Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Church of Metropolis”/”Operation Blackout”

Chris: Hey hi everyone and welcome back to Lois and Clark and Chris and Ronnie, your one stop shopping destination for recaps of old episodes of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in 2022. Also, possibly your only stop shopping destination.  I can’t imagine why there would be more than one site dedicated to covering Lois and Clark, I’m not even sure why we’re doing it. Anyway, last week saw the first real stumble of season two with “The Prankster,” Bronson Pinchot was a lot of fun but everything else was pretty limp, even for L&C. Today we’re getting Peter Boyle and Dick Miller in “Church of Metropolis” along with Charles Rocket and J.T. Walsh (Really? J.T. Walsh? Okay. Wow.) in “Operation Blackout.” That’s an impressive lineup of talent and Charles Rocket they’ve got lined up, but we just saw another high-profile star saddled with a subpar episode. Do Miller, Boyle and Walsh suffer the same fate? Judging by “Church of Metropolis” it’s safe to say the answer is a resounding don’t be ridiculous.

That joke would have worked better in the previous recap, but I couldn’t find anywhere to work it in. Also, I didn’t think of it until now. Look, it’s not like I’m getting paid for any of this.

There’s a lot to like in “Church of Metropolis”. It’s a dense, well plotted episode that tells a solid story while also setting up personal and professional conflicts that will (one assumes) play out over the rest of the season. The episode opens with Lois and Clark eating at her previously unmentioned Uncle Mike’s (the great Dick Miller) restaurant in a run down part of Metropolis. By “run down” I mean Death Wish 3 level lawlessness. Things are so bad that, while using the bathroom, Clark witnesses a hoodlum casually setting Uncle Mike’s place on fire. What seems like a series of unconnected crimes looks to Lois more like a targeted campaign of terror and after a little digging she’s able to put together a puzzle with one, unmistakable image at the center. Intergang.


Dick Miller’s restaurant is right next to the dirty needles exchange and the bum shop ‘n’ swap.

What’s Intergang you ask? Well sit right down and let me tell you a tale. When I first came across Intergang stories in the early 90’s I naturally assumed they were another ham-fisted attempt to work in references to what was then bleeding edge computer culture into comics. Everyone had read the first couple chapters of Neuromancer and stupid characters with names like Cable and Cyberforce were all the rage. Even William Shatner’s classic “Tekwar” novels had been adapted into comics. I think I can be forgiven for thinking at fourteen that Intergang was a part of that goofy trend. But the truth is, Intergang was introduced by Jack Kirby in the mid-70’s as part of the Fourth World story. The inter in Intergang had nothing to do with the internet, it instead referred to a group of gangs that all worked together in an interdependent way, sowing crime and chaos and generally preparing the Earth for the coming of Darkseid. It’s one of those Kirby ideas that’s super fun and super goofy because how is a gang anything other than a group that works together in an interdependent way? You could call them Ganggang and it would mean the same thing. It’s the Manos: the Hands of Fate of criminal conspiracies.

But I digress. Eventually Intergang went from being a front for an Intergalactic Despot to a more run-of-the-mill mob, run by regular old humans, albeit humans who sometimes worked with intergalactic despots . For a long time the boss was media mogul and Daily Planet Nemesis Morgan Edge, a kind of post-Hearst, pre-Murdoch muckraker who did TV News, mistreated his employees and practiced dishonest journalism. There was a whole thing where Cat Grant sued him for sexual harrassment. In L&C Intergang is led by Bill Church (Peter Boyle) and he’s more in the mold of the guy who seems benevolent but is actually dangerous. Less William Randolph Hearst and more Sam Walton. I’m not sure, but I think they introduce him as a guy who owns a bunch of grocery stores? Church is seen as a working class hero because he provides good food at reasonable prices, but in reality he’s behind the gangs who are slashing and burning the inner city in an effort to bottom out real estate values so he can buy it all up and set up casinos and shit.  He’s a lot of fun.


If only they could get Peter Boyle as a recurring actor…

Ronnie: I too thought Intergang was some sort of space thing, because when I think ‘inter’ I think ‘intergalactic’, not ‘interdependent’. Blame the Beastie Boys for that one. I wonder if new readers think Intergang has some relationship to the Internet? Anyway, “Church of Metropolis” is packed with incidents, from new characters to a new status quo for the city of Metropolis. Of these new characters I think Farrah Forke’s Mayson Drake. One way to prolong the Lois and Clark’s will they/won’t they is to introduce other characters that vy for their affections, such that one or both of them may be in relationships at any given time. The further wrinkle, that Drake likes Clark but dislikes Superman, offers some opportunities to explore Clark’s relationship with his alter ego and how the criminal justice system views Superman. Add to that her connections with Intergang and you’ve got a multitude of angles for the character. Let’s see if the show uses any of them in forthcoming episodes.

In terms of other characters you’ve got Peter Boyle’s Bill Church as the nominal head of Intergang and Bruce Weitz as Martin Snell, his lawyer. Boyle I really like in this episode, because the concept of Peter Boyle as an organized crime head is hilarious, and the show plays with that incongruity too. He’ll be bitching about his high blood pressure or golfing in his office while conducting business. His cover is as a benevolent rich man, yet the testament to his riches is a big box store called Save Mart. The downside with the Boyle cast is that Bill Church doesn’t exactly evince menace, but that’s not a real problem because Lois & Clark rarely goes for that tone anyway.


Oh right, he looks like 1994 Dean Cain, glasses notwithstanding.

This episode has a lot going on and most of it is compelling. On the not compelling side is the Jimmy subplot in which he takes girl advice from Perry. For one thing, the idea that Jimmy is able to see a woman without an adult chaperone is absurd. Then you’ve got Perry mixing metaphors to an absurd degree, comparing dating and courtship to a jungle, so much so that jungle drums start playing in the background when he speaks. Perry’s overall advice is to basically ghost the chick, because unavailability will make her want you more. The conclusion to the subplot sees her fall into the arms of another guy and Jimmy is fucked and not in the good way. In an episode with assassinations and magic tracker bugs this detour doesn’t work and just wastes time.

Chris: You said a while back that you’d watch an entire series devoted to the Kent’s just puttering around their Kansas farmhouse and occasionally advising their superhero son via telephone. Well, to that I will add that I would watch a show that follows Peter Boyle while he sits at a table eating soup and directing supercrime, also via telephone. He’s just sitting there, leaning over the bowl like you do when the soup is real hot and you’re consistently blowing into the bowl between sips, and planning heinous shit in an empty room. It’s tremendous. There’s an obvious retread element to Church and Intergang in general, because it’s another seemingly benevolent rich guy who’s secretly a criminal mastermind, but I’m willing to let that go because Boyle is so fantastic and because I can believe that another billionaire creep would see the vacuum left by Luthor’s “death” and rush to fill it. One of the upsides of telling a story in a busy city like Metropolis is that you can ask your audience to accept that there’s always more than one thing going on at any given time and the idea that there was another villainous millionaire hiding in plain sight doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’m also pleased with Mason Drake, she seems like a great addition to the cast. There’s a tendency in some romantic comedy shows and movies to pair one of the main characters up with an obviously-wrong-for-them partner who exists only to be an impediment to the characters happiness and so the audience can have someone to hiss. I’ve always hated that trope, it makes the characters look stupid for even thinking the match would work and feels like weak pandering to the audience. Like we need for everything in life to be clean and clear and that the happiness of two people can never have any price. Drake is the other kind of potential partner, the kind who makes sense and you could see why someone would like them and why someone else would be threatened by them. She’s a funhouse reflection of Lois because she likes Clark and hates Superman, and you can see why that would be attractive to old C.K. but that’s also a built in limitation. Of course it’s obvious where this is all ultimately going to lead, but the whole point of a trip like this is the detours it takes on the way to it’s ultimate destination. Mason has the potential to be one of the interesting ones.

But, like you say, it’s all about how it ultimately plays out. I felt like the first season of L&C laid out it’s fair share of interesting potential conflicts and plotlines, only for most of them to fizzle out or fucking self destruct. If we’ve learned nothing else from our time watching this show (and I like to think we haven’t) it’s that you can’t just sit back and assume that the people behind the scenes know what they’re doing. These plots are promising, they have potential, but that’s it so far. That said, I’m optimistic, partially because that’s just my nature and partially because they keep giving me reason to be. The thing about Lois and Clark is that it has many of the pieces required to make a consistently entertaining show, they just haven’t figured out how to put them together yet.  And yeah, that brings us back to the central question of this whole series, What is L&C and is it worth watching? I still don’t really know,  but that’s better than finding the show to be flat out bad. I still like watching it more than I don’t. And that’s no small thing, considering we’re not halfway through the series yet.

Ronnie: Speaking of the Kents, they’re in fine form this episode as Clark explains to them his Mayson Drake dilemma. I’ve said this before but I think it’s a definite generational shift that a Generation X Clark has living parents whom he uses as a sounding board whereas Greatest Generation Clark was all alone in the big city, nobody knowing his true identity. There are benefits and drawbacks to both but I really enjoy these scenes where Clark hightails it to Smallville to reflect on what’s going on and receive some paternal and maternal advice. Martha has a good moment after Clark talks about how Mayson hates Superman but likes Clark where she says the day she feared has come: he’s started talking in the third person. Here Pa Kent when Clark explains his new love interest might be in the employ of a globe spanning organized crime syndicate: ”Well, nobody’s perfect, son.” “Is a member of Intergang” is just one of those drawbacks like “snores too loudly” or “never tries to pick up the check”. I love it.


All The President’s Supermen???

Odds & Ends

-The arsonist who gets busted trying to burn down Uncle Mike’s diner is a black guy named Baby Rage who’s in a gang known as The Skins. That’s a whole lot of I don’t think so, Tim. 
-Superman tells a criminal ”I hope for your sake you don’t mind showering in groups”. That’s the closest he’ll get to a threat of prison rape, because he’s Superman.
-The actor who plays Martin Snell later on voiced another Intergang member, Bruno Mannheim, on Superman: The Animated Series.
-Superman saves Perry and he asks if he necessarily needs to know what he was saved from. I love Perry.
-Lois getting shitty about Drake not wanting to meet Superman is funny. “Most people consider that an honor”

Chris: Sometimes an actor is too good. I remember catching My Best Friend’s Wedding back in 1997 and being reasonably entertained by Julia Roberts cavorting and capering until about halfway through the film Rupert Everett showed up and just burned the joint down. He was so charming and so entertaining that it inadvertently made the rest of the movie look worse in comparison.  Why am I wasting time hanging out with dumbass Julia Roberts as she tries to blow-up her idiot friend’s wedding, I was suddenly asking myself, why not follow her fabulous buddy as he makes dry quips and orchestrates pick-up Burt Bacherach musical numbers at various sea-food restaurants?  It’s like, remember when George agreed to watch that stranger’s bag for an indeterminate amount of time? Remember how he asked a different stranger to watch the bag and the guy said what, so you can leave me standing here like an asshole, and walked away? Remember how Jerry started to follow the stranger and when George asked him where he was going he said I wanna be friends with that guy? That was me with Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. I was hanging out being friends with Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulrooney when all of a sudden a better option presented itself and suddenly they didn’t seem so interesting anymore. Sometimes an actor is too good.

This is my long way of saying I wonder if they shouldn’t have cast J.T. Walsh in “Operation Blackout.” the episode is primarily about Walsh and Charles Rocket playing military officers who conspire to commit murder and sow terror in Metropolis in order to rise in the ranks and seize control of a stupid super-tank/proto-drone/Robbie the Robot killing machine. And it’s decent enough I guess, certainly there have been far worse episodes of L&C, but Walsh is just naturally so good and so fucking intense, that he kind of makes everyone else look bad. And he’s not even really trying. He’s playing a weaselly second in command at an army base outside of Metropolis who lets his boss get killed in an “accident” during a test of the above mentioned super tank thing. He gets promoted to general manager of the base, or whatever they call it, but really he’s just traded one boss for another because now he’s tied to his co-conspirator and evil jackass Charles Rocket, the ex-government spook who faked his own death and went rogue specifically in order to rip-off the super tank. Walsh just has one of those faces that effortlessly conveys a serious, unironic version of the I’ve made a huge mistake meme and it gives his character a level of depth and pathos that no one else in the show could possibly match. That’s right I said pathos.

The other plot involves Lois recognizing Rocket because they went to college together and he dated her best friend and they had a falling out over Rocket because Lois thought he was a piece of shit and her friend obviously didn’t. Lois tracks her old friend down and it’s the lady who played Jan in the American Office, remember, she was Michaels mean boss but they also were fucking? She used to be a hot shit computer programmer but turned her back on technology after Charles Rocket “died” and now she runs a new-age shop filled with crystals and yoga mats and bongs. Probably. They never show any bongs, but come on, right? This is used as an excuse for Lois and Clark to set into a debate about the various merits of technology with Lois being pro-tech and Clark coming down as more anti. I dunno about that though, I can see why someone might position Superman as being suspicious of progress, his whole vibe screams old  fashioned, but he’s pure optimism. Superman is a character who has bottomless faith in humanity and always believes in the best in everyone, it’s hard to imagine how that would square with the inherently cynical Things Were Better Before core at the heart of luddism.


Ah, Technology Is Killing Us. I think I saw that as part of Oprah’s Book Club.

Ronnie: In some ways Lois & Clark is a show of moments in that while the overall product may be middling, you get enjoyment where you can from disparate moments throughout. One such example I found was at the ATAS demonstration Lois offers her binoculars and Clark nonchalantly says he doesn’t need them, quickly following up that his glasses interfere with them. That’s nice. That’s a nice character moment you wouldn’t immediately consider. More to your point about J.T. Walsh outclassing everything, I like how the show has him smoking a cigarette after assassinating the general, as though it’s a post-coitus smoke. Yeah, baby, I just fuckin’ merked a guy.

Overall, I didn’t care much for this one. It’s middle of the pack Lois & Clark to be sure. The technology vs. woo woo bullshit is a false dichotomy that drags on for too long. Like you said, Clark’s insistence that the anti-tech people may have a point is a strange stance for him to take, “The Man of Tomorrow” and all. I can see him being against technology that prevents human connections, but opposition to automation as a whole stretches credibility. I’m just reminded of episodes of Law & Order: SVU (to be fair, most things remind me of Law & Order: SVU) where there’s a hot button topic and characters have to fall on either side so as to facilitate a debate. Next thing you know Clark will be claiming vaccines are equivalent to the Holocaust.


Charles Rocket was cursed with Resting Dickhead Face. Try to think. Has he ever played a nice guy or has he been an asshole in every role?

Superman behaves like a real asshole in “Operation Blackout”, like he’s not taking his job seriously. When Lois is dangling from a flagpole, he takes his sweet time, asking if she’s got it handled or not. When he comes across the episode’s baddies he mimes driving a vehicle right next to theirs and lists off a litany of their crimes, ending with “speeding”. This cockiness is unbecoming and brings to mind the dickish Superman of the Silver Age, the one who’d go to great lengths to psychologically torment Lois about marriage. The only saving grace here is he delivers a baby apropos of nothing. Yes, you read that right. He delivers a BABY!

Chris: I’m going to be honest and say that I liked the bit where he fly/drives the imaginary jeep, it made me laugh in 1994 and it makes me laugh in 2022. I like the goofy, Looney Tunes energy and I think it plays well off the gravity of Rocket and Walsh. Rocket especially is such a pompous shithead throughout the episode that Superman’s nonchalance plays like a rebuke of his attitude. Superman is saying you took all this time and put in all this work and you’re not even a threat that warrants a serious thought. It’s like in “Marge in Chains” when the prosecutor is so confident in his case against Marge that he can waste the court’s time rating the super hunks.  The nerve of these mooks, thinking they could pull some shenanigans in Superman’s Town. I think it’s important for him to remind everyone just how powerful he is every once and a while, just so no one gets the wrong idea.


“You can’t interrupt Whale Sounders Anonymous!”

I am a little disappointed that we’re already recycling ideas from the previous season. The It’s An Old Friend Of Lois’s Who Fell Out With Her Over A Boy bit was done in the episode about her old rival who works for Dean Stockwell. And the Rogue Military Agent Steals Tech was done in the one about the evil computer virus and the innocent guy who was framed for murder. No I won’t look up the episode names, though I think the second one was “Ides of Metropolis”? Honestly, who cares? But like, that’s also network TV? I may as well ask why Scully never believes Mulder even though he’s literally always correct or how many child rape cases Stabler and Benson could actually take on before being forced to transfer for their own mental wellbeing. The form is the form. You start messing with it and you end up with Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish chasing aliens, or Dann Florek palling around with a monkey.

Other than that, I don’t really have anything more to say about this one. It’s a miss, but a nearer miss than a lot of last season. It’s like “Prankster” in that regard, a better product but blander because of it. There’s nothing really to dig into, or dissect or rail against. It’s all a professional been there, done that.  Even our favorite whipping boy Jimmy 2.0 doesn’t have anything too stupid or outlandish happen to him. Unless you count the very end where he falls asleep in Perry’s office and everyone has to whisper like he’s a baby that’s just gone down for the night. But that’s pretty much how I see him, so it makes sense.


What a piece of shit.

Ronnie: Yeah, I do think we have to reckon with the fact that not all of these episodes stand up to the scrutiny of 1000 or so words of analysis. Some of them are just what it says on the tin. Like you said, “Operation Blackout” is derivative of a number of episodes and I have even less time for it than you because I don’t rate J.T. Walsh’s performance as highly as you do. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but I spent more time thinking about Charles Rocket and how he got unfortunately typecast as dick who faked his own death (see X-Files, “Three of a Kind”), which I suppose is better than transphobic obsessive but just barely. I think I deserve credit for going the entire article without making a crude and mean reference to Charles Rocket slicing open his throat in a Connecticut field one day in 2005. Oops. In any event, there’s no real throughline to the technology vs. nature debate and it’s buried underneath a pile of gaffes and bad puns.

So what do we got up next? Uh, up next is the pairing of “That Old Gang of Mine” and “A Bolt From The Blue”. These should prove more interesting to talk about, because the former involves resurrecting dead gangsters in a manner reminiscent of an episode of the syndicated Peabody award winning series Night Man and the latter is an ersatz Parasite episode in which Leslie Jordan (returning guest star champion!) receives Superman’s powers. Will he use these abilities for good or for evil? Find out next time on Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie, your only source for contemporary Lois & Clark reviews.

Odds & Ends

-Seinfeld alum tracker: 1. The Old Man from “The Old Man” plays Perry’s old reporter buddy.
-Lois’ nickname in college was “Stretch”.
-”Hey, what are you doing? We’re chanting here!”
-One clue that Charles Rocket is still alive is that Molly’s fridge contains his favorite beer, the kind of beer you have to special order.
-Sign of the times: a Norman Schwarzkopf reference.
-Charles Rocket’s final film role was narrator in a Yu-Gi-Oh movie. That has nothing to do with this but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

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