Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 5, 2019)
Most superhero movies and shows offer origin stories, but we rarely find prequels. Gotham counts, I guess, but since it includes so many of the Batman characters, it feels more like a very gradual origin tale.
With the TV series Krypton, however, we get to see life on Superman’s home planet generations before Kal-El’s birth. Season One includes 10 episodes across two Blu-rays. The plot synopses come from the package’s insert.
Pilot: “Meet Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), Superman’s grandfather.”
That’s a pretty loose summary, isn’t it? Of course, “Pilot” introduces us to a lot more than just Seg, as we get a bunch of other new characters.
We also find a decidedly grittier view of Krypton than seen in prior TV series and movies. That’s an interesting choice, and probably necessary to sustain Krypton, as the usual depiction of Superman’s homeworld tends to feel sterile.
That said, the “Pilot” makes Krypton seem an awfully Earth-based, what with Seg’s working-class demeanor and bar brawls and whatnot. We’ll see how the series develops, but the “Pilot” brings a slightly rocky start.
House of El: “Seg adjusts to a new life, a new rank and a new threat”.
After the ample introductory exposition of “Pilot”, “House” brings us… a lot more exposition. This seems necessary, given the scope of the series, so that doesn’t bother me.
The lackluster quality of the show does, though. “House” shows some glimmers of promise, but like the first episode, it feels scattered and less than enticing. Again, I hope to see improvements as we go, but after two programs, I can’t say Krypton does much for me.
The Rankless Initiative: “Seg and Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) race to find Brainiac’s (Blake Ritson) deadly sentry.”
Earlier I stated that the gritty view of Krypton might be necessary, as the more utopian take from the movies would lack drama. I now feel less sure about that, mainly because the darker take on Superman’s home feels contrived and stolen from other sci-fi efforts. Three episodes in and I have yet to take much of value from Krypton.
The Word of Rao: “The Voice of Rao (Ritson) finds a scapegoat to quell Rankless unrest.”
Four episodes into Krypton and I think a lack of identity remains the series’ biggest problem. We get so many bits “borrowed” from other properties – especially various iterations of Star Trek - that it never forms its own personality. “Word” doesn’t manage to alter this equation, so the series remains fairly lackluster.
House of Zod: “Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo) grapples with her torn loyalties.”
Given what we know about the El/Zod relations from movies, the decision to make Seg romantically involved with the eventual mother of General Zod seems intriguing – or like a cheap gimmick. Take your pick.
I lean toward “gimmick”, as the narrative thread doesn’t add much to the proceedings. “House” becomes another mediocre show that doesn’t manage to elevate the series above bland soap opera.
Civil Wars: “Seg is confronted with an impossible choice.”
With the introduction of a major Superman character, “Wars” briefly shows some promise. However, the story becomes undermined with the usual dull stabs at political intrigue so it becomes another episode without much dramatic impact.
Transformation: “After the coup, Daron-Vex (Elliot Cowan) must punish the conspirators.”
As we proceed deeper into Season One, the drama should amplify. Unfortunately, matters continue to plod, as we get banal material without much real intrigue or impression. “Transformation” becomes another mediocre show that fails to break this trend.
Savage Night: “A resistance movement forms against the Voice of Rao.”
With additional information about Adam’s backstory, “Night” almost becomes interesting – almost. Unfortunately, the usual melodramatic nonsense drags down the rest of the episode and makes this a bland entry.
Hope: “Will Seg make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of Kandor City?”
With so little time left in S1, should I expect “Hope” to finally lure me in? Nope – that’d be a tough feat, given how disenchanted the first eight shows left me.
“Hope” does attempt to heat up the action, of course, but it doesn’t do this in a convincing manner. We get more of the standard theatrics and nothing much to add impact.
The Phantom Zone: “Seg races to save Kandor from Brainiac.”
As S1 ends, it does so on a shockingly positive note. Where was this exciting, compelling series all year?
While the fact S1 waited so long to offer something interesting disappoints and frustrates me, at least the year ends on a positive note. Perhaps S2 will pick up where this one leaves off and become a strong year of episodes. S1 finishes well but exhausts patience on the way to the big finale.