‘Krypton’ 1×01 Review: Shakespearean Drama in Space

At times, while watching the Pilot of Krypton, I wasn’t sure if I was watching a DC property, or if this was really and truly set on another – more advanced – planet than the one we live in. At times, this seemed more like a Shakespearean drama set in the distant past than a 2018 show with cool gadgets that’s meant to present us with a different side to a story we all know. And yet, isn’t the thing about Shakespeare that his stories might be dated, but the themes are universal?

“The story of your family isn’t how we died, but how we lived,” Seg-El tells his grandson in the voice-over that, of course, starts off the episode. And this is an interesting and, frankly, necessary idea to introduce when it comes to a show that will, presumably, end in the way we already know: Krypton exploding, very few survivors, and so many years later, the man who would become a myth, a legend, finding his legacy.

But this isn’t a story about Superman, and the challenge of this show was, not just to make us care for the stakes or invest in a planet that’s doomed but to like the man who’s going to take us on this new and yet still very familiar journey.

One episode in – jury’s still out on if we love Seg-El, but we certainly don’t hate him. So hey, at least that’s something.

There’s potential there, just as there is with the show. Yes, the whole thing comes off as more than a tad cheesy, but never truly overwhelmingly so, and not in a way that makes you think the show is making fun of itself. Call it the SyFy brand, if you will, this is a show that understands what it is and what it should be, and if just for that, it’s starting off on better footing than most other DCTV properties.

Can it be better? Yes. It never truly blows me away, and yet it does enough to keep me marginally interested in giving it another chance. That won’t last for an entire season, but at least for this episode, it’s enough.

So let’s go into this pilot a little bit, and examine what it wants us to care about, what we need more of, and the backstory of the House of El.

WITHOUT GUILD, WITHOUT NAME, WITHOUT HONOR

KRYPTON — Season:1 — Pictured: (l-r) Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Ian McElhinney as Val-El — (Photo by: Gavin Bond/Syfy)

The purpose of this episode was not just to make us identify with Seg-El, or, in a broader sense, care about the House of El, it was also the beginning of the hero journey, of sorts, for Superman’s grandfather. And to raise him up, they, of course, have to knock him down as far as possible.

In this regard, the backstory only worked to make me angry, and the show only managed to elicit actual emotions from me at the very end, as Seg has to stand there and watch his parents get killed in front of him,  and then with the conversation between Lyta and Seg. The rest was a bit perfunctory – I understood why it was needed, but I didn’t really connect with it.

Of course, we know how this story ends, or we know pieces of the puzzle. At some point the House of El will rise – otherwise Kal-El would bear another name. So Seg-El’s journey, whatever it is, will be a triumphant one. Or will it?

My money’s on yes, though the show was smart to introduce the time-travel element, which at least gives the whole thing the sheen of uncertainty. Because right now, if we don’t care for Seg-El, and we know how this story ends, why would we continue watching?

 

KEEP BELIEVING IN A BETTER TOMORROW

KRYPTON — Season:1 — Pictured: (l-r) Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Georgina Campbell as Lyta-Zod — (Photo by: Gavin Bond/Syfy)

This is the thing that’s supposed to make you connect with the main character, the message that’s supposed to remind you of the hero his grandson will become. And, yet, though the message comes through loud and clear, the character doesn’t, not completely. He needs more time.

And this is not a knock on Cameron Cuffe, no. He’s as charming as Seg-El as he was in person, and he imbues the character with both a certain carelessness and yet an underlying of anger that makes him appealing in the way you can’t look away from a bomb that you’re sure is going to go off.

What he never does, though, what the show never does, is make you feel like you just want to give him a hug. In fact, the closest I came to feeling anything other than anger at how he and his family were treated was in the one scene Seg has with Lyta, as mentioned before. There is where the show seems to find its footing, and they’d be smart to lean on these two actors’ chemistry as they try to figure out what this show can, and should be.

Because, right now, I’m more interested – and invested – in Lyta being Superman’s grandmother than I am in anything else, including the grandfather.

Other things to note:

  • Lyta Zod is, without a doubt, the most interesting character so far.
  • But in general, the women seem to have more depth than the men, Seg-El included.
  • Even if he does have superior stamina and a very punchable face.
  • Considering the rest of what went on this episode, Adam Strange is actually the most normal thing that happened.
  • Seriously, the most normal thing.

Krypton airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on SyFy.

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