Hoping to tell a compelling story about an alien civilization based on the world’s first superhero, set two generations before he was even born, Krypton had to really justify its existence to an audience, both novice and seasoned, where the planet’s fate was literally a foregone conclusion. Utilizing quality set design with unique aesthetics to create a believable, livable world, the series hinged on the quality of its cast and the stories it would tell. Ostensibly focusing on Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), the last in his family line and future progenitor of the Last Son of Krypton, he and his cohorts were the weakest elements of season one. In fact, the series’ greatest strength was in its co-star Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell), Seg’s secret lover.
Her narrative intertwined with other elements of the show far better than Seg’s….segments did. She developed into a more enthralling tale through her struggles both internal and external, navigating the politics of her world and her family. The introduction of a time-displaced Dru-Zod (Colin Salmon), one of Superman’s most infamous arch-enemies, so early (mid-season) was an interesting and ballsy wrinkle into the machinations of Krypton; one that could have easily ruined the integrity of the series. Luckily that was not the case.
Going into season two, my biggest fear was that Seg-El would remain under-developed and uninteresting as a character as he was in most of season one. To my surprise, Cameron steps up his performance. His character no longer is a petulant and passive passenger of the story, but an active force. His confidence and resourcefulness, along with his inherent moral fortitude throughout season two really shows why he is the grandfather of the world’s greatest superhero.
The first three episodes deal with how our heroes dispatch the threat of the seemingly nigh-indestructible Brainiac left over from season one’s finale. This would also be where we’re introduced to the well-publicized cameo of Lobo (Emmett J Scanlan). His character from the comics is more in line with the irreverent, excessively violent, crass and depraved humor of Deadpool, rather than the sci-fi operatic drama of Krypton is trying to be. It’s not to say Emmett’s performance in the role was poor. In fact, he makes a compelling argument as a live-action incarnation of the Last Czarnian; however, you could tell the character was severely reined in due to the type of demographic the producers were going for. Lobo was very much the “odd duck”, and fortunately does not linger of long.
Back on Krypton proper, that is where and when season two really picks up with gusto. While the dread of Brainiac was mostly implied last season, the danger of Zod in season two is more apparent and immediate, with far greater consequences. Using Brainiac’s incursion to stoke the flames of fear and desperation, Zod cultivated the socio-political climate to cease Caesarian control of the planet’s populous. It is easy to draw parallels to post-WWI Germany, and how that environment led to the rise of the Nazi army. With Krypton under the iron grip of the fascist Zod, the inevitable rebellion against his dictatorship forms the cusp of seasons two’s over-arching plot.
Colin’s performance as General Zod remains ever strong and captivating. His zealous single-mindedness and militant Messiah complex come off as intimidating and methodical. He is able to harness the nefarious ego of Terence Stamp (Superman: The Movie / Superman II) and the unrelenting will and supremacist ideology of Michael Shannon (Man of Steel). His absolute ruthlessness has no inhibitions, and any semblance of restraint or reluctance is a façade. This is no more exemplified in the way he manipulates and threatens his own mother and father without reservation to see his ends fulfilled.
Colin’s Zod makes the perfect personification of the opposite of what Superman stands for – Truth, Justice, and Freedom. The final confrontation, which pays homage to Superman II and Superman III, was symbolically fulfilling of the timeless good vs evil, albeit without the hyper-convoluted fanfare of an epic showdown. My only complaint is that the fact that Lyta and Seg having to battle their own remorseless and megalomaniacal son could have been played up a bit more of emotional effect.
Lyta’s journey remains ever more multifaceted, along with her mother Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo). As the story progresses, Lyta’s moral degradation in the shadow of her son is alarming. It then becomes a question of if this once-beloved character could possibly be redeemed in the end. It was nice to see Ann’s character get more development and how she forms a bond with Dev-Em (Aaron Pierre) who was originally Lyta’s betrothed. It was more of Jayna’s quest for redemption that made Ann’s performance stand out.
The other cast of characters includes Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day), the cunning and conniving wife of Seg-El. While those qualities aforementioned are attached with negative connotations, here, Nyssa utilizes them for good, and for a moral reason. As the double and even triple agent playing both sides of Zod and the rebellion, her turnabout redeems her as the chosen grandmother of Superman.
There is also the Obi-Won-esque Val-El (Ian McElhinney), StarLord-wannabe Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos), and third-wheel best friend Kem (Rasmus Hardiker). All have their roles to play, while relatively minor, in the rebellion on the moon Wegthor. Nevertheless, they each get time to shine and elevate their character to someone memorable and sympathetic. Another character in season two is Jax-Ur (Hannah Waddingham), the leader of the rebellion, who is a nice counterpoint to Zod. While Jax is supposed to be the more “moral” option, grey hue of her methods calls into question the justification of her cause as an alternative to Zod’s Draconian regime.
I would be remised if I did not bring up Doomsday, who was teased in season one and has a slightly bigger appearance here. While the origin portrayed in Krypton holds close to the source material, the need to “humanize” this literal ultimate killing machine was only to serve as a cautionary tale to amoral and unrestrained science, and the generational ties between the Zods and Els.
When the dust settles, both the rebellion and Zod’s regime are annihilated, along with Wegthor as a symbolic scar to this epoch in Kryptonian history. Lives were lost and lives were irrecoverably changed, and set-ups for future seasons were made.
Sadly, the end of Krypton does not come from within the planet itself, but rather from forces far beyond its universe. It’s really a moot point to comment on the potentials of season three, even with all the nice teasing it does in the final moments of the last episode since the series has been officially canceled by SyFy shortly after the last episode aired. The producers had promised more cameos from otherworldly character from the DC mythos, which we will never see now.
Overall, Krypton fundamentally does two things beyond just telling an interesting story of an alien world caught within the jaws of a bloody civil war and familial feud. It presents more outstanding Nubian actors and actresses in a sci-fi show than any other in memory. It also deals with lineage and legacy and its impact on the past, present, and future. From Seg and Lyta’s son becoming Zod (uncle to Superman), the revelation that Nyssa and Seg’s son Cor-Vex is rechristened Jor-El, to the fact Brainiac calls him “son”. Krypton was an enjoyable show while it lasted. If you are interested in a decent sci-fi story with lots of interesting Black characters, Krypton, for what it was, is worth a viewing.
Hailing from the eastern-most Caribbean island of Barbados, Fabian Wood has long since been fascinated by the power of storytelling to inspire and invoke emotions – whether in film, comics or videogames. No longer content to be just an avid comic book reader and videogamer, he’s eager to exercise his literary acumen as an aspiring writer and reviewer.