Krypton, a Superman prequel set some 200 years before the birth of the Man of Steel, kicks off on Syfy tonight.
Like Gotham, the show nods its cap to an iconic DC character, while choosing to center its focus on the supporting cast — in this case, Kal-El’s grandfather, Seg (Cameron Cuffe), who witnesses the execution of his grandfather Val-El (Ian McElhinney), and the ostracising of his family, in the opening moments of the pilot.
This moment sets the tone for the series. We are introduced to a world where the political leadership is in chaos, and where threats from a deadly terrorist organization prompt a paranoid ruling class to choose execution over incarceration for wrongdoers.
But Krypton has more to offer than just internal political conflicts, themes on the rejection of science over religion, and the unjustness of a two-tier society. Thrown into the mix are a couple of characters that DC comic book aficionados will recognize — earthly time-traveler Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) who arrives on Krypton with an urgent message about our planet’s future, and Seg’s grandson, and the villainous Brainiac (Blake Ritson), who Seg’s grandfather previously predicted might just bring about an end to Krypton’s existence. (Shoulda listened to the science guy, people!)
Seg soon finds finds himself with an impossible choice. Should he step in and save his planet from destruction, or allow history to take its course and in doing so, correct a time anomaly that will restore the fate of his grandson, Superman?
Meanwhile, Seg is presented with an opportunity to redeem his family’s honor that comes at a heartbreaking cost, and introduces a love triangle between Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day) his betrothed, and Georgina Campbell’s Lyta-Zod (yes, that Zod), the woman he loves.
Krypton comes from David S. Goyer, he of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fame, and the series is appropriately peppered with references, easter eggs and even that familiar John Williams musical score that will be sure to please die hard Superman fans, and maybe make newbies feel just a tad lost at times.
We’re not quite sure why everyone has British accents, but they appear to be pretty ubiquitous, and lend a distinct, and we feel, deliberate Game of Thrones flavor to proceedings — a flavor only enhanced by the presence of wine-sipping evil monarchs, sword fights, medieval architecture (we come this close to actual castles) and more British-sounding peasants, cheerfully accepting their dirty, short-lived lot in life.
However, add to the mix a hefty dollop of scifi, with Star Wars style blasters and flying ships called “skimmers,” artificial reproduction, and that aforementioned CW style love triangle, and Krypton begins to lose its identity as it sinks under the weight of too many ideas.
However the show should be commended for taking a single tenuous idea and running with it, even if over-enthusiastically. Less a prequel than a full stand-alone series, Krypton really does work hard to establish itself as something different.
If you can look past the clashing themes, methodical world-building, and dense mythology, this tenacious offering may just be the Superman prequel you didn’t know you wanted.
Krypton bows Wednesday, March 21 10-11 p.m. ET) on Syfy.