"The Late Mr. Kent" is the 22nd episode of the second season of Superman: The Animated Series, and the 35th of the overall series. While investigating a murder case, Clark Kent himself becomes the apparent victim of a murder attempt, and cannot reveal that he survived without exposing his secret identity.
A few days ago, Clark was assigned to interview Ernest Walker, a petty thief convicted of murder for 5 years, and now scheduled for execution in a week. Walker was caught trying to fence the murder victim's necklace, but swears he found it outside his door, and he claims he is innocent. Using his super senses, Clark determines that Walker is telling the truth. He goes to see Detective Bowman, who was the lead investigator on the case. Clark receives the case files, and Bowman tells him there is no question Walker is guilty.
Clark reads through the case files, and is about ready to believe Bowman, when he decides to eat some leftover pizza. This reminds him of Walker's alibi: he was at home, eating pizza. Following up on this, Clark goes to the pizza parlor nearest to Walker's home. While the parlor's delivery boy didn't work there anymore, the manager unearths a set of disks containing old delivery records. Later, Clark calls Lois in triumph: He has found a record confirming that a pizza was delivered to Walker at almost the exact moment the murder was committed.
Proud of his accomplishment, Clark drives to the governor's mansion in his car, rather than go as Superman and raise some questions. He also feels that it would be better if it were Clark's victory for once. However, someone had planted a bomb in his car, which explodes and sends his car careening into the ocean and destroying the disk. Though he survives, Superman sees a fisherman nearby, and realizes he can't emerge from the ocean without revealing his secret identity, so he swims away.
Later, Superman retrieves Clark's car for the police, under Bowman's direction. Lois attempts to convince Bowman that Walker is innocent, as only the real killer would try to kill Clark. Bowman dismisses her and states that as he was a reporter, Clark would be prone to a number of enemies. Lois then argues that Clark could still be alive, but Bowman points out the eyewitness. However, Lois notices that the fisherman had to wear glasses to read a clipboard, and goes to question him.
That night, Superman goes to see his parents, but even they can't figure out how to bring Clark back. Superman says he needs to be Clark Kent, as being Superman all the time would drive him insane, but regardless, he still needs to clear Walker.
Back in the present, Superman decides to go to the governor as Clark Kent and explain Walker's innocence, prepared to reveal his secret identity if need be. He heads to his apartment to change, and is surprised to find Lois already there. She explains that she was hoping he'd left some evidence of his investigation behind, but couldn't find anything. They both realize that someone has been through the apartment already: Clark's computer has been taken, and his phone has been bugged.
As they talk, Lois begins to shed tears over Clark's death and tells Superman that despite all her teasing she liked and respected Clark a lot, and now regrets not having told him this. Lois mentions that the eyewitness to Clark's "death" is unreliable, as he has extremely poor eyesight, and wasn't even wearing his glasses when the crash occurred. Although Superman realizes that he can plausibly claim that Clark could have swam to shore without the fisherman noticing, Lois tells him that, to her, the fact Clark hasn't contacted her or anyone is the real proof that he's dead.
Looking through Clark's bookshelf, Lois sees a bomb placed inside. Superman flies her out just before it goes off. He puts out the fire and, scanning the crowd with his x-ray vision, sees Bowman near his apartment.
At the Metropolis Police Department, Lois confronts Bowman: He was the detective on the Walker case, happened to be the one closest to Clark's wreck, and Bowman was spotted near his apartment after the bomb went off. An increasingly nervous Bowman dismisses her, but Lois holds up the phone tap — standard police issue — and says she will have it checked for fingerprints. Bowman cracks and throws Lois off the stairs. Unfortunately for him, Superman was listening and saves Lois.
Bowman runs to the roof and steals a helicopter. Superman confronts him, but is shot with bullets strong enough to pin him for a few seconds. Bowman then fires a missile at Superman, which hurls him away then explodes, but Superman is unharmed. Superman captures Bowman and he and Lois together will tell the governor of Walker's innocence: It was Bowman who killed the woman, and framed Walker for the crime. Unfortunately, at the last minute, the governor had gone to watch Walker's execution. Superman rushes to the prison and manages to save Walker from the gas chamber at the last minute.
Lois reads her story on Walker's exoneration, but takes no satisfaction in her byline; Clark is still gone. Just then, she gets a phone call and bolts up from her desk in shock. At Lana Lang's penthouse, Lois finds Clark alive and well, but with a bandage around his head. He claims that he washed ashore, found a phone and called Lana, but was too weak to call anyone else until later. Lois is outraged, considering all she went through, but accepts the story.
Some time later, Bowman sits in his prison cell, and growls as he angrily reads the story of his own scheduled execution written by Clark Kent before noticing the officers who escort him to his execution much to his horror. As he sits in the gas chamber, he quietly wonders aloud how Clark survived the car bomb. Bowman suddenly realizes to his shock that Clark Kent is Superman right before the lever is pulled, taking his revelation with him to his grave.
- Bowman's corruption was foreshadowed in the earlier episode "Target".
- Clark calls on Lana to help him since she is one of the few people besides his parents who know his secret identity, as revealed in "My Girl".
- Interestingly, Superman tells his parents that he needs to be Clark Kent and he'd go crazy if he had to be Superman all the time. However, in Batman Beyond, "The Call", Superman seems to have abandoned his "Clark Kent" persona, though this could be attributed to Superman needing to acknowledge that Clark Kent, apparently a normal human being, might have died of old age by the events of the series.
- Also, in "Mxyzpixilated", when Mr. Mxyzptlk threatens to reveal his secret identity to the world, Superman shrugs it off, saying he'll just come up with another alter ego. Though it is possible this was a bluff on Superman's part.
Home video releases
- Superman: A Little Piece of Home (DVD)
- Superman: The Animated Series, Volume Two (DVD)
- Superman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Superman and Friends (DVD)
- At the beginning of the episode, it's dark as Clark Kent's friends mourn him. However, when Superman sees Lois leave, there's still some sunlight.
- When Clark calls Lois to tell her he has the evidence to clear Walker, his shirt, tie, and pants change from yellow, black, and green to Clark's usual white, red, and blue.
- A helicopter with missiles and machine guns loaded up would not be guarded by one cop without a gun.
- When Jimmy and Lois hold up the Daily Planet, the lead is "Superman saves condemned man". In the next shot, the "con" is missing.
- Both Walker and Bowman are sentenced to execution by gas chamber. Most states in the U.S. abandoned lethal gas as a method of execution in the early-mid 1990's, before this episode was produced. Furthermore, Metropolis is located on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. (the same as Gotham City), and only two states on the eastern seaboard have used the gas chamber (see also Justice League Unlimited, "Task Force X"):
- Maryland discontinued the gas chamber in 1994, but allows prisoners sentenced to death before March 25, 1994 to choose that method of execution; assuming Metropolis was located in Maryland, Walker might qualify, but not Bowman;
- North Carolina formerly used the gas chamber, but now uses injection only.
- This is one of the only two episodes that is narrated by Superman in flashback. The other is "Absolute Power".
- Bowman's motive for murdering the wealthy woman is unknown.
|Tim Daly||Superman/Clark Kent|
|Dana Delany||Lois Lane|
|David Kaufman||Jimmy Olsen|
|Joely Fisher||Lana Lang|
|Eddie Barth||Detective Kurt Bowman|
|Paul Colbert||Ernest Walker|
|Peter Renaday|| Clerk |
|Shelley Fabares||Martha Kent|
|Mike Farrell||Jonathan Kent|
Superman: (Narrating) Luck. That's what it all boils down to, doesn't it? The smallest break one way or the other. It can save a life or destroy one. And you can't fight it, no matter how strong you are.
Superman: (Narrating) Dinner was hard to pass up. I hadn't eaten all day... not that I needed to.
Superman: (Narrating) I suppose I could have flown to the governor as Superman and given him the disk, but that could have raised some awkward questions. Maybe there was some ego involved too. I wanted this to be Clark's victory, not Superman's.
(Watching Lois depart early from Clark's funeral.)
Lois: I always teased him. But I had so much respect. (Shedding tears.) And I liked him too, I really did. I wish I'd told him.
Lois: I don't believe it! You've been sitting here in the lap of luxury while I'm out risking my neck!
Bowman: (Last words) How did he survive that car bomb? How? (realizes) He's Superman!