Live action superhero properties may regularly level city blocks and destroy alien worlds, but it’s rare that they manage to conjure up an actual sense of danger. So I have to give “The Eradicator” major props for making me feel something I’m not sure I’ve ever felt while watching an Arrowverse show before: A genuine sense of fear. Though there’s plenty about this episode that’s painfully hokey, it was legitimately terrifying to watch Leslie Larr rise up behind Lois as she reports live on the Battle of Metropolis—a mirror image of the way Lois died on John Henry Irons’ world. And it was even more terrifying to watch Morgan “Eradicator” Edge calmly face off against Jordan, Jonathan, Sarah, and an injured General Lane with all hope of help miles away.
Plus, as far as cliffhangers go, EradiEdge forcefully implanting his father’s consciousness into Jordan’s body while Clark tearfully tells Lois that their son is gone is some of the most viscerally upsetting genre TV I’ve seen in a while. For as frenetic as its plotting can be at times, Superman & Lois’ first season has done a fantastic job building up the Lane-Kents as a loving family unit. And that’s key to what makes this episode’s climax so unnerving: We don’t just watch our heroes face danger, we watch their loved ones watch them face peril (as Jonathan and Jordan do when they turn on the TV coverage of the Battle of Metropolis), which is somehow even scarier. Between that affecting emotional core and some impressively cinematic visuals, the final 15 or so minutes of this episode are among the best stuff Superman & Lois has ever delivered.
Indeed, the highs of this episode are so high that they paper over the fact that there’s a lot about it that doesn’t work too. While Superman & Lois is fantastic at small scale character work, it’s never been as good at larger scale social commentary. Pretty much everything about Smallville’s post-Edge economic woes falls flat, mostly because it lacks the specificity of the family drama stuff. The generic protest signs the angry residents bring to the Town Hall meeting look like something out of a Pepsi ad. And there’s a whole lot of telling and not enough showing when it comes to local businesses leaving town or Chrissy suddenly having to sell the Smallville Gazette to a multinational conglomerate. (Why would they even want a small-town newspaper with two employees?)
To some degree, the first half of this episode is designed to lull viewers into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under them. It feels intentional that “The Eradicator” opens with smaller scale storylines about the Cushings maybe deciding to move out of Smallville and Irons pushing Jonathan away, only to unexpectedly swerve into much more high-stakes territory. But the pacing is off at times. The moment we cut away from the escalating Battle of Metropolis to watch Jonathan reconnect with Tegan is especially strange. And it also seems like we’re missing a few scenes that showcase Jonathan and Irons’ newfound bond before the fight that pushes them apart. The complex, trauma-fueled tension between them is great, it just could’ve been set up better.
Indeed, while there’s so much about Superman & Lois that works on an emotional level, it can sometimes struggle on a logistical one. The scene where Lois suddenly decides to reveal classified government secrets at a Town Hall meeting is especially bizarre. It doesn’t particularly feel like she’s operating as a journalist so much as a politician or activist. And the whole “I know things because my dad is occupying your town” vibe seems like the wrong move for someone who’s trying to get Smallville’s residents to trust her (and I’m surprised General Lane isn’t more pissed about it too). Elsewhere, the fact that EradiEdge can instantly give people both Kryptonian consciousnesses and powers is a bit too easy—especially compared to how laboriously he had to select and experiment on his subjects before.
And yet the parts of this episode that work are so effective that it’s hard to complain too much about the rest. Lois jumping into a live report during the Battle of Metropolis is a perfect encapsulation of her unique combination of journalistic integrity, selflessness, and bravery. Jordan telling Sarah he loves her before Edge whisks him away is quietly devastating. And the whole sequence with an injured General Lane talking Jonathan through shooting a Kryptonite pistol is a viscerally upsetting look at how much the Kent boys are being asked to take on now that they’re involved in their dad’s superhero life.
As has often been the case for Superman & Lois this season, “The Eradicator” bites off more than it can chew but winds up delivering such compelling individual pieces that it’s easier to forgive the fact that they don’t quite add up to a satisfying whole. The Battle of Metropolis already feels like a defining setpiece of the series. And EradiEdge turning his nephew into his dad is an appropriately eerie, deeply twisted cliffhanger for this family-focused show. The fact that Superman & Lois continues to deliver so many game-changing shifts from week to week means there’s no telling what the season finale has in store. And best of all, there are no more hiatuses before we get there. See you back here next week.
- The scene where Clark tries to convince Lana to stay in Smallville by telling her she’s his best friend is very sweet, even if that idea kind of came out of nowhere.
- It’s really moving that Irons gets the chance to save this Earth’s Lois after being unable to save his own.
- Tegan explains that she moved to Smallville from Central City when her dad went to prison two years ago. Is there a Flash connection there?
- Lana randomly making a mid-afternoon pie felt a little bit too cutesy, even for this show.
- On the other hand, I did love how realistic Sarah’s teenage outburst was.
- FYI, I’m also covering Superman & Lois’ new Tuesday night sister series Stargirl, if you’d like to follow along with those reviews this season.