“Krypton” – You Have Failed This Legacy
A Hero Corner Commentary by David 2
When it comes to telling stories, be it on TV or in the movies, this fan of all things superhero is really not a fan of the prequel.
The problem I have is simple: if you’re telling a story about events prior to an already established time, those events have to eventually match up so that when your prequel ends, they follow right into that already-established time.
Say, for instance, you did a TV series about Teddy Roosevelt during his years as a member of the “Rough Riders”. At some point during that timeline, you have to have him leave Cuba and go to New York, where he would once again resume his calling into politics and eventually becomes Vice President and then President of the United States after the death of President William McKinley.
You have two established points that are pretty much fixed. You have Teddy resigning as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to go to Cuba in April, and then you have him returning to New York and getting back into politics in August. Just a few short months in 1898 to turn into a TV series.
Now let’s suppose you have a “creative” director or writer who decides that four months of adventure is just too small. You’ve only covered one season full of adventures and conflicts. The network has quickly approved of another season because… well because network executives don’t give a squat about history. They’re interested in ratings. What now?
Well, in that case, you screw history and send Teddy back to Cuba for still more madcap adventures. Maybe head on over to the Dominican Republic. Or maybe Mexico itself! By the time you get done with Season Three, Teddy and his Rough Riders have single-handedly conquered Mexico and the American Southwest! Of course, in the process, you have completely ignored actual history, because it is now 1900, when Teddy should be running for Vice President.
Congrats! You have now broken history.
This is the problem with prequels. You have a rigid history that you have to keep up with, and any attempt to deviate from that history breaks it.
The most notorious of this in the hero genre was the WB/CW series “Smallville”. Originally crafted to tell the tales of young Clark Kent before he became Superman, the series became a ten-season abomination, with the last six seasons constantly teasing the appearance of Superman, only to then disappoint yet again. The series was good for the first four seasons, but then decided to break with the established history and come up with all things Superman without actually having Superman exist yet. Heroes and villains, all of whom were supposed to exist after Superman made his debut – and were supposedly inspired in their own ways by Superman – suddenly exist in a world without Superman.
It was even teased at one point that “Smallville” would show life without Superman at all. For this fan of Superman, that was perhaps the greatest slap in the face and kick in the groin, second only to the abomination that was the series finale.
When the Fox Network announced they would debut another prequel, this time surrounding young Bruce Wayne and Detective Jim Gordon in “Gotham”, they started following the same pattern. They would start to show Batman’s villains before Batman first appeared. At first these were considered “Pre-Batman” versions, so we would see their descent into Bat-villainy. But then they began showing out-and-out Batman villains like The Riddler and Mister Freeze. Fortunately, the producers were smart enough to not only end the series on their terms, but also end it with the main character as Batman. Bat-suit and all. So, in that regard, Batman’s history gets “corrected”.
So when the SyFy Channel announced that they would debut another prequel series surrounding Superman’s history, I became understandably cautious.
“Krypton” was a SyFy series created by David S. Goyer, who came up with the idea while working on the 2013 movie “Man of Steel”. Goyer had developed such a detailed history of Superman’s birth planet that he decided to expand on it to show the history of the House of El before Kal-El was born.
But this is not a review of the series. Instead, I am here to bury it. Yes, there will be spoilers. Deal with it.
“Krypton” started off pretty strong. It showed the world of the doomed planet two generations before the events of “Man of Steel”, when Krypton would explode, but not before Jor-El and Lara send newborn Kal-El to Earth. It would feature the life of Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather, and the struggles that he endured among “the Rankless”, including how he got that way.
Then Seg’s life is turned even further upside-down as Adam Strange, a future visitor from Earth, tells him that someone has arrived to change Krypton’s future and prevent Superman from ever existing. And, as proof, we see Superman’s cape, which is dissolving a bit at a time because of the changes already taking place in the timeline.
Season 1, which aired in 2018, showed how things are in Kandor, and how the various houses control things. We learn how the power structure in Kandor shifted with a religious cult taking over, forcing men of science like Seg-El’s grandfather underground. We then find this supposed “perfect” system upended by the arrival of the cosmic threat known as Brainiac. We discover that the one who came from the future to erase Superman is not Brainiac, but General Dru-Zod. By the end of the first season, Dru-Zod is the one that stops Brainiac from stealing Kandor. This act, in turn, prevents the rest of Krypton from needing to harvest power from the planet’s core, which eventually led to Krypton being destroyed as seen in “Man of Steel”. And, as a reward, it is Zod that takes over the whole planet as its savior. Adam Strange returns to his present day to see his home city shrunken and bottled by Brainiac, along with a giant statue of Zod right in the middle of a park.
Congratulations “Krypton”, you just broke the timeline in a big way.
Oh, but that isn’t all. Apparently Dru-Zod is now the future son of Seg-El and Lyta-Zod. That would make Jor-El and Zod half-brothers, and Kal-El would be Zod’s nephew. Operative word being “would”, because Seg disappeared with Brainiac into the Phantom Zone, thanks to Dru-Zod, and Superman ceased to exist completely. His cape is re-woven with the House of Zod shield on it.
Confused? Yeah, this is “Days of Our Lives” soap opera confusing. Oh, and did I forget to mention that Doomsday is in the mix? Yeah, the creature that killed Superman is not only on Krypton, and he was created by both the houses of El and Zod, but he broke himself out of his chamber at the end of the first season and is running wild.
Well, okay, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen the timeline broken. It’s a pretty common feat in the comics, and especially on the CW. (Dammit Barry!) The trick is that somehow you have to fix things so that they get it right in the end.
So, come Season 2, we have to see Seg-El out of the Phantom Zone. We have to see his family’s status restored. We have to see future-Zod defeated. And we have to see Brainiac steal Kandor or have some other event happens that causes the Kryptonians to tap into the planet’s core for energy so that the events in “Man of Steel” will still happen.
Well, we get some of them.
Seg-El comes back and he brings a little bit of Brainiac with him… because… story. We spend most of the season trying to organize a resistance to overthrow General Zod. We get a little interaction between Seg and Adam and the legendary bounty hunter Lobo. We get a little interaction between Dru-Zod and Doomsday, and Dru makes Doomsday his puppet. We get to see Seg reunite with his other son, who was called Cor-Vex after his mother (yeah, more of that soap opera thing) and then re-named Jor-El before being abducted by Brainiac. Dru-Zod is overthrown but he isn’t sent back to the future because… well, that future no longer exists. Adam Strange finally gets his comic book outfit and jetpack, but at the expense of a broken spine. And Seg makes a deal with Lobo to help get his son back… who is still aboard Brainiac’s ship and is being taken to… Earth?
Yeah, that’s how the second season ends. And that also ended it for the whole series.
Here is what this fan of all things superhero sees as the show’s failures.
The most obvious of these mistakes is that, yeah, you broke history, “Krypton”. You were supposed to save Superman, and not only did you fail at that, but you never get around to fixing it. Instead, the producers and writers relished in the idea that they just broke history and they can now come up with whatever they wanted to. That’s like when the “Smallville” producers relished in the idea that they could come up with a Superman series that has everything except Superman. Huge slap in the face and kick in the groin to your largest viewers, namely fans of Superman like yours truly.
The forced ignorance of “Krypton” was really staggering. As shown in “Man of Steel”, Kryptonians colonized the stars, but then stopped. Most likely this was when the cult of Rao started, but that was never really mentioned. But the cult also denied the existence of other worlds. And the people seemingly accepted this as fact. That’s why they were quick to condemn Seg-El’s grandfather. He had proven that there are other worlds. And then, when Dru-Zod becomes the “savior” of Krypton, everyone now accepts that other worlds exist and now they want to go back out there to conquer and colonize. Yeah, that was partially because of Brainiac, but again there is this instant acceptance that flies in the face of cognitive dissonance. People cannot accept something that is contrary to what they believe to be true.
Speaking of which, as was pointed out in Season 2, it is strange that nobody ever questioned why a middle-aged Dru-Zod is from the future and is also the son of two younger adults. They just accept it. Are Kryptonians really that stupid? Seriously. An advanced civilization full of seemingly gullible morons that just accept whatever is put out there by someone with a modicum of authority?
One of the explanations given for the series cancellation was the supposed “lack” of good Superman villains to bring in. There was Brainiac, there was Dru-Zod, there was Lobo, and there was Doomsday, and that was it.
Well, no, there was not a “lack” of villains. There were plenty of villains in the DC Universe to pull from. They just didn’t have to be Superman villains. The DC Universe is just chock full of evil entities and cosmic threats. Why do you think there is a Green Lantern Corps? You could have Darkseid and his minions make an appearance. You could have the Dominators or the Spider Guild or the warriors of Khundia or the Hawkpeople of Thanagar make an appearance. There are sun-eaters in the universe. Why not have one threaten Krypton’s red sun?
And, really, that is the laziness of the writers to rely only on supposedly “known” villains. You are dealing with events that take place two generations before Kal-El’s birth. That should give you the leeway to create all-new villains, both on Krypton and out in the stars. They don’t have to be Kal-El’s villains. Why can’t you just have Seg-El’s villains?
The soap opera twists and turns surrounding Seg-El and the women in his life were staggering. Just like his grandson, Seg has two beautiful women vying for his affections. One of them is Lyta-Zod, who is the woman he has always loved, and then there is Nyssa-Vex, who is the daughter of the man that ruined Seg’s life and who is also the mother of Cor-Vex/Jor-El. Both supposedly end up giving Seg a son, except that Cor-Vex/Jor-El is actually there and the other is from a future that really should not exist after Season 1 ended. Lyta is killed, and then we find out that she was a clone – wait, what? – and the real Lyta is in a Black Mercy coma. Meanwhile, Nyssa is pining for Seg, waiting for him to see her as more than just the mother of their real child. Oh, but, wait, Nyssa is also a clone. What… what? Yeah, apparently her Machiavellian father was so protective of his daughter that he crated multiple clones of her, even though the practice was illegal. Confused yet? We don’t know if people coming back from the dead are really alive, if they are clones, if they’re in the Phantom Zone, or if it’s all just a Black Mercy fantasy.
The presence of General Dru-Zod and the secret of his origins is also a major screwjob for the series. First, he looked nothing like Michael Shannon’s Zod in “Man of Steel”, for whom this whole series was supposed to be a prequel of. Second, his shocking secret of being the son of Seg-El, and thus future Jor-El’s half-brother and Kal-El’s uncle, is something that was never brought up in “Man of Steel” but would have changed things dramatically for both Jor-El and Kal-El. Third, he looked incredibly spry for a man who is supposed to be dead (from “Man of Steel”) and then mutated into a Doomsday creature (from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) and again killed.
Speaking of Doomsday, his presence was a pleasant turn of events. First as the “weapon that must not be used”, and second as the menace that Dru-Zod had to personally hunt down and later corrupt into his own weapon. Having him there really wasn’t a threat to the overall timeline, since he could still show up on Earth in the future to threaten Superman… presuming that the show could fix the future.
Adam Strange himself was a badly underused character. He’s made to be a wannabe-hero, on a mission to save someone he idolizes, but pretty much ends up as a guy who bumbles about and is lucky he isn’t killed… or even erased, since the whole reason why he was there was to save someone who suddenly no longer existed after the first season.
Yeah, the writers sort of forgot about Superman after the first season. The very reason why Adam Strange was there was to save Superman, and he failed in that mission miserably.
In the end, we have a broken planet, with broken characters, and a destroyed future. Dru-Zod is given his “happy ending”, but he’s really the only one that gets it. The rest of us get a planet and a story that has no real purpose.
I know the people behind “Krypton” were planning on having the series go on; and were shocked to find that the series was not only cancelled by SyFy, but they also cancelled the planned “Lobo” spinoff. Maybe it could have continued through Netflix or through DC Universe, but the latter is no longer possible as the powers-that-be have decided to turn DC Universe into a comic repository, and I suspect there’s little interest in bringing the series or the spinoff to their new toy, HBO Max. As it is, SyFy’s decision to terminate the series in favor of still more “Harry Potter” marathons was more of an act of mercy.
The story of Krypton was supposed to be about how the people of that planet lived. It seems that, for all of their advanced technology, they didn’t really live as much as they just existed.