THE SUPERMAN AND LOIS TAPES EPISODE 21: FAIL SAFE OR EVERYTHING IS SUS

Episode 21: Fail Safe or Everything Is Sus

Alison is still on a secret mission but Bethany and Michael managed to get together to discuss the latest episode of Superman and Lois, which was titled Fail Safe.  The episode is half listener feedback, half show commentary, and all Bethany and Michael being really tired, so things get a little silly at times.  Bethany explains why everthing is sus throughout the episode and Michael loved this episode so much because of what it reminded him of in his Superman fandom.

And the revelation of The Most Punchable Face will not shock anymore.

As promised, here are some of the emails we received.  Enjoy!

First up, from Ramon!

I feel a little guilty that my first email to a Michael Bailey podcast is not to From Crisis to Crisis, which I’ve enjoyed enormously  for over a decade and I’m so grateful for (that’ll be another long winded-email to him and Jeffrey), but after watching episode 11 several times I really wanted to write in to Tapes. As a long time listener of Michael’s shows I feel that, especially regarding Superman, he and I grew up reading the same comics and think exactly the same about the character and which iterations we like and respect (Sometimes I think an opinion and then he voices it later in the episode!). So when Superman and Lois was announced, one of my first wishes was: I hope we get a Bailey after show podcast! What we got is even better: Allison and Bethany are excellent partners, and the dynamic of the BAM Crew is absolutely delightful! Every Sunday I’m refreshing my feed waiting for your next installment, and I thank you for enhancing the TV show’s experience for this old timer Kal-El fan.

Clark has been on screen all my life: Christopher Reeve, the animated shows and Superfriends, the live-action Superboys, Lois & Clark, the Dini and Timm animated series and its Justice League follow up, Smallville, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill… But Superman and Lois is the first project that truly feels like an adaptation of the Mike Carlin Era Superman just fifteen years later, having forged a family with Lois. When I heard the premise I regretted they wouldn’t live in Metropolis, but later I understood it was a genius move: There’s a whole generation who grew up with Tom Welling operating in Smallville, and that familiar setting might draw them in (Plus, X-Kryptonite is kinda like meteor rocks). And the Kents can always move back to Metropolis in future seasons. With Morgan Edge exposed as an alien conqueror, the next owner of the Daily Planet will be eager to re-hire Lois and Clark as soon as the show writers are ready for the Big Apricot.

Every episode has surpassed my expectations with the quality of the storytelling and the writers’ understanding of the essence of these characters. They tastefully flex their geek cred with references like Killgrave, the Whitty Banter show, the Eradicator, Dabney Donovan and of course, Steel. I hope this show runs longer than The Walking Dead! Having said that, I was reluctant about getting a flashback episode this early in the series, because this Clark is old enough that I can fit into his background any head canon I want from the triangle books, and episode 11 was the first one to inspire in me some nerdish quibbles.

I’ve never liked the versions where Superman spent years isolated in the Fortress learning with Hologramps. I’m partial to the interpretations where he travels the world as Clark, learning about humanity from experience. I don’t understand why creators feel they’re mutually exclusive. I suppose there’s enough ellipsis in these flashbacks for both to have happened, thought it seems unlikely because the first thing Clark would do is visit Ma and tell her what he’s up to, or at least email her like in Waid’s Birthright. My ideal young Clark spends those formative years traveling the world, visiting Smallville and training at the Fortress.

While I’m glad Martha made the suit, I wish they’d gone full Byrne and had Clark debut in plainclothes, get nicknamed Superman and out of that the S symbol is designed. Not just because a Kryptonian sigil looking just like our S is too coincidental, but because my Clark wouldn’t even think of designing a costume first, he would just help anyone he could, and once the cat was out of the bag, then he would work on a secret identity. This also undermines Lois creating the Superman moniker the way she did in Byrne’s Man of Steel. And that old “they all wanted a piece of me, Pa” line would’ve worked so well in today’s culture, with him swarmed by smartphone cameras and influencers and the such.

Using the Fleischer costume to recreate the Action Comics # 1 cover in the pilot was sheer genius and I was ecstatic with that scene, which worked much more effectively than Routh’s, but I didn’t see it as his debut then. I guess I’m partial to a bigger superfeat, like catching a plane. Nevertheless, I must sing the praise: DAMN! A good shirt rip, the Fleischer suit, the Action green car, “my Mom made it for me” and a phone booth change in a seamless sequence! That’s one for the history books! And as a coda, a very subtle but efficient way of explaining the glasses-as-disguise when he asks the bystander if she saw what the man who saved the boy looked like and she replied “he looked like a guy in a cape who was flying”. So much tradition, nostalgia and reverence in less than two minutes!  (Professor Bailey, can we get The History of The Phone Booth Spin, pretty please?)

I hated the Perry White job interview. It was too Donner for our times. If the Planet is the important news organization we’ve always seen it as, there’s no way Perry would hire an inexperienced walk-in and pair him with a rising star like Lane. At best Kent would be picking up Jimmy’s dry-cleaning. I understand that in today’s virtue signaling environment Byrne’s solution of Clark getting the job through the first Superman interview would be problematic and would probably generate a hashtag campaign, but that’s why he has to grow up traveling the world, studying society firsthand, and doing freelance journalism that would build a resume worthy of a shot at the Daily Planet.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff: Lois Freakin’ Lane! We’ve never had a real good live action Lois before. Back in my youth I claimed it was Teri Hatcher, but that opinion vanished upon rewatching Lois & Clark in the 21st century. Maybe writing a contemporary but balanced Lois has challenged previous writers. Michael nailed it with his description: She needs to come across as assertive and independent, but not cold. And I would add not bitchy, like she’s been in certain versions and even during early Post-Crisis comics.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lois unfazed by the Metropolis Marvel’s debut before, either as an infatuation or as the story of the century she needs to land, and this felt so right. Not only is she healthily skeptical of a flying savior, but she is properly more concerned about relevant community issues. And she brings Clark’s attention to real social problems he can’t engage with from the sky, making her an intrinsic part of the myth from the get-go. And then she flirts with Clark FIRST?  Just the upgrade the legend needed! I applaud that she never pined for Superman and instead organically fell in love with Clark. It displays Lois’ superpower and worth: She sees through to people’s true essence and value.  I’m trying to shove the TV interview sequence into my head canon as fast as I can, because it was flawless. Besides Lois’ romantic choices, Tyler’s body language throughout was impeccably Superman’s. And kudos on a very clever way of getting around recent years’ sensitivity over “the American way” phrase while using it to advance the storytelling.

(Sidenote:  The Seinfeld reruns were another clever nod. Jerry is a Superman fan and had a statue in his apartment in the show. Hope he watched and enjoyed his mention.)

I wonder if covid restrictions (budget doesn’t seem to be an issue with this gorgeous show) deprived us of a truly grand Superman/Lois meet cute, but regardless, Atom Man was an inspired choice of antagonist given the cultural reckoning we’re living these days (without getting nearly as preachy as Supergirl). Loved that Lois wasn’t a damsel in distress falling from wherever.  Yes, Clark saved her from the flamethrower, but when she tased the crap out of Miller I cheered! This writers’ room seems to understand that Clark doesn’t fall for Lois because of her looks but because of the strength, integrity and courage that make her an equal partner to him.

I’ve come to see Lois as a formidably malleable character who over eighty years has evolved and reflected women’s perceived role in American-influenced society. Gone are the days when she chased Superman for marriage and those hilarious Superdickery covers. Kidder, Byrne, Hatcher, the triangle writers, Delaney, Durance and Adams all moved her up the ladder, but now Bitsie is The Woman, my definitive Lois Lane. And she runs the Kent household like a boss! Long live Bulloch’s Lois!

I could gush over Hoechlin’s performance too, but I agree with everything you three have said in the podcast. And calling him the Mike Carlin Superman is the highest praise in my book.

I’m aware I should wrap this up before you put me on your SPAM list, but I’ll share a few thoughts on the ongoing storyline before signing off.

As Michael said, this show has been bullish about embracing and paying homage to the many iterations that came before while pushing ahead, and while I’m sure there’s an intern at DC compiling obscure references for the writers’ room, they’ve earned the right to introduce new elements like Tal-Rho who, in the Martian Manhunter-Savitar-Vigilante-Steel Arrowverse style came from a twist on fan expectations, but also works story wise positioning him in contrast to Kal not only by the fortresses’ locations, but through a secret identity as a Lex wannabe versus Clark’s humble reporter. I don’t know if he will survive the test of time, he seems like a one trick Zod-ish pony, but it does take the show’s family premise and elevates it to the biggest conflict budget allows.

It’s tough to take this Kryptonian crisis with the allegedly covid-induced absence of Kara (especially after Fort Rozz  and Reign, incidents that validate Sam Lane’s punchable face), but we don’t really know where these events sit in the new Arrowverse timeline, and I agree with Michael that it’s set after her show’s finale, which I suspect will end with her either going into space or going into the future to join the Legion, thus keeping the door open for her to make guest appearances in the surviving shows. I was also surprised by the change in Fortress design, but I envision it as a vast complex and tell myself Kal has just been visiting a different chamber than Kara so far.

An unpopular opinion: If the character hadn’t been so tarnished by a certain actress, Chrissy Beppo’s name should’ve been Chloe Sullivan and she would’ve had a Wall of the Weird in her office.

Which John do you think Lois called? I suspect the original plan was for John Diggle, who befriended them during the crossovers. I’ve seen reports that the pandemic motivated Captain Luthor’s rework as John Henry, so maybe Diggle is out, and I’m happy with as much Steel as I can get! Maybe his daughter was named Natalie in his world so there would be the opportunity for him to meet a Natasha in this one.

Wish list for future seasons: Whenever the Kents move back to Metropolis, due to Superman’s reduced presence it’s now patrolled by Gangbuster! Alpha Centurion returns! He almost wooed Lois away from Clark when they were dating but was called away to a space crisis. A flashback with the Legion where Clark learns to wear glasses, like in the animated series! Cadmus done right! Kon-El as a half-brother who wasn’t raised by the Kents! (Damn, my age is showing!) And what do you guys think about John Cryer? I haven’t watched Supergirl past Crisis yet, but he was a surprisingly good Luthor. Do you think he will fit in this show?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to your Joe Rogan style long form Todd Helbing interview once you get the Baldy award for being the premiere Superman and Lois podcast. Indulging in this email has felt like writing to a comic’s letter page back in the day. Thank you for your effort and for your enthusiasm. The BAM Crew already feels like friends I hangout to geek over our shared love of Superman, all the way down here in Panama, Central America. I hope Tapes runs for many years to come!

All the best,

Paco

(My nickname might be easier to read than my full name)

P.S.: Will we ever be able to read the Flash spec script?

And then from Tim R.

First of all, thank you to Michael for plugging Save Me even after I told him he didn’t have to read that part of my last email. You’re truly a gentleman and a scholar, Michael. Not to make you feel old, but I soon turn 27 and have listened to you since you first started Views in 2007. I’ll let you do the math.

In the time I’ve gone from stupid child to stupid adult, your shows have been an enjoyable constant.

You know what’s also constant , though unenjoyable? Infighting within the proverbial family.

It’s come to my attention that there’s a lot of animosity between the Supergirl fans and the Superman and Lois fans. Some of them, anyway.

Now again, I’m a Superman fan. Michael has said it before, we can’t agree on how to make Kool-Aid. To see “our people” going to war with each other is not new, and it’s not surprising – but I still find it disheartening.

Many were previously upset that Kara wasn’t mentioned with Uncle Edge reveal and felt like the show was ignoring her own familial connection to put over Clark’s angst…

I, like you, rationalized it. Kara came to Earth when Clark was an adult. Uncle Edge was there the whole time, and Clark didn’t know it. Kara came into his life later, but Clark grew up thinking he was alone. He was never alone though, and that’s part of the tragedy of it.

Now people are apparently upset that Lois turned to our man John Henry for help, rather than calling in Kara since she (pre crisis at least) was confirmed to have been stronger than Superman.

Again, this I can try to rationalize. Timeline wise, maybe this also happens while Kara is stuck in the phantom zone. Also, it’s likely Lois knows that Kara has her own stuff she’s dealing with… and why take her away from that meanwhile you have someone like John Henry who had spent so much time prepping for a confrontation and who doesn’t have anything else occupying his time since he went to go walk the earth like Caine from Kung Fu.

Again, I’ve listened to you for years Michael. I’ve picked up some analogies.

I just disagree though, with those who think that Superman and Lois somehow disrespects Kara or Melissa by existing… that they’re trying to actively undermine her. That’s. I’m sorry, that’s foolish to think so. There’s no schemes or efforts to slight anyone.

Strong words yes, but it reminds me of the oversensitive Snyder fans what with their persecution complex.

Supergirl ending has nothing to do with Clark and Lois getting a show, and probably everything to do with Melissa wanting to take some time away and enjoy motherhood. She put in the work, appreciate it and let her walk away when she decides she’s ready to move on.

Again, Snyder fans re Affleck and Batman.

Honestly though, even if COVID hadn’t been a factor? I know there were scrapped plans for a Batwoman crossover, but I quite enjoy that that the show has been rather self contained up until this latest Diggle appearance.

Maybe that’s because I’ve become so disinterested in the rest of the universe, and I find the storytelling and production value to be of a higher quality… but also? I’ve got myself a conspiracy theory.

Don’t worry, not the Alex Jones kind.

I don’t think the Arrowverse as a concept is long for this world. Of the Justice League Lite team that Crisis set up, the majority of them are now off the table. I doubt everyone knew what was in store at the time, but now merging the earths seems almost sort of pointless.

Kate Kane, Black Lightning, now presumably Supergirl and Martian Manhunter – unless they send him to Legends when Sueprgirl ends.

I know that Cress Williams has stated he’s been invited to appear on The Flash next season, but speaking of Flash? I can see it matching Arrow’s 8 season run, but I don’t see it matching Smallville’s 10 season one.

And that’s not any sort of haughty Smallville bias. The TV landscape is much different than it was even ten years ago when Smallville ended, and when you have OG linchpins like Carlos Valdez and Tom Cavanagh leaving? I don’t know, guys. I don’t know.

I enjoy Legends, it’s fun…but it’s not must see TV. It’s never been must see TV. Not for me, at least.

Batwoman’s been met with lukewarm (no pun intended, Luke Fox) reception this season from what I understand. I feel bad for the poor actress who got the thankless task of replacing the lead – and then they brought the lead back and recast her – and I loved Wallis Day on Krypton, but now you have people who are mad that her Kate won’t be sticking around. You have Luke becoming Batwing, and people feel more of a connection to him because they’ve known him longer.

It’s. Messy.

Again, I’m happy to have Superman and Lois divorced from all that. What’s the opposite of the red headed step child? Cause that’s what this show is to me. The diamond in the rough, I suppose.

Arrow’s over. Black Lightning’s over. Supergirl will be over. I can see Flash, Legends, and Batwoman winding down.

There’s still Stargirl, but I could see that easily moving to HBO Max ala it’s former DC Universe brethren Titans and Doom Patrol.

And I’d be fine if Superman and Lois joined it.

Those two are in a league of their own in terms of the story and effects, and knowing Berlanti already has projects over there – along with more on the way like his Green Lantern Corps show?

With all the WB/Discover shakeups… I can see the DC content transitioning off network TV.

And you know what? I’m fine with it, so long as Superman and Lois lives on. It had a good run.

Smallville started in 2001 on the WB and carried on onto the CW. While it wasn’t directly the same universe and they tried to chart their own path – the fact Arrow premiered a year after Smallville went off the air is a direct result of the Justin Hartley’s incarnation on Smallville.

The two are different interpretations, surely – it’s like comparing Michael Keaton to Christian Bale.

I maintain though, that Arrow never would have been ordered had the response to the character on Smallville cause the network to see potential in the character.

And so while Smallville isn’t connected to the Arrowverse outside of Crisis, maybe it *is* the haughty Smallville fan in me that feels like it’s directly responsible for it existing.

So from 2001 to 2021… that’s two decades  of DC comics characters on the network. Consistently. Without fail, with the single exception of the 2011-2012 season.

And we know WB is trying to sort of rework DC films. Almost a soft reboot of sorts, unofficially things like The Suicide Squad and probably eventually with the Flash film. They’re cleaning house, keeping what works and throwing out what doesn’t.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re looking to do the same with their TV shows. Superman and Lois is working, so I hope that it survives. And if it’s the only relic of the Arrowverse left in a few years, and moves from The CW to the centralized DC hub on HBO Max? If they try to make that the catch all place for DC shows?

Well. I’m fine with that. I don’t know that The CW will be able to survive without them, but that’s their problem.

Again, this is all just conspiracy tinfoil hat stuff. And complaining about my fellow geek brothers and sisters.

Apologies for yet another long winded and tangential email, but I look forward to hearing your guys’ thoughts and input.

Do you feel the same way re the fan manufactured conflict between shows?

Am I crazy for thinking that the shared universe is winding down?

– Tim

Thanks to everyone that wrote in.

The Superman and Lois Tapes can be found on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show can be reached by email at [email protected].  You can also leave comments here or over at the Facebook page for the show, which you can get to by clicking this link.

The main theme for the show is “Heroes” by the awesome Mike Schmidt.  You can find his work over at Speed Force Music.

Next Time: The Crew reunites!

3 thoughts on “THE SUPERMAN AND LOIS TAPES EPISODE 21: FAIL SAFE OR EVERYTHING IS SUS”

  1. Great Show as usual! Finally caught up with Superman and Lois on the CW app. Have mix feelings on the brother. I always hated the “long lost sibling” trope it hardly ever works. And also would love you guys to do Smallville if you ever have the chance!

  2. Thanks for a really fun episode. I, too, miss Alison, and look forward to her return, but I really enjoyed loopy, sleep-deprived Michael. (By the way, “Kryptonite Nevermore” saw all the Kryptonite on Earth turned to iron, not lead, and by the even further way, “Nevermore” was clearly not as long as one might have expected.)
    I very much enjoyed hearing the feedback from other fans, which makes me happy that there are other similarly-minded fans (of both the TV series and the podcast) out there. It’s always interesting to hear other people’s “takes”, because it often shows me things I haven’t thought of. That makes me want to tell Michael, don’t feel as if your not “catching on” to “Tal-Ro is going to become The Eradicator” sooner. You certainly haven’t let this fan down. I didn’t realize that “Captain Luthor” was John Henry Irons until just before the actual explicit reveal on the show, and I didn’t the The Eradicator coming, either, although, in retrospect, both of those developments were hinted at earlier than their reveals. I actually enjoy being surprised in that way. It means that the writers are “playing fair” by making it possible for someone to figure these things out early, but are talented enough to hide them in plain sight, making the reveal a surprise. That’s got to be a difficult tightrope to navigate, and I applaud their talent and skill in doing so.
    I long ago wrote an iTunes review, but maybe I’ll try to create a fake profile or two to add to the total, if only to move things further along the road to flowcharts and musical episodes.

  3. Edits to my comment above:

    “don’t feel as if your not “catching on” to “Tal-Ro is going to become The Eradicator” sooner” let people down.

    “and I didn’t” see the The Eradicator coming, either,

    Sorry for those mis-typed sentences.

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