By virtue of being a prequel, Krypton already had critics poised to question whether we really needed a TV show exploring Superman’s homeworld. Surely viewers would be able to expect very few surprises – Krypton’s destruction is an established fact within the DC Universe. But Krypton defies expectations of mediocrity and proves that prequels are worth the effort. Even viewers with knowledge of Krypton’s ultimate fate are in for plenty of twists and turns throughout the show that builds and retains the tension essential to maintaining healthy viewing figures.
Undoubtedly the show’s greatest strength lies in the well-paced and detailed world-building, which allows viewers to enjoy it even with limited knowledge of Superman lore. The planet’s culture, particularly its rank-based nature, and the El family’s history is brilliantly woven into the world-building. Indeed, all of the exposition feels necessary to the show’s plot; everything from the costumes to the long shots of the planet’s landscape truly immerses us in Krypton’s culture. Krypton is a show fully capable of standing on its own feet; even if the Superman films did not exist, the show would still be less enjoyable.
The show’s stakes are clearly established in the pilot with the appearance of a visitor from another world and a revelation imparted to Superman’s grandfather Seyg El (Cameron Cuffe). The pilot provides backstory to the El family that reiterates established canon whilst at the same time adding new details to the mix, so that the show’s narrative is not simply propelled by Krypton’s future destruction. A significant story element which fleshes out the possibilities of the show is the inclusion of time travel, an element which always requires careful handling. In a lesser show, time-travel could undermine the entire dramatic weight of the narrative, but in Krypton it instead serves to open up the possibility that the events of the show are not constricted by the curse of all prequels, wherein the audience knows the narrative’s ultimate fate.
The recognisable iconography of the Superman mythos ensures that the show contains plenty of easter eggs for the keen-eyed fan. A carefully placed shot of Braniac’s black tentacles conveys a sense of impending doom as we watch Krypton’s inhabitants going about their lives unaware of the danger heading their way. By cleverly keeping the villain in the wings, much as Marvel did with Thanos until Infinity War, he feels more sinister than if he had more screen-time.
Krypton differentiates itself from shows like Smallville or later seasons of Agents of Shield by focusing on a protagonist who lacks superpowers. Instead, Seyg has to rely on his nerve as he sets out to prove that his grandfather was right about Brainiac’s threat, a difficult task in a society whose theocratic beliefs, represented by the mysterious Voice of Rao, led them into believing they were alone in the Universe. His quest for revenge, desire to save the world and protect the El family legacy make him into a compelling character to structure the show around.
In the presentation of its female characters, it feels that showrunner Damian Kindler has listened to criticism of the way that women are traditionally depicted in the genre. Lyta Zod (Georgina Campbell) exudes power and authority when commanding her troops and Nyssa -Vex (Wallis Day) appears to be pulling the strings as much as her Father Daron-Vex (Elliott Cowan). However, the forbidden romance between Lyta and Seyg at the beginning of the season is a little clichéed and their relationship suffers from a decided lack of chemistry.
Krypton is ultimately unlike any other DC show; with its unique blend of sci-fi and superhero elements, it’s a show that deserves a prime place in your TV viewing habits, and this is a great time to catch up on the greatness you’re missing with a second season in the works.