Superman & Lois 2×01 & 2×02 Review: “What Lies Beneath” & “The Ties That Bind”

What Lies Beneath Superman & Lois
Pictured: Ian Bohen as Lieutenant Mitch Anderson– Photo: Shane Harvey/The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Superman & Lois returns for season 2 by plopping you down right in the middle of things. Smallville is moving on from what happened last season with Morgan Edge (aka Tal-Rho), but as shown in premiere episodes “What Lies Beneath” and “The Ties That Bind”, things will never quite be the same. 

“What Lies Beneath” picks up three months from where season 1 left off and lays the groundwork pretty well for the rest of the season. I will admit that the episdoe felt more like an exposition dump than one with a cohesive plot. Some of these threads could have been left for “The Ties That Bind” to introduce. There is a lot to unpack in the first two episodes of the season, so let’s get started.

There was an earthquake, John Henry and Natalie are sticking around, Jonathan has a girlfriend, Jordan and Sarah are going through some things, Lana is very involved in the mayoral election, the Smallville Gazette is understaffed and feeling it, someone is dealing X-Kryptonite on the black market, and something may be seriously wrong with Clark. Also Doomsday will be a thing. And that’s just the start.

It’s a lot, OK? I appreciate that they want to hit the ground running in season 2, but even in the first two episodes, this feels like way too much plot to introduce at once. I wouldn’t have minded dropping some tidbits that will come up later in the season – the podcast calling Lois’s integrity into question and the X-K street drug definitely could have waited a couple of episodes. Lana’s mayoral run didn’t need the false start of her backing another candidate at first. I feel like I can’t even discuss everything properly in just one review. I’ll primarily focus on a few of the bigger things.

First off, can I complain for a little bit that there is finally some queer representation in Superman & Lois but it comes with a side of the super harmful “bisexuals are more likely to cheat” trope? It seemed pretty obvious from how Sarah was acting in “What Lies Beneath” that she had cheated on Jordan at camp. I hate infidelity as a plot device anyway, but it almost always seems to happen to introduce a character as bisexual. I also dislike how apparently the only revelation a girl can have at summer camp is romantic.

And I know that Superman & Lois is a CW show, but please don’t put Natalie in the middle of Jordan and Sarah. They seem to be moving in that direction based on the few interactions the two had in “The Ties That Bind”. Natalie deserves to have her own love interest, and I’d rather not have this show succumb to the silly teen melodrama that plagues the other shows on this network. So far, it’s been pretty good at avoiding that.

Obviously whatever is going on with Clark is pretty important. Aside from these weird symptoms he seems to be having, he has a new boss at the DOD. There’s no way there isn’t something up with Anderson (not to typecast but, come on, it’s Ian Bohen). We learned about the super powers school last season, but appropriating Superman’s logo and forming a team just because “America comes first”… 

I actually really like that Superman & Lois emphasizes that Clark is a hero for the world. The absolute joy on the Korean sailors in the submarine when they realized that Superman had saved them, combined with Clark being reamed out because they were essentially from the “wrong” Korea. Right now, especially, I appreciate the focus on nationalism versus patriotism and patriotism versus an overall global community. Trying to paint Superman as a bad guy for saving lives is a little ridiculous, but pretty on the nose for America, to be honest.

The Ties That Bind Superman & Lois
Pictured (L-R): Bitsie Tulloch as Lois, Tyler Hoechlin and Clark and Wole Parks as John Henry Irons — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — (C) 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Now, it seems that Clark’s weird headaches are related to the earthquakes that are happening around Smallville. And it seems pretty clear that the earthquakes are because of Doomsday. (By the way, completely unrelated, but thanks to Sarah for the “doomsday preppers” joke.) It seems kind of early to bring in Doomsday because it’s only season 2, but in the terms of the actual in-show universe, Superman has been active for more than a decade.

Are they going to keep Tal-Rho around, but in prison, the way Professor X keeps visiting Magneto in the X-Men movies? Because that opens up a lot of possibilities that I’m actually really interested in. In the case of “The Ties That Bind”, though, I cannot believe that everyone just sort of took him at his word that he didn’t have powers anymore. Although it did give us a proper introduction for Lara, even if it was kind of overwhelming. Considering how Lara was able to get to him, and the whole “there is good in your heart”, I suspect that they may be intending on a redemption arc for Tal.

One thing that Superman & Lois does really well is the emotional beats. “What Lies Beneath” and “The Ties That Bind” both highlight how great the show is at this. Clark and Lois are having problems, but they talk about it instead of dragging things out. I love Jon and Jordan’s relationship – how genuinely excited Jon is that Jordan was able to hold his own against Tal-Rho, the two of them talking about their girlfriends like normal teenagers. I love how they handled the Lois and Natalie situation. I love how supportive Kyle is of Lana running for mayor, especially since at first he didn’t seem to be a fan of her involvement.

But I feel like there is just too much going on at the moment to really focus on the emotional moments in these first two episodes. I wish some of these plotlines had been spaced a little better. The three-month time skip also skews things a bit. Natalie is totally cool with Superman, even though he was evil on her world? Who is this girlfriend of Jon’s and where did she come from?

Also, I feel like the writers really don’t know what to do with Jon. If they intend to never have him develop powers, that’s one thing, but I thought they hinted last season that he would follow in Lois’s footsteps, or even John Henry’s? In season 2 so far they’ve given him a girlfriend with no emotional connection to the audience and the potential of developing a drug problem. I imagine he’ll try and investigate the steroids that his teammates are using and possibly be tempted by the prospect of having powers like his father and brother.

“What Lies Beneath” and “The Ties That Bind” are a solid start to Superman & Lois‘s sophomore season. There is a lot going on right now, and hopefully all of these plot threads are given the time that they need to be properly developed. So far, I am pretty excited about what we can expect to see in season 2.

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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