SyFy’s Krypton is a show that no one really wanted.
Taking some major inspiration from 2013’s Man of Steel version of Krypton - coupled with a healthy dose of comic lore - Krypton was meant to explore the relationships between the houses of El and Zod, while fleshing out the sociological and political climate that Krypton, Kandor in particular, were undergoing at the time.
Set 200 years before Superman's tale, the show follows his grandfather, Seg-El and Lyta-Zod, through Kandor’s turbulent climate.
The house of El, after some outlandish claims by Van-El, Seg’s grandfather, about extra-terrestrial life and the threat it poses to Krypton, ends up plunging the once noble name of El into disrepute. So shades of Jor-El then...
We start the show with Seg and his family at the bottom of the caste barrel, fighting his way through life, literally at times, but still revealing a young man with a good heart beneath it all. Krypton is held under the ruthless rule of religion, presided over by the Voice of Rao, with citizens split between the haves and the have-nots. The law that keeps those in power, well, in power but rebellion is brewing beneath the streets.
Now if you had to simply look at that synopsis for the show, you’d be forgiven for not wanting to waste your time on it. Krypton has never been something many people have wanted to read about or see more of, especially if it was merely a socio-political drama/thriller. Especially when we all know how the story ends.
However, the show plays its hand at the end of the first episode by introducing the alien threat and how it will determine the fate of the universe's future. Adam Strange, time-travelling Earthman, brings a portent of doom – Brainiac is coming and Superman’s future is no longer set in stone. So pretty big stakes then.
Krypton juggles a lot of story threads at the same time. Those interested in the inner workings of Krypton aren’t going to be disappointed as plenty of time is spent on the political machinations to usurp the Voice of Rao and we see just how this impacts the citizens who are, literally, at the bottom of the city. In fact, the shows first five episodes are spent more on what’s happening to Kandor and its people than actually tackling the main threat. To the shows credit, it makes these plot threads far more interesting and worth investing your time in than I expected them to be. Who the El’s were, who Seg wants them to be again, and just how devoted to duty the Zods are comes across nicely, especially when it all ties into the shows endgame and its character choices.
The shows second half goes all in on the comic book side where story is concerned. Brainiac emerges as the true threat to Kandor, while another time-travelling character flips the stakes completely on what happens, provoking massive changes in the timeline that had me wishing a second season was already showing.
Krypton’s greatest strength, as with some other notable comic shows such as I, Zombie and Luficer, is that it merely uses Krypton lore as a backbone for the story it wants to tell. Krypton takes the concept of what life was like in this doomed civilization, does its own thing with it, and comes out shining; which is a noticeable achievement as I was firmly in the “we don’t need this" camp.
Acting for the show is pretty much on par with most other comic book shows, though it has a darker tone than most of the CW stuff. What was nice was seeing a show in which the bulk of the accents were English, which made a change from all the alien worlds in other shows that America had clearly colonised.
The visuals are definitely a cut above what we usually expect from SyFy. There are repeated sets and locations that have been repurposed for different areas by utilising different camera views, and set dressings are usually sparse, but this feels more in line with Kryptonian aesthetics, rather than budgetary constraints.
The visual effects shine. Kandor is wonderfully rendered in those distant shots showing us the city and the outlying wastelands, and it’s quite clear that a large portion of the budget was spent on making those distant views and the battle sequences feel tangible. The redesign of Brainiac's ship for the show, while maintaining ties to its original comic design, have been updated to create an impressive, oppressive, incredibly creepy skull-shaped ship that dominates planets. I would love to have seen more of the ship, especially its insides and Brainiacs collection room, but the fewer shots benefited the show as well. When his ship eclipses Kandor’s skyline, it’s quite breathtaking.
Season 1 ends on a major cliffhanger that shakes up the timeline and sets up some much larger stakes for our heroes. With the show already renewed for a second season, promising a much larger focus in cosmic shenanigans, along with a visit to Thanagar, and the debut of the Main Man himself, Lobo, I certainly can’t wait for Season 2.
Krypton is more than just a good comic book show, it’s a good SF show as well that you should certainly give a chance.
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