In many ways, Superman is both the easiest and hardest hero to write. It’s easy because everyone knows how he is supposed to act: strong, charismatic, pure of heart — a person who embodies true American values. But this might be a double-edged sword: If Superman is inherently perfect, where is the room for growth? Without imperfections, it’s hard to see what kind of hero’s journey our character would undergo.
This challenge is precisely what the writers are working against on “Superman and Lois,” a series premier from The CW Network. The show ultimately manages to depict a famous and beloved character while establishing a surprisingly mature, grounded story.
“Superman and Lois” starts deep into the classic story of Clark Kent. In the show, Superman (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) has already got his powers, saved the world plenty of times and even had two children with his now-wife, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”). Superman’s struggles aren’t exactly between supernatural foes and natural disasters anymore; they’re more mundane, depressing realities of small-town American life and raising a family. He has to manage revealing himself as a superhero to his two sons, despite the fact it may put them in mortal danger. This new look at a less obvious part of Clark Kent’s life is a fresh new take on an old comic book staple.
In addition to a surprisingly innovative look at an aspect of Superman, the special effects and cinematography used in the show are surprisingly advanced — at least, better than what can typically be expected of The CW Network. All around, this show has a strong premise and an ambitious vision: to humanize Superman. But despite these positives, the show still ends up rehashing tired, old tropes by fetishizing the simple life of small-town America.
It’s a world where all the townspeople are hunky-dory with an admirable sense of community and a reactionary distrust of the sensible urbanites. These characters were written like how small-town people are written in op-eds in the New York Times: a quaint, simpler group of people whom readers can observe from afar.
In addition, though the show’s name is “Superman and Lois,” Lois rarely feels like a central protagonist to the story. Superman struggles to be a good father and is torn between his responsibilities as a hero as well as a parent. But Lois seems to have none of the struggles he has — she’s just there to help guide him to the right answer, and her individual story is entirely dependent on her husband’s problems. She is almost criminally underused in a show that should be about both characters equally. In a way that unfortunately resembles many other women represented in TV shows, she has almost no agency as an individual, yet retains the veneer of strength and independence.
Despite these issues with the show, “Superman and Lois” is by no means a lost cause. It is wonderfully shot and marvelously paced, and it has enough threads to pull fans in for the next few episodes. It’s exciting that The CW is moving to shows more reminiscent of “Arrow” and “The Flash” with this newest edition to their lineup. “Superman and Lois” just feels like a modern update and a more mature version of the two.
With all this going for it, it will come to no one’s surprise if “Superman and Lois” is the most refreshing show this year.
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.