The “Broken Trust” episode of Superman and Lois revealed that for all of Clark Kent’s powers, his greatest is his ability to restrain himself.
Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for Superman and Lois season 1, episode 6, “Broken Trust.”
A recent episode of Superman and Lois revealed that Clark Kent’s greatest superpower is his ability to hold his great power in check in tense moments. In the realm of superheroes, Superman is acknowledged as having one of the greatest variety of special abilities, as well as being one of the strongest heroes in terms of raw power. Yet the greatest test of that strength often lies in restraining himself and not losing control.
Superman and Lois showcased this struggle in the episode “Broken Trust,” as Clark raced against a team of Department of Defense forces led by General Sam Lane in the search for Tag Harris; a classmate of his sons who had developed uncontrollable superspeed powers and attacked his son, Jordan Kent. The attack on his grandson left General Lane determined to bring Tag down by any means necessary, even as Clark argued for restraint, believing that Tag wasn’t in control of his abilities and was more of a danger to himself than other people. Clark was able to find Tag before the DoD forces and was in the process of talking him down when the soldiers arrived loaded for bear and Tag panicked.
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Clark planted himself between Tag and the soldiers as they opened fire, not knowing that one of the soldiers had a special gun that fired sharpened shards of green Kryptonite. The attack dropped Superman for a moment, leaving him struggling to stand as his eyes began to glow red as if he were readying a heat vision blast. This made the soldiers back off, but it quickly became apparent that Superman was not preparing to attack them; he was trying to contain the energy his eyes wanted to unleash. Forcing himself to his feet and howling in pain, Superman plucked the Kryptonite shards from his shoulder and flung them away from him into the far corner of the room, before unleashing his heat vision to incinerate the deadly mineral.
While the effects of Kryptonite in various media are often inconsistent as to whether or not they render a Kryptonian completely powerless or just make them vulnerable, it is generally agreed that it hurts Kryptonians to touch green Kryptonite to the point that they can barely move or think. Given that, the fact that Superman was able to hold back his heat vision while maintaining the focus needed to remove four pieces of it from a wound is truly impressive. It also speaks to the strength of Superman’s character that he did not respond in kind to the soldiers who had just tried to kill him and Tag Harris, despite clearly hurting from his injury and the revelation that General Lane had thought it necessary to arm his men with weapons that could hurt Superman. It was a subtle touch on the part of the writers of Superman and Lois, which showed Superman’s pain without words and Tyler Hoechlin played the moment perfectly.
The idea that Superman is so powerful he must be ever vigilant of accidentally unleashing his full might has become more common in modern stories centered around the Man of Steel. The fact is that Superman is so powerful that many find him boring because there is not much that can hurt him. Clever writers have countered this problem by finding other ways to test Superman and one of the chief ways this has been done is through the idea that Superman is so powerful that he struggles to contain his full strength. Perhaps the best example of this came in the series finale of Justice League Unlimited, where Superman, while facing the New Gods tyrant Darkseid, made a speech about how he felt like he lived in “a world made of cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something… never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die.” The writers of Superman and Lois showed this to be the case without a dramatic speech, affirming that the greatest power Superman has is a superhuman level of self-control.
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