Krypton Season 1 review – not quite explosive, but Superman prequel shows promise
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copt of the Blu-Ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.
Krypton’s first season is a mixed bag of a series that shows its full potential, but squanders it too quickly to link with the Superman mythos.
Much like Gotham, the thought of a Superman prequel series set on his destroyed planet seemed unnecessary. Even more so in the case of Krypton as Smallville milked a decade out of the adventures of Clark Kent before he became Superman. How exciting could a series with no superhumans possibly prove to be engaging?
Turns out pretty well actually…at least for a while. For the first five episodes, Krypton exceeded my expectations with a fascinating look at life on Krypton with its class systems, political maneuvering and a respectful look at religion and faith. There were also some familiar plot threads for fans of Game of Thrones and Romeo and Juliet.
Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell) is trying to work her way through the ranks of the military guild. Her mother, Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo, Wonder Woman), is the head of the guild and ensures that Lyta-Zod doesn’t get any favors simply from being the boss’ daughter. Lyta-Zod is carrying out a secret relationship with the rankless Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe.
Seg-El is the grandfather of the future Superman, but he’s spent most of his young adult life being a reckless brawler toiling away with the other Kryptonian dregs. One selfless act gives him the chance to climb up in social status and get betrothed to the alluring Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day). Nyssa has big plans for her future as the daughter of the chief magistrate Daron-Vex (Elliot Cowan).
All of those plans are put in jeopardy when time-traveler Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) arrives with a mission to stop the world-conquering Brainiac in order to keep Superman alive.
Like Arrow with Mister Terrific, Krypton adds a popular minor tier character that’s nothing like his comic book counterpart. Adam Strange is so far removed from the source material he might as well be a different character entirely. It’s always one of those weird things when writers will take a character and abandon all of the traits that make him recognizable to their fans. From personality to sexual orientation, Adam doesn’t match up at all with expectations. Based on his amount of screen time, the writers may as well have just created an original character altogether.
By the sixth episode the writers seem to have fully lost faith in their original concept and start liberally borrowing characters from Superman’s time frame. From Brainiac, General Zod (Colin Salmon) and even Doomsday, the writers blow through storylines that realistically could have carried the show for multiple seasons in five episodes. It’s a puzzling decision and one that robs Krypton of so much of its hard-earned suspense.
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The second General Zod enters the picture we get yet another character who can’t be killed. Brainiac is even worse as he’s a villain that gets Superman fits so there’s no way the non-powered Kryptonians can pose much of a threat. He becomes a massive cheat code on a series that did just fine without him.
I didn’t love how the writers gradually centered the series on Seg-El and made his agenda the priority for the other main characters. Seg just isn’t as interesting and he’s the prototypical male lead in these series with a bad boy edge struggling with issues from his childhood and he just needs the love of the right woman to get his head on straight. Cuffe is fine in the role, but it’s so by the books that there’s not much he can do to make Seg-El stand out.
Conversely, Lyta-Zod’s storylines are much stronger as she learns of her family legacy and fights for her place at the table. Krypton doesn’t shy away from portraying man on woman violence, but doesn’t do it in a way to ignore the stronger physical aspects of men. The women fight more strategically and use their speed to beat their male opponents. This leads to some extremely physical and brutal fight scenes that play out in a satisfying manner.
I really enjoyed how sensible the writers carried out the love square with Seg-El, Lyta-Zod, Nyssa-Vex and Dev-Em (Aaron Pierre), Lyta’s childhood friend. So often these come off contrived, but this played out in a way I was rooting for the other pairings to become official.
The costumes, set designs and CGI are easily another highlight of the series. Krypton looks sensational and while a few sets get used a bit too often, it’s worth it when a new set is introduced.
Apparently the writers were thrilled that they could toss sh!t in the dialogue as every episode has at least three random utterances of the word to the point it felt like a drinking game. It was obnoxious in the same way that teenagers shout out obscenities just for the sake of saying them. On Krypton, it seems especially juvenile. Why would they even use that word and not some other alien phrase?
Krypton really is a tale of two seasons. The first half shows the strength of this premise and how it could sustain for several seasons. But relying too much on established Superman characters in the second half led to an overly complicated and uninteresting conclusion. Hopefully for Season 2 the writers will have more confidence in their unique take instead of forcing ways to tie-in more Superman connections.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment