As Superman, Clark Kent can do nearly anything, but even he finds it hard to balance work, family and saving the world. In the wake of Martha Kent's death, the family travel to Smallville to discover a community in need of heroes and not the kind that wear tights and a cape, as Lois begins investigating a corrupt billionaires connection to some shady land deals and Superman must contend with a Stranger who seems to know all about him.
Action Comics #1 (several nods to Seigel and Shuster and a tribute to the cover), Superman: The Movie (Clark's background in the Arrowverse, nods to Richard Donner and the general style), Superman For All Seasons (Clark's line about his mom making his costume), the 1978 Firestorm comic (nod to Hudson Nuclear Power Plant) and The Mandalorian (last scene of The Stranger returning to his ship and removing his helmet without letting the audience see his face.)
It seems a bit weird that Lois found out about the fire at Shuster Mines from a TV news broadcast rather than by getting called by the Smallville sheriff or some other local authority first. (Presumably the sheriff didn't know how to get a hold of Jonathan and Jordan's parents since they weren't local and Jonathan and Jordan were too shocked to think of calling their parents?)
Tyler Hoechlin faced a difficult task stepping into the cape of Superman on a regular basis at a time when passions are burning hot regarding other actors not being given a chance to play the role in another movie or their own television series. It was a burden he shouldered well, however, and his performance here strikes the narrative heart of who Clark Kent is perfectly.
Elizabeth Tulloch made the most of her limited screen time in her previous appearances as Lois Lane and she does the same here. While Lois is largely a background player in this pilot episode, Tulloch perfectly captures the ferocity of the character as she has to be held back from going after the man who fired her husband and the fire chief giving her the usual talking points about what the liberal media believes about small town folks.
Jordan Elsass has a tricky task playing Jonathan, the more together of the Kent boys. He manages to turn Jonathan into a character who may tease his troubled brother, but will be damned if anyone else tries to hurt him.
Alex Garfin faces a similar challenge in portraying Jordan Kent without going over the top in portraying his anxiety or his anger when he learns about how his parents have been lying to him all his life.
Across the board, the special effects works is of cinematic quality and it sets a new standard for what superhero shows can do.
Different versions of Superman's origins have had him acquire his powers at different points in time. The Silver Age comics had him flying around as Superbaby and accidentally causing mischief and serving in the Legion of Superheroes as a teenager. More recent retelling have had Clark's powers manifest when he was a teenager. In the case of the Arrowverse, Clark's powers manifested when he was a toddler and he was told about his alien origins when he was 6.
The opening montage reveals that the Arrowverse version of Pa Kent died of a heart attack when Clark was a teenager. The death of his foster father is often a formative moment in Clark Kent's life, teaching him humility and that there are some things even his power cannot prevent. The most famous instance of this was in Superman: The Movie, where Clark was helpless to get his father to a hospital in time to save him.
The costume Superman wears in his first public appearance features a slightly different version of his classic S-symbol, with yellow on a black background. This is a nod to the costume Superman wore in the animated shorts made by Fleischer Studios in the 1940s.
Superman lifting a green car is a visual nod to the cover of Action Comics #1.
Superman's line where he thanks a boy who complements his comment and says his mom made it for him is taken directly from the story Superman For All Seasons.
Clark is guided around the Daily Planet newsroom by an older man on his first day at work. While not identified in the episode, the credit confirm this is Perry White - the long-suffering Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Planet.
When Lois meets Clark for the first time, she asks if Lombard told him to wear a tie to work. This is a nod to Steve Lombard; a former professional American footballer turned writer/editor for the Daily Planet sports department. A boisterous braggart who was fond of practical jokes and thought himself something of a ladies' man, Lombard was a frequent supporting cast member of many Superman comics. Despite his boorish behavior, he did prove himself to have a heroic spirit on several occasions and Clark Kent did consider him a friend.
While warning Clark about Lombard being a prankster, Lois notes that he is good for getting box seats to the Meteors. This leads Clark to note that he loves baseball. In the comics, thee Metropolis Meteors are a Major League Baseball franchise and part of the National League. The name has also been applied to Metropolis' NFL (American football) franchise.
Jonathan and Jordan Kent mark the first time Superman has fathered twin sons in any medium. He did have twin daughters, Jane and Carol, in the reality of Superman: Secret Identity.
Several versions of Superman's son have been named Jonathan after Clark's adoptive father. In the DC Comics Rebirth reality, Jonathan Kent became Superboy for a time, traveled into the future to be part of the Legion of Superheroes, and returned to the present on the cusp of manhood, not quite a Superman. His destiny following the Dark Nights: Death Metal event has yet to be determined.
At one point Lois walks past a bank of monitors, one of which broadcasts a story about Superman investigating an explosion at Ace Chemical. This is the name of the chemical factor responsible for transforming The Joker and Harley Quinn into their crazy selves.
Another of the monitors reports on Superman helping a new space shuttle get into orbit after the mounting mechanism broke. This is a neat twist on Superman's first public appearance in 1986's Man of Steel #1, where Clark stepped in to prevent an experimental space plane from crashing. Many Superman origins stories since then have tied Superman's first appearance to his rescuing astronauts. The scene also acts as a subtle reminder that Superman often works just to help people rather than only fighting criminals or averting natural disasters.
The role of General Sam Lane has been recast for Superman and Lois. Dylan Walsh has taken over the role from Glenn Morshower, who played the role in Supergirl Season 1.
The new post-Crisis General Lane is drastically different from his original counterpart, who was truer to the comics. In the comics, General Lane was a xenophobic man, fearful of aliens, who disliked Clark Kent as being too weak for his daughter.
The new Arrowverse version of General Lane has a more friendly relationship with Clark, planning fishing trips with him and his sons, and calling upon Superman to deal with various disasters.
Both General Lane and Lois are revealed to have pager-like devices that can generate a high frequency alarm only Superman can hear. This is a nod to the classic Superman signal watch, which Superman made for his pal Jimmy Olsen, so he could call Superman whenever he found himself in trouble.
The shot of Superman lifting a giant iceberg seems to have been stylistically inspired by a scene in Superman Returns where Superman lifted an island full of Kryptonite crystals.
Lois makes reference to an editor named Foswell. This is a nod to Samuel Foswell; another Daily Planet editor from the Superman comics.
When Clark checks up on Jordan, he's playing the video game Injustice 2 - a real world video game featuring many DC Comics heroes and villains. (Tellingly, Jordan is playing as the Mortal Kombat character Raiden and beating up Superman, who he feels is boring.) This is not the first time Injustice 2 has appeared in the Arrowverse, as the game was a favorite of Felicity Smoak and William Clayton and the two played it in A606.
A slate board in the Kent kitchen has a note about calling Dr. Donner. This is a nod to Richard Donner, the director of Superman: The Movie.
The board also has a note to call Seigel and Shuster. This is a nod to Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, the writer and artist who created Superman in 1938. Tellingly, the phone number starts with the digits 193-8.
When Lois and Clark first arrive at work, they run into a co-worker whom Lois addresses as Max. This is likely meant to be George Maxwell "Max" Taylor - a longtime editor at the Daily Planet in the comics.
When Lois asks Max what is wrong, he indicates a man named Thorpe who is cleaning out his desk while two security guards watch him. This man is probably meant to be Ronald "Ron" Thorpe; an editorial writer for The Daily Planet who was also a major supporting player and friend of Lois and Clark in the comics.
The role of Morgan Edge has also been recast for Superman and Lois, though Edge does not appear in the flesh in this pilot episode. Adam Rayner will be taking over the role from Adrian Pasdar, who played Morgan Edge during the first half of Supergirl Season 4.
In the comics, Edge was a greedy media mogul who bought the Daily Planet and reassigned Clark Kent to work the broadcast news division of his network, Galaxy Broadcasting System. Though Jack Kirby originally intended to reveal Edge to be a crime boss in the employ of Intergang, the editors of DC Comics elected to keep Edge around as a human adversary and eventual ally to Clark Kent. Post-Crisis, Kirby's original plans were brought to fruition by other writers and Edge became a corrupt businessman in the same mold as Lex Luthor, though one backed by alien interests.
The previous Arrowverse version of Edge was a Trumpian figure; a real estate magnate who tried to buy Catco Worldwide media to stop them from reporting on his crimes. He was thwarted after Lena Luthor bought the company to spite him.
The new Morgan Edge is closer to the original Kirby intent for the character, being a corrupt media mogul who has begun branching into other businesses. It has yet to be seen if he will be a secret crime boss as well.
The doctor who calls Clark Kent about his mother's stroke is named Dr. Frye. This was also the name of Smallville's town doctor in Superman: The Movie.
The Arrowverse version of Lana Lang is a bank manager who still lives in Smallville and is married to the local fire chief. As with most versions of Superman's background, Lana Lang was Clark Kent's first girlfriend. In a marked difference from most of the modern comics, where Lana Lang was also the first person to learn about Clark Kent's powers apart from his parents, the Arrowverse version of Lana Lang doesn't know that Clark Kent is Superman.
A banner in Clark Kent's old bedroom makes reference to the Smallville Crows; the mascot of Smallville High School, which was first revealed in Smallville.
The Kryptonese language used by the Stranger utilizes the Kryptonese alphabet created for the comics by editor E. Nelson Bridwell. This is a different Kryptonian language than the one utilized in the DCEU, which was created for the movie Man of Steel.
General Lane makes a sarcastic reference to there being a phone booth somewhere in Metropolis that Clark can use to change his costume if The Stranger shows up while he's tending to his mother's affairs. This is a nod to how Superman used to modestly change into his costume in the classic comics.
Lana Lang makes reference to a friend named Pete whom she and Clark went to a Soul Asylum concert as teenagers. This is a nod to Pete Woods, who was Clark Kent's childhood best friend in the comics.
The reference to Clark being a Soul Asylum fan may be a clever nod to their most popular song, "Runaway Train." Superman is often associated with trains, being "more powerful than a locomotive"' according to the opening of The Adventures of Superman. Superman racing trains or saving trains is a common test of his skills and he did both in Superman: The Movie. The song is also a fair summation of Clark's attitude in this episode, as the song's singer describes feeling uncharacteristically depressed by the changes in their life and that things are going out of control, like a runaway train. The music video for "Runaway Train" is also notable in that it was used to showcase pictures of missing children and led to 26 missing minors being rescued.
When Jordan and Jonathan discover the ship that brought their father to Earth in the Kent barn, a crystal emerges from the ship when Jordan touches it. This is likely a Sunstone - a particularly Kryptonian crystal used as a power source and a construction tool.
Clark confirms that in addition to the classic super-haring and enhanced vision, he also has a sense of super smell. He tries not to use it too often, however, with two teenage boys living in his house.
The truck which Clark lifts to prove that he is Superman is the same model as the truck lifted by a baby Kal-El in Superman: The Movie.
Artist Joe Shuster gets another nod, with the Shuster Mines outside Smallville being named in his honor.
The battle between The Stranger and Superman starts at the Hudson Nuclear Power Planet. This is also the name of the facility where a nuclear reactor accident transformed Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein into the hero Firestorm.
Superman is unable to see through lead with his X-Ray vision.
After his battle with Superman, The Stranger ways he must improve the tactile function and speed of his armor to have any hope of beating him.
Lois: You're worried about Jordan.
Clark: I tried talking to him last night, but he was pretty upset.
Lois: Well, if he knew where you really were... your parents told you about your real heritage when you were six.
Clark: That was... that was different. I lived on a farm. I had powers.
Lois: You don't think Jonathan's got something?
Clark: Test at the Fortress said it was unlikely.
Lois: He's about to be starting quarterback at one of the most competitive high schools in the nation... as a freshman.
Clark: Yeah. Doesn't mean he has powers.
Lois: Have you seen him throw a deep route?!
(Kyle Cushing has been praising Morgan Edge and his plans to revitalize Smallville.)
Lois: Morgan Edge ruins everything he touches.
Kyle: What's he ruined?
Lois: He is single-handedly destroying the Daily Planet.
Kyle: People quit reading that paper 'cause, uh, you reporters can't keep your politics to yourselves.
Lois: Edge's companies prey on struggling communities. He busts up unions. He barely pays a living wage. I don't understand how he can keep fooling people.
Kyle: Oh, you mean us dumb, backwards, small-town folk?
Lois: No, no, that is not what I meant.
Kyle: I know what you meant. See, people like you, you look at Smallville, and you think of the past, and you feel a little bad for us, right? People like Morgan Edge, though, now, see, he looks at Smallville, and he sees the future.
Lois: It's not a future I would wanna live in.
Kyle: It's a good thing we don't have to worry about that anymore, now, do we?
Lois: When we were dreaming about having a family, it didn't look like this, did it? Didn't have lost jobs or... Teens with severe anxiety or... Parents gone too soon. No one ever dreams about the problems, but every life has them. Even the extraordinary ones.
General Sam Lane: When you wanted to get married, I tried warning you. You may have fallen in love with Clark Kent, but you married Superman. And Superman doesn't get to have a normal life, no matter how much you want one for him. Or yourself.
Clark: Why would my mom want me to come home just to sell the farm?
Lois: I don't think she wanted you to sell it. I think she wanted you to save it.
Clark: How? You know, we're not exactly flush with cash, especially after getting fired.
Lois: I don't know yet. But those reverse mortgages weren't because the bank was feeling generous. You may have super strength and super hearing, but I have super smell, and those loans don't smell right.
(There's a long pause. Clark smiles.)
Clark: I do have super smell, by the way. I just don't use it very often, you know. Not with two teenage boys in the house. Kinda gross.
(Jonathan and Jordan emerge from the barn, rushing the truck looking very upset.)
Lois: Two very upset teenage boys.
(Clark has just revealed his secret identity to his sons.)
Lois: When your father first told me, I didn't understand either.
Jordan: I understand. I understand all the excuses. All the times you were gone, you lied to us. You both did.
Lois: He was saving lives, Jordan.
Jordan: That doesn't make it less true! You lied to protect his secret. All the things I've been feeling. You made me think I was crazy. They put me on pills!
Lois: Your mental health has nothing to do with who your...
Jordan: And how do you know that? I'm half human, half whatever the hell he is!
Clark: Do not yell at your mother, okay? This is not her fault. I'm the one that didn't want you to know.
Clark: Because I knew what kind of burden it would be if you both had powers. Or worse, if one of you had them, and the other one didn't.
Jordan: You think he's the reason we survived yesterday.
Jonathan: (confused) What are you talking about?
Jordan: Go on, Dad. Go tell Superboy here why he's really so perfect.
Lois: We thought your athletic talents could be latent abilities starting to emerge, and then yesterday...
Clark: The only way that both of you survived that accident is for at least one of you to be like me.
Jordan: You wouldn't have it any other way, would you, Dad?
(Jordan turns around and starts to walk away. Clark tries to follow after him.)
Jordan: Don't try to talk to me, all right? You may have been sent here to be some hero, but you sure as hell weren't sent here to be a father.
(Jordan keeps walking. Jonathan plants himself between Jordan and Clark and shakes his head.)
Jonathan: Just leave us alone.
Clark: Everything I do with the boys just... seems like it blows up in my face. Is Jordan right? A... am I a bad father?
Clark: Cause right now, I... It feels like it's my fault that this is all falling apart.
Lois: Your life falling apart doesn't mean you're special. It means you're human.
The Stranger: Aren't you curious how I know so much about you, Kal-El? Like me, your home was destroyed. (voice growing angrier) You were sent here as an infant to a world where you'd spend your whole life trying to prove your worth, convince yourself you were one of them. But you're not! You're still that scared, lost child, desperate for the love of people that will never accept you!
(A piece of Kryptonte emerges from The Stranger's gauntlet.)
The Stranger: And the only remnants of your real home... Kryptonite... make you sick.
(The stranger stabs Clark in the chest with the Kryptonite shiv. He begins to fall to Earth.)
The Stranger: Dust to dust. Superman.
(Jordan watches Sarah walk off. Jonathan walks up.)
Jonathan: (jokingly) Well, that didn't look like a total disaster. (seriously) All right?
Jordan: Yeah, yeah, look. Um, Jon, about the powers, uh...
Jonathan: It's all good.
Jonathan: Yeah. Powers are overrated anyways. Plus this just confirms what I've known to be true all along.
Jonathan: Yeah. My skills on the field are legit.
(The Stranger enters into a complex spaceship. He begins speaking to an artificial intelligence.)
The Stranger: We need to improve tactile function and speed if I'm gonna end this.
AI: We also need Kryptonite. That was the last of your supply.
The Stranger: Then we'll have to go get some.
AI: I'll install the upgrades to your armor right away. Captain Luthor.
Clark remembers the day he came to Earth and the first time he saw the faces of his adoptive parents.
Clark's powers manifested when he was a toddler and he threw a toy rocket through a corner of the Kent farm house.
Jonathan Kent died of a heart attack while Clark was a teenager, while attending a harvest festival.
Clark's first grade teacher was named Lois Hannigan,
In a retcon from S509, Lois and Clark got married and had kids far earlier than in the Pre-Crisis Arrowverse. As the pilot opens, Jonathan and Jordan are both 14 and about to start their freshman year in high school.
Clark describes Jonathan as an easy child, always happy and always smiling. A born athlete, he was capable of breaking a rope with a football at a young age.
Clark describes Jordan as a challenging child, prone to fits and night terrors. He was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder a year earlier and is taking medication to treat it.
Superman averts a nuclear meltdown, following what is described as the second attack on a nuclear facility by an unseen figure who cracked the cooling tower.
Clark hasn't told his sons he is Superman for fear of them not being able to keep the secret. Lois disagrees with him on this, thinking it's better they be honest.
Jonathan has a girlfriend named Eliza.
Jonathan has become the starting quarterback for his high school: something that is quite unusual for a freshman player, as they usually aren't allowed to be on the varsity teams.
Clark missed his therapy session with Jordan due to some unnamed disaster.
Clark was the team manager of the high school football team in Smallville and was duct-taped to a tractor.
Clark is fired from his job at the Daily Planet. Lois blames this on billionaire Morgan Edge, who bought the Daily Planet and has been slashing its budget and slowly phasing out the real journalists and replacing them with click-bait writers.
Martha Kent dies of a stroke.
At the funeral, Lois and Clark talk to a farmer named Branden, who sold his farm to Oberlee Foods the year before.
Lana Lang is married to Kyle Cushing - the fire chief of Smallville. They have two daughters, Sarah and Sophie.
Jordan and Jonathan remember playing with Sarah a few summers earlier when they spent the whole summer on the Kent farm.
Kyle Cushing is apparently jealous of Clark's friendship with Lana. According to Sophie, her father got mad when she saw Clark on his wife's Facebook page.
Sarah gives her phone number to Jordan, not Jonathan, astounding them both.
Sarah is a member of the Future Farmers of America
Clark has barely aged since high school, according to Lana.
According to Kyle, more and more people are abandoning Smallville: something that annoys him and something he holds against Clark, who left Metropolis to become a reporter and never came back.
Morgan Edge has apparently made a proposal to the town council of Smallville to buy up their old coal mines and retrofit them to become an alternative energy center.
Kyle views Edge as a great man who sees the potential of small town American while elitist reporters see them as backward places full of hicks.
Ma Kent keeps her wi-fi router hung up in a high point in the barn.
The boys were forbidden from going into the barn on the Kent farm when they were kids.
Clark reveals that before his mother died, he heard her whisper "Come home," but he's not sure what she meant except it wasn't to get him to come to her before she died.
Jordan accidentally upends a collection of steel pipes trying to reset the router. He and Johnathan emerge from the pile with mild concussions but nothing broken.
General Lane tells Clark that they found two microscopic engravings, both written in Kryptonian, at both of the nuclear sites that were attacked by a figure they identify as The Stranger, who only appeared as a blur on one bit of video footage. Clark translates the inscription as reading "You are not a hero, Kal-El." This indicates that The Stranger knows Kryptonian and his Kryptonian name, which is not widely known information.
Lana reveals that Martha Kent mortgaged her farm to help out other people in Smallville who were in need, as the local bank began offering reverse mortgages to senior citizens at the peak of the farming crisis. The people she helped included the Gordon Family and Margie Kelton.
Lana tells Clark and Lois they can either repay Martha's loan or accept a buyout for the remaining value of the Kent farm.
Jordan and Jonathan discover the rocket that brought their father to Earth in the Kent barn.
Jonathan and Jordan learn their father's secret and are upset about being lied to about it.
Clark has to leave to confront The Stranger at the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant.
The Stranger knows that Superman can't see through lead, which was why he targeted nuclear facilities: to be sure of being able to observe Superman without being seen.
The Stranger claims to have a history with the Last Son of Krypton where he is from and that his world was destroyed, leaving him as the sole survivor, much like Superman and Krypton.
Jordan goes to a rave at Shuster mines with Sarah.
Sarah recognized that Jordan was on medication and advises him not to drink a beer.
Sarah is also on medication and in therapy after stealing some of her mother's pills a year earlier.
Jordan tries to kiss Sarah, just as she's seen by her boyfriend, Sean.
A fight breaks out. Jonathan tries to protect Jordan, but is jumped by several people.
In a moment of panic, Jordan manifests heat vision and blows up the keg.
The Stranger stabs Superman with a shiv made of Kryptonite, sending him falling to Earth.
Superman is able to pull the shive and stop himself from crashing into a car.
Lois starts investigating the last six years worth of Smallville Community Bank activity.
Only one student is injured by the exploding keg - a football player named Tag Harris, whose arm is broken.
Jordan admits that he was the one who saved Jonathan by covering him up during their accident.
Clark promises he will be there from now on to help Jordan control his powers and deal with his anxiety.
Lois discovered that Morgan Edge's company, Galaxy Holdings, took over Smallville Community Bank and started offering up the reverse mortgages that started ruining the town.
Sarah and Jordan agree to stay friends.
The family decide to move to Smallville.
The final scene reveals that The Stranger is a Luthor.
The montage glosses over most of Superman's early career and how he and Lois fell in love.
The episode does not make mention of Lex Luthor or Supergirl, presumably so as to be more accessible to new viewers by not burdening them with the history of the Arrowverse or how Superman and Lois' life was changed by Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The Fridge Factor
While Lois never comes off as incompetent, the pilot does focus more on Clark and his emotional state than hers, making her seem like something of a supporting character rather than an equal partner.
The Bottom Line
Apart from not giving Lois Lane much to do as we're introduced to Clark and their sons, this is as perfect an introduction to these characters and the Arrowverse as could be hoped for. With any luck Lois will get more time to shine in future episodes.