Krypton recap: Can the Superman prequel soar without the Man of Steel?


The new DC Comics TV series Krypton made its debut on the SyFy Network on Wednesday night, but did it live up to the billing?

Krypton is the origin story of the House of El, which for non-Superman fans is the family of the Man of Steel. There has been plenty of stories about Kal-El (Superman) and even his father Jor-El (played by Marlon Brando in Superman and Russell Crowe in Man of Steel).

However, the new Krypton TV series goes back 200 years before Kal-El is born and tells the story of his grandfather Seg-El. It starts out with Superman’s great-great-great-grandfather Val-El (Ian McElhinney), who tries to warn the head council of the city of Kandor on Krypton that they are in danger from alien forces.

His reward? Death.

Thanks to the watching the execution of his grandfather, Seg-El becomes a rascal — think Han Solo. The first time we see Seg-El in the future, he is getting into a bar fight. This is a fight he caused to get people to bet on him lasting longer than a couple of minutes — which he wins that bet.

He has been living as an “unranked” in the city, which is a Xenophobic society where everyone lives within their social class and can never move up except for one way — marriage.

But that is jumping ahead a bit.

Kandor and the political system of Krypton

Let’s talk about the caste society in Kandor. There is the poor and unranked — which the El family became after Val-El was executed. They lost their status, their house, and their dignity. They are also in danger all the time because the upper class is split into their own classes — determined before they are even born.

The military class is the police unit, and they have no problem with shooting first and asking questions later when it comes to the unranked. There is also the science class and the ruling class. The man who rules over all is the voice of Rao, a person who wears a gold mask with multiple faces.

This is more Game of Thrones than Superman.

That is just the background.

Krypton’s cast of characters

More from Show Snob

Seg-El lives with his parents Ter-El (Rupert Graves) and Charys-El (Paula Malcomson), both of whom worry about his actions. Things get even worse when he meets a stranger wearing blue jeans, a hooded jacket and a Detroit Tigers cap — very much out of place on a Krypton where no one believes in life on other planets.

This man is Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) — a superhero straight out of DC Comics. He has traveled back in time to warn Seg-El that a villain known as Brainiac (Blake Ritson) has also sent himself back in time and plans on conquering Krypton and ensuring that Superman is never born. It is up to Seg-El to save his planet and ensure the existence of his grandson.

We only see Brainiac for one quick scene, and it is just while Adam Stange is explaining who he is to Seg-El, but the shots of Brainiac and his ship come straight out of the 2008-2009 Geoff Johns and Gary Frank Action Comics version of the character and his craft. For fans of the comics, it is a wonderful depiction.

As for the story, Daron-Vex is the man who held Val-El on trial and had him executed. Later in the Krypton pilot, Seg-El saves the counsel from a bomber working for the mysterious Black Zero terrorist group and is rewarded with marriage (called bonding on Krypton) to his daughter Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day) as a way to give him a rank in society again.

However, despite the forced marriage, Seg-El is in love with a member of the military police Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell) — yes, Zod. Her mother, Alura Zod (Ann Ogbomo) is the head of the military force, so there are a lot of moving pieces here in and out of the ruling class.

There is a question at this point is who Superman’s grandmother will be.

The main plot of Krypton

However, there is a bigger question. Adam Strange gave Seg-El a crystal key and tells him to find the Fortress. While the coincidence seems a little too much, Val-El had a Fortress of Solitude on Krypton just like Superman does on Earth (although it is a little similar to the post-Crisis Fortress origin).

Seg-El is on the run from the police when his mother steals a flying ship, saves him, and flies him to the mysterious fortress that she and Seg’s dad had kept secret from him — for his own safety. It turns out that it was here that Val-El was doing his scientific research that resulted in his execution.

The police track them there, but Charys-El hides her son and takes all blame, claiming she serves the Black Zero. When Alura Zod reveals at her trial that she was not alone, Ter-El lies and says he was with her and when they attack Alura Zod kills them both in front of Seg-El.

As a child, Seg-El watched the government of Krypton execute his grandfather, and now he watches the mother of the woman he loves murder both his parents.

That sent him right back to the Fortress of Solitude — this time with a more stealthy escape from the city — and a chance to revisit with Adam Strange again. After punching him for causing his parent’s deaths, the two finally talk.

Adam Strange has Superman’s cape, which is slowly disintegrating. When it disintegrates, time is up for Krypton, and for the future of Superman. This is the ticking clock that will guide Krypton through its story.

Krypton recap

So, did Krypton work? Yes, it really did. The first episode flew by quite quickly. The cast was overall great, and the setup shows that anything can happen since time travel is involved. Brainiac looked terrific and the caste system of Kandor gives this kind of an Inhumans feel, but with a really corrupt government ruling over the people.

From the look of it, this will be about causing a revolution, which is scary because the Black Zero from the John Byrne Superman comics is the terrorist group that ends up responsible for the destabilized core of Krypton — which blows up the planet. Of course, without Krypton dying, there is no Superman, so there is that.

The direction is great, and the show looks much better than SyFy originals used to look — but that is something that has become expected, especially looking at shows like 12 Monkeys.

Next: Game of Thrones Season 8 casting and location news

At the end of the day, it is a solid start for Krypton. Whether or not it can continue as the season wears on will depend on how far the series can expand beyond just giving Easter eggs to Superman fans. There is a lot of great things to mine here if the show dares to take that leap.

Krypton airs on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. EST.