Thursday, July 8, 2021

Superman & Lois Season 1, Episode 6: Broken Trust

Sorry this review's so late guys, but it was unavoidable. The CW's still airing all three of their shows that I watch at the same time, making it nearly impossible to keep up.Add in the typical work & life demands on my time, and you get a late review. I'll eventually catch up, but it's gonna take a while.

This week on Superman & Lois... the series finally returns after an eight week absence! Apparently there was an untimely Covid outbreak among the cast & crew that shut down production for a couple months. Hopefully everyone's healthy and things are back to normal.

This is yet another very strong episode, which, as its title suggests, examines the issue of trust and the faith we place in one another. 

Broken Trust also gives us a fascinating look at how the various superpowered characters balance their strength with their intense emotions. All through the episode, Clark, Jordan and Tag Harris are given cause to lash out and use their powers in anger. It's interesting to see how they react and handle their situations.

Elsewhere, we also get a small bit of progression in the Captain Luthor story, as Lois realizes he's far more than a fellow journalist. Kyle's betrayed (sort of) by Morgan Edge, and Clark's shocked to discover that General Lane has a contingency plan to stop him by any means necessary. Yikes!


The Plot:
Picking up right where we left off last time, Tag attacks Jordan on his way home. He savagely beats Jordan, saying he knows he caused the explosion that gave him his powers, and demands he undo it. Jordan activates his ELT and Superman appears a second later.

Tag gets scared and runs off at super-speed. Superman follows, but Tag runs in front of a train to escape. The train tries to stop, but ends up derailing. Superman grabs the train and sets it back on the track, but by then Tag's long gone.

Back at the Kent house, Lois treats Jordan's injuries. He says Tag knows he gave him his powers, and may know that he's super as well.

Lois tells Clark that whatever Morgan Edge is doing in his recently purchased mine is somehow giving random people Kryptonian superpowers. She vows to find out how he's doing it. She also wonders if Edge is the mysterious Stranger that's been attacking Superman.

The next day, Clark tells Jordan that due to his injuries, he thinks he should sit out the big game against Metropolis. Jordan begs him to let him play, as he wants a chance to play against the jerks who bullied him all his life. Clark says he's afraid Jordan doesn't have his powers under control, but eventually relents and agrees to let him play.

Elsewhere, Edge attends an opening ceremony for the new mine. Afterward he offers Lana a job as the head of his Smallville Revitalization Program. Kyle's visibly pissed that Edge passed him over for the job, since he's been championing the mine since the beginning.

Lois is also at the ceremony, staring daggers at Edge. She's approached again by Marcus Bridgewater (aka The Stranger, aka General Luthor), who asks if she's found a way to get into the mines to see what's going on. She says not yet.

At school, Sarah sees Jordan's injured face and wonders what happened. She tells him she'll be at the big game to watch him win. Just then the bell goes off, and Jordan grabs his ears in pain as his eyes begin glowing red. He runs to the restroom, and Jonathan follows and manages to talk him down. Jordan makes Jonathan promise not to mention the incident to Clark, as he'll make him sit out the game. Jonathan reluctantly agrees to clam up.

Lois goes to see Kyle & Lana, and asks for their help to get into the mines. She says she's sure Edge is up to something shady, but needs proof. They refuse, since Lana's working for Edge now and can't afford to jeopardize her new position.

General Lane calls Clark and says Tag was spotted in Metropolis, and he's planning to put the "monster" back in its cage. Clark is shocked by Lane's attitude, and reminds him that Tag's just a scared and confused teen. Lane says he's going to deal with the threat his way.

Kyle says he wants to take Lana out the next night for a fancy dinner to celebrate their good fortune. She balks, saying they'll never find a sitter for Sophie in time. Sarah offers to miss the game and babysit her sister. Outside, Tag spies on Sarah through the window. So I guess he's back in Smallville now?

The next day, Clark accompanies the football team to Metropolis for the big game. He uneasily notices Lane has dozens of DOD soldiers stationed in the stands. Jordan's disappointed when he finds out that out Sarah's a no-show. He then sees he'll be playing against Cutter, a Metropolis player who used to bully him. He tries to take him out, but the ref's whistle triggers his super-hearing, distracting him long enough for Metropolis to score— as well as injure the Smallville quarterback.

Coach Gaines is then forced to put Jonathan in as quarterback. Cutter taunts him as well, but this time Jordan knocks the bully on his ass. Clark pulls Jordan aside and tells him to dial it down a notch or twelve.

Back at the Kent farm, Marcus shows up with two inspector passes that'll get him and Lois into the mine. She asks where he got them, but he refuses to say. The two dress in coveralls and drive to the mine, where they're able to easily slip past the guard.

Elsewhere, Sarah & Sophie are arguing over what to watch on TV. Sarah answers the door and finds Tag there. He says he needs her help, and starts vibrating uncontrollably. Sarah's freaked out by this and slams the door. Tag busts it open, accidentally throwing Sarah backwards and knocking her out.

At the game, Cutter & the other Metropolis players pile onto Jordan during a play. He begins losing control again as his eyes start glowing red. Clark sees him and runs over, telling him to try and calm down. Jordan says he can't hold back his power, so Clark cups his hand over Jordan's eyes and tells him to blast his heat vision into his palm. Somehow, no one sees this.

Back in Smallville, Kyle & Lana return home. They get worried when they can't find Sarah, and Kyle checks their surveillance cam.

After the game, Clark & the boys are staying in a Metropolis hotel. Clark asks Jordan if his powers have been acting up before now, but he denies it. Jonathan pipes up and says it's happened before. Clark's angry that Jordan lied, and says he needs to be careful about showing his powers.

Just then Lana calls Clark, and asks if Sarah went to the game after all. He says he didn't see her, then overhears Kyle as he recognizes Tag on their security camera. He orders the boys to stay put in the hotel room and takes off.

Meanwhile, Lois & Marcus are sneaking around in the mine. Marcus pulls out a high-tech laser tool (?) and and cuts a hole in a wall. Inside he finds a cache of X-Kryptonite, which he says is the rarest form. Just then Leslie Larr, Edge's personal assistant, barges in and attacks the two with her heat vision. They barely manage to dodge her beams in time. They run down a tunnel, and Marcus uses another piece of tech to blast Leslie and knock her out. The two then flee from the mine.

Back at the hotel room, Jonathan & Jordan's teammates show up and want to party. Jonathan says Clark ordered them not to leave, but Jordan convinces them it'll be OK. Jonathan reluctantly goes with them.

Superman hovers over Metropolis, listening in on the entire city. He eventually hones in on Tag & Sarah's voices. He swoops into Tag's hideout, and tells him he's just there to help. He hears General Lane's troops coming, and tells Tag & Sarah they need to come with him now.

Meanwhile, Jonathan, Jordan and the other Crows are messing around in a parking lot. Suddenly Cutter and the Metropolis team show up and begin giving them crap. Cutter gets in Jordan's face and asks if he gets his strength from steroids. Jordan's powers begin building up as he starts to lose control. He clenches his fist and throws a punch right at Cutter's face. At the last second, Jonathan tries to block the blow, which ends up shattering the bones in his hand.

The DOD troops break into the hideout, and start firing on Tag. Superman zips in front of him, and is hit with several Kryptonite shards. Superman falls to his knees, and his eyes begin glowing as his anger grows. He pulls the shards out, then marches over to the commanding officer and orders him to stand down. The soldier orders the others to lower their weapons.

Later at the DOD, Superman tells General Lane he never dreamed he'd use live rounds on a kid. Lane justifies himself by saying his job is to protect the American people by any means necessary. Just then Superman hears Jordan signaling, and rushes off.

Back in Smallville, Lois follows Marcus to his RV, and asks where the hell he got his futuristic tools and weaponry. She also says she checked their passes, and found they were well-done forgeries. She demands to know who he really is. He says he can't tell her, but is trying to prevent something bad from happening. Just then Clark calls about Jonathan, and Lois rushes off.

Sometime later, Jonathan says his arm will be in a cast for the next six to eight weeks, meaning he'll miss the rest of the football season. Jordan tries to apologize, but Jonathan tells him to save it and goes to bed. Clark tells Jordan he knows he's sorry, but "with great power comes great responsibility."

Clark says when he first came to Metropolis, people were scared of him, and it took a long time to gain their trust. He says every time he uses his powers, that trust is tested. Like it was earlier that night.

Lois then tells Clark that she was almost killed at the mine, and says something's up with Marcus. She vows to find out who he really is.

The next day Sarah tells Jordan that Tag thinks he somehow gave him superpowers. Jordan plays dumb and says he doesn't know what Tag's talking about. Sarah tells Jordan that he can talk to her about anything, and he says he knows.

Lois visits Lana, and tells her about what happened at the mine. She says she thinks there's a connection between Edge and Tag's powers. Lana says she'll help Lois investigate Edge— but warns her not to let Kyle know about it.

Later Jordan whines to Lois, saying he thought his powers would bring him closer to people, but they're just driving everyone away. Just then he goes into convulsions and collapses. Lois calls for Clark, who says he needs to get Jordan to the Fortress Of Solitude, stat. He flies off with his son at full speed.

• How long before Tag figures out Superman's secret identity?

At the beginning of the episode he's beating the crap out of Jordan, who whips out his ELT device and presses it. Five tenths of a second later, Superman shows up!

Later in the third act, Tag accidentally injures Sarah. Unsure what to do, he takes her to Metropolis, where he's been hiding out. Sure enough, Superman shows up there as well.

About the only possible conclusions are that Superman's really his friend Jordan's father, or the Man Of Steel is stalking him for some reason!

• I loved the whole "Superman Saves The Derailing Train" sequence, in which he uses his heat vision to soften the buckling track and flatten it out again. Awesome!

It was sort of a high-tech callback to Superman The Movie, where he saved another train by actually using his body to fill in a missing chunk of track!

• So is Tag an orphan? If not, then where the hell are his parents? I get that the producers may not have wanted to deal with two more actors during the pandemic, but Jesus Christ! At no time are they even mentioned! How hard would it have been to throw in a line about how much his parents are worried about him?

At this point it appears that Superman's more concerned for Tag's welfare than his parents are. It's an odd and unnecessary omission.

• At one point Lois & Clark discuss Morgan Edge and his new mine:

Lois: "Whatever gave Tag those powers came from those mines, and now he wants to extract more of it and make more Derek Powells. What if you went there?"
Clark: "I flew over the mines. I scanned the tunnels. I can’t see inside. They’ve lined them with lead fiber."

Wow! Did Edge really line the ENTIRE mine? That's gotta be a lotta lead! Seems like that'd be pretty dangerous for anyone working in there as well.

Also, it Clark really wanted to see what was going on inside the mine, why screw around with flyovers? We've seen before he can move faster than the human eye can see. Why not just zip past all the workers & security, take a quick look around and then zoom back out while everyone's blinking?

• During breakfast, Jordan's super hearing starts going haywire as it magnifies every tiny sound and gives him a splitting headache. The producers do an amazing job of depicting this— not only do they use an ear-piercing sound effect, but they flood the screen with a bright and annoying lens flare.

It's VERY well done, and almost gave me a headache watching it. Finally, an actual GOOD use for a lens flare! Are you watching, JJ Abrams?

• Poor Kyle. Always a bridesmaid, and never a bride.

At the opening of Edge's new mine, he thanks Kyle for drumming up support for the project. He then says he needs someone to lead Edge Enercorp's Smallville division. Kyle can't stop smiling as he obviously thinks he's offering him the job.

He's then immediately blindsided when Edge gives the position to Lana instead...

Which causes Kyle's face to fall as he realizes he's just been had. I actually felt bad for the guy here!

I may be reading wayyyyyyy too much into this, but... does Kyle represent a disillusioned MAGA supporter? 

Back when trump first ran for prez, he assured the nation that he'd create jobs, restore industry and replace our ailing health insurance system with something "tremendous."

Clearly that was all bullsh*t, er, I mean empty rhetoric, as he never intended to do any of those things. As a result of that, many of his former zealots are finally starting to become disillusioned, as they realize they were duped by his corruption and lies.

It's not hard to see Edge as a trump analogue and Kyle as one of his diehard believers. If this is really what the producers were doing here, then kudos!

• At school, Jordan tells Jonathan he resents Clark trying to make him sit out the big game, saying, "I know he's just looking out for me, but he thinks I'm made of glass."

Again, I'm probably reading way too much into this, but I kind of wonder if his mention of glass is a subtle reference to Unbreakable? In that film, Bruce Willis played David Dunn, who was basically a non-costumed, indestructible Superman. He was opposed by Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, an evil genius with extremely brittle bones who called himself "Mr. Glass."

• Not a nitpick, but an observation: At one point Lana's looking at a website to try & find a babysitter for her youngest daughter. So... is that really a thing? Is there really a "Babysitter Tinder" now, where you can search for one online? I've never had to hire a sitter in my life, so I honestly don't know. If it is a real site, then that's actually a pretty good idea!

• It's been established many times on the show that Smallville is located somewhere in Kansas. But where's Metropolis on this Earth? 
I always assumed it was the Earth-Prime equivalent of New York City, and indeed the Official Arrowverse Wiki says that's where it's located. 

If that's true then, why are Jonathan & Jordan talking about playing in the big game against Metropolis? Why the hell would a football team in a podunk town like Smallville travel 1,400 miles to New York state for a game? Clearly the two cities must be a lot closer on this world.

Is it possible Metropolis is somewhere in Kansas as well? The state's only about 400 miles wide, so the two cities couldn't be farther apart than that. Clark & the boys get a hotel room after the big game instead of driving back home that nights, so I guess it's possible.

Another clue that Smallville & Metropolis must be relatively close: Tag beats up Jordan in Smallville. The next day General Lane spots him in Metropolis. Later than same day, Tag's back in Smallville, standing outside the Cushing home and spying on Sarah.

Granted, Tag's now able to run at speedster velocity, but he's not a god. The two cities must be relatively close if he's able to zip back & forth between them at will.

• At the start of the big game, we get an establishing shot of Metropolis High. If you look over to the extreme left, you can see the football field where the action's taking place. Note the row of massive skyscrapers just behind the field.

Unfortunately, once we cut to a closeup of the field, those high-rises have all mysteriously vanished. In fact if I didn't know better, it looks like they filmed the game in the middle of a Vancouver suburb! Clearly those buildings should have been visible from nearly every angle.

• Behold the massive post-Covid crowd in the stands! I get it, but Jaysis, this is supposed to be the biggest game of the season for both schools, and there're barely fifty people in attendance! Couldn't they have CGI-ed a few more bodies into the stands?

Nice Attention To Detail: After Tag abducts Sarah, he takes her to his hideout in Metropolis. She looks around and sees a pile of discarded running shoes.

Those are all Tag's, as his newfound speedster powers cause the soles of his shoes to melt from friction. Well done, producers!

Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask where he's getting all these shoes. I supposed he must be stealing them at super-speed as well?

• I love the moment when Superman hovers over Metropolis, searching for Tag & Sarah. He just quietly hangs there, basically eavesdropping on the entire city until he hones in on the voices of the two people he's searching for. Cool!

• I also loved the scene in which Superman confronts the DOD soldier who's firing live rounds at Tag, and orders him to stand down. He fires up his heat vision and comes thissssssss close to frying the soldier, but eventually manages to compose himself. It's a powerful scene, and perfectly illustrates the constant struggle Superman must face every day to keep his enormous powers in check.

Best of all, at no time did Superman snap anyone's neck in anger, as he did in the detestable Man Of Steel. Are you watching, Zack Snyder? THIS is how Superman should be portrayed. As a demigod who could easily destroy us all, but would never think of it due to his integrity and strength of character. 

It's perfectly fine for Superman to have feelings of rage and anger, as it actually gives the character some much-needed humanity. He just needs to mindful and not recklessly act on those feelings.

• At the same time the Tag drama's going on, Jordan & Jonathan are being confronted by Cutter and his Metropolis teammates. Cutter relentlessly provokes Jordan, causing him to throw a superpowered punch at him. Jonathan intervenes at the last second, getting his hand broken in the process.

So... does Jonathan have super powers as well? He'd kind of have to, if he can stop Jordan's atomic punch in mid-swing like that. Seems to me like his hand should have gotten crushed between Jordan's fist and Cutter's skull.

To be fair, they try to justify the action by having Jonathan brace his arm with his other hand, but I ain't buying it. Earlier in the episode we saw that Jordan can use his fist to dent a hardwood log. Yet somehow Jonathan literally stops his brother's punch 100% dead. I don't see any way that could happen unless Jonathan's got powers too.

Credit Where It's Due: I did appreciate the cool "shockwave ripple" effect that travels up Jonathan's arm when he absorbs the force of the blow.

• The DOD takes Tag away, hauling him off in meta-dampening cuffs. So where'd they get those? They look just like the ones STAR Labs uses over on The FlashDid Cisco Ramon patent the cuffs and sell them to various law enforcement & military agencies? Maybe that's how STAR makes its money and manages to stay open!

• After they escape from the mine, Lois demands to know who Marcus really is. In particular she mentions the security badges he produced out of nowhere, saying, "I sent a photo to a friend of mine, and she said it’s one of the best forgeries she has ever seen."

Well... yeah, that was the point, right? He forged a badge that looked identical to the real thing so no one would question them. I don't get why she's so shocked by that.

• Lois tells Clark about her adventure in Edge's mine:

Lois: "I got into the mine, with the help of this supposed journalist, Marcus Bridgewater, and he led me to something called X-Kryptonite. Have you ever heard of that?"
Clark: "X-Kry–No. No. Wait. Back up. What do you mean you almost got killed?"
Lois: "Leslie Larr came after us. Turns out she has powers, too. She tried to heat vision us, and then Marcus zapped her with this, like, high-tech ray gun."
Clark: "Why? Why does a journalist have a ray gun?"

A couple things here:

First of all, Clark acts like he's never heard of X-Kryptonite before. That's interesting, as it played a big part in past seasons of Supergirl. You'd think his cuz Kara might have mentioned it to him in passing at some point.

Once again, it's things like this that convince me that this show takes place in its own separate world, and isn't part of the Arrowverse.

Secondly, Clark wins the Best Line Of The Week Award for "Why does a journalist have a ray gun?"

• By far the best part of the episode came late in the third act, after Jordan accidentally injured his brother and Clark lectured him about the importance of trust.

Clark: "That anger you felt that made you want to use your powers the way you did tonight, I have those feelings, too."
Jordan: "You do?"
Clark: "Yes. But I keep them in check. Otherwise, I risk losing the trust of the very people I’ve sworn to protect. When I first showed up in Metropolis as Superman, there was a lot of talk about what the world should do with someone who had powers like mine. And it took me a minute to realize that other people were more afraid of what I could do than I was. So what I had to do, more than anything, was earn their trust, prove to them that, no matter what, I would never use my powers to hurt them. Twenty years later, every time I use my powers, that trust is tested, every time. Just today, in fact. The thing about trust, Jordan– once you break it, it’s take a lot longer to heal than a wrist."

Now THAT'S a speech!

It's particularly interesting to see how differently Clark and Jordan handle their identical powers. Clark could easily level an entire city, but his age, experience and wisdom prevent him from ever doing so. 

Compare that to Jordan, who lacks the physical, mental and emotional maturity to restrain himself. It's often easy to forget that teens aren't yet equipped to control themselves the way an adult can.

It's a fascinating and original take on the subject, and pretty deep for a superhero show!

If I had one small complaint, it's that Jordan seems to need to learn this same lesson over and over each week. Let's hope it finally sticks soon.

That small glitch aside, this one minute scene is better by far than the entirety of all the DCEU movies to date. It's clear that the writers here understand the character of Superman, what he stands for and how he should be portrayed.

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