Krypton– Episode 1: “Pilot”
Starring: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Shaun Sipos, Elliot Cowan, Ann Ogbomo, Wallis Day, Rasmus Hardiker, Ian McElhinney, Paula Malcomson, Rupert Graves, and Blake Ritson
Written by: Ian B. Goldberg and David S. Goyer
Directed by: Colm McCarthy and Ciaran Donnelly
Hey, kids! Was your favorite part of Man of Steel that opening fifteen minutes? Where Russell Crowe was cross-classing a fighter and a druid, punching people with SCIENCE? When he’s chased by a snarling Michael Shannon through a fever dream Roger Dean had at Mike Mignola’s house? Well, boy howdy, does SyFy have a show for you! Welcome to Rogues Portal’s coverage of Krypton. Hosted by me, Justin Partridge, devoted Legionnaire of television and grossly over-emotional Superman fan.
Set 200 years before the birth of Superman, Krypton aims to stretch out that insane cold open from Man of Steel into a sustainable serialized experience. Largely, it succeeds! Penned by living red flag David S. Goyer along with Ian B. Goldberg and directed by TV vet Ciaran Donnelly and Girl With All The Gifts director Colm McCarthy. This pilot episode sets up Krypton as at least habitable for now with an ambitious and intriguing opening gambit.
The show’s ad campaign has already spoiled the show’s time-traveling hook AND the major DC baddies about to grace us with his presence. Krypton’s pilot introduces a much more thematically sound backbone. Val-El (none other than Ser Barristan fuckin’ Selmy himself Ian McElhinney) is found guilty of crimes against the state for his research into other extraterrestrial civilizations.
As such he is put to death for crimes against the Voice of Rao, who projects a real Eyes Wide Shut vibe with its multi-faced gold mask and inked up attendants. The first of the show’s many, MANY truly weird, but charming visuals. But with his death comes more consequences to his family. The House of El is stripped of its rank in the caste-based society of Krypton. They’re forced to live in the undercity of Kandor, among the other rankless and poor. The seal of El, Superman’s crest, is now illegal to even see.
Cut to 14 years later and Val-El’s grandson, Seg-El, played by Cameron Cuffe, who I had to keep reminding myself WASN’T Gregg Sulkin from Runaways (but wouldn’t THAT be great, huh?), is scamming Kandor army officers out of credits in order to support his parents Charys-El (the luminous Paula Malcomson) and Ter-El (the one and only Rupert “Lestrade” Graves). Seg is very Kelvin Timeline Kirk, all cocksure swagger, and punchy one-liners as he fights and flirts his way through this pilot. He somewhat clashes with the semi-inspiring tone the pilot eventually settles into once Shaun Sipos’ Adam Strange makes the scene.
But, I digress! The real strength of Krypton’s first episode is the world itself. Goldberg and Goyer’s script really give us an odd Dune-esque walking tour of Krypton’s caste system. As well as other ruling families like the battle-hardened House of Zod anchored by the powerfully talented Georgina Campbell and Ann Ogbomo. This sort of “War of the Roses but DC Comics” does the pilot well and leans into the more soapy narrative soil that makes other Superman adjacent comic adaptations like Supergirl and Smallville work.
The pilot has to cover a lot of narrative ground. Much of the setup of the plot is focused around Seg-El being offered a place in the upper echelons of society after saving a member of a higher class from an attempted suicide bomber. It is pretty on the nose stuff, and pretty much par for the course when it comes to Goyer’s work. Weirdly, I found myself into it. So many Superman related things fail to really acknowledge just how weird and fussily detailed his mythos is, so it is nice to see Krypton at least making an attempt. Even amid all its bro-iness and bar fights.
The pilot also gilds the lily further, teasing the massive form of Brainiac, his imposing Skull Ship, and the involvement of one of DC’s vastly underrated characters Adam Strange. Sent back in time with a hope and Superman’s cape, Strange implores Seg-El to finish his grandfather’s work in his own Fortress of Solitude (which gives the episode its second of two REALLY awesome John Williams score stings) and save Superman in the future as Brainiac aims to take out the titular planet BEFORE Kal-El’s birth. I mean, just HOW comic booky is that, right? Time will tell if the thread stays strong enough to sustain a season (let alone multiple ones), but I certainly took the bait. Hopefully, others did too.
Watch It But Lower Your Expectations. Somehow melding the sexy teen drama of Riverdale with the high concept science fiction of 1979’s World of Krypton Krypton is certainly something that has to be seen to be believed. Is it a good show? Probably not (at least not yet anyway). Is it an entertaining show? Absolutely! Is it a show that I will watch and then hope it takes a CW-like turn into greatness and grumbles when it doesn’t? You bet your ass it is. However, the SECOND Pax Bandis’ name gets thrown around near this, I’m dropping it like a hot moon rock. I’ve read American Alien. We don’t deserve that garbage on TV.
Until next time, die for Darkseid, the Tiger-Force at the core of all things, and I’ll be seeing you.