Superman & Lois begins its third – and probably final – season with “Closer,” a dull, wheel-spinning episode that feels like a waste of time more than the first step in a larger story. It goes through the usual season premiere motions, establishing where the characters are after last year and setting up a plot thread or two that will be important in the coming months, but it gets there slowly, and what it introduces isn’t all that exciting.
Lois and Clark enjoy a happy patch of their marriage, but a big change may be around the corner. Clark teaches Jordan how to use his powers and when not to use them, to mixed results, while Lois prepares Jonathan for his driver’s test. Jordan and Sarah try to figure out their relationship while Lana wavers on signing her divorce papers. Sam takes an interest in Natalie.
The opening scenes of “Closer” are what you expect from a season premiere; everybody’s more or less happy because the big villain hasn’t been revealed yet. Lois and Clark are using Tal’s now-vacant apartment for afternoon trysts. (Possibly the best part of the episode is people being shocked that a married couple is actually having sex.) Jordan is mastering his powers, with Clark racing him to the Fortress of Solitude and having him spar with an AI combatant. Jon is learning how to drive from Lois – and fearing his mother’s admonishments more than a car accident. Lana is too busy to find time to sign the papers finalizing her divorce because of mayor stuff. And Sam wants to bond with Natalie, reasoning that in her world, he was her grandfather. It’s all very nice and sweet… and duller than shopping for paint.
The problem with “Closer” is that none of this amounts to anything. Lois and Clark have a pregnancy scare, which turns into pregnancy hope, which, of course, means Lois isn’t pregnant. Riveting. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad she’s not pregnant because this version of Lois Lane is enough of an emotional time bomb when she isn’t doped up on pregnancy hormones, but this feels like such a waste of time. It doesn’t reveal anything new about either character or explore aspects of them we already know; it’s just there to give them something to do, and a show not knowing what to do with its two title characters is a bit of a problem. I mean, one of them is Superman; I wouldn’t think you’d have to jump to “pregnancy scare” after just two seasons.
To be fair, Superman does go into action a couple of times during “Closer,” although both times are more about Jordan than him. After telling his superpowered son to go straight home after training at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman hears of a construction site accident and flies off to save the day. When he gets there, he finds Jordan trying to help, but his inexperienced son only makes things worse, confirming that this was a job for Superman and that, whatever his intentions, Jordan is as much a hazard as he is a helping hand right now. But Jordan takes this lesson to heart, and when Superman is off fighting a newly-powered version of that Nazi in the metal suit from the first season’s flashback episode, Jordan hears that trouble is brewing and decides to listen to his dad and stay behind. That’s surprisingly fast character growth. It’s also similar to the non-pregnancy in that, while it’s kind of rushed and underdeveloped, I’d rather that than have a retread of Jordan having to learn when to hold back.
Jordan’s other storyline – which isn’t given much time either because, for an episode that feels so weightless, “Closer” is kind of stuffed – is about him and Sarah figuring out what they mean to each other. You can guess what happens; Jordan wants to be together while Sarah just wants to be friends, but she leaves him just enough hope with some nonsensical plea to be left alone. Sarah’s awful; she doesn’t want to be with Jordan and insultingly leaves a gift he got her behind at the diner, but she also won’t go away and insists on being his friend, or at least him being her friend. She’s one of the most selfish characters the Arrowverse has ever produced, and it’s responsible for some doozies. Jordan is better off without her, but of course, he’s a high school kid, so he doesn’t understand that he deserves better than this yet.
I’d much rather have Jordan spend more time with Jon, but he’s stuck in a nothing subplot about his driver’s test. I guess the elephant in the room is Jonathan’s recasting. Jordan Elsass left the show after season 2 due to mental health issues, which is a bummer because he was good in the part, but I’m glad he recognized he needed to take a break before anything bad happened, and I wish him the best. The new actor is Michael Bishop, and it’s hard to say if he’s good because Jonathan is barely in “Closer.” Basically, he takes his driver’s test and passes it, and that’s the end. There’s an interesting wrinkle with his former football catch being his test proctor because Jon ruined the football program, but nothing comes of it, and he’s still got a bunch of friends who congratulate him. This is just more of the show running in place.
The theme that’s supposed to tie these things together is people feeling closer to each other, only to be ultimately pulled apart. Lois and Clark think they’re having a baby, but they find out they aren’t. Jordan is starting to feel like he’s getting more like his dad, only to realize he’s not there yet and has to leave the superhero stuff to Superman. Jordan also thinks Sarah knowing his secret will bring them closer together, only to have her back away from him. Lana forgetting to sign the divorce papers makes Kyle think maybe she’s reconsidering, but seeing her flirting with John Henry Irons reminds him that he’s chasing a fantasy. Sam asking Natalie to a movie makes her feel like she’s starting to get back the family she lost, but when he reveals that he wants her to join a DOD training school, she’s reminded that what she’s lost is gone forever. Jonathan… well, he certainly is here, isn’t he? Anyway, it all ties together thematically, but it’s not very interesting and doesn’t develop anyone.
There are some set-ups for the future, though. A couple of villains make their debuts, including the head of Intergang, Bruno Manheim, played by The Orville’s Chad L. Coleman. I’m glad they’re bringing Intergang into the show; they figured into Black Adam last year, and unless there’s some new version of them in the comics now, that movie didn’t understand them at all. There’s another new bad guy as well, and after doing some looking, my initial suspicion was correct: this is Onomatopoeia, a villain created by Kevin Smith in his Green Arrow run who also appeared in one of Smith’s Batman stories. I’m surprised at his inclusion; not only had Smith previously said that he wouldn’t let anyone else use him (I guess Smith has the rights to him, which is unusual for a comic book character), but Onomatopoeia targets heroes without superpowers, which is why he went up against Green Arrow and Batman. It’ll be interesting to see how the show makes his gimmick work on-screen, as it wouldn’t seem like something that translates well. There also seems to be skullduggery afoot with the former mayor, who warns Lana against using public funds to rid the school of some kind of mold, reasoning that the kids – including his own – can withstand “some fungus.” They’re really making this guy cartoonishly evil, aren’t they? But it sounds like something is up with the city budget. And, finally, Lois’ lack of a pregnancy means that she’s got some other health issue, which will surely be a major plot point. There’s some groundwork, and I’m sure the season will get better, but this premiere is a letdown.
“Closer” is a boring season premiere that takes a winding, barren road towards setting up some of the season’s major plotlines. The theme is lightweight, the characters don’t develop much, if at all, and nothing leaves you excited to see what comes next.