The Arrowverse began nearly a decade ago with the launch of Arrow on The CW. From there, different characters and concepts developed into a shared universe, following the basic model Arrow Statement: The title superhero battles villains and disasters with the help of a dedicated support team. This basic structure worked for so long because it grounded the larger-than-life heroes of the universe into relatively human communities and gave them surrogate families without the responsibilities that come with marriage and children. Essentially, it imparts family warmth without making the heroes feel too old for The CW’s traditionally younger biased audience.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow broke that mold to some degree by not centering its team around a single protagonist (which also keeps the show from capsizing when one leaves – like it did in the season finale 7), but the first significant step away from this style came with Black Lightning. Now, with its focus on the human family, Superman and Lois moved away from the template and created a new one for all potential future Arrowverse shows.
At Black Lightning, Jefferson Pierce was an established adult with an ex-wife and two mostly adult daughters. His family was, more or less, a traditional nuclear family like viewers would see in a sitcom like The simpsons (unless it was Nelson’s family), and his “team” was really only Peter Gambi, his surrogate father. Corn Black Lightning still used a similar visual style, and over its four seasons, Jefferson’s family became the Black Lightning team, complete with a high-tech lair. The series still ended up following Arrowis in the lead.
Superman and Lois takes up the early-season innovations of Black Lightning and run with them. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are in their 20-plus career years, and despite their well-earned confidence in their respective fields, they still struggle to maintain a balance between work and personal life. Rather than avoiding the complications of parenting like dealing with conflicted children or trying to keep its characters in a state of perpetual youth, Superman and Lois embrace the mess that comes with adulthood.
Superman and Lois also feels grounded in a way the rest of the Arrowverse doesn’t. Green Arrow, Flash, and Batwoman rarely interact with regular people; they spend almost all of their time with their team members and fellow superheroes. As a result, the large communities they serve – Star City, Central City, and Gotham City – feel like they consist mostly of extras. The Smallville of Superman and Lois is lively and dynamic, filled with characters whose lives don’t have to include mortal peril to be compelling. Lana Lang running for mayor, Kyle Cushing battling alcoholism, Chrissy Beppo running a small-town independent newspaper all add richness to the central story of the Lane-Kent family by integrating them into a community that does not turn around them.
In addition to allowing Lois, Clark, and the rest of Smallville to navigate the ups and downs of everyday life, Superman and Lois also stands out artistically from its predecessors. Or the flash and batman show off every bit of their modest CW budgets, Superman and Lois manages to look downright cinematic. Rather than standard STAR Labs or Wayne Tower settlement shots, it offers panoramic views of the Kent Farm at sunrise. This higher-quality visual style, combined with improved special effects, more mature writing, and naturalistic acting, created a whole new kind of CW superhero show.
When it was created, Arrow reimagined what a superhero TV series could be and helped launch an entire universe. As Smallville before that, Arrow‘s impact on the genre will reverberate for many years to come. However, to stay alive, art must adapt and evolve. Superman and Lois represents this development. Next series like Gotham Knights and Justice U, would do well to emulate its many strengths. Moving forward, Superman and Lois is the basis of The CW’s DC Universe.
KEEP READING: Superman & Lois Season 2, Episode 7, “Anti-Heroes”, Recap and Spoilers
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