Krypton: Pilot

"You have to save Superman."

In a field already crowded with DC Comic shows it was going to take something pretty special to make this one stand out. First impression – They just might have succeeded.

Let's get this out of the way up front. This show is not a Berlanti-verse show. David S. Goyer, who wrote both Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman (not to mention The Dark Knight Rises and the TV show Constantine) is Krypton's creator and executive producer, and this show is very much a part of that universe. Please don't let that scare you away. It may be a darker grittier version of Krypton than previously seen but it works much better when not dealing directly with Superman.

Krypton also avoids some of the issues that Gotham ran into by taking place approximately 200 years before the birth of Kal-El. The show centers around his grandfather Seg-El, played by relative newcomer Cameron Cuffe. Seg is a 22-year-old who is angry at the world. We learn in the prologue that his family has been stripped of their name and rank. Now he is forced to run scams in order to help his disgraced parents make ends meet. In addition to that, he is in love with a woman that he can't have and may be forced to "bind" with one that he does not want.

Enter Adam Strange, a deep cut from the comics, with tidings of doom and gloom. If Seg cannot find a way to defeat the Collector of Worlds not only will Krypton be destroyed but his grandson, Kal-El, AKA "the greatest hero in the universe," will never be born. Despite his disbelief, Seg's curiosity quickly lands him in the middle of a religious and political maelstrom, the cost of which is exceedingly high.

Cameron succeeds in portraying a decent kid whose frustration at his lot in life periodically boils over into violence. He is aided by his friend Kem, Rasmus Hardiker, who provides what little levity can be found in a fairly grim world. His love interest, played by Georgina Campbell, is dealing with issues of her own, namely a mom who is her superior officer and a fiancé that she does not love. Shaun Sipos of Dark Matter fame plays Adam Strange while Wallis Day rounds out the young cast as the ambitious younger daughter of the ranking Lawmaker.

For me, the most interesting part of this show is the time and opportunity it provides to delve into the various strata of Krypton society and not just the enlightened and somewhat calcified version we're used to seeing. This is a theocracy where speaking out against His Eminence, The Voice of Rao, is considered an act of sedition and is a capital offense. Even among the elite, your guild (i.e., career) and your mate are chosen for you. If you are among the rankless, you are routinely forced to suffer numerous indignities with few if any rights. This was not always the case.  It appears that these changes all occurred when the Voice of Rao assumed power around 14 years ago. I look forward to learning more.

There isn't much more I can say without discussing plot specifics so I'll leave you with this. The pilot does an excellent job of introducing all of our major characters and their relationships while laying the groundwork for the rest of the season. Not only do we meet our protagonist and Big Bad but the seeds of other threats and potential storylines are planted as well. Additionally, as mentioned above, the class structure of Krypton is sketched out in bold strokes to be filled in with more detail later all set against a cinematic looking backdrop. This is no mean feat in less than 45 minutes of screen time.

This version of Krypton may not be for everyone but it is certainly worth a look.

3 out of 5 capes

Anything below this line may contain spoilers. Ye have been warned!

Parting Thoughts:

Do Kryptonians speak English or does Adam speak Kryptonese?

I loved the fact that Seg went straight to his parents with Adam's story. I get so sick of people hiding information for no reason.

Black Zero, a name mentioned multiple times in the episode, was, at different points, a supervillain and a terrorist organization on Krypton in the comics.

Loved the moments where Superman's theme is laced through the score. As someone who grew up watching the Christopher Reeves movies, it made me smile.

The premiere was littered with familiar sci-fi faces including Ian McElhinney of Game of Thrones, Paula Malcomson of Hunger Games and Caprica, and Rupert Graves of 12 Monkeys and Sherlock (I know Sherlock is not sci-fi, but it is definitely a fan favorite, so it gets a pass).

Quotes:

Val-El: "You can deny it all you like, but the truth is, we are not alone in the universe."

Seg: "You look like you'd have trouble finding your own ass with both hands tied behind your back. And my guess is you're the smart one."

Government Official: "Well, if you're so clever, tell me this. How come you're on the stupid end of this blaster?"

Seg: "Could you remind me why I'm the one who has to go and provoke the very large, very corrupt government officials?"

Ter-El: " Please tell me you and Kem didn't pull that scam again last night."
Seg: "All right, fine. I won't."

Charys-El: "Does that hurt?"
Seg-El: "Yeah, a lot."
Charys-El: "Good, maybe it'll remind you to start using that brain of yours."

Jayna-Zod: "Do not mistake passion for strength."

Seg-El: "Well, that's not how I thought today would go."
Kem: "Really? I was pretty sure that you'd get a Guild rank and a wife before lunch."
Seg-El: "Don't forget foiling a terrorist, cause I did that, too."

Seg-El: "What happened to your hand?"
Lyta-Zod: "Mother and I spent some quality time in the training room."

Adam: "What I'm about to tell you is gonna sound completely insane. But, um, just go with it."

Charys-El: "What exactly did this Strange guy say again?"

Charys-El: "It's time you learned the truth."
Seg-El: "You had to steal a skimmer for that?"
Charys-El: "I prefer borrowed."

---
Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

6 comments:

Patrick said...

The language thing was a slight annoyance, but after watching a dozen years of Stargate shows that gleefully skipped past that continuity issue, I can't get TOO upset about it. But the idea that as recently as 200 years ago Krypton didn't think there was life anywhere else in the universe flies in the face of pretty much every version of the planet's history in the comics. I get the urge to put a new twist on a classic origin story, and sometimes it works out well(Superman: Birthright, a 12-issue retelling of Superman's origin is a great example), but sometimes you end up with something that's just too far from the classic story to be enjoyable to me.

I just didn't find either the characters or the story to be all that compelling. The "you have to save the future so Superman can be born" thing didn't hook me at all. The disintegrating cape felt like a cross between the rose from Beauty & The Beast and the polaroid from Back To The Future. To be fair, I'm not usually a fan of open-ended time travel stories, they tend to either a) get too convoluted to be entertaining, or b) decide they're just going to ignore any inconsistencies and be about as scientifically accurate as an Austin Powers movie.

Shari Houtman said...

Thanks, Patrick.

I'm always interested to hear how someone who follows the comics views these shows. As I've said multiple times, I've never read the comics. I get curious and do a little internet digging but I am not an expert. I did think it was a little odd that the Kryptons thought they were alone in the universe if only for the reason that it's supposed to be the same world as Man of Steel. And in that movie, Krypton sent ships to explore other planets. However, I figured that could take place after these events and let it go.

I had my issues with the episode but I couldn't get into them without giving the plot away. I thought the pilot was well crafted enough that people should at least give it a look. As for me, there were enough things I'm curious about that I'll keep watching for now.

Billie Doux said...

I watched about twenty minutes of it, thought "this isn't for me," and turned it off, immediately feeling guilty because I'd asked Shari to review it and I hadn't even watched the whole thing. But there was someone on one of our social platforms who absolutely loved it.

So I now suspect this is one of those shows that people really love or desperately dislike. There are such things.

Anonymous said...

I hope you keep reviewing the show. The idea that an advanced society like Krypton would just reject life on other planets is weird, but I think it is related to the tyrannical religious rule of krypton. They have to seem all powerful to keep the masses at bay. I like the actors and the idea of hero taking on a whole corrupt society instead of just villains of the week is intriguing. Hopefully Georgina Campbell & Cameron Cuffe to make the romance angle work.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Georgina Campbell & Cameron Cuffe have enough chemistry to make the romance angle work.

Billie Doux said...

Anonymous -- thanks for your comment. Comments. :) We're probably not going to be able to review Krypton just yet. Too many shows, not enough reviewers!