WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Krypton, which premieres tonight on Syfy.
After divisive portrayals of Superman within Warner Bros.' struggling DC Extended Universe, Syfy's Krypton is a bright spot in the Man of Steel's mythos. Despite some minor pacing issues, and some poorly constructed fight sequences, Krypton accomplishes what a show like Gotham has failed to do: successfully craft a television prequel that doesn't rely on its iconic hero.
The announcement of the sci-fi drama in late 2014 was met with a tepid response, in large part because fans failed to see any point to the series, originally described as a prequel to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. The 2013 film, which launched the DCEU, was a financial success, but hardly received a warm embrace from critics or audiences. So, bringing in its screenwriter, David S. Goyer, to develop Krypton might have seemed like a misstep at the time. Yet, this new series makes viewers want to explore its fictional world and get to know the (largely unfamiliar) characters along the way.
One of the DCEU's biggest problems is that its films frequently feel rushed. From Suicide Squad to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to Justice League, with its bewildering CGI, Warner Bros. and DC seem to take a “quantity over quality” approach, attempting to form a shared cinematic universe without pausing to establish the stakes or to introduce fully realized characters. But while they’ve had their struggles on the big screen, they’ve mostly met with success on television. From the Arrowverse dramas to Black Lighting to Gotham, DC and Warner Bros.learned to embrace the craziness of the comics while still placing the focus on the characters. And Krypton appears to be no exception.
It's a Superman prequel, yes, but at its core it’s also a rich character story. While the plot centers around the Man of Steel's grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), who seeks to restore his family's honor, save his planet from the threat of Brainiac and ensure his unborn grandson will one day become the universe's greatest hero, Krypton doesn’t forget to develop its secondary characters. In fact, in its early episodes, the series spends a surprising amount of time fleshing out Georgina Campbell’s Lyta Zod, as well as her relationship with her mother, Alura Zod, played by Wonder Woman’s Ann Ogbomo. That alone is an important factor, as it’s rare for a TV show – let alone a comic book adaptation – to develop women of color. Yet, Lyta and Alura feel as essential to this story as Seg-El.
However, Krypton truly shines in its ability to embrace its comic book roots. Gone are the gloomy visuals we’re accustomed to seeing in much of the DCEU. The set design is stunning, and the CGI is some of the best television has to offer. Taking a villain like Brainiac and making him both striking and terrifying isn’t easy on a TV budget, but the classic Superman foe has been transformed into one of DC’s best antagonists, on the small screen, at least. In its first episodes, Krypton swiftly establishes itself as one of DC’s strongest TV series yet, alongside the CW’s Black Lighting, proving there’s plenty of story to tell about Krypton, two generations before Superman.
Unlike Gotham, which has struggled as a Batman prequel, Krypton establishes itself immediately as a worthwhile predecessor to Superman’s story. While the future Man of Steel casts a long shadow -- his cape appears in the pilot -- the series doesn’t place the focus on the iconic hero. It’s very much about the House of El, and the journey toward the family reclaiming its place in Kryptonian society. With DC developing yet another Superman prequel with Metropolis, foucsing on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, it’s important that Krypton emerge as a worthwhile piece of the superhero's story, and it does so flying colors.
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.