Krypton: Season 1
For many years, comic books held the de facto role once played by mythology. Where once gods and goddesses fought battles with humanity used as pawns. In the twentieth century comic books have offered demi-gods in the form of costumed superheroes waging a never-ending the war against villains frequently in the position of equally amazing abilities. Arguably among the most famous of these superheroes is "Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men." The mythos surrounding Superman has been in constant evolution for over eighty years but once established, some have remained essentially set in stone. Details such as his secret identity, those closest to him and, the planet of his origin. That planet, Krypton, has become one of the most famous fictional planets in history, woven into the fabric of this central mythology of modern times. A few of Superman, born, Kal-el, have become incorporated into that story such as his parents, Jor-el and Lara, uncle Zor-el and cousin Kara, better known as Supergirl. Until last year not much of his ancestry has been widely known and proposed as canon. That changed with the SyFy original series, Krypton. The series examines life on the doomed world several generations before the climactic explosion and the last-minute launch of a small rocket carrying an infant to a history-making destiny on a small world far away.
The fan didn’t have to wait for the story to delve into Superman’s roots. The initial scene of the premiere episode for the introduction of Val-el (Ian McElhinney), the yet unborn Kal-el’s great-great-grandfather. Val-el is one of the planet’s greatest scientist, the patriarch of the respected noble clans, the House of El. This scene is far from a happy occasion. Val-el has been charged with capital crimes, sentenced to death. These events take place in the prominent city-state of Kandor, the center of enlightenment and power for Krypton. In recent years the government has fallen into corruption with the Hose of Vex controlling every aspect of life. Heading that noble house is Daron-Vex (Transformation), a power-hungry man who consolidated his social status by marrying in the House twenty years before the series. He rose to the supreme position of Magistrate of Kandor, which allowed him to have Val-el executed. The real reason was Val threatened the religious foundation of their society by discovering non-Kryptonian intelligent life. As it would unfold, that entity would be revealed as one of Superman’s most lethal enemies, Brainiac (Blake Ritson).there have been an exceptional number of changes in the fundamental tenants and pervasive mythos of the Superman saga but Brainiac has retained his position has a prime motivator in the pre-destruction Krypton. During the Golden Age of the comic, he was a collector of worlds, invading planets, shrinking an entire city, removing it to storage in a bottle. Kondor was Kandor that Superman rescued and protected in his Fortress of Solitude. A significant portion of this narrative has been recognizably ported over to this television series.
Val-el was survived by his son Ter-el (Rupert Graves), and his wife, Charys-El (Paula Malcomson) and their son Seg-el, the man who would become the grandfather of the Man of Steel. They remained outspoken against the controlling regime which resulted in their murder in the flimsy disguise of treason. That left Seg alone to contend with a hustle controlling faction. Candor was a fascist theocracy bound to a strict caste centered on house affiliation system. The gradation of power split the royal gentry into greater and lesser Houses. Vex held firm as the pinnacle of the system was the House of Vex. Before the Val-el the House of El was at the same level. Houses had the penchant for specialization, a factor that helped to prevent overlap in interests and power struggles. Vex was the politicians and administrators, House of El represented the Inteligencia and scientists. Politicians ruling through fear social status and religion understandably abhor men of facts and reason. This was the true reason behind the vendetta the House of Vex held against the House of El. This was a welcomed inclusion, and a facet of the story thankfully underplayed to perfection. It provided an undercurrent of socio-political nuance and social relevance, not typically seen in a comic book inspired television series. The punishment imposed on Seg fell short of execution, but from the perspective of the social structure, it was tantamount to death. Seg was stripped of his House becoming the untouchable caste of Candor, the rankless. Seg was forced to eke out a meager existence in the underground streets and tunnels beneath the streets used by those in proper society. Seg is forced to activities of dubious legality. His best friend and main contact to the vast underground are Kem, a bartender at a popular bar catering to a shady clientele. Undoubtedly a criminal but mostly from the necessity to survive and help others.
In any tightly structured society, there is another mandatory faction, the military. In Candor the position of solider and police was held by the Sagitari, an elite, highly trained military force driven by unshakable loyalty, dedication to their Esprit de corps and firm belief in the chain of command. The current commander is the latest in the House holding that position throughout tin, the House of Zod. That’s right, the House of the "kneel before me" General Zod. The Matriarch of the House is Primus Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo). Practically unemotionally she drives her daughter, Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell). According to Jayna’s machinations, Lyta was to marry the heir apparent for Primus, Sagitari Commander Dev-Em (Aaron Pierre). Relying on the perennial favorite plot device, star crossed lovers, Lyta is in love with Seg. Certainly, this is a ploy directly from the ‘soap opera playbook,’ but it is a time-tested format for telling a serialized story. The multiplicity of plot threads contrived emotional entanglements romantic triangles, and deep-seated family rivalries are de rigueur. The sum of this morass of narrative threads is setting up the chess board that will expedite moving towards a grand reveal and confrontation. Pulling this off is extremely difficult, and unfortunately, the numerous individual components experienced a sort of anti-synergism.
Some extraneous elements were added into the mix which tended to diffuse the emotional impact and continuity. Resurrection is a popular trope in soap operas, usually reserved for returning a popular character as the first season, unstuffing opportunity for fan favorites to securely develop. Only a few episodes in Val-el is brought back as a by escaping to the Phantom Zone, returning to his secret ‘Fortress of Solitude.’ Another thread that was necessary, albeit feeling forced, was Seg being adopted by the House Vex, for the nefarious reasons of Daron-Vex. He had Seg elevated back to the ranked solidified with an arranged marriage to his daughter and junior magistrate, Nyssa-Vex (Nyssa-Vex) Seg refused to wear the sigil of the House that destroyed his family. Of course, the sigil of his House is the iconic ‘S’ proudly worn by the last son of Krypton. Deferring to the request, Daron assigns Seg into a trade organized House, the Science Guild. That maneuver permitted Seg to straddle the two factions of society, noble and classes. This provided a somewhat realistic plot contrivance to follow story liens in both. The final piece of the puzzle is the religious faction represented by a form of sun worship, Rao. At the apex of the theocratic hierarchy, The Voice of Rao (Blake Ritson). He was usually confined to the temple whenever this High Priest moves among the rabble he adorned in his symbolic garb, wearing a mask with six faces, symbolizing the six gods in the Kryptonian pantheon. The voice is served by the Word of Rao, clerics who speak to the masses on his behalf. His acolytes are female clad in white robes with scriptures writing on their faces. The hold over the population is so complete that generations of blind obedience. It was simply a stroke of genius for Brainiac to infect the high priest with one of his mind-controlling parasites.
This was an exceptionally ambitious undertaking, particularly for a new television series. Compounding the degree of difficulty is the subject matter, themes and characters directly changing the canon of one of the most famous American mythologies in our culture with an avid fan base demanding precise adherence to continuity. It was a certainty that the series was going to generate a degree of controversy. The freshman season came across as rather haphazard at the time, disjointed particularly in establishing the complicated, interpersonal relationships. A wild card was inserted with the sole reason of forcing a connection with the main Superman universe, Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos). He is a minor superhero from Detroit with no intrinsic abilities. He has a device, Zeta-Beam, a device that allows him to teleport across light years. He shows up to ensure Seg restore the family name and guarantee he survives, marries and fathers superman. The visual aide is a mundane plot contrivance, Superman’s cape. As time passes it disintegrates until w=once gone superman is wiped from existence, a trope directly lifted from the fading photograph in ‘Back to the Future.’ Hopefully, the upcoming second season will be able to build upon the foundation here and streamline the narrative.