Superman & Lois 1×07 Review: “Man of Steel”

Man of Steel Superman & Lois
Image: The CW

After six episodes of trying to figure out just who the heck this Captain Luthor is in the grand scheme of the multiverse, “Man of Steel” finally delivers with the answers we have so desperately sought… and the reveal is both exactly and not at all what I expected.

We can hardly start a discussion of the events of last night’s episode without beginning with the news that the mysterious stranger who we suspected to be an alternate version of Lex Luthor is actually not a Luthor at all! The titular “man of steel” is not actually Superman, who is commonly referred to by that nickname, but the actual Steel – aka John Henry Irons. In his universe – the universe that was destroyed by Superman and an army of Kryptonians – he and his (and Lois’s) daughter apparently stole a bunch of Luthor technology in order to track down Kal-El and kill him.

First of all, I have got to commend Superman & Lois for managing to keep that identity under wraps for so long. (Not that I know anything about anything in DC Comics, but this is something that surprised a lot of people!) I mean, Steel’s whole thing in the comics is that he’s a bald black man who builds a mechanized suit that mimics Superman’s powers, and yet when Wolé Parks showed up and answered to the name Luthor, no one suspected that he wasn’t really a Luthor. It’s kind of brilliant.

This reveal completely reconceptualizes the whole character. It’s true that he’s been set up as an antagonist rather than a villain (someone in opposition to the hero but not necessarily a “bad guy”) and this confirms it. This is a man grieving, who has focused his sadness and anger at the death of his Lois and the destruction of his world on a man who may look like the person responsible but is innocent of what he’s being punished for. In short, this is a man who can – and most likely will – be redeemed.

I do hope that at some point, he learns that his vendetta against Superman possibly causes what he was trying to prevent – Edge using the X-Kryptonite to create an army. After all, it was Superman being attacked that allowed Edge’s minions to move the shipment out of the mine in the first place. This is something I speculated about before, so it’s nice to see that it’s something the writers have considered as well.

Man of Steel Superman & Lois
Image: The CW

Something we learn from the flashbacks of what happened on Irons’s Earth is that it implies that their Superman wasn’t always evil. In the scene where the Kryptonians first attack, alt-Lois asks, “What is Superman doing?”, which seems to indicate he was once good and something turned him evil. Irons believes it has something to do with Edge and that it will inevitably happen on this Earth as well.

I’d wager that at some point this season, Clark is going to go dark – or at least start to – and Lois and the boys will call him back from it. We already saw a bit of this during this episode, when he went after an injured and downed opponent and Lois showed up in the nick of time to stop him from going too far. We also saw something of this last week, when he realized the DOD were using live rounds – and Kryptonite bullets – on a teenager.

I also appreciate that “Man of Steel” at last acknowledges the multiverse. David Ramsey (who also directed this episode) is confirmed to be reprising his role as John Diggle on Superman & Lois sometime during this season, but so far there’s been no mention of anyone else, not even Clark’s own cousin, Supergirl. However, yesterday it was announced that season 8 of The Flash will start with a five-episode event featuring different heroes from the Arrowverse, so there is potential for crossover there.

Jon was great in “Man of Steel”. We’ve seen over the past few episodes that Jon is really struggling in Smallville; Lois mentioning tonight that he hasn’t made any friends was telling, because we’ve seen him with the football team – and with Sarah – but never without Jordan. He has been generally good-natured about the whole thing, taking one for the team and everything, but his brother spying on him was really the last straw. This is an especially egregious act by Jordan, considering how violated he felt when Clark did it to him earlier this season.

Man of Steel Superman & Lois
Image: The CW

The scene where the brothers argue felt very real. Jon’s frustrations have been piling up and finally boiled over, and in that moment, he wanted to hurt Jordan. He didn’t want to kill him or beat him or anything like that, but he did want to hurt him, and so he used Jordan’s burgeoning abilities against him. I don’t have brothers but I have sisters and that’s a very realistic reaction to feeling betrayed by a sibling.

But in the end, their bond survives. Even before Jordan apologized to Jon (which he thankfully did by the end of the episode – have I mentioned how much I appreciate that this show doesn’t let stuff like this drag on?), when Jon found him in pain in the hallway, he still ran over to help. The two of them banding together to go save Clark was the high point of the episode for me, I think, because it was honestly hilarious to watch them t-bone Irons with a truck. And then to watch Jon – with a broken wrist, mind you – use Irons’s hammer to smash the lights blasting red sun energy and debilitating Clark and Jordan? That was amazing.

Also, that scene is doing nothing to curb my theories that Jon will eventually develop powers, too. 

I am a little put out that Jordan seems to be conquering his powers so quickly. “Man of Steel” establishes that it took Clark weeks to get control of his super-hearing, yet Jordan manages it in what seems like no time at all. (Also, what an ad for Bose headphones. Apparently, they’re so good that they even cancel out super-hearing!) Hopefully, they will show him continue to struggle with this as the season goes on. I do like the fact that it seems Jor-El was incorrect in his assumption that Jordan wasn’t as strong as Clark; it just looks like his powers aren’t developing at the same rate.

One last thing about “Man of Steel” is that we still don’t really know what Edge’s end game is. Yes, he wants X-Kryptonite, and yes, he intends to make an army of super-powered beings (with only Leslie so far having been successful), but for what purpose? Is it simply world domination? Or is it something else?

I’m also a little curious as to how much Lana suspects. Lois tells her to be on the lookout for anything suspicious, and Lana’s role is obviously putting together a list of candidates for Edge’s army. She hesitates on putting forth her friend’s name, and she declines to put her husband on the list as well. In the episode, she has reasons for why she isn’t considering Kyle (he already has an important job, how will that affect childcare), but I can’t help but wonder if she thinks something hinky is going on with that and that’s why she doesn’t want him involved. It could just be that she doesn’t want him involved at all after what Lois told her; it’s difficult to say.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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