The first Season of Krypton tackles something decidedly ambitious, something that other comic book shows have shied away from: introducing an entirely new world and mostly new characters. Rather than tackle more established ones, Krypton finds a way to juggle storytelling, world-building, and character development at the same time. It takes an opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of the past of the planet of Krypton, bringing it to life in a way that manages to be bold and exciting despite some initial flaws.
Our main character that we follow in this journey is Seg-El, Superman’s Grandfather, played by Cameron Cuffe. Seg-El starts off as an ordinary citizen of Kandor, before he’s eventually pulled into a mission by Shaun Sipos’ time-travelling Adam Strange who has come back from present day Earth with a dangerous mission – to stop Kandor from being destroyed by the villainous Brainiac (Blake Ritson). It’s an interesting concept, but the show initially struggles with finding room for Adam Strange in what is essentially Seg-El’s storyline, and he first seems put there only to make Star Wars references and act as a means to drive the plot forward and nothing more. In fact, the whole of Krypton is fairly flawed at the start, trying to introduce and stick to Game of Thrones-like politics, character relationships, and world-building that the show has had six seasons to build and expand on, over course of a mere few episodes.
But episode by episode, Krypton is improving. It starts to get better and better as each episode goes by, effectively succeeding in upping the stakes. Adam Strange feels like a much-improved character by the end of the season, and everyone feels in a better place by the end, particularly when a twist comes in halfway through the season that reveals more about Adam’s motives and plays fast and loose with audience’s traditional expectations about what to expect from the more established characters in comics history, leaving us to question everything that we knew.
There are three main Houses of Krypton that we are focused on for much of this season and they each bring their own dynamics to the table. The Els are a shadow of their former self, being exiled to the Rankless, the poorest members of society for the treason actions of Val-El, Seg’s grandfather, played by Ian Mcelhinney. Seg witnesses his parents die by the end of the pilot, and as a result, he’s left in a very difficult position. With the House of El no longer a recognised House, how is it possible that Superman will one day bear his name? It remains an interesting question over the course of the season in the race to restore the timeline so Superman can save the world once again. Kal-El may never appear in person, but his lingering presence over the series is always felt.
The Vexes are the second family that we meet primarily through Daron-Vex and his daughter, Nyssa (No connection to Arrow’s Nyssa Al-Ghul). Daron-Vex is played by Elliot Cowan, a regular collaborator with series developer David S. Goyer (Man of Steel’s writer), who has worked with him on Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons. Here Cowan plays a scheming career-politician who will put self-preservation first over anything, and his character feels like a true cockroach, always clinging onto power no matter the cost. Wallis Day’s Nyssa is far more compelling as his daughter, and her development was one of the more fascinating things about the series.
And finally, the third major house that we met in this series was the Zods, significant players in Krypton’s military. Through them we get to see the most complex and perhaps the most interesting family dynamics out of the multiple characters, with good performances by Wonder Woman star Ann Ogbombo as Jayna-Zod, and Georgina Campbell as her daughter Lyta. It’s also worth mentioning here Arrow’s Colin Salmon, who plays an extremist who’s an exile from the Black Zero terrorist organization, as his character really feels intimidating whenever he’s on screen. It’s Salmon’s arrival that really sets the series in motion as things begin to improve from that point onwards, as the show subverts what we know about certain characters in favour of a bold new approach that feels fresh and different, turning the protagonists against each other as secrets start to come out, leading to extra tension and drama to give the plot a bit more spice.
With so much going on there’s a lot of Krypton that feels rushed. One of its weakest parts is the love square, between Nyssa, Seg, Lyta and Aaron Pierre’s Dev-Em, which feels forced and rushed for some romantic tension. It was something that never really improved as it went along like the rest of the series and always dragged it down, as their chemistry never felt authentic enough to be invested in. This is something that Krypton really needs to improve with in its second season. Introducing so many new threats to the planet so quickly leads to certain things feels rushed in places as well, as we get nods to Doomsday over the course of the season, and you wonder whether it felt needed at all considering Brainiac on his own is more than a credible threat, and maybe his introduction would have been best saved for Season Two.
And speaking of Brainiac, wow. Blake Ritson really excelled in his character’s role, creating a sense of unnerving agency about him that always made him feel creepy whenever he was on-screen. The fact that the writers built him up to be such a credible threat was the smartest choice they could have made, and he instantly left a memorable impression as a result from the moment he appeared on-screen. The villains in general remained Krypton’s biggest strength over the course of the series, and every one was a touch above most of what we’ve seen in the DC Comics universe on TV so far.
Krypton is a show that isn’t afraid of embracing its comic book history. Whilst others like Arrow seem too only glance at the Wikipedia page of the characters and take only the best bits, Krypton embraces it head on. Whilst there was no appearance from Hawkwoman this season as was initially teased, it feels like a good choice as there was too much going on here regardless. There are plenty of callbacks in ways that don’t feel forced, references to wider corners of the DC Universe that really work. The show has the potential to explore beyond just the planet of Krypton itself too going forward, and that’s what remains so exciting about season two.
The visuals in Krypton are fantastic. There’s this almost cinematic quality to them that really benefit the show, and it feels right at home with the tone and feel of the DC Expanded Universe. The dystopian feel of the world helps play up its darker tone, but it remains hopeful all the same. And it’s also mentioning just how good of a cliffhanger the show ends on – it opens up a whole new world of potential for some Elseworlds-esque storylines in the future. The finale is easily the show’s best episode – and it ends on a remarkable high note.
Krypton therefore, with everything taken into account has to go down as one of the most improved shows of the year so far, even if there are still problems left to overcome. It gets past most of its growing pains to become legitimately entertaining television and is something that serves as a real treat for DC and sci-fi fans alike.