DC Entertainment isn't struggling when it comes to its television series. Currently, it has Gotham, Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and I, Zombie, most of which air on CW. But for many people, CW's style of television may not be appealing. Now, DC has an eighth show--and in just the first two episodes, Syfy's Krypton has become one of the best comic book shows on television. It's all the more impressive for a show about Superman's history that doesn't feature one millisecond of Superman himself.
Krypton follows Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), the grandfather of Superman, who is in his mid-twenties and lives in the city of Kandor. His science-minded family had their titles, name, and rank stripped from them and now live among what's called "the rankless"--the lower class. A man from the future named Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) warns Seg of a threat by the name of Brainiac who is headed to Krypton. If Seg and the rest of the Kryptonians don't stop this menacing alien, he will destroy the planet, and Superman--who is the universe's greatest hero--will never be born.
The planet Krypton has been explored in television, comics, and movies numerous times but never with this much depth or attention to detail. No, we don't see Russell Crowe flying around on a dragon like in Man of Steel, but what we do get is a planet and culture not too entirely off from our own, which is a brilliant way to make the viewer feel at ease. Yes, it's an info-dump in the opening half of the first episode, but so much of it feels close to home. There is a divide which has created classism, which in turn has resulted in what feels very close to a police state. Those in charge of Krypton have almost almost found themselves in a theocracy, which follows a creepy multi-faced dude named The Voice of Rao, who wears a laughable gold helmet. There's a sense of infallibility and extreme narcissism from those in charge as well. These aspects may or may not exist in the real world, but they are exceptionally easy to understand for the audience, which only help in the world-building of Superman's home planet.
And the only Superman we get on this series--at least the opening two episodes--is his cape, which Adam Strange gives to Seg. The cape serves more as a ticking time bomb than a representation of the character, as the more the cape disappears--like Marty's family in Back to the Future--the less of a chance Seg-El has to save the future. And in all honesty, as a longtime comic book reader, Superman is exceptionally boring to me. His personality and prowess has the same appeal as watching paint dry in the pouring rain. Where Krypton shines is that it has no problem saying Superman is perfect but where he came from was a mess, a planet on the verge of falling into a civil war. It's less about his legacy and more about understanding a world he had little-to-no connection to, which is in the middle of a cultural crisis.
Krypton takes the Gotham route, in a sense, but takes itself far more serious than its wacky, tongue-in-cheek Fox counterpart. The basics of Krypton, the planet's culture, and most notable families are merely a starting point, and the show expands from there. It doesn't treat the source material as holy literature and lets the showrunners create something new and special for comic book readers and those who have never picked up a comic book in their life. It's accessible and plays much more to a science-fiction crowd than fans of the superhero genre.
My only fear is that this ambitious show may outpace itself as it lays a lot on the line right off the bat, including making Brainiac the looming cloud of doom over Kandor, as he's one of Superman's most diabolical baddies. The seeds for the whole season's plot and sidestories seem to be laid very quickly, and barring some major surprises, feel like they could also be wrapped up relatively fast. Regardless, there is a lot of room to grow on this show, as it follows Seg-El, rather than Superman's father Jor-El, so there's potentially multiple decades the show can work with.
Because the Syfy series feels like such a departure from the Superman comics, it may be a tough pill to swallow for comic book fans. However, Krypton is its own thing. It may pull elements from comics and science fiction, but the show is incredibly smart and at times, a bizarro reflection of our own society. It stands on its own merits, and hopefully, the rest of the first season can keep keep up the high-bar the first two episodes delivered.
Krypton airs on Syfy on Wednesdays at 10 PM.
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