There are some major, myth-rewriting revelations about Superman’s ancestry in Krypton. But since this is a time travel show you kinda suspect there are going to be reset buttons galore. And the producers have confirmed it exists in an “alternate reality” to the comics and big-screen DCU, so the fact that [redacted for spoilers] is Superman’s [redacted for spoilers] – or that Kal-El is descended from a line of Brits – probably won’t send shockwaves through fandom.
Krypton was developed by David S Goyer, script writer on the Dark Knight trilogy, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League, but in tone it feels more like his previous foray into TV, Da Vinci’s Demons. Set in the Kryptonian city of Kandor around 200 years before the planet is due to blow up, the spotlight is on Superman and Supergirl’s grandfather, Seg-El, when he was a young man.
As a child he witnessed his grandfather executed for daring to suggest that life existed on other planets, and the House of El was stripped of all its rights and privileges. Fourteen years later, he’s caught up in the political machinations of scheming chief magistrate, Daron-Vex, who has plans to overthrow religious leader the Voice of Rao. Meanwhile Seg-El, who’s secretly dating Lyta-Zod, daughter of the Primus of the Kryptonian military guild, is being forced into an arranged marriage with Daron-Vex’s daughter, Nyssa Vex.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get more convoluted, a guy from future Earth, Adam Strange (cue a mass “Oooooh” from DC Comics fans), shows up, telling Seg-El that his grandson will be the universe’s greatest hero, but that some supervillain is planning to wipe him from history by changing the past...
You’ve probably guessed from that tortuous summary that Krypton’s main problem is that’s it’s overstuffed with plot. The time travel elements offer the writers the chance to bring in another familiar character from Superman mythology later in the season, but you can’t help feeling it’s a conceit too far. There’s so much time travel on TV now that there’s a stale whiff of familiarity about the temporal dilemmas.
The best new TV shows coming in 2018
The emphasis on time travel also gets in the way of world-building. The show may be called Krypton, but we learn little about the world’s culture or society beyond what’s strictly necessary for the story. Still, as a straightforward action-adventure series, it’s diverting enough fluff. Cameron Cuffe brings an unexpected self-deprecating wit to Seg-El, Blake Ritson is superbly creepy as Big Bad Brainiac and there are some good, meaty roles for the women... eventually. The early episodes lay on the “kickass babes” schtick with an embarrassing lack of subtlety, but as the series progresses Nyssa and Lyta are allowed to be actual characters.
Shaun Sipos never really gets a chance to flesh out Adam Strange beyond whiny and irritating, and practically vanishes from the series after his most intriguing moment. The production design and effects impress, if you can ignore a terrible pair of statues in the Fortress of Solitude (are they playing basketball?) and an over-reliance on gloomy corridors. And there are nods to some quite obscure corners of DC lore that’ll please fans without bamboozling casual viewers. Krypton has yet to soar up, up and away, but with season 2 confirmed, it could yet take off.