Let’s get things started with a quick review of this week’s episode which has been reviewed before and is available to watch on YouTube:

After weeks of tension, the seeds of rebellion planted by Jor-El’s actions on Krypton’s surface during “Chiwa’s Choice” finally sprout. After a full year on a Kryptonian pod, Jor-El’s challenge to Kal-El’s sense of duty is starting to be felt in Kal-El’s life, and it’s starting to get in the way of his attempts to embrace his role as a savior of his people.

“Fail Safe” is the 13th episode of the first season of Superman: The Animated Series, and the twelfth episode in the first season. It originally aired on the first of July, 1992. It was written and directed by Eric Radomski, and the story was written by J. Michael Straczynski. It guest stars Peter Boyle as President Lex Luthor, and Bruce Vilanch as a news reporter.

REVIEW: Superman & Lois – Season 1, Episode 13 “Fail Safe”

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Following a major incident, “Fail Safe” is one of those “taking stock” episodes. It isn’t showy or thrilling, and it isn’t likely to be anyone’s favorite, but it’s essential to keep up with the characters and understand how something as catastrophic as mankind being almost wiped out by a crazy extraterrestrial that has brainwashed Superman impacts them. It also sparks a fascinating debate on the nature of good and evil, as well as whether morality – or a lack thereof – is taught or innate. However, with that in mind, it makes certain errors in a few situations, especially with Lois.

As he searches for the last of his half-Kryptonian-possessed brother’s underlings, Leslie Larr, Superman interrogates an imprisoned Morgan Edge. Lois is torn between her professional ethics and the general welfare. Jordan and Jon are making progress with their crushes. In his new environment, John Henry Irons is struggling to find his place. The Cushings are unsure whether they will ever be welcomed back into their hometown.

It’s a good idea to start “Fail Safe” with Superman and Morgan Edge. It tells viewers that the battle is far from finished, and there’s plenty of incentive to stay engaged until season 1’s final episodes broadcast. On the surface, they seem to be discussing Leslie Larr’s location, but this is just a red herring. The actual point of their discussion is to emphasize the enormous contrasts and uneasy parallels between the hero and the evil. Superman has always held enormous power, but he’s only just seen what it’s like to utilize it without regard for innocent lives or catastrophic devastation. But how much of it was influenced by Edge – and, really, Zod – and how much was always a part of him? Clark Kent’s morals was mainly derived from his parents, with some help from Jor-artificial El’s intellect; in other words, he is the poster child for nurture over nature. Edge, on the other hand, embraces his power and places no restrictions on it, claiming that if Clark hadn’t been raised by the Kents or educated by Jor-El, he would be just like him. What happens when nature triumphs over the nurture of decent people? This is the issue that guides the remainder of “Fail Safe.”

*SPOILERS*

 

Is Superman’s goodness something he was born with, ensuring that he could never fall to evil without an x-factor like mind control or possession? While it may be the long-accepted former, “Fail Safe” argues that this isn’t always a good thing. What’s to stop Superman from embracing basic impulses like power and devastation if they’re part of his DNA? Others believe in Superman, and Sam Lane goes so far as to throw away his Kryptonite weaponry as a sign of faith and apologies for disbelieving Clark. As Clark is moved by this, Edge’s comments eat at his mind, causing him to question himself while the rest of the world cheers him on, and he demands that Sam retain the weapons in case he ever turns. Sam is perplexed, and Lois is furious, but Clark knows, or at least thinks, that Edge is correct; while he was under Zod’s control, he enjoyed having his moral constraints removed and being free to wield his power as he pleased, and he can’t allow that primitive urge continue uncontrolled.

The flashbacks sprinkled throughout “Fail Safe” reveal a younger Morgan Edge acquiring his murderous philosophy via his father’s AI, which adds to the intrigue. Instead of loving parents who educated him to be a decent man, Edge was instructed by Zeta-Ro to wipe out humanity so that Krypton might return, and to see the corrupted Kal-El as an adversary to be killed. Edge, on the other hand, clung to his position for a long time, even claiming that Clark might be an ally and that he could accept the guy he was taught to murder as a brother. Superman and Morgan Edge are of the same race and even genetically identical; in fact, the differences in their DNA would favor Clark over Edge’s innate goodness. Edge’s impulses were of compassion, humanity, and brotherhood, but his crazy father slowly cooked them out of him. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that Clark’s nature is as moral as his upbringing. “Fail Safe” is wise in not providing a definite solution to this dilemma, instead allowing us to make our own conclusions. However, I would add that, in the middle of their emotional outbursts, Clark, Lois, and Sam fail to see Clark’s insistence on finding a method to murder him. Those weapons will not exist if Superman does not want them to. But he’s being offered a free pass, which he flatly rejects. That’s the type of person he is, and that’s why he’s a hero, whether it’s because of nature or nurture, or a mix of the two (which I believe is most probable, for him and everyone).

Superman & Lois, Fail Safe

The flashbacks sprinkled throughout “Fail Safe” reveal a younger Morgan Edge acquiring his murderous philosophy via his father’s AI, which adds to the intrigue. Instead of loving parents who educated him to be a decent man, Edge was instructed by Zeta-Ro to wipe out humanity so that Krypton might return, and to see the corrupted Kal-El as an adversary to be killed. Edge, on the other hand, clung to his position for a long time, even claiming that Clark might be an ally and that he could accept the guy he was taught to murder as a brother. Superman and Morgan Edge are of the same race and even genetically identical; in fact, the differences in their DNA would favor Clark over Edge’s innate goodness. Edge’s impulses were of compassion, humanity, and brotherhood, but his crazy father slowly cooked them out of him. As a result, it’s reasonable to assume that Clark’s nature is as moral as his upbringing. “Fail Safe” is wise in not providing a definite solution to this dilemma, instead allowing us to make our own conclusions. However, I would add that, in the middle of their emotional outbursts, Clark, Lois, and Sam fail to see Clark’s insistence on finding a method to murder him. Those weapons will not exist if Superman does not want them to. But he’s being offered a free pass, which he flatly rejects. That’s the type of person he is, and that’s why he’s a hero, whether it’s because of nature or nurture, or a mix of the two (which I believe is most probable, for him and everyone).

Outside of the fighters, Lois wonders what her responsibility is now. Is it to tell the truth, as she swore to do in her reporting, or is it to hold back what she knows in case it’s too dangerous for the public to hear? She ping-pongs a bit as “Fail Safe” goes along, at first sacrificing her career but ultimately realizing she’s actually sacrificing her integrity. Jonathan and Jordan are ready to be normal kids again, cutting school so they can hang out with the girls they like but facing the consequences of bucking the rules. Both of these situations are the result of enormous pressure to lie, the folly of which has been a recurring theme on Superman & Lois. Lying is always the wrong choice on this show, and it manifests in getting the boys to ditch class and Lois to turn into a neurotic mess. The latter is the one thing I didn’t care for this week; whenever the show tries to present Lois as losing control, it’s done in an overly cartoonish manner, and she comes off as a child taking a tantrum. Her indignation at Clark starts with an immature “You’re wrong and I’m right!” and ends with her rambling about knowing she’s handling this poorly (which reminds me of the very first episode of Eastbound and Down, and while I love that show, Lois Lane is not supposed to have the temperament of Kenny Powers). Even when she and Clark lecture and punish the boys, Clark speaks forcefully but rationally, while Lois just yells. I hope the writers find a better groove for Lois in the future.

Superman & Lois, Fail Safe

The Cushings are also confronted with a community that blames them for something they had no control over and seems to want them gone in “Fail Safe.” Since last week, not much has changed, and although Lana is determined to see the bright side and think that things will return to normal, Kyle is being pushed out of his work as his friends leave him. Sarah is also shunned at school, and unlike her parents, she can’t seem to get away from it. I’m not advocating for juvenile misbehavior (at least not out loud), but who can blame her for needing a break from the looks and judgments? While Jordan and Jon’s grounding is a kind of punishment, Sarah looks forward to being restricted to her house. Even if everything blows over quickly, this girl is going to require a lot of assistance. And it’s in Cushing’s treatment that we see how people heal from tragedies in general: they look for someone to blame. Because Edge isn’t around and the kids only have Sarah, Kyle and Lana are made scapegoats. Even the local politician uses them to curry favor with an enraged populace. If things don’t improve quickly, the good people of Smallville may expel the Cushings, and I wouldn’t blame them.

Finally, there’s John Henry Irons, who spends “Fail Safe” attempting to keep himself occupied while he considers his lack of purpose. Irons came to this planet with the express purpose of killing Superman, and not only has he failed, but he’s also abandoned his goal, becoming friends with his sworn foe. That will be doubly true after Leslie Larr has been apprehended. (It’s so gratifying to watch him and Superman join together to catch her; this is how you keep a friendship going.) He’s now stranded here with no family and nowhere to go, surviving on Clark and Lois’ kindness and appreciation while adorning his suit with panache. For a guy who has lost everything, it is a lonely existence. But, as always, Superman comes to the rescue. The anti-Superman weaponry may exist, but not with the military, according to Lois and Clark, who leave the stockpile to Irons, a decent guy with no purpose other than to assist others. John Henry Irons, like Superman, is now Earth’s defender, and this is the ideal conclusion, not just in terms of character but also in terms of morality. Giving the tools of defense to us rather than the government is precisely what Superman would do, just as Lois decides that it’s better to put your faith in individuals than than an organization that pats itself on the back for lying. It’s a demonstration of faith from a guy willing to win our trust, just as he’s been teaching his sons. It’s also a very American thing to do, which I’m delighted to see: Superman exemplifying the American way of life.

Superman & Lois, Fail Safe

“Fail Safe” is a calmer episode that concentrates on the characters and their reactions to the major events of the previous several weeks, as well as the origins of morality. It works nicely, apart from a mishandling of Lois Lane, as each of these characters evolves while staying undeniably themselves. This isn’t one you’ll rewatch for kicks, but it’s a good, important episode of Superman & Lois.

Plot – 8
Acting – 9 points
8 – Progression
8 – Production Design
Themes (nine)

8.4

Good

“Fail Safe” is a quieter episode that focuses on the characters and their responses to the big events of the last few weeks, as well as examines where our morality comes from. Aside from a mishandling of Lois Lane, it works well, and each of these people changes a bit while remaining unmistakably themselves.

Lois’ mistaken belief that Clark’s flight was an effort to try and destroy the planet (after it failed) is the basis of one of the most important themes in this series. Clark’s actions in this episode are the result of his inability to keep a secret, and as a result, Lois is terrified that he will try to destroy the planet again. He never does, but Lois is still convinced that he wants to, and as a result, Clark is not allowed to have any contact with her. This sets up an arc of Lois believing Clark is trying to hurt her, and it’s an important theme to keep track of in future episodes.. Read more about superman 2 review and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the message of Superman 1978?

The message of Superman 1978 is that the world needs a hero.

Is Superman Man of Tomorrow Good?

Superman is a man of tomorrow.

What is the Superman movie rated?

The Superman movie is rated PG-13.

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