on. We slow down once we reach today, where Lois and Clark have twin sons, Jonathan and Jordan, who are on the edge of starting high school.
It’s at this point that Superman and Lois becomes a decidedly different kind of superhero show. Oh, we still get to watch Superman flying around being heroic and doing the impossible. Indeed, the show is bookended by two cinema-quality scenes of Superman averting disaster and doing battle with a new supervillain called The Stranger. (No relation to the Phantom Stranger!) But as with all great Superman stories, the heart lies within Clark Kent and Clark’s heart lies with his family.
Tyler Hoechlin humanizes Clark Kent in a way I don’t think any actor has managed since the late, great Christopher Reeve. Having a new masked man in power armor gunning for him doesn’t disturb Clark nearly as much as the thought of not being there for his son Jordan (Alex Garfin), who suffers from an anxiety disorder and has withdrawn from the world as a result. The world needs Superman but Jordan needs more time and care than Clark can spare. The fact that Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) is popular, athletic and breezes through life in a way Jordan can only dream of doesn’t help matters and Clark is at a loss as to how to handle his sons.
Apart from the family drama and establishing Jonathan and Jordan as likeable protagonists, the pilot does one other thing incredibly well; surprise long-time Superman fans. Quite a bit is changed from the comics and those changes set up a status quo that is incredibly interesting to me as someone who knows the Superman mythos backwards and forwards. To give one example, the relationship between Clark and Lois’ father, General Sam Lane, is completely different. In the comics, General Lane can barely feign politeness towards Clark and has no idea he’s Superman. In this episode, the two are much more friendly and it is General Lane who calls Superman in to stop a nuclear reactor from melting down with a Jimmy Olsen style communicator. (Presumably the classic signal watch is not regulation military wear.)
The one weak spot to the pilot is that it doesn’t give Elizabeth Tulloch enough to do as Lois Lane. While we see her working on stories in the background, most of her work takes place off-camera and we don’t really get to see Lois interact with her sons without Clark being there. This is a shame as Tulloch nailed the role during her appearances in the Elseworlds and Crisis on Infinite Earths events, but the episode does set up an on-going meaty mystery for her to explore involving the business activities of corrupt media mogul Morgan Edge.
Superman and Lois offers a different take on the Man of Steel, but it is a new take that rings true. If you can believe a man can fly, maybe you can believe he and his wife can balance work, family and saving the world too. Highly recommended.