Well someone’s seen WandaVision! Like that Disney+ superhero series, “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” uses the conventions of TV to lull viewers into a comforting sense of familiarity before pulling the rug out from under them. The first half of “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” is a charming-as-hell flashback episode that fills in the gaps between what happened after teenage Clark left home in “The Best of Smallville” and all the early Lois and Clark relationship stuff that was covered in montage in the premiere. Only it turns out it’s not actually a conventional flashback episode. Instead, Morgan Edge is rooting through his brother’s memories to find a weakness. And fittingly, the thing Edge realizes he can use against Clark is the thing that sits at the heart of Superman & Lois as a series: Family.
“A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” is really the story of two (holographic) fathers. Jor-El trained Clark with a gentle touch before encouraging him to head out into the world to figure out if and why he would want to dedicate his life to being Earth’s champion. Zeta-Roh, meanwhile, trained Edge using fear, shame, and literal pain to turn him into a dutiful soldier. It’s a difference between heritage (the blood ties we don’t choose) and true family (the people we love). Because Edge has never known real love, he expects that the heritage he and Clark share will be enough to get his brother to join his plan to conquer Earth and restore Krypton. Once Edge has been inside Clark’s head, however, he realizes just how strong his brother’s connection to his Earth family is. So Edge decides to take a leaf out of his father’s pain-and-intimidation tactic playbook instead. It’s only once Edge threatens to kill Lois, Jordan, and Jonathan that Clark finally (reluctantly) agrees to submit to his plan.
Writing all that out makes “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” sound a little more cohesive than it feels in practice. In truth, this is an episode with two distinct halves: The fun, sweet flashback stuff at the beginning, and the grim and gritty present-day stuff at the end, which throws us back into the deep-end of last week’s rushed plotting. True to its title, this episode offers a brief, lighthearted pause in the midst of the breakneck pacing that has come to define the back half of Superman & Lois’ first season. And while the moment Clark’s memories first start to go haywire is effectively unnerving (at one point he steps outside his own memory while Lois continues on with their conversation), it’s not quite enough to weave the two halves together into one cohesive whole.
Still, Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch are so goddamn charming together, it’s no surprise that the Superman & Lois writers’ room would take any excuse to spend more time in Lois and Clark’s young, flirtatious days. “A Brief Reminiscence In-Between Cataclysmic Events” revisits a bunch of scenes from the premiere (many of them in full), but also fleshes out the burgeoning dynamic between the ace Daily Planet reporter and her nerdy new co-worker. Plus it showcases the first time Lois met Superman himself too.
The first half of this episode indulges in all the fun rom-com-y stuff that has always been a superhero story staple. And everything we see in the flashbacks reinforces what a great couple Lois and Clark are. One detail I love is that Lois is the more flirtatious of the two when she’s hanging out with Clark, while Clark is the more flirtatious one when he’s in his Superman persona. It speaks to the way the tights and cape let Clark act with a swagger of anonymity that he doesn’t have in his human persona. And it’s absolutely adorable that Lois actually prefers Clark’s nerdiness to Superman’s confidence.
There’s great, subtle character work like that throughout the flashback sequences. When Lois points out that Superman’s headline-grabbing heroics are pulling focus from systemic problems that can’t be solved with brute force, Clark doesn’t get defensive; instead he joins her in her work to bring journalistic attention to those problems too. Superman may draw international acclaim, but Clark isn’t in it for the glory. He gracefully and humbly deflects as Lois tries to grill Superman in a TV interview. And Superman & Lois cleverly riffs on the “American way” part of Superman’s motto as something Lois says to try to trick him into revealing where he grew up, rather than an actual nationalistic cornerstone of his identity.
I could’ve easily lived in the flashback stuff for the entire hour. (I’d have loved to have seen how Lois actually responded when Clark first revealed his real identity, for instance.) And it’s slightly jarring to return to the theatrics of Edge’s storyline after all the sweet, human moments with Lois and Clark. But this episode does at least start to pay off some of the abrupt plot shifts the show has been throwing out there lately—and not just because Kyle swings around to #TeamLois, while Jordan and Sarah officially become an item.
Using Lois, Jonathan, and Jordan as the fulcrum point for the Clark/Edge story packs a much bigger emotional punch than whatever was originally supposed to happen with the “Kryptonian consciousness” thing the show abruptly abandoned last week. And having Lois reach out to John Henry Irons for help is a great way to weave him back into the story too. Presumably there was a slightly different reason Superman went “bad” in Irons’ universe, since Irons is the one married to Lois there. But the result is the same, and Lois realizes that she’s going to need back up to save the day—and hopefully save her husband too.
One thing this freshman season of Superman & Lois has done really well is to drill home just how powerless humans are in the face of Kryptonians. While Lois and Jonathan were up in arms at the idea that General Lane would make Kryptonite weapons as “worst case scenario” back-ups, it’s pretty clear that he was in the right with that one. Even Jordan’s half-Kryptonian abilities are useless in the face of Edge’s powers, and if Clark hadn’t shown up to save his family, there was nothing they could’ve done to protect themselves.
Some of the most compelling images of the season have been the ones where Clark swoops in at the push of a button to save his family. But the end of this episode takes that device off the table, and sets up a new premise instead: Unless Clark has a secret plan up his spandex sleeve, it looks like Lois, Jordan, and Jonathan are going to have to be the ones to save him (and themselves) from doomsday. That dramatically ups the stakes heading into the final four episodes of the season.
- Why are all Kryptonian dads so old?? Is it supposed to make up for the fact that Tyler Hoechlin is only 33?
- It’s kind of strange that Clark has such deep ties to Smallville given that he left home at what looks to be about age 16 and seemingly never lived there again for any extended period of time after that. I can’t believe he didn’t even fly in for a visit during all those years he was training with Jor-El! Poor Martha!
- It’s also weird to think that Mehcad Brooks’ James Olsen is ostensibly hanging out just offscreen at The Daily Planet during all the flashback stuff.
- Bit jarring to pair a story about Lois trying to protect minority families from a Nazi arsonist with a “comedic” scene where a completely unqualified white man is hired for a job just because he asks Perry White nicely.
- It’s adorable that while Jerry Seinfeld was idolizing Superman, Superman was watching Seinfeld reruns.
- I laughed so hard when Edge called himself “Uncle Morgan.”
- Superman & Lois is taking two weeks off and will be back with a new episode on July 13!