I was dreading “Head On” when I read the plot synopsis on the CW app before watching it; another episode dedicated to Clark and Sam being too worried about Lois and her illness. But this is much better than the show has been all season, and “Head On” is a necessary episode that forces Lois to realize what she’s doing to herself and the people around her with her headstrong attitude. It also goes a long way towards explaining her acting out and the balance it takes to fight something as life-consuming as cancer.
Lois goes to Bruno Manheim’s cancer center for chemotherapy treatment and uses her sessions to investigate his criminal activities. Clark gets a different perspective on battling cancer. A school dance offers Natalie a chance at romance and Jonathan a daunting choice. Former mayor Dean’s son confronts Lana.
“Head On” starts with what I assumed would be the beginning of an expounding of why Clark and Sam need to be quiet and do whatever Lois says. Sam tells Clark that he thinks Lois receiving treatment at a facility run by a gangster she’s trying to expose – a gangster who has killed those who interfered with his business before and certainly will again – is a bad idea, but Clark defends her and says they have to accept her decision. I will say that, unlike last week and the week before, this is at least in keeping with Lois Lane’s character beyond Superman & Lois; she would use her treatment to look into someone she was investigating. But I don’t like the idea that nobody can think this is dangerous and try to talk her out of it, especially her father and her husband. Luckily, this week, the show is on that page, too.
Lois does what she’d planned, getting up while she’s receiving chemo and snooping around the facility for anything that looks hinky. While she does, Clark talks to a couple of the other patients, who ask him how he’s doing and offer him some advice about Lois. I like this scene a lot; it portrays cancer as a struggle of will, something you have to dedicate yourself to doing every day. The idea that someone could one day just decide it’s not worth fighting anymore is heartbreaking, but it’s also comforting in that it gives the patient a great deal of power. One can choose to fight, to decide that their family is worth hanging on for, that they will force another day upon the sickness hoping to claim them. It also explains the necessity of grit, of finding strength in whatever way makes sense to you. Lois getting treatment somewhere that allows her to look into Intergang simultaneously is her way of doing that.
But it isn’t that simple; the patient’s desire for power and autonomy doesn’t mean they’re always right, and it doesn’t negate the fears and, given the circumstances, the rationality of their loved ones. Clark and Sam have valid concerns about Lois receiving treatment from a brutal thug like Manheim or her general attitude towards her illness. Lois needs to take care of herself and let her family take care of her, and “Head On” portrays this much better than Superman & Lois has so far. The title proves to be the right way to tackle a problem. Lois doesn’t find much when she sneaks into Manheim’s office, but she does get information when having a frank conversation with him. She and Clark also learn that he has to be honest with her when he thinks she’s wrong, and she has to let him be honest with her, which she’s been terrible at doing.
The same holds true for the supporting characters. Sam can play all the spy games he wants, but he finally connects with Nat when he simply talks to her directly, and the payoff is monumental for both of them. Nat embarrasses herself when she runs away from her first potential relationship, but she repairs the damage and maybe paves the way for happiness when she expresses her fears to the guy. Jon is ready to sacrifice an important step in developing a career to keep time for Candice, who’s moving to Topeka, but once he talks to her about it, she resolves to support him and work their long-distance relationship around his new job. Lana is ready to smear her predecessor in the newspapers to get his son off her back, but when Sarah shows the boy some compassion, she decides to make a gesture to acknowledge that people loved the man, and that’s okay. Kyle and Chrissy are much happier when they stop sneaking around and allow themselves to be a couple at the dance (albeit while Lana is outside). And Jordan convinces his Luddite grandpa to use a dating app rather than stew about his lost ability to court a lady. All of these people face their problems head-on and are better for it.
Interestingly, it’s Manheim and his Intergang underlings that take a different track, and they’re successful, too. Manheim sends Deadline, one of his artificially powered henchmen, to the DOD base to steal information about military technology. Superman shows up for an action scene (and, unfortunately, saves that lowlife general who stabbed him in the back last season – but, you know, he’s Superman), and while Superman confronts Deadline, the crook is able to download the info and send it to Manheim, who then has Intergang raid other DOD bases. (What kind of security do they have when a bunch of gangsters can just walk in and steal their hardware? Or, conversely, how many super-criminals does Manheim have working for him?) This could be setting up a contrast; the head-on strategy will no doubt work for the good guys in the long term – unless you think they’re going to kill off Lois Lane – but the bad guys will only see short-term gains through their duplicity. I hope “Head On” is a sign of things to come for the series as well; this is a good episode, and it’s nice to have Superman & Lois back on its game.