“Holding the Wrench” seemingly brings one subplot to an end, but it does so in its usual thoughtful, surprisingly human way.
This recap of Superman and Lois season 1, episode 8, “Holding the Wrench”, contains spoilers.
After last week’s reveal that “Captain Luthor” was actually John Henry Irons, a different character entirely (though not an unfamiliar one), it seems logical that Superman and Lois episode 8, “Holding the Wrench”, digs deeper into that revelation, mostly by having Lois and the kids investigate Irons’ AI-controlled trailer, of which Lois turns out to be an authorized user. But it might come as something of a surprise that this entire subplot is almost completely wrapped up by the end of the episode – we get our big confrontation between Superman and Irons, we get our more subtle character moments, and then we get a resolution. Irons might very well be back, but probably not yet, which leaves Morgan Edge to take his place at the real Big Bad for the remainder of the season.
To that end, we also get a fair amount of development for Lana and Kyle, which makes sense since they’re intimately tied to Edge’s doings and also to the idea of Smallville in general, which has been important thus far and will almost certainly remain so. Lana is more or less on-side with Lois and is continually lying to try and keep Kyle out of Edge’s operations, but this seems like a house of cards that’s liable to come tumbling down very quickly. Some small scenes of Kyle and Sarah help to round his character out a little, so he seems less like an antagonist and more like a fundamentally good man and father who’s trying to do something that he very much believes will be for the betterment of his family. Lana knows – or at least suspects – different, but will he understand that when he inevitably exposes her deception?
A lot of attention is paid in “Holding the Wrench” to the impact of seeing an alternate version of Lois playing happy families with someone other than Superman. The multiverse concept is a big one in comic book storytelling and it’s usually pretty off-putting, so I like how Superman and Lois episode 8 chooses to frame it on a personal level, with Lois and the kids having to reckon with an idea of alternate versions of themselves who look the same but live very different lives. The simple visual of seeing mom with a man other than dad is much more powerful than the high-minded convoluted concepts that usually spring from multiple different realities.
Irons’ conflict with Superman is treated in much the same way. Irons earnestly believes that Superman is guaranteed to turn evil at some point, and Superman knows that, rather than Sam’s ideas of just torturing Irons and keeping him captive, the only way to assuage his fears is to convince him that this version of Superman is not his enemy, and they actually have one in common. Plus, there’s the small matter of what Irons knows probably being integral to saving this reality and ensuring that the devastation he had to live through doesn’t come about again.
Doing things this way puts Superman fittingly on the side of compassion and understanding rather than simply treating Irons as an antagonist; Superman doesn’t even fight Irons himself. Instead, the climactic battle that occurs in a room loaded with experimental Kryptonite weaponry takes place between Superman and a guard named Rosetti (Hesham Hammoud), who is suspected to be one of Edge’s homemade Kryptonian goons. When Irons gets the drop on Superman, he decides against killing him thanks to the impassioned pleas of Superman himself and Lois, turning himself back in without violence. Eventually, he’s released, and when he returns to his trailer, he asks the AI to erase the Luthor profile and shut itself off, explaining that he just wants to drive around for a while. Where he goes is anyone’s guess.
That AI makes for one of the most impactful sequences in Superman and Lois season 1, episode 8, when an inquisitive Jonathan gets trapped inside and becomes vulnerable to the trailer’s automated defenses. Superman is able to save him at the last second, but Lois goes absolutely ballistic at him, even though his justification that he was trying to acquire Irons’ weapons because he seems to be the only member of the family who isn’t armed in some way makes a degree of sense.
As we learn in “Holding the Wrench”, Lois is especially sensitive to the idea of losing another child because she lost a daughter, whom she intended to call Natalie after her grandmother, in a miscarriage. This earnest focus on grief really elevates the episode. Every character’s decision-making is so intimately tied to their respective arcs that you can understand even rash moves like Jonathan going into the trailer and Lois’s outburst afterward within their proper context. Superman and Lois might be about the most famously powerful superhero in existence (or at least one of them), but it’s much more about human beings. In emphasizing the “man” rather than the “super”, the show is developing one of the best portrayals of the character in recent memory.