Review: Syfy’s Krypton Is the Take on Superman/Supergirl Lore We Need Right Now
I’ll admit it. I was skeptical. When I first heard that Syfy was making a Superman prequel series, my first thought was, “Why?” Now that I’ve had a chance to screen the pilot, I need to eat a whole bunch of crow. Not only is Krypton a good show, but it’s a take on Superman/Supergirl that we need right now.
Krypton tells the story of Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), as a young man at a critical point in Krypton’s history. Seg-El was born into a revolutionary, Kryptonian Science Guild family, in Kandor City, and when he was a young boy, the city was taken over by a masked ruler known as The Voice of Rao. Meanwhile, his grandfather, Val-El, had some bonkers ideas. Like that Krypton “isn’t alone in the universe.” Ideas that would surely challenge any kind of faith-based tyrannical stronghold, which is why Val is put to death…
…and his family, including Seg-El and his parents, is stripped of its rank, and the name of El is to be erased from the history of Krypton. Seg then grows up among the “rankless,” those without a guild, who are considered to have no honor, and as we watch adult Seg scamming some dudes in a random bar with his best friend, we are given a vision of Krypton that we’ve never really seen before.
One of the things I found myself loving most about Krypton was the fact that it was giving us a different side of this culture we know from comic books. Much of the inspiration for the show was taken from John Byrne’s Superman: The Many Worlds of Krypton, as well as other stories spotlighting the doomed planet by writers like Paul Kupperberg, Cary Bates, and Marv Wolfman.
We’re so used to seeing the shimmering spires, the people dressed in crisp, angular clothing, their clipped speech, and demeanor. But that isn’t everyone, and this show is about the people at the bottom. The people without ranks, or fancy clothes, who are just trying to get by any way they can. Throw a newly-tyrannical government on top of that, and Krypton becomes that much more relevant to a contemporary audience.
The show very much has a Battlestar Galactica/The Expanse vibe to it, but thankfully maintains a bit more humor than those shows. This is largely thanks to a charming performance by Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, who strikes a great balance between wise-cracking, sarcastic con artist, and descendant of revolutionaries being called to find his place in his family’s work.
In addition to showing us a side of Krypton we’re not used to seeing, we also get to know Kryptonian society a bit better, particularly when it comes to the Guilds and how they function (and their inevitable conflicts with each other), but also when it comes to things like conflict between classes, as well as the basics of Kryptonian society: like, how do people fall in love and form families? (ie: carrying a baby in your body as opposed to growing it in a genesis chamber is so old-school!)
The icing on the cake for me, however, was the show’s women. Yes, this is a male-led show, Seg is surrounded by amazing women like his mother, Charys-El (Paula Malcolmson), to whom there’s more than meets the eye; or Lyta Zod (Georgina Campbell, and yes you read “Zod” correctly), the woman Seg loves whose mother is—wait for it—General Alura Zod (Ann Ogbomo); and then there’s Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day), the daughter of The Voice of Rao’s second-in-command, Daron-Vex (Elliot Cowan). Nyssa is the youngest of five daughters, which apparently means she’s the one the family cares about the least. She’s fascinating because she has all this rank privilege that she doesn’t really care about at all, because she’s still treated like less-than by her family. Oh, and did I mention that through events I don’t want to spoil, Nyssa ends up getting promised to Seg in marriage?
I’m very much looking forward to Seg, Lyta, and Nyssa somehow teaming up to serve the resistance against tyranny and the fight for knowledge. However, that might be difficult considering that Lyta’s mom…never mind. More stuff I don’t want to spoil. Let’s just say that both these women come from very interesting family dynamics, which has shaped them into survivors in very different ways. I can’t wait to see how they evolve. Alura-Zod, too.
There’s another element to the story that’s really cool that I don’t want to get into because, again, spoilers. Let’s just say it involves Seg in the back alleys of Kandor City…talking to a dude in a baseball cap and a hoodie? Yup. That dude gets Seg involved in a mission that will ultimately (hopefully) not only save Krypton, but save his family name and future. He might not be the last of his line after all! (I mean, Superman fans know he’s not, but just go with it)
I would highly recommend giving it a whirl. If you’re even slightly familiar with or interested in Superman or Supergirl, Krypton has a lot to offer: great performances, a unique social relevance, and a freedom in its storytelling that is the product of it being on a cable network. And if you’re a big fan of our favorite Kryptonian Super-family, then it’s just hella fun.
Oh, and by the way, I’ll be live-tweeting the premiere of the pilot tomorrow on The Mary Sue’s Twitter, as well as posting videos and photos to TMS’ Instagram while I’m in attendance at the Krypton premiere party at DC Entertainment Headquarters tomorrow night! So if you want to keep up with that make sure you’re following our socials!
Krypton premieres tomorrow, March 21st at 10:00PM ET on SyFy .
(image: Gavin Bond/Syfy)
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