This will sound cliche, but for an episode of a show titled Superman & Lois, The Perks of Not Being A Wallflower features very little Superman.
And you know what? It was not only still incredible, but an excellent exploration and escalation of the Kent family’s individual struggles.
After having spent two weeks establishing its quaint and rural setting, The Perks of Not Being A Wallflower begins with the Kents taking a giant-step forward in carving out their own identities in Smallville by putting a symbolic and literal fresh coat of paint on Clark’s childhood home just moments before Clark’s super hearing makes him aware of an imminent bridge collapse in China, prompting the Man of Steel to suit up, fly across the world, and save the civilians caught in harm’s way.
Though his sons are initially excited to learn more about the mechanics of his super hearing, these feelings soon turn to anger, as the sudden appearance of Clark in the halls of Smallville High during a confrontation between Jordan and Sean, Sarah’s football player boyfriend, leads them to realize that he had been using his abilities to, essentially, ‘spy’ on them.
Harboring resentment towards his father’s spying and tired of being pushed around by Sean and his friends, Jordan decides to try out for the school’s football team, proceeding to use his elevated strength to excel on the field and ‘push back’ against his bullies.
Unfortunately, his newfound interest in sports is soon discovered by Clark, who in turn forbids him from playing due to the possible harm his powers could cause to the other players.
Only after talking with Jonathan, who points to Jordan’s newfound confidence and the low-ceiling on the limits of his powers as reason to let his brother play, does Clark relent, but not without volunteering as an assistant coach in order to spend more time with his sons.
On the other side of town, Lois, now an employee of the Smallville Gazette, continues her investigation into Morgan Edge. After being approached by a woman claiming that Edge’s corrupt business dealings led to the death of her son, Lois soon finds herself the target of violent intimidation.
First, her car is set aflame by a molotov cocktail just outside her office. Then, after agreeing to meet with the woman to learn more information, she is ambushed by a mysterious metahuman, saved at the last minute by her use of her signal device and the subsequent appearance of Superman.
However, Lois Lane being Lois Lane, the star reporter finds herself all but intimidated, instead dusting herself off and committing herself even further to exposing Edge.
Every second I watch Superman & Lois I find myself surprised, because I genuinely cannot believe I am watching this good of a superhero show on The CW.
As someone who watched most of the Arrowverse up until about two years ago, believe me when I say this series continues to prove itself as one of the best in the history of DC’s television offerings.
Right off the bat, I want to once again draw attention to the family dynamics of the Kents, as they’re one of the best aspects of this episode. It’s heart-warming to see a family treating each other with love and understanding, even in moments of conflict.
In fact, the opening scene alone is so endearing and features such genuine character interactions that you’ll most likely walk away just a bit jealous of their collective relationship.
In particular, Clark’s struggles with his desire to balance protecting his children and respecting their autonomy are relatable to the world’s many fathers and father-figures.
From saving the world with paint on his hands, to his volunteering, to Clark’s extremely well-intentioned enthusiasm and desire to do right by his sons leads him to come off as a ‘dorky dad’ in all the best and most endearing ways.
Of course, given that this is still a show on The CW, this episode does feature its fair share of teenage drama, though thankfully it doesn’t rely on the same angst-heavy tropes that plague the network’s other DC shows.
The animosity between Jonathan, Jordan, and the football team is resolved with a satisfying subversion of expectations, with Jordan becoming the ‘star’ and Jonathan taking on an emotional support role for his brother.
Likewise, the breakdown of Lana’s family, and its effects on Sarah in particular, avoids overstaying its welcome by switching to the next story beat before devolving into melodramatic monologuing.
Speaking of Sarah, The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower gives audiences their first glimpse into her background, exploring both her broken home and the emotional fallout resulting from a failed attempt at suicide that happened prior to the Kents’ arrival in Smallville.
There’s little chemistry between Lana and Sarah thus far, as their arguments and emotional conflicts feel very much scripted, but a special shout out should be given to actor Inde Navaratte’s, as she delivers an authentic and believable portrayal of a teenager caught in the whirlpool of her depression.
Despite the aforementioned lack of Superman in this episode, the two times when Clark does don his cape, to prevent the bridge in China from collapsing and to confront Lois’ super-powered assailant, are extremely satisfying.
The latter in particular stands as one of my favorite moments thus far, as between his realization that his super strength has little effect on the strange metahuman and his quick decision to counter the brute with his ice breath, it’s one of the best displays of veteran superheroism seen in recent years.
Add that to the appropriate weight being given to his movements during this scene, as seen in particular with the ‘jet engine’ build up of sound heard as he rushes to answer Lois’ use of her signal device, and the result is a scene that feels almost as if it was ripped straight from the comics.
To that end, though Captain Luthor is absent throughout the entire episode, this is to the story’s advantage.
His absence gives way for the episode to focus on Clark’s challenges as a dad, allowing the series to build his character before inevitably presenting a jarring comparison between him and the black-suited version who tortured Luthor’s world.
Personally, I predict that the stark difference between the two will serve as a prominent emotional set piece at some point during the show.
And while I also want to touch upon Lois and her story, in all honesty, it’s hard to find much to talk about regarding it.
Unfortunately, outside of her stabbing of her metahuman attacker in the ear with a pen (a moment which both perfectly embodies her characters and took me completely by surprise), very little exciting happens regarding her character and her plotline.
In this episode, Lois serves as the expositional engine, progressing the overall story of the series while Clark handles the intrapersonal conflicts between their children. It’s not a bad thing, per se, but given the standard nature of her story beats this week, there’s just not much to say outside of summarizing her every action.
Ultimately, The Perks of Not Being a Wallflower is another fantastic entry in a thus far excellent first season. I walked away from the episode optimistic about its future, but still cautious, as I (like many viewers), can’t help but worry that the series will devolve into the same usual CW fare we’ve been getting for years. I hope this never comes to pass, but if it does, at least we’ll have gotten a few incredible episodes out of Superman & Lois.
- Superman's fight against the mystery metahuman
- Clark's "dorky dad" demenaor
- The genuine warmth expressed between each member of the Kent family, even in moments of anger or frustration
- The mother-daughter chemistry just isn't there yet between Lana and Sarah
- I wouldn't say no to seeing more Superman