You know how high school goes. One day you’re running football drills, the next you’re kindly explaining to your friend that her dad was body snatched by an evil alien consciousness. As evidenced by the DOD trucks driving down a now fully militarized Smallville, things have escalated rather quickly on Superman & Lois. “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” basically plays like a season finale, complete with a tragic villain origin story, a massive action climax, and several heartwrenching family reunions. But there are still five episodes of the season left, and given the speed with which Superman & Lois is burning through story lately, it’s anyone’s guess as to where things go from here.
“O Mother, Where Art Thou?” does at least provide some concrete answers to this season’s big mysteries. The episode quickly confirms that Morgan Edge isn’t just Clark’s Kryptonian brother in a metaphorical sense, but in a literal one too. They share the same mother, Lara Lor-Van, who had a “genetically matched” first marriage to a man named Zeta-Rho and bore him a son they named Tal-Rho. When Lara later fell in love with Jor-El, she left her first family behind to start a new one. And when she started to warn about Krypton’s impending destruction, Zeta-Rho decided to send a 10-ish-year-old Tal-Rho to Earth to further the Kryptonian race. Young Tal-Rho landed in England where he was immediately hunted, captured, imprisoned, and experimented on. So he grew up to be Morgan Edge—a ruthless businessman with a life-long goal of resurrecting Krypton.
To be honest, it took me two viewings just to get all that straight (and that’s not even getting into the whole “Eradicator” of it all yet). Though the flashback imagery of Edge’s youth is compellingly unnerving, his story is also a lot to take in on a show that hasn’t really made Kryptonian history or society a major part of its storytelling. While Supergirl always presented a crystal-clear timeline for Krypton’s destruction and how Kara and her family fit into it, everything on Superman & Lois is far more nebulous. Skipping over the familiar beats of Superman’s backstory in favor of a fresh adventure was one of the initial selling points of Superman & Lois. But now that the show is throwing new wrinkles into his Kryptonian heritage, the whole thing is starting to feel abstract at best and downright confusing at worst.
What Superman & Lois really needs is a big old exposition dump. But instead it keeps letting information trickle out in confusingly underplayed ways. I still wonder if whatever scene was meant to kick off this “Kryptonian consciousness” storyline got cut, and that’s why the whole thing has felt so weirdly rushed and underbaked. “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” eventually reveals that Edge is pulling his Kryptonian army from a machine called the “Eradicator,” which Lara built in order to store the minds of seemingly the entire planet the same way Jor-El is stored in his Fortress of Solitude crystal. Lara envisioned it as a way to preserve Kryptonian culture, but Zeta-Rho instructed his son to use it to colonize another planet and restore Krypton instead. Yet the reveal raises as many questions as answers. For instance, why are all the Kryptonian consciousnesses so eager to help Edge conquer the Earth when they’re ostensibly a peaceful race? Also, why the hell would Lara name what’s essentially meant to be a living history museum an “Eradicator”?
Superman & Lois is proving to be much better at small-scale character work than big-scale plotting, which is why the best sequence in “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” is its simplest. When Lana overhears that Superman needs someone to host his mother’s consciousness, she doesn’t hesitate to volunteer. She wants a chance to make up for working for Edge. And she wants to save not just her family, but her whole community too. Emmanuelle Chriqui gives a standout performance this week, both as a scared but steely Lana, and as Clark’s calm, collected mother, Lara.
Giving Clark a chance to meet his long-lost birth mother is a lovely addition to Superman & Lois’ central family theme. Lara and Jor-El sent their infant son to Earth with the hope that he would help create a better world there in the way they wanted to on Krypton. And now Lara gets a chance to see her baby boy all grown up, living out her dreams with a family of his own. Given how often Jor-El is the only parent put front and center in Superman’s story, it’s nice to see Lara given the same treatment for once. And it’s also nice that Superman & Lois finds time to honor Martha Kent alongside Clark’s birth mother too.
In fact, there are plenty of great character moments in this episode, from Lana’s disbelief at seeing Superman in person for the first time to Jonathan angrily calling out his grandfather’s lack of humanity. But I’m finding it hard to fully invest in those compellingly human moments when the plot around them is so haphazardly madcap. No sooner has this episode revealed the terrifying extent of Edge’s Smallville brainwashing than Clark has solar-flared his way into saving the town. After a season of build-up, it’s a strangely rushed way to wrap up that storyline. (Although it’s also possible there’s still more in store for it too. It’s hard to tell on this show.)
It’s worth acknowledging that I seem to be a little less high on this show than the general fan reaction, so it’s possible I’m getting caught up on things that most viewers are willing to let slide. But particularly in the second half of the season, it feels like Superman & Lois is continually piling on new complications when a little streamlining could go a long way. For instance, one interesting idea buried in this overstuffed episode is about the luck involved in Clark’s origin story. Part of the reason he grew up to be a hero is because he happened to be taken in by two kind, protective parents who instilled a sense of responsibility in him. Edge, meanwhile, was immediately met with hatred and fear on Earth, and let those qualities define his own worldview.
While Clark is fueled by the spirit of a well-adjusted Smallville teen, Edge is fueled by the fear of a scared, abused boy. Even more so than making them literal brothers, that contrast is an interesting parallel for the two Kryptonians (as is the fact that Edge actually remembers Krypton, while Clark only has memories of Earth). Hopefully next week’s flashback-heavy episode will let ideas like that shine through even more strongly without all the convoluted plot weighing them down.
- If there was ever a time to mention Kara, it surely would’ve been this episode. Instead, “O Mother, Where Art Thou?” all but confirms that Superman & Lois exists in a different continuity than its ostensible parent series
- I know it’s a comic book convention, but it seems needlessly confusing that this show now has a Lana, a Lara, and a Leslie Larr.
- Did the Jor-El hologram continue to age throughout Clark’s life on Earth or was he just a really old first-time dad?
- Love how quickly Lois went from threatening to cut her dad out of her life for developing Kryptonite weapons to punching Kyle with a piece of Kryptonite.
- It’s lucky all the host bodies didn’t just fall out of the sky when Clark zapped them back into being human!
- So who’s going to have side effects from Clark’s Reverse-Eradicator solar flare? It certainly seems like Sarah was in especially close range to the blast.