“Holding the Wrench” is a particularly powerful episode of Superman & Lois, not because of anything that Superman does, but because of what Lois does. This episode is about confronting grief and guilt and moving on.
Superman & Lois is amazing at showing how nuanced a character Kal-El is, balancing his alien and his human sides and demonstrating that he is a flawed individual who is trying to do his best and struggling against some very human emotions. It’s also a show that makes a good effort of maintaining the double billing by having Lois be an equally important character, with her own storyline. “Holding the Wrench” gives Bitsie Tulloch the chance to really shine as we focus on Lois.
While John Henry Irons cools his heels in a DOD cell, Lois and Jonathan, the only humans in a family of superheroes, use the opportunity to investigate Irons’s RV. Their snooping reveals what we learned in last week’s episode – that Irons is from a different Earth, that he was married to Lois, and that the two of them had a daughter named Natalie. This information seems to affect Lois more so than anything that’s happened so far this season, and she decides to take a break from the trailer, implying that Jon should do the same.
Jon, however, is scrambling to find his place in a family where the dynamics have suddenly shifted. He is clearly upset at Clark’s unilateral decision that all of the Kents are taking a break from football (even with his injury, there’s no reason he can’t suit up and sit on the bench) and wants to do something, because he feels helpless. The episode’s title refers to the scene at the beginning of the episode when Clark and Jordan fix the truck using their abilities while Jon can only stand there, literally holding the wrench.
I’ve been theorizing that Jon also has latent powers, as there are some hints that he does, but I’ll be honest that after this episode, I’m kind of hoping that they don’t go down that route so that we can have some epic teamups between Lois and Jon.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is a CW show. Aside from the production value, which blows every other show on the CW out of the water, the relationships and storylines are handled with a care and a maturity you wouldn’t expect from the same network that gave us Riverdale. But everything about this episode is just so well done in terms of characters.
Lois, terrified of how close Jon came to dying, lashes out at him in a manner uncharacteristic of everything we’ve seen from her so far. Later, her apology is heartfelt and emotional and a perfect example of an apology that a parent should give to a child that they wronged. Clark’s handling of the situation is also fantastic, telling her that he’s there if she wants to talk to him but recommending she talk to someone else. Jon turns to Jordan for comfort but doesn’t demand his attention. (This is where I was expecting the CW-ness to come out.)
Ok, let me expand on that last sentence a bit. Jon is clearly floundering in Smallville; we’ve been seeing that this entire season. He finds something horrible in the RV (evidence of other-Superman killing other-Lois) and after arguing with his mother, he runs off to find Jordan, because his brother is basically all he has now. He finds Jordan watching the talent show auditions to support Sarah, and despite the fact that he clearly needs to talk, he doesn’t demand that they leave, or expect Jordan to break his promise to be there for Sarah, something I fully would have expected to happen on literally any other CW show.
But it didn’t happen that way, because the Kent boys have an amazing, believable, healthy sibling relationship. Jon even stays for the auditions to support both Sarah and Jordan, who volunteered to accompany her when her father failed to show. I love the two of them together, and I’m glad that even though Jordan’s abilities are starting to strain their relationship, they are still extremely close.
It’s nice to see Jon getting more stuff to do; the focus has largely been on Jordan because of his abilities, so any episode that nudges Jonathan back into the spotlight is a good episode, in my opinion.
This episode has one of the better depictions of therapy I think I’ve seen in a while. (Bucky’s therapy sessions in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hurt me on a very deep level, and this Twitter thread is just one of the explanations why.) We know that Jordan previously went to therapy, but I find it odd that there been no suggestions that either of the boys sees a therapist now, even with all that they’re dealing with. We know that Sarah was once in therapy, but her parents treat it as something shameful. This episode shows just how helpful therapy can be, even for people who might not necessarily “need” it.
Trigger Warning: The next couple of paragraphs discuss a character having a miscarriage. If that topic is too triggering for you, please skip to the next image and continue from there.
I love that “Holding the Wrench” had Lois speak to a therapist. Lois has been shown to be a strong, capable woman who can take care of herself, but as Clark rightfully points out, it’s ok to ask for help. More than that, I love that this episode revealed that Lois had a miscarriage. The child that was lost was meant to be a daughter, Natalie – the name of her and Irons’s daughter from the other Earth. That is why she was so affected and why she yelled at Jon; she is still dealing with the pain and internalized guilt of losing her baby and almost had to witness losing another child.
Miscarriages are fairly common, but rarely talked about, particularly in media. If they knew the sex and picked out a name, it’s likely that Lois was pretty far along in the pregnancy, and suffering a miscarriage at that point would be extremely traumatic. I applaud Superman & Lois for giving Lois something like this, showing that even though it happened more than a decade ago, she is still affected by it. That’s the thing about trauma; you think you’re doing all right, and then suddenly something comes along and kicks you in the face. Grief is a process, and sometimes it never truly goes away.
As much as I’d love to sit here and keep praising the amazing character development in “Holding the Wrench”, there was, like, actual plot that should be discussed.
While I’m surprised that the DOD just let Irons go, I like the way they handled his storyline. At the beginning of the season, it seemed really poor form that a Black man was the villain in this show, but now it’s been revealed that there was more to it than that. I firmly believe that Irons is a good man who was driven to desperation after witnessing some horrible atrocities on his Earth, and he was doing what he thought was best for everyone.
And giving him back his RV full of weapons seems short-sighted, but I don’t doubt that when everything goes down, he will be there to help. Because he may not be willing to fight alongside Superman yet, but he surely will fight on the right side when they need him.
I’ve side-eyed Sam plenty during this series, but this episode redeems him a bit in my eyes. The sheer amount of Kryptonite-based weapons the DOD has developed is staggering, but after Irons’s explanation of what happened on his Earth, you can sort of see the need for them. With everything going on, Clark isn’t the only target vulnerable to Kryptonite, and he even used it against others. Still, it’s a little weird that Clark and the Martian Manhunter had a massive falling out because he was hiding Kryptonite on Supergirl, and now he seems to have grudgingly accepted it.
The important thing is that, whatever differences Clark and Sam have had up until this point, they’re starting to realize there are bigger things going on. Clark mentions that Lois suspects that Edge is implanting alien consciousness into human hosts which is… I think I missed that theory, because this is the first I’m hearing about it. It’s more than just Edge using X-Kryptonite to turn normal people into powered beings. But this potentially explained what happened to the other Superman; it’s possible that it wasn’t actually Superman, but another Kryptonian in Superman’s body.
What did you think of “Holding the Wrench”? What is Morgan Edge’s end game? Is it even Morgan Edge?
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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