(NOTE: This review contains minor spoilers for the pilot episode of Superman & Lois.)
Tuesday night saw the premiere of Superman & Lois on The CW. The latest series to join the network’s Arrowverse of shows stars Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as the titular characters, and Jordan Elsass and Alex Garfin as the couple’s two sons, Jonathan and Jordan Kent. The pilot episode does an entertaining job setting up the new series, and establishing the show’s unique position within the Arrowverse.
Like a lot of pilots, the episode spends much of its time setting the table for what’s to come on the series. For those who are somehow unfamiliar with the characters, the first five minutes of the episode establishes Clark and Lois and their relationship, and offers a glimpse of how it progressed to the point at which viewers find them as the series begins. Those five minutes are full to the brim with easter eggs and familiar moments that are sure to leave long-time fans of the characters with smiles on their faces (I know I was grinning like an idiot by the end of it).
They also offer a nice look at Superman and Lois’s new history, as the last time we saw them, at the end of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, their timelines had been completely rewritten. Most importantly, though, those early scenes establish Jonathan and Jordan, their histories and their personalities, economically and effectively. All of that establishment gives viewers a nice baseline for what’s to come across the rest of the episode, without which the weight of the events that take place might not feel quite as heavy as they are.
And make no mistake, a lot happens in this pilot episode, including some fairly major life changes for the Kents. It seems like the events of the episode all take place over the course of less than a week, and it’s easy to imagine any of them getting whiplash from everything that’s happened. As quickly as everything happens, it’ll be interesting to see in future episodes how the events of this episode continue to weigh on the family as individuals and as a unit.
The appeal of the series premiere lies largely with Hoechlin, who, like Superman himself, does much of the heavy lifting emotionally throughout the episode. Hoechlin has been a standout as the man of steel in his previous Arrowverse appearances, with a charm and humility that are more than a little Christopher Reeve-esque. His Superman and Clark are clearly two sides of the same coin, and the rapport he has with Tulloch’s Lois is wonderful and perfect for a couple who have been together for as long as those two have at this point. Elsass and Garfin are also solid as the Kent boys, adding nuance to characters who initially seem somewhat caricature-ish.
If there’s a weak spot in the ensemble it’s Tulloch, though that may also be due to the material she’s given not being the strongest. Lois feels like something of a passenger in this episode and not like the co-lead that the series title would have her be. Hopefully future episodes will elevate her beyond ‘supportive wife and mother’ – not that either of those things are bad, but they’re not what most people would expect from a Lois Lane who is described in the episode as ‘the world’s most famous reporter.’
The most striking thing about Superman & Lois, though, is the general look and feel of the show. With most of the other Arrowverse series taking place in urban settings like Central City, National City, or Freeland, the wide open space and warm colors of Smallville immediately set the series apart. The scale of the show feels grand, while still focused firmly on the family at the center of it. Given how similar a lot of the Arrowverse shows look, it’s nice to get some visual variety added to the mix, and hopefully the series is able to maintain that even with episodes that presumably have smaller budgets than the pilot did.
Overall, based on its pilot, Superman & Lois has a lot of promise. The characters and the situation in which they find themselves are compelling, and there are clearly a lot of paths this series can explore. The character reveal at the end of the episode is also incredibly interesting and exciting, particularly in how it may explore elements from the larger Arrowverse. If the series continues to distinguish itself from the other DC CW series as it does in its pilot, it should be a fulfilling ride.
Superman & Lois airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.