“A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” ties a romantic origin story with current goings-on to excellent effect in the best episode of the season thus far.
This recap of Superman and Lois season 1, episode 11, “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events”, contains spoilers.
About halfway through “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events”, I started to wonder if now was the right time for a flashback episode. Sure, all the stuff about the early days of Clark and Lois’s relationship was very nice and charming, but there were some big revelations in the previous episode, and to me, it made sense to unpack those, especially so late in the season. Of course, Superman and Lois episode 11 was doing exactly that, just without being obvious about it. As it turns out, Superman’s reminiscences are a consequence of Morgan Edge combing through his memories looking for a weakness to exploit. And, needless to say, he finds one.
It should have been obvious. The show has been about the idea of family, both biological and surrogate, since the very beginning. But it wasn’t obvious to Morgan because, as we learn throughout the episode, he has never known love or affection. While the Kents nurtured Clark’s human side, and the hologram of Jor-El in the Fortress of Solitude patiently coached him in how to harness his unique powers for the good of mankind, Morgan was relentlessly bullied and shamed by the people of Earth and abused by the hologram of his father, Zeta-Roh. All he has ever been told is that duty and heritage are the only things that matter. To him, Clark’s love for his wife and sons is a revelation. So that’s what he uses to manipulate him.
Speaking of obviousness, it should have been obvious to me what “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” was doing with its saccharine flashbacks and montages. There are unsettling glimmers and little oddities that tip the audience and eventually Clark off to what’s happening, but it takes a while to get there, and the stuff in the first half is so achingly earnest that there’s a sense of tonal whiplash when we’re yanked back to the present day. We go, essentially, from rom-com to superhero drama. The fact that Superman and Lois episode 11 handles both equally well speaks to the strength of the acting and writing, which have been stellar throughout but really shine through here, especially the chemistry between the leads.
By now, these versions of such longstanding characters are so familiar that, when Lois explains to Clark how media focus on Superman is diverting attention away from other crimes, we know exactly what Clark is thinking; we know his strained “I didn’t know that” is an acknowledgment of his own fallibility, even as a superhero. There are so many of these small character details that it’s easy to wish we got even more of them, since a few, including Clark revealing to Lois that he’s Superman, are glossed over or consigned to montage. But you can’t have everything.
Despite how jarring it is to return to Edge’s shenanigans, Superman and Lois season 1, episode 11 is smart in how it loops them back into the themes and personal subplots it has been developing all season. Clark’s love for his family being exploited is one thing, but him eventually succumbing to a heel turn manages to tie back into the John Henry Irons stuff, so it’s fitting that it’s him Lois turns to for help. It justifies Sam Lane’s experimentation with anti-Kryptonian weaponry. It repositions Jordan and Jonathan, after a bunch of coming-of-age storylines, as the only ones, alongside Lois, who might be capable of saving their father. The very thing he has been preparing them for is himself.