Ever since Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman arrived in the Arrowverse, the character has exuded a delightfully dated farm boy charm, a kind of completely unselfish all-American goodness that makes it seem possible that this Clark would be a hero in Smallville even if he didn’t have superpowers. He’s the guy you call when your cat’s stuck up a tree, or ask to join the local PTA when it needs to figure out how to raise more money, a man whose servant-hearted attitude shines through as something regular people just might be able to replicate in real life.
That’s always been the thing with Superman, though, hasn’t it? (Or at least, it ought to be.) We don’t care about Clark Kent because he can fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes – it’s always been his most everyday, human characteristics that make this character so appealing. Superman & Lois rightly remembers that and focuses its storytelling on the man at the center of it all, rather than the being from another planet.
And Clark has rarely been a more relatable figure than he is here. It’s Clark, not Superman, that we see Lois fall in love with via flashbacks. It’s Clark’s all too human love for his wife and sons that keeps him tethered to himself when Edge tries to corrupt and erase the foundations of who he is. And it’s the complex dynamics of his relationships with that very same family that set this show apart from every other Superman property that’s come before it.
In a less nuanced series, one might assume Superman would be an immediate Father of the Year candidate, what with his demonstrated history of inspirational speeches and can-do attitude. And yet, this version of Clark is often as stumped by his kids as any parent of teenage boys, often struggling to connect with his troubled son Jordan and fearing he’s neglecting the more traditionally normal Jonathan in the process.
Jordan shares many of his father’s Kryptonian abilities but often vacillates between resenting the restrictions and responsibilities his new powers place on his life and using them for what can seem like selfish reasons. (See also: Revenge on the boys who once mocked him, the opportunity to chase the high school popularity and acceptance he has up until this point been denied.) He’s a teenager, so it’s not like any of this is abnormal, but what a contrast with his father’s youth – an emotional conflict that this show smartly and frequently exploits.
Given the care (and special effects budget) that Superman & Lois lavishes on its cinematic fight and action sequences, this is a show that also understands getting the chance to see the Man of Steel in action this way is still an important part of the story it’s telling. (And let’s be honest, Hoechlin looks great in that suit.) But that action firmly takes a back seat to the larger family dynamics at work within the show, and the series is ultimately stronger for it. Because it’s through that bond that we learn that Clark Kent – that Superman – isn’t some cliché spewing automaton, but a man who still faces problems like any other, particularly when it comes balancing the needs of a world that depends upon him with his role in the family he loves.
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