Warning: This article contains spoilers for Superman & Lois season 3, episode 9, “The Dress.”
Superman has one rule: Do not kill. But his greatest ally on Superman & Lois just broke that rule.
In this week’s episode, John Henry Irons (Wolé Parks) ends up in a fight for his life when his exosuit malfunctions as the resurrected Atom-Man (Paul Lazenby) gears up to kill him. Feeling more vulnerable than ever and believing he has no choice, John Henry uses his hammer to deliver one killing blow against his attacker instead as Clark (Tyler Hoechlin) looks on in horror. John Henry tells his friend that he didn’t have a choice, but Clarks responds, with clear judgement in his eyes, “You always have a choice.”
Below, Parks tells EW how this moment is going to affect John Henry’s relationship with Clark moving forward and what else fans can expect from the rest of this season.
Superman & Lois — “The Dress” — Image Number: SML309a_0005r — Pictured (L – R): Dylan Walsh as Ret. General Samuel Lane, Tyler Hoechlin as Superman and Wolé Parks as John Henry Irons — Photo: Justine Yeung/The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Tyler Hoechlin as Superman and Wolé Parks as John Henry Irons
| Credit: Justine Yeung/The CW
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you began this season, did you know this moment was coming for John Henry?
WOLÉ PARKS: No, it’s funny. I’m the weird actor in the cast where I don’t want to know anything, because I’m also a comic dork — I am the one who knows the most about this world. When the season starts, normally the showrunners sit everybody down, they’re like, “This is the arc for the characters,” blah, blah, blah. I’m always like, “Only tell me what I need to know.” So I didn’t find out about this thing until literally, even before the script came out, I was actually doing some fight training and I saw on their calendar, “John Henry Irons kills Atom-Man.” It got spoiled before I even got to actually read the script. My mind was blown.
Now they need to put spoiler alerts on the calendar, just for you.
[Laughs] Yeah, they know. Everyone knows: Don’t tell me anything. Do not spoil. I get very annoyed. I like to read it.
What was your reaction when you learned he was going to kill someone?
For me, it’s all about the reasons why somebody has to do something like that. Superman can’t do this. It’s so ingrained in the ethos of the character and also who he is and what he stands for. The interesting thing that they set up is this juxtaposition between what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s why that moment when Superman lands behind him, John Henry doesn’t even look at him and says, “I didn’t have a choice.” For him, he truly believes that.
One of Clark’s best traits is that he sees the best in people, and that’s also his Achilles heel because he sees only the good in someone. He wants to give a second chance or third chance or whatever. And with John, it’s like, “Clark, this man was going to kill me. He tried to kill me before at his restaurant. He’s killed a version of me before.” John doesn’t feel like he has a choice. To tease further on, John Henry’s going to be like, “Dude, if it spirals out of control, we could have solved this earlier. This could have been done a lot easier, but now it has to take it toll.”
How is this going to be affecting his friendship with Clark moving forward?
They have to find a common ground with this. My prayer is that Clark understands his perspective, even if he doesn’t agree with it. This episode, we basically have seen Clark come at him, Natalie come at him, Lana, General Lane, everyone’s coming at him being like, “Dude, you are going off the deep end.” And he’s like, “Guys, what else do you want me to do? I’m trying to protect my family.”
What did you think of how John Henry’s fight with Atom-Man is so public?
You know what’s interesting, it was written in a different way. He was supposed to hit him a few times with the hammer, and I talked with our writer Kristi [Korzec] and she was really receptive to the idea that it’s just once. He doesn’t do this willfully. This comes from a place of defense. That’s why he doesn’t even want to look at Superman when he says the line, because he knows how Superman’s going to judge him, and part of him believes it to be true. But if he ends up truly believing that he did have a choice, then he can’t live with himself. He has to tell himself this narrative to make it okay. Kristi is a great writer, and she’s so good at bringing out these emotional moments and really making them land. It’s all because of the words on the page.
Will John Henry regret doing this?
He can’t let himself second guess it. I think he’ll do that on his own. Yeah, it’s horrible that he did this, but if you look in the totality of it, how many people has Bruno killed? That’s his rationale. He has to cling with it. He might question it to himself, but he wouldn’t do it with anyone else.
Will we see John Henry go even further down a dark path now that he’s killed someone?
I hope this is the furthest where he’d go, because this is so extreme. It kind of brings back the old John Henry of season 1, where we thought he was Lex Luthor. He wasn’t doing that because he was a vindictive person. He was trying to avenge his world and his wife, and doing it out of a place of trying to save people and protect people. I truly don’t believe that John is violent. This is simply something that he had to do.
The writers have done an amazing job of making people understand everyone’s motivations, even with Bruno’s past. These are people who you can still empathize with them, you know what I mean? Including Clark. That’s the best kind of storytelling when you can say, “I hate that you did it, but I kind of get why you did it.” And then you question, if I was in that situation, what would I do?
But we definitely will see some resolution between John and Bruno, because that’s been brewing and simmering, and that’s just not going to stop. Either they’re going to kill each other or they’re going to have some resolution where they’re going to see eye-to-eye. Those are your options, and one of them will happen.
We’ve also seen John Henry and Lana start to have some sparks this season. What can you tease about what we’re going to see from that relationship moving forward?
[Laughs] It’s been a weird season of juxtaposition. He’s got the Lana stuff, which is great, and I think he needs that to help ground him emotionally, but it’s also fraught with the idea that he’s dealing with Bruno Mannheim, who’s trying to kill him and his family. If Bruno wasn’t involved, they probably would’ve gotten together already. But for him, he’s so emotionally broken that he’s scared to do this. He’s scared to be with someone else because he doesn’t know how to process. He’s finally accepted the trauma of losing his wife but now with Bruno attacking his family, is anyone who I get involved with going to be safe? That’s something he hasn’t really grappled with, but I think Lana is helping him do that. It’s a fascinating pairing.
It’s also wild because back in season 1, no one could have predicted they’d come together like this.
Yeah, trust me, I didn’t know either. I think actually Em [Chriqui] maybe joked about it with [showrunner] Todd [Helbing] back in season 1, but nobody saw this coming.
How is John Henry going to react when he finds out Natalie is still dating Bruno’s son in this sort of Romeo and Juliet romance?
Well, here’s the thing: John knows Natalie, and if there’s one thing they share in common, they are both stubborn. [Laughs] I don’t think he’s going to be shocked that she’s still doing it, but for him, it comes of a place of, “This is bigger than your love. You’re 16, you’ll move on. I’m trying to protect you. This is not the guy to fall in love with. You guys are going to break up in a year anyway. Why don’t you meet somebody who’s not attached to a crime boss? How about that?!”
He’s really not asking for much.
Exactly! Out of everybody, this is the one? This is your love of your life, really? Come on now.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Superman & Lois airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.
Superman & Lois (TV Show)