Lois & Clark & Chris & Ronnie: “Madame Ex”/”Wall of Sound”

Chris: And we’re back! After a brief detour into the dour, bleached out, twenty-first century life of Superman on the CW, we’re returning to Metropolis and the go-go 90s as Lois and Clark opens its second season. I don’t know about you Ronnie, but I’m glad to be home. We left L&C dangling off a precipice, not so much in terms of on-screen drama as behind-the-scenes turmoil. The first season’s production was famously bumpy and while it was obviously renewed, the showrunner and entire writing staff were replaced, along with Jimmy Olson being recast, Lex Luthor being demoted from series regular to guest star, and Cat Grant being dropped entirely. The new team was dedicated to refocusing the show on action and the will-they-or-won’t-they romance between the two leads, which does beg the question exactly what the first season was “focused” on. Today we’re going to be looking at the first two episodes of season two, “Madame Ex” and “Wall of Sound”, to see how the new regime acquits themselves.

First out of the gate is “Madame Ex”, which seems less interested in blazing bold new trails than quietly sweeping up the remnants of the last one. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m a big fan of emotional continuity in serialized storytelling. The pleasure of seeing a story unfold in installments over time is getting to watch the characters grow and change as a result of the things that happened to them previously. It’s a huge part of the reason the MCU is the world swallowing juggernaut that it is, Peter Parker is a profoundly different person by the end of No Way Home than, say, Batman wasn’t at the end of Batman and Robin. That’s obviously a loaded example but I think it’s apt because L&C was being produced during that era, in fact, the second season finale aired three weeks before the Bat-Series nadir Batman Forever (yeah I said it). With the second season and specifically “Madame Ex”, Lois & Clark is trying to be a little more the former than the latter. And so, we begin the season, still dealing with the fallout of the previous one.


You can almost see the strings.

Lex Luthor, you will all remember, is dead, having thrown himself off the top of his building in act of defiance against the lawmen who were set on finally bringing him to justice during his wedding to Lois Lane. Further, Lex’s act was so bold and unexpected that Clark was unable to get away to turn into Superman and save him. Metropolis is left reeling, divided between those who refuse to believe that their seemingly benevolent favorite son was in fact, a monster, and those who have seen the light. Not surprisingly, public sentiment about Superman is equally divided, with many Luthor fans believing that his not appearing to save Lex was tantamount to murder. More specifically, L&C’s regular cast of characters are also struggling to reorient themselves to the new, Post-Lex normal. The staff of the Planet has to learn their way around the newly rebuilt office and its new procedures (remember Lex blew the last one up at the end of season one). Lois and Clark have to readjust to their relationships, both professional and personal. Clark admitted his feelings for Lois, see, then tried to put the toothpaste back into the tube by telling her he’d been mistaken when he said he loved her. And Lois needs to figure out how to deal with the fact that she almost married a megalomaniacal killer and that she may have romantic feelings for her best friend and partner.


With this and “Vatman” we’ve had both leads encounter doppelgangers. Somebody discovered that special effect and wasn’t letting go.

All of these plot points converge around Arianna Carlin (named in homage to Superman group editor Dan Carlin no doubt), a pop-psychologist and best-selling author who Perry brings into the planet as both a columnist and councilor to help the staff deal with the trauma that comes with almost dying in an explosion at work. As it happens though, Carlin is also Lex Luthor’s secret ex-wife. Those are the kinds of details HR can miss when they’re recovering from nearly exploding. And despite the fact that their secret marriage ended long ago, Carlin has vowed revenge on Superman for not saving Lex, and Lois for winning his heart. I appreciated how the show took the time to cast an actress who looked like Teri Hatcher as Carlin; apparently Lex had a type. I thought this episode was pretty good, Ronnie, somewhere in the B family anyway. Not up to the caliber of the close of season one, but decent. The episode felt tight in a way few from last season did, which is good, though I also really liked some of the random asides. I fear we won’t be seeing any more pet pigs. And while the loss of Cat is a net plus, Jimmy 2.0 is an immediate downgrade. He’s gone from being an ill-used likable presence to a squeaky irritant. He feels like an over-correction from the inclusion of smug, “edgy” Jack towards a grinning, floppy haired doofus who wouldn’t feel out of place on an episode of Touched by an Angel.

Ronnie: One of the first things you’ll notice that’s new with the season is the opening credits, and the opening credits has fewer names in it than last season. Gone are Tracy Scoggins, John Shea and most importantly Michael Landes; while the first two had their characters retired, the latter was replaced by Justin Whalin as Jimmy Olsen. I hate to judge based on such a small sample size but this new Jimmy is a real turd. No offense to Whalin, but he’s terrible and he ruined Child’s Play 3 (in which he also displaced an actor in a role). Now, apparently Landes was let go from the show because he superficially resembled Dean Cain too much. Now, I can see that. They both have dark hair, they’re white, they’re under 40, to the elderly audience they might as well be twins. Say what you will about Justin Whalin, and I’ll be saying a lot, you won’t confuse him and Dean Cain anytime soon. Whalin Jimmy is about 10 years younger and 30 IQ points dumber. He looks like a chimera composed of all the TGIF heartthrobs, with a pinch or two of Home Improvement child for good measure. I want my old Jimmy back. Him being older yet still being given shitty gofer jobs made more sense comedically anyway.


I hate this little punk. I hate him like poison.

It remains to be seen whether this is a premiere thing or a Season 2 thing but Lois & Clark features a lot more Superman than we’ve been accustomed to with this series. There’s mid air saves and chase sequences and everything! The special effects still aren’t great, but to me they look better than a number of other episodes. Now, we know from the behind the scenes scuffles on the series that the action/relationship drama balance was a point of contention amongst the creative team and the network. I’m in favor of more action, to a degree. More Superman in my Superman show is always a good thing and it broadens the horizons of what the show can accomplish. Whether or not the show will seize upon the opportunity is something we’ll have to wait and find out about. But I think it’s a good sign.

Overall, I think this is a perfectly cromulent Lois & Clark. Maybe not Top 5 episodes ever but Top 10 definitely. It combines a bizarre, far out premise–someone turning a person into a Lois Lane doppelganger through plastic surgery–with very human circumstances, as in the aftermath of Lex’s suicide. All told, I’m not sure how you can’t blame Superman for Lex’s death. He pretty clearly committed some dereliction of duty. Tale of the tape, Clark could have broken from Lois’ embrace (“I gotta pee! Drank a LOT of coffee!”), turned into Superman and saved Lex. He didn’t and I think it’s more interesting if Superman let him die like George was responsible for Susan Ross’ death. Superman reacting to Lex’s death with “restrained jubilation” would be fitting. I always enjoy these “what now?” episodes and “Madame Ex” is no exception. Shit choices like recasting Jimmy aside, it’s a propulsive episode with the ever-important lesson that psychiatry is wrong and evil. Thank Xenu for Lois & Clark to sound the alarm on such charlatans.


Great, now we’re doing Ghostwriter. We’re doing Ghostwriter, everybody!

Chris: Finally, “Madame Ex” reveals exactly what happened to the body of Lex Luthor. In our “House of Luthor” article you mentioned how ridiculous it was that the show would suggest that there would even be a body after jumping off the top of a building roughly as tall as the Sears Tower or Empire State Building, and that made me laugh in part because it reminded me of how when my father and I watched the ep when it aired back in 94 we assumed that his body must have been teleported before it hit the ground, for just that reason. “House of Luthor” shows him falling, then cuts to Lois watching, then cuts to something hitting the ground, the bouquet maybe? I’m not going back to check. Then they cut to the paper announcing that his body had disappeared. I guess they were trying to artfully suggest that he died on impact without showing any of the carnage, but even when I rewatched it a couple of weeks ago it seemed like they were saying his body never hit the ground.

Anyway. Apparently, Lex’s body wasn’t liquefied upon impact. Apparently, his corpse is actually in remarkably good condition and is encased in ice while being watched over by Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yar is some kind of evil doctor (probably because she had access to 24th century technology to help her cheat on the exams) and working to find a cure for jumping off the top of a sky-scraper, falling a thousand feet and landing face first on hard concrete. Lex’s continued presence on the show, even in this form, is a sign that the new creatives did recognize what worked in the previous season and didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. You can’t just kill Lex Luthor, especially when he was the best part of your show. Having him in this in-between state bypasses the fact that Shea didn’t actually want to play him anymore while all but confirming his eventual return in some form.


This is such bullshit. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Lex Luthor back together again, so to see Tasha Yar do it…

Ronnie: What do we think of the new Daily Planet? I think it’s fine, but I didn’t have a problem with the old one. I guess it made filming unwieldy so that’s why they made the change.  It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s not such a radical change so as to be unrecognizable. I think overall the Season 2 changes are largely for the better. Jimmy’s obviously an exception, but paring down the cast, making Metropolis and the populace of Metropolis a focal point and aiming for some sort of vague serialization are all lofty choices. I think Mrs. Luthor could’ve been a recurring foe (I’m assuming this is her only appearance); her presence would remind viewers that actions in the series have consequences. You kill a Luthor, you have to deal with his ex-wife. Emma Samms is a decent actress and her psychiatrist background gives her shades of Harley Quinn to Lex’s Joker. But as we know from prior experience, Lois & Clark isn’t big on continuity or continuing storylines. Will we even see Tasha Yar again, I wonder.

Odds & Ends

-Seinfeld Alum Tracker: 3. Male Staffer played a Customer in “The Scofflaw”. Female Staffer played George’s girlfriend, the one in the book club whose mother saw George eating out of the trash. The homeless guy was one of the Dominicans in “The English Patient”. Look, if it counts it counts, all right?
-Donal Logue Tracker: Superman saves a construction worker who gets knocked off a building in the cold open who isn’t Donal Logue, but kind of looks like him for a second when he’s falling. Back then I mostly associated Logue with a recurring character he played on MTV promos called Jimmy the Cab Driver. I thought he was very annoying, now I like him a lot and will watch stuff specifically because he’s in them. It’s funny how time changes a man.
-As mentioned before, Lex’s doctor is played by Tasha Yar from TNG. And speaking of crooked shrinks, the plastic surgeon who gets merked in the cold open played Silberman in the Terminator movies.
-There’s some pretty awful “the future of technology is here” humor, as they talk about fax modems and Lois not knowing how to retrieve e-mails. “Looks like it’s rush hour on the superinformation highway [it’s information superhighway, you idiot]” Jimmy chuckles. “Yeah, and I’m stuck in traffic” Lois grumbles. Put a gun to my head and pull the trigger.
-Leave the shrink jokes to Frasier, Lois & Clark.
-Well, now I know what an acrostic is. Thanks, Lois & Clark! Arianna is using them to brainwash people by putting them in her columns. I’m not sure that’s how it works…
-Clark uses his super vacuuming power to bring back a cab that passed them by. Way to misuse your powers, dude.
-”Great shades of Elvis” – the second season may bring in some changes but Perry’s Elvis obsession remains the same.
-Arianna Carlin’s book is titled The Hidden Secrets of Subliminal Persuasion.

Chris: Continuing in the vein of cautious optimism, “Wall of Sound” is exactly the kind of episode that I anticipated hating but actually ended up enjoying more than not. It seems that someone is robbing banks using high frequency weapons that cause people to lose consciousness instead of guns or threats of violence. Their investigation of the crime leads Lois and Clark to identify two separate suspects; Clark thinks the culprit is an eccentric scientist called Dr. Derek Camden, while Lois thinks it’s more likely to be fading rock star and amateur sound technician Lenny Stoke. The two follow their own separate leads, and Lois ends up going undercover in >shudder< a grunge rock club. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it too, but it’s actually fine. I mean, the club looks like shit, there are probably between fifteen and twenty extras used as crowd for the show, and it apparently takes place in the middle of the day, but the music is basically okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going online to look for a copy of the song, but a little research on Stoke actor Michael Des Barres reveals that he was in fact a musician and sang lead for a Duran Duan “Spin-off” group called The Power Station. Whatever that is. And it’s funny because when listening to the surprisingly not terrible song he plays I thought Yeah, this sounds like the kind of weird industrial-grunge-disco hybrid an 80s band like Duran Duran might shit out after listening to a bunch of Nine Inch Nails and Lords of Acid over a long weekend. Again, I’m not saying it’s good so  much as it absolutely wouldn’t have felt out of place on the radio in the fall of 1994. It’s like a B- impression of what David Bowie was doing in his Outside/Earthling period. If that makes sense. Am I talking about this too much? Almost certainly, but I can’t stress just how surprised I was that the song didn’t make me put earplugs in and cover my eyes with my hands.



The rest of the episode was decent too. Lois expected to be nominated for this prestigious award and is overcome with jealousy that Clark gets the nom instead, leading to hurt feelings and general childishness on her part. That’s the other reason they’re working separately in the ep, she’s determined to out-report Clark as a way of reasserting dominance over him. It’s an especially nice plotline because when she thought she was going to be nominated she actually asked Clark to come to the ceremony as her date, and then is offended when he asks her after his nomination. You can see how they’re really frontloading the romance now, and making it fun without coming up with stupid reasons to keep them apart. Lois is absolutely the kind of person who would feel comfortable going on a first date to an event that honored her and be horrified at the idea that she would be asked to escort someone else to the exact same function. Her ego is too big to be someone else’s plus one,  so when she ends up going with Clark, it feels like real growth.

Ronnie: Are we finally at the point where Superman faces honest to god supervillains? We had a smattering of sorta supervillains in Season 1, but more often than not they were robo-boxers or smart kids. The soundwave biker gang may not strictly be supervillains, but they bring to mind the Batman Beyond baddie Shriek or even Spider-Man’s Shocker, the way they use soundwaves/vibrations to cause destruction. The biker gang goes one further as Clark explains frequencies can do anything, cause people to fall asleep, blow up, anything. I’m not sure that checks out, but I’m not a scientist so I won’t make any bold claims. I do appreciate the shitty name for the guy–”The Sound Man”. It reminds me of the Fan Man that would disrupt sporting events. “Watch out, The Sound Man is making the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fall asleep!” Everything is pretty lazily named in this episode. The Sound Man’s club is named STOKE CLUB because his last name is Stoke. Get it? It’s the kind of minimalist thought I appreciate from Eagleheart, how the hospital is just “City Hospital”.

“The Wall of Sound” is absurd in a good way. Basically this guy named Stoke bailed out a scientist named Camden in order to use his sound technology to rob people. Michael Des Barres (Restaurateur, “The Smelly Car” episode of Seinfeld) does a fine job as a slimy scumbag and so does Scott Colomby as an out-there scientist. Like I said, it’s a silly episode that involves a night club where security guards are Ilsa She Wolf of the SS lookalikes with “security” headbands. I’ve never seen a “security” headband before. This is also an excuse for the show to show off Teri Hatcher’s body as she goes undercover at the rock and/or roll club in a sluttier outfit than we’re accustomed to her wearing. This may be a show for families, but that doesn’t mean dad and Junior can’t pound off in their respective rooms to it later.

I like the Clark/Lois professional rivalry stuff. I can see how it would get repetitive, but so many adaptations of Superman and the comics themselves forget that Clark is a journalist too and instead pile all the journalism stories onto Lois. I always like when they remember Clark actually has a passion for his job and he isn’t simply using it for cover and a way to be near “the action”. It also further complicates their will they/won’t they, because nothing can derail a potential love story like jealousy. Superman visiting Lois and marveling over her multiple awards puts a nice button on things, establishing Clark is willing to, via his alter ego, concede Lois is the better journalist than she is and how important knowing that is to Lois’ self-image.

Chris: Yeah, I don’t think I’d put “The Sound Man” on any list of best Superman villains but he does seem like a step up from some of the season one antagonists in terms of seeming like an actual Superman villain. You mentioned Shriek and Shocker, and I totally see that connection, but I could also imagine opening a Superman comic from the mid 90’s and seeing this kind of equipment being used by Intergang or like the Royal Flush Gang or any number of other low level Super-Foes. The only thing that seems out of place about Sound Man is his rock-n-roll milieu, that’s just out of step with any era of Superman. But slap him in the Karl Kessel Superboy comic where he’s rocking that awful fade, round shades, and leather jacket look while fighting crime in Hawaii and he’d fit right in. Again, I can not stress strongly enough how embarrassing most attempts by mainstream comics in the 90’s to reach out to the kidz were. I don’t want to end up obsessing about that song again, but it’s impossible to explain just how low the bar was. There was a character named Grunge who had a ying-yang tattoo on his back, and he was one of the better ones. It was bad, folks.


The 90s were a bad time in a lot of ways. For every KMFDM’s Xtort and The X-Files there was this costume and Ross Perot presidential campaigns.

But I digress. The point is, it’s always nice to see Superman fight a foe that requires a super solution, and “Wall of Sound” provided just that. Sound Man is holding Lois behind a forcefield that somehow uses sound to repel shit, and Superman is able to bust through by breaking the sound barrier and thus going faster than the speed of sound. So he’s through the shield before it knew he was there to repel him. I have to confess that his solution was better than mine, I just thought he should have used his heat vision to melt the doohickey what powered the forcefield. Mine would have been more efficient, but it wasn’t nearly as cool. And it also led to a reasonably funny sequence where one wino explains how sonic booms work to another over a bottle of hooch that ends with wino number two telling wino number one that they never should have fired you from NASA.


Rocky Horror Lois Lane Show

Ronnie: So if “Madame Ex” was about wrapping up Season 1, it stands to reason “Wall of Sound” is about establishing Season 2. I think it does a fine job of that; keep in mind, though, that we’re talking about Lois & Clark so every bit of praise must be qualified and put into context. Like, the ceiling for this show is, what, a B? A B-? Sounds about right. Anyway, “Wall of Sound” creates some ambiguity as to who the Sound Man is and in the end the answer is everyone’s right. There’s something very 90s about Superman fighting bank robbing rock musicians whose power is, essentially, loud music. Stoke sings “try to penetrate/my wall of sound” as part of his hit single, “Wall of Sound”. This could be an episode of Night Man with very few changes and I mean that as a compliment. The Sound Man is a crappy villain, right up Night Man’s alley.


One letter off from a markedly different club.

Look, if nothing else, comics are a nostalgia machine and it stands to reason some aspiring writer or writers grew up watching this shit. So I’m wondering when does The Sound Man make his triumphant Post-Post-Post-Crisis debut? His ability to wipe people out based on a frequency could go anywhere. He could use it to rob banks, he could use it to put stuff up people’s butts. We could be looking at DC’s equivalent to the Purple Man here. Remember him? David Tennant? From the one season of Jessica Jones everyone at least pretended to like? DC hasn’t seen fit to introduce Shriek even into their Batman Beyond comics so Sound Man could fill that niche. Sound Man also has a classic backstory–a rock musician whose critical acclaim doesn’t translate into sales, so he gets in debt and can only save his financial bacon through a life of crime aided by a crazy scientist. Imagine Gary Glitter being supplied weaponry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (I don’t have a lot of scientist names to pull from, okay?) It’s better than the Prankster anyway.


Fun fact: the text on the computer screen is the script. Seriously.

We only intermittently give praise to the performers so I think it’s worth mentioning Teri Hatcher is pretty funny in barely concealing her jealousy towards Clark. The way she goes off on how she busted up an international drug ring whereas Clark “told the truth…about old people” is genuinely amusing. Hatcher has charm, comedic timing (her sarcasm game this episode is on point) and a cuteness to her and while she isn’t the most talented actress in the world she’s a fine Lois Lane. A sexualized Lois Lane, at that. “Wall of Sound” is yet another episode that contrives a reason to get her into more revealing clothing, and “going undercover at the world’s worst bar/club” is a flimsy excuse. She goes on the computer and looks at pictures, realizing he “likes trashy brunette”. I would’ve killed for Lois to lightbulb the moment with “I’M a trashy brunette!”

That does it for this pairing of episodes. Tune in next week or week or so for “The Source” and “The Prankster”. For a brief moment I thought the former was going to be about the Source Wall, so now you know what a fucking rube I am. “The Prankster” does have Prankster in it. Prankster is a classic Superman villain, by which I mean by attrition he’s obtained that status. Debuting in Action Comics #51, Oswald Loomis would bedevil Metropolis with pranks and publicity campaigns. On Lois & Clark he’ll be played by Balki from Perfect Strangers. If ever there was somebody who knew how to be annoying…

Odds & Ends

-Clark’s been nominated for his tireless work on “the retirement home scandal”. It’s never really specified what the scandal was.
-Perry compares Clark winning an award to Elvis winning his first gold record. Also, Perry’s wife Alice appears offscreen via horn honk. Is she like Norm’s wife or Maris Crane? We’ll see.
-A near miss for the many pervs who’s kink was to see Superman beat up a gang of lady bodybuilders. Better luck next time, freaks!
-Clark uses his supervision to read a crossed out piece of writing. I’m not sure that’s how that works.
-Jimmy rides a motorcycle and admires a leather biker jacket with a cross made of metal studs on the back worn by one of the bank robbers. When he gets side eye from L&C he says he’s thinking of “changing his look” this is the closest the show comes to acknowledging the casting change.
-Related, if you’re supposed to be inconspicuously committing super crime, don’t dress like a Bon Jovi roadie from 1989.
-Lois jokes that Yanni made a room full of people fall asleep before the Sound Man did. Geez, what did Yanni ever do to you?
-Sonny Bono is mayor no more, replaced by a black woman named Susan Sharp. What, did Bono did a skiing accident or something that precluded his reappearance in Season 2???

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