WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the pilot episode of Krypton, which debuted Wednesday on Syfy.
Seg-El hasn’t had an easy life. Scion of the once-proud House of El, as a child he witnesses his grandfather branded as a traitor and seemingly executed, and his family stripped of rank and relegated to the lowest rungs of Krypton’s rigid caste system. Growing up on the streets of Kandor City, a Seg earns money from bar fights, dodges the authorities and carries on a Romeo and Juliet-style forbidden romance, until a curious man wearing a Detroit Tigers cap appears, quite literally, out of nowhere with a warning from the future about about a threat to his planet and to the destiny of his unborn grandson, Superman.
It’s a lot for young Seg (Cameron Cuffe), and the audience, to unpack in the premiere episode of Syfy’s Krypton, but after the mysterious man, DC’s Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos), calls upon him to save not just his home world but the entire universe, he then presents a ticking clock: the Man of Steel’s iconic cape, which begins to slowly disappear before their eyes, as if eaten away by invisible moths.Se
“It’s like an hourglass,” Adam explains. “Once this cape is gone, our time’s up, and Superman will have been wiped from existence.”
Just in case saving his planet from the coming evil of Brainiac, the dreaded Collector of Worlds, restoring honor to the House of El and ensuring that his grandson will one day be the greatest superhero in the universe aren’t enough to spur Seg to action, Krypton adds the well-worn trope of time-travel fiction commonly referred to as the ripple effect indicator. It’s effectively the McFly family photo from the 1985 classic Back to the Future, a visual representation of the consequences of action, or in this case inaction, in the past. Here, Superman’s cape takes the place of Dave, Marty and Linda: If Seg doesn’t somehow stop Brainiac, not only will Krypton and untold billions of lives across the universe be lost, but the cape will disappear, signaling that Superman was never born.
Of course, Back to the Future isn’t the only work of fiction to utilize the ripple effect indicator, or else it wouldn’t be a trope. It’s seen in Frequency and Men in Black 3, on The Flash, in the Booster Gold comic book, and so on.
However, none of those examples used an indicator nearly as iconic as Superman’s cape. It’s overkill, without a doubt — how much pressure needs to be placed on poor, distraught Seg? — and more than a little ridiculous, but it serves as a physical connection between the events of Krypton, unfolding 200 years in the past, and the Man of Steel the audience knows. And promotional materials indicate the cape will be given a place of prominence in future episodes, serving as a regular reminder to viewers, and to Seg.
Airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy, Krypton stars Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Shaun Sipos as Adam Strange, Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod, Elliot Cowan as Daron-Vex, Ann Ogbomo as Alura Zod, Rasmus Hardiker as Kem, Wallis Day as Nyssa-Vex, Aaron Pierre as Dev-Em, Ian McElhinney as Val-El and Blake Ritson as Brainiac.
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