Krypton: 1.01 Pilot
Krypton is the latest in a now very long line of comic book shows to hit our screens. As a colossal, lifelong Superman fan this was a show I was both intrigued and worried by; anything ‘Super’ is always of interest but a TV show exploring Krypton’s past (especially from this creative team) isn't something I ever felt myself crying out for.
Krypton has a lot of work to do in its pilot episode. A great deal of world building needs to be done to establish a believable planet Krypton and the ambition is plain to see. Audiences have only really seen Superman’s home planet in brief opening sequences or flashbacks, usually depicting the same few events. While the story of the planet’s ancient history (the show is set about 200 years before planet K goes boom) might be ripe for narrative picking, the most glaring misstep of the show is a time travel plot tying events directly to The Man of Tomorrow. Unfortunately this makes the show feel more like a prequel than a history and a sense of forgone conclusion creeps in.
We open with our hero, nine year old Seg-El (Kal’s grandfather) watching his own grandfather be tried and sentenced to death for speaking out against the all powerful Voice of Rao by suggesting there is an alien force set on destroying the planet. This version of Krypton is unlike any we’ve seen before; we see it as a dark, oppressive place with a clear devide between classes and ranks. Part of Seg’s punishment is his family being stripped of their name and house crest (an act that holds little impact as we know they must get it back before Jor-El is born). Once Seg’s family have been totally desolated, the show jumps forward and we meet Seg as a young, rank-less 20-something, living on the means streets of Kandor city.
Unfortunately, in this opening episode at least, Seg and all the other characters feel quite unlikable. While I’m sure this is set to change as they develop and Cameron Cuffe in the role is a charming enough actor, it does make for a shaky start. Seg is a bit of a classic ‘lovable rogue’ except not very lovable and instead of a rogue he’s just a bit of a cock. The support characters aren’t much better. A sexy ice queen, a cowardly dictator, a wheeler-dealer bar owner and a couple of soldier types round out the very clichéd set of characters. The show is trying to do a lot in its first 45 minutes but these are poorly drawn, shallow characters and I hope they flesh them out quickly.
Through the course of this episode a lot happens to Seg. He discovers his grandfather's fortress of solitude, finds out his mum is a secret freedom fighter, gets apprenticed by the man who had his grandfather killed and is practically married off to the same man’s spoilt daughter. He also looses his girlfriend, a young lady by the name of Lyta-Zod.
This El/Zod love affair is a tedious and boring attempt at some deeper relationship and drama between the two families and feels totally unnecessary. Its not helped by the fact Georgina Campbell, playing Lyta, is giving one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a professional production all year. Her performance is boring, disengaged and totally void of any charisma, every line she delivers is flat and unbelievable. I only hope this is some misguided (on the production's part) or misinterpreted (on my part) build up for a character change or major development.
Unfortunately this is not a pleasant show to watch on a visual or technical level. Krypton, as a place, feels very small. The claustrophobic sets and limited locations, rather than creating atmosphere, leave everything feeling like a set and the show looks both expensive and cheap at the same time. The visual FX, CG vistas and space shots look great but the sets and practical visuals look cheap and small, with costumes that seem to have come out of Primark.
When Adam Strange turns up, the only way you can tell his outfit is from present day Earth and not ancient Krypton, is that he wears a baseball cap. Any time I see sci-fi shows that depicts futuristic soldiers by putting them in augmented hockey gear, I grimace. It’s an odd, recent irony that the improved quality of CG on a lower budget has resulted in some films and TV shows with awesome looking effects alongside bad costumes and wobbly sets!
I might have been interested in seeing a show about the early days of Krypton, I’m not sure this is the version of Krypton I would have been interested in seeing though and so far the show hasn’t made me interested. The time travel plot, involving Superman’s cape acting as a kind of countdown clock as it slowly disintegrates, Marty McFly photo style, isn’t much more interesting and even feels like it might get in the way of exploring the other storylines in a satisfying way.
The show almost lost me when adult Seg saw both his parents shot in front of him, then dropped to his knees and screamed to the heavens in a way so clichéd and needlessly melodramatic even Bruce Wayne would have felt embarrassed for him.
While there are a few comforting nods to the wider legacy of the Donner movies, this feels very much like it exists in the Man of Steel universe. While there are influences from the comics present, the over all interpretation of Krypton is like nothing we’ve seen before. Unfortunately the story it’s chosen to tell, of a corrupt, totalitarian society separated by class and controlled by hypocritical religious leaders, is not only uninspired but it’s un-engaging and terribly over baked and reminds me in the worst way of the failed Flash Gordon tv show from a few years back.
Perhaps the show is trying to do too much in its first episode and could improve given time; after all it took Gotham a whole season before it went full Dutch tilt but even so, this doesn’t feel like a good TV show, regardless of how good a Superman show it might be and I’m yet to be won over... but I'm prepared to give it a chance.