Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: The 5-episode wedding arc from hell
As I noted in my previous recap, the third season of Lois & Clark began promisingly by surprising the viewers in the best possible way. In this case, it was Lois responding to Clark’s marriage proposal by revealing that she knew he and Superman were the same person. The following episodes of this season would present them being a couple having romantic moments in between fighting bad guys. At the same time, they would both do some soul-searching and make mistakes, as all couples basically do. This would all culminate in the lovely moment in the season’s seventh episode “Ultra Woman”. In this story, villains inadvertently give Clark’s superpowers to Lois, prompting her to assume the superhero guise of the title. Of course, Clark gets his powers back and the villains are put away, but the story ends with Lois stating that the experience has only increased her love for Clark, which leads to her proposing to him, which he accepts.
This probably represented the series at its highest point, in that it highlighted that the show was about the two title characters and the bond they were developing. The love for this show would keep going as our lovebirds would spend the next few episodes fighting bad guys while planning their wedding. That wedding was, appropriately enough, set to air on the week of Valentine’s Day in 1996. The buzz for it was everywhere, especially online, which was still a relatively new medium at that point. All of the staff at ABC even got wedding invitations. The trailers for the episode, entitled “I Now Pronounce You…” looked promising, so its place as one of the great moments in TV history was all but assured.
As it turned out, the finished product would go down in TV history, but not as a great moment, leading to a five-episode arc fans would call “the Arc from Hell”, although I personally call it “the Real Reason Lois & Clark Got Cancelled”. Let’s take a brief look at that episode and the four that followed and see why they turned what began as the show’s most loved season into its most hated.
With their wedding just days away, Lois calls Clark to express her concerns. A false alarm by a delivery man doesn’t set her mind at ease when said delivery turns out to be dead flowers, along with a later delivery that’s a smashed cake. In addition, troubles with the guests’ hotel arrangements prompt her to ask Perry if there’s a story she and Clark can work on to keep their minds focused on something else.
Perry says that there have been reports of rare frogs being stolen from pet shops recently. When one of the burglars is ID’ed as a Secret Service agent, our heroes realize that the visiting US President (Fred Willard) could be a potential target. Lois and Clark discover that the frogs are actually being used as food for special clones (I suppose there are some fans who, at this point, already knew where this was heading) designed by a scientist named Dr. Issac Mamba (Tony Curtis), who once worked for Lex Luthor.
While Lois is trying to make up with her mom (Beverly Garland), one of the clones attempts to abduct them. Lois subdues him and discovers his connection to Luthor. This prompts her to go to the President to warn him, but alas, Mamba arrives with the news that the President is a clone, and unbeknownst to Lois, has just faxed off a pardon for Luthor. Fortunately, Superman arrives just in time to save Lois, imprison Mamba and the clones, and retrieve the real President, who was tied up in another part of the hotel he was staying at.
The episode concludes with the wedding between our heroes, but Lois is briefly called away beforehand to sign the marriage license. This is why the final scene ends with the revelation that Clark walked down the aisle with a clone.
(And to add insult to injury, this episode was dedicated to the memory of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, who passed away the previous month.)
With the much-hyped wedding episode having been revealed to be a shameless lie, one wonders how the series could possibly recover. Unfortunately, things would only get worse.
Picking up from the previous episode, Lois is taken somewhere (the episode doesn’t know, so why should we?) and the guy who dragged her away to sign the marriage license turns out to be Luthor. He announces that he plans to take Lois to the Alps, and since they came close to walking down the aisle at the end of the first season, he’s confident Lois will fall in love with him.
At the same time, Clark is dumbfounded when the Lois clone turns out to not be in a romantic mood. But her mood quickly changes when she learns that she’s now Mrs. Superman. This prompts her to basically force Luthor to give her special treats like all the cable TV channels if he wants her to withdraw millions of dollars he deposited in Lois’s name way back when. Lois uses this to attempt an escape, but her efforts are cut short when she hits her head, giving her amnesia. She quickly gets out of town with the help of a passing truck driver. Lois says her name is “Wanda Detroit”, and with the driver’s help, she makes it to a lounge on the other side of town where she becomes a popular singer.
Oh, and where did Lois get that name? In a previous scene, Jimmy finds out that Lois was writing a story on the side in which the main character is named Wanda and is torn between two men, one named Clark and another named Kent.
Clark eventually realizes that he married a clone and attempts to look for the real Lois. While the clone tracks her down, Luthor meets up with Clark and tells him that they need to work together to find Lois. Clark is rightfully suspicious, but Jimmy arrives and informs Clark that the truck driver called the Daily Planet, and also informs him about Lois’s story. Luthor clandestinely slips out, heading for the lounge with Clark in pursuit.
Lois manages to escape after Clark arrives, but she runs into the clone, who tries to kill her. Then Luthor shows up saying that he’s “Kent”, which Lois buys. At Luthor’s urging, Lois rejects a dumbfounded Clark before she and Luthor drive off together. So Luthor got the same info at the same time as Clark and he was able to instantly deduce that Lois had amnesia, but Clark didn’t? The only thing worse than this is that this arc still has three episodes left.
Superman, sad at how stupid he was at the previous episode’s end (not that I blame him) is contacted by Luthor. Their little chat ends with them declaring war on each other over Lois, just as Luthor blows up a nearby building.
But Luthor is still concerned that Lois could regain her memory, so he has men break into a lab to get special cloned bodies that Mamba made for them to transfer their brains into. Meanwhile, the Lois clone informs Clark about the money Luthor wanted to withdraw, and asks Clark why she can’t just be with him. He respectfully tells her why, but she still agrees to go to the bank with him to get the money and thus drive Luthor out. Once there, Luthor sends out a special light that blinds everyone except Clark, who feigns blindness of course. Luthor also makes off with the clone, and as payback for her betrayal, informs her that her limited lifespan will cause her to die in just a few days. Desperate for more life, the clone informs Luthor that Clark is Superman. This delights Luthor, but (as he’s a villain and all) he says that she’s still going to die and leaves her to agonize over it.
The clone informs Clark of this, but promises to make amends. But wouldn’t you know it, Luthor arrives at Clark’s place (I guess Clark’s super-hearing had an off day) and temporarily weakens him with a weapon that can destroy trash cans, which some goofball in an alley gave him. He then gloats to Clark about how he’ll make his life a living hell now that he knows he’s Superman, and then he makes off with Martha.
Returning to his hideout, Luthor tells Lois that Superman savagely beat him up and says she must kill him. When the Man of Steel arrives, however, Lois can’t bring herself to do it, causing an impatient Lex to try. The clone frees Martha and intervenes and that goofy gun ends up killing both of them. But a piece of falling rock knocks Lois on the head as she, Martha, and Superman escape.
Okay, so Luthor dies… again. One would think that it would mean an end to this bullshit that already ran two episodes too long, but no, this one ends with Lois at the hospital still suffering from amnesia.
It’s probably at this point in the arc where the fans basically said “Fuck this show!” and the show was basically telling them the same. Lois checks into a clinic to regain her memory, but wouldn’t you know it, the doctor assigned to her, Maxwell Deter (Larry Poindexter) has the hots for her and bans Clark from seeing her as she goes through treatment. You’d think this kind of shady behavior could cost Deter his medical license, but logic obviously has no place in this arc.
There’s also a subplot about how Deter’s colleague Dr. Elias Mendenhall (Charles Cioffi) is using some of the patients in the facility as assassins. When he adds Lois to the list with Perry as her target, Clark leaps into action.
But like the previous three episodes, this one ends on a sour note. Lois tells Clark that she’s getting back into the swing of things, but this doesn’t include her relationship with Clark, and she’s in love with Deter now.
This misguided crap finally ends with this episode. Clark is getting more and more pissed at Deter. The good news for Clark, ironically, arrives in the form of this episode’s criminal, Hermiker Johnson (Daniel Roebuck), the younger brother of a criminal from Lois and Clark’s past. He’s invented a machine that can temporarily make people goofy enough to do his bidding. Despite Deter’s attempts to keep Lois for himself, this machine brings back memories for her every time it’s used. Eventually, this makes Lois remember her love for Clark and this whole godawful affair ends with her punching Deter out before she and Clark embrace in the night sky.
In fairness, the original intention was to have Lois and Clark officially walk down the aisle, but those plans were temporarily shelved when DC Comics announced their own plans for a wedding in the comics the following fall.
However, this doesn’t excuse how pitifully written this whole fiasco was. Lex Luthor’s return turned him into another hammy, generic villain, and his discovery of Clark’s secret was just an assurance that he’d die again rather than a moment of great tension; at the time, my dad actually said that the show couldn’t let Luthor live now that he knows Clark’s secret. Stretching this out for two more episodes beyond this makes it understandable why many of the show’s fans gave up on it altogether. I myself kept watching just on the off-chance that the show could somehow redeem itself, like maybe making all this a bad dream. I think if any scenario called for Star Trek: Voyager‘s infamous reset button, it was this.
The season itself ended with a two-parter in which our lovebirds actually encounter other survivors from Krypton. They inform Clark that his presence is needed on their new homeworld to avoid impending civil war. The second part ends with Lois and Clark tearfully bidding each other farewell in order to save many lives. Yes, Lois and Clark are separated here as well, but this was done in a much more moving way than the five episodes discussed here. Hence, if the wedding had to be stalled, this was the way it should’ve been done.
Lois and Clark would walk down the aisle in the third episode of the following season, entitled “Swear to God, This Time We’re Not Kidding”. Putting aside the fact that that episode could’ve been better, the title may as well have been a reflection of how the fans felt, as they weren’t kidding when they stopped watching. So every subsequent episode could’ve been as magnificent as, say, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Inner Light” and it wouldn’t have mattered. Indeed, even episodes that were good, like “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” were unable to bring viewers back. Why? Because fans were unnecessarily lied to and had to go through two months and five episodes of tedium for nothing, which is why this quintet of episodes is viewed with the same level of infamy as The Star Wars Holiday Special.
If anything could be seen as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s the third season of Lois & Clark.