Superman has always worked better as a lover than as a fighter. The character’s best, most resonant stories are quick to point this out, often skimping on the large-scale superheroics to make way for smaller, more intimate moments that beget better action. Superman and Lois, the latest series in the CW’s popular Arrowverse, rightly takes this route and benefits greatly from it.
For starters, Tyler Hoechlin is a much more approachable Superman than Henry Cavill ever was. But let’s be fair here: As empty as Cavill’s portrayal was, it was merely a product of director Zack Snyder’s dark, distant approach to the DC Extended Universe and not a reflection of the actor’s emotional limitations. For better or worse, Superman and Lois developer/executive producer Greg Berlanti opts for a story so soapy and saccharine that it’s bound to dissuade the character’s detractors from tuning in. Fortunately, though, the premiere does such a solid job with its character building and table-setting that forgiving its excessive sweetness becomes easy and necessary.
Here is a show so concerned with communicating a feel-good message that it deliberately exaggerates an already suffocating sappiness. Honestly, it really milks it, but it works for the CW and Arrowverse fans will likely be pleased. To take issue with the soapiness of Superman and Lois would be to take issue with the entire CW superhero formula. I’ll be the first to tell you that those who didn’t care for Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, or Stargirl will almost definitely not find much to enjoy here. But even if you’re a Henry Cavill fan, if you come at the show with an open mind and a willingness to dive into the domestic side of the Superman mythos, you will have a blast.
Part of the appeal here is Tyler Hoechlin. Consider how quickly and beautifully he disappears into the role and leans hard into the love and humility that help make Superman so endearing. Hoechlin’s Kent fights just as hard to connect with his sons as he does to stop The Stranger from destroying everyone he holds dear. That’s the Clark Kent worth exploring. That’s the direction in which Superman and Lois must go if it’s going to live up to its name. He, not Henry Cavill, is absolutely the live-action Superman we deserve and it will be exciting to see how he grows into the role moving forward.
The premiere’s greatest strength, though, is its deviation from big-budget action focused on by Henry Cavill’s Superman movies. The villain doesn’t show up very often or for very long, which allows the show to embrace a side of Superman we haven’t seen nearly enough of yet. If you think Superman is dull and one-dimensional, prepare to be humbled: Superman and Lois heavily emphasizes Superman the Lover and sidelines Superman the Fighter, forcing the character to show courage in smaller but more meaningful ways. We don’t get much from Lois in the premiere, especially because it immediately relegates her to strong-but-largely-silent support for the Kent boys. Don’t dismiss Elizabeth Tulloch‘s diminished role, though. It is clear that she’s got much more to give, and we will certainly see her grow into the Lois Lane we love in the coming episodes.
Superman and Lois grounds its proceedings in an earnestness that is as endearing as it is refreshing. The success of Berlanti’s endeavor hinges almost entirely on whether or not viewers buy into Supes being a family man first and a superhero second. In fact, the series seems to posit that putting family first is what makes you a hero. Some may find this message too ham-fisted and maybe even outright silly, but it strengthens the consistency of the CW’s ever-growing superhero universe and actually elevates Superman and Lois in ways we’re only beginning to see.
The bottom line: Not since All-Star Superman has any medium been able to capture Superman’s essence so effectively and efficiently. It’s refreshing to see Superman the Lover win out, because that’s the Superman who resonates. Sure, it may come at the cost of taking the show seriously. But there’s a big-heartedness to Superman and Lois that makes it difficult to dislike.
Hopefully, fans of the character will give Superman and Lois the shot it deserves. It is worth it and with time, I’d bet that it’s going to come into its own even more beautifully.