“Man of Steel” uncovers plenty about about its “Big Bad”, as the Kents continue to grapple with their responsibilities.
This recap of Superman and Lois season 1, episode 7, “Man of Steel”, contains spoilers.
Still firing on all cylinders after its return last week, Superman and Lois episode 7 finds a just-right balance between plot development and character drama in “Man of Steel”. Chief among the revelations is that the man we presumed to be an alt-universe Lex Luthor isn’t actually a Luthor at all, but someone named John Henry Irons, a doting father and husband who has come to Earth to prevent Superman and a platoon of powered-up henchman from turning evil and killing his wife, Lois Lane, leaving his daughter Nat (Tayler Buck) behind to do so.
These developments obviously have multiple purposes, storytelling-wise. The family focus helps to humanize Irons and muddy the relationship between him and this version of Lois, but the relevance of Morgan Edge and his various powered associates ties both of the show’s overarching plot threads together. The fact that Irons is “The Stranger” brings the season full circle in a way. His previous knowledge of Edge’s mining operation now makes sense, and his objectives are relatable. After “Man of Steel”, it’s hard to consider Irons a villain, and easy to suspect that whatever Edge’s ploy is, it’s Clark Kent himself who is perhaps likeliest to fall victim to it.
Superman-turns-evil stories are nothing new, but if that’s the direction that we’re heading in – and Superman and Lois season 1, episode 7 suggests it might be – then I’m nonetheless interested to see this show’s interpretation of the trope. Edge’s subtle building of a superpowered army gives credence to Irons’ theory that we’re inevitably heading towards his future, and that means that one way or another, Superman has to fall under his sway. And in classic time-travel fashion, Irons interfering might only be ensuring that the events he’s trying to thwart take place.
The more Superman and Lois begins to resemble a typical Superman story in its macro plotting, the more determinedly it resists becoming one in its micro drama, particularly in its small-town woes – depicted, mostly, through Lana Lang and family – and the focus on Jordan and Jonathan Kent coming of age with not just a superpowered father but powers of their own; it certainly seems to me after “Man of Steel” like Jonathan might not be as “normal” as he thinks, even if the bulk of the episode is devoted to Jordan learning to grapple with his newfound super hearing, which creates an agonizing cacophony that he at first struggles to deal with.
I love all this stuff because it’s easy to forget the cost of Superman’s extraordinary powers. You’re used to hand-waving away so much of Kal-El’s mythic identity – nobody recognizes him with glasses on, etc. – that it feels refreshing to delve into the nitty-gritty of how painful, literally and figuratively, it can be to hear everything, all of the time. It’s obviously as much a metaphor for coming of age as it is an exploration of the superpower logistics, but either way, it’s appreciated. And it makes the eventual payoff of Jordan, Jonathan, and Lois rallying to save Clark from a trap sprung by Irons all the sweeter.
So much superhero storytelling is rooted in frustrating secrecy that everyone being on the same page is refreshing and opens up plenty of new storytelling avenues. Keeping the kids out of the loop is the standard way of protecting them in virtually all media, not just superhero stories, but the idea of Lois and Clark being up-front about what’s going on so that they can fight against it together as a unit is a more intriguing narrative possibility, at least for me, than the usual. Jordan and Jonathan have both proved they’re competent throughout the season, and I appreciate the script giving them credit for it.
Who they’re going to be defending themselves against, though, is another matter. Irons? Edge? Their own father? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.