Superman’s Latest Mission: Saving the Family Farm
It’s good to know that moving from the cold impersonal big city back to a small town, that reliable repository of wholesome genuine neighborly sincerity and family values, doesn’t only happen in Hallmark movies.
It also happens in Superman & Lois, the latest Man of Steel spinoff, which premieres with a two-hour special starting at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday on the CW. A week later it moves to its regular Tuesday 9 p.m. ET slot.
This Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) spends less time in the first episode thwarting cosmic villains than he does being guilted about his parenting skills.
His mother, his wife, his kids and near-strangers all drop insinuations that he’s a bad person because he keeps getting called away from family obligations or his heartland heritage to do things like save the world from multiple catastrophic nuclear plant meltdowns.
To be honest, some of the criticism comes across like whining. But it sets up the premise of the show, which is that Superman a/k/a Clark Kent and his wife Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) decide to leave Metropolis, where they both worked at the newspaper the Daily Planet.
Following the death of his mother, hours after she laid her last couple of guilt trips on him, Clark convinces Lois that they should move back to Smallville, the Kansas town where he was raised because that’s where the spacecraft that carried him to safety from his doomed planet landed.
Smallville is, oh, y’know, doggonit, just a better place to raise kids, in this case the Kent twins Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin).
Jonathan is the achiever, a brilliant student in line to become starting quarterback on his high school football team. As a freshman.
Jordan is kind of a slacker, a restless and distant kid with a perpetual chip on his shoulder.
And that’s only the nuclear family. Upon arriving back in Smallville for his mother’s funeral, Clark immediately get reacquainted with his first love, Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui).
No, that’s not going what you think. Lana’s also married with a couple of kids, and her husband is the local fire chief Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez). Kyle, besides resenting Clark for once having dated his wife, also resents media like the Daily Planet and elitists who think they’re too good to live in a small town.
Kyle thinks Smallville’s salvation lies in billionaire Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner), who’s buying up the town on the cheap with promises of major development.
Lois thinks Morgan is looking to strip Smallville’s character and reposition its work force as cheap labor. Full disclosure: Lois already doesn’t like Morgan Edge because he just bought the Daily Planet and seems poised to do some major downsizing there.
Gee, imagine if that happened with newspapers in real life.
In any case, the Smallville family will also include Lois’s father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh). Samuel, who regularly calls on Superman to thwart apocalyptic menace, tells Lois that Superman has a higher mission than family dinners.
Truth is, the General has a point, underscored when we see that another extraterrestrial visitor is prowling around Earth and its surrounding skies. He’s introduced only as “The Stranger” (Wole Parks), and he apparently has every intention of taking out Superman and the Earth, preferably in that order.
In classic Superman productions, The Stranger would be almost a costar of the show, with Supe doing what was necessary to thwart him and family dramas serving as occasional background breaks from their epic battle.
Here, it’s the other way around. Superman tackles The Stranger when he’s not trying to lure Jordan away from video games long enough to have a father/son conversation.
Tulloch’s Lois, described here as the most famous reporter in the world, is supportive of Clark without being submissive. Her career matters as much as Superman’s, though she isn’t righting wrongs on quite as intergalactic a scale.
The twins also quickly become prominent rather than incidental players, and even the girl who catches Jordan’s eye, Kyle and Lana’s daughter Sarah (Inde Navarrette), gets several minutes of on-screen character development in the first episode.
As a drama with a lot of prominent young characters and a supernatural element, Superman & Lois fits nicely into the CW. On the character side, this Superman is a little more reflective and, okay, sometimes a little more soapy than the one we’ve been used to watching and reading about. It also can’t be ignored that Hoechlin has more than a passing resemblance to Eugene Levy.
Superman may have decades of experience in saving the world, but it seems he’s a freshman when it comes to parenting and that he may have prematurely abandoned the simple wholesome life of a small-town Kansas farmer. When we see Supe, Lois and the kids milking the cows at 4:30 a.m. during a Midwestern blizzard, we’ll know they’ve gotten the hang of it.