SYFY’s Krypton answers a question no one ever thought to ask: What about Superman’s grandfather?
Even if you’ve never touched a comic book, you’ve likely heard of Krypton. The distant planet is found in the early moments of every Superman adaptation. We’ve watched it explode, rooted for it’s only living descendants, and adorned everything from t-shirts to human skin with it’s language. But do we really know Krypton? Until now, we’ve had very little insight into the planet’s inhabitants, politics, or even atmosphere. SYFY’s Krypton is here to change that. Set two generations before Kal-El’s departure for Earth, Krypton follows Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as he navigates life on the doomed planet.
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Of course, stories with a set ending can get boring quickly. There are no stakes when you already know that the entire planet is doomed to explode in a disaster so large it sends chunks of radioactive rock all the way to Earth. Krypton avoids this dilemma with the introduction of time travel. Once time travel is involved, literally anything can happen. Suddenly, the stakes are very high — if Seg-El changes anything about his planet’s destiny, Earth may never meet it’s finest hero.
So, is it worth the watch? We think so. Here are 5 reasons to check out SYFY’s Krypton.
Krypton inhabits the unique space between familiarity and novelty — an untold story that audiences feel immediately connected to
When Krypton was announced, it was huge news. Unknown characters, an untold story, and yet audiences were instantly attached to and excited for this new show. Why? Because even if we don’t know Seg-El, we feel like we do — we know his grandson, his legacy, very well. His family name birthed a cultural icon. So even if we don’t know him yet, we so badly want to.
The beauty of a show like this is its ability to act upon our prior knowledge. With most new shows, the pilot is consumed with exposition — where are we? Who are these people? Why does this matter? And while these questions are still present in the early minutes of Krypton, there is no need for them to be expanded on. There is no need to take up valuable minutes with basic exposition — we can jump right into the story.
This is such an iconic part of the pop culture fabric, really. The Superman mythology and that symbol, alone, means so much to so many different people. We feel the weight of that responsibility, when we’re working in that space. We pay homage to all of the creators that came before us, and that are continuing to work on it. At the same time, we have to still be true to ourselves and tell stories that we think are important now.
Prior knowledge can be a valuable tool in television. Writers can insert little moments and throw away dialogue that alludes to aspects of the story — if you get it, you feel like you’re in on an inside joke. It creates a sense of belonging and comradery with fellow fans, a little “aha!” moment that comes with the ability to humble-brag about being “in on it.” For those who don’t catch these little references, there’s no harm done. The show is able to function on its own, aided by prior knowledge but not dependent on it.
In a story as well known as Superman’s, almost everyone has some knowledge of the iconology, if nothing else. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s never heard of Superman, or that doesn’t recognize the iconic ‘S.’ With these elements so deeply permeated in our culture, moments that play on that knowledge are intensely powerful. Just look at the posters and promos — just showing the cape, or the ‘S,’ is enough. We know the meaning behind these symbols, and the power they hold — everyone does.
Forget the Montagues and Capulets, we’re all about the Els and Zods
Who doesn’t love a star-crossed romance? Lyta Zod and Seg-El’s relationship is forbidden, and honestly? We’re already shipping it. Unfortunately, Seg-El is already promised to someone else. Superman’s grandmother? If so, what becomes of Seg’s relationship with Lyta? Do they break up? Does she die? Does the society they live in overcome their own desires? Is it even possible for this couple to be “endgame?” We already have so many questions, and the show hasn’t even officially aired yet!
“It reminds me of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ — one person chasing someone chasing someone else.” – Aaron Pierre (Dev-Em)
A little backstory: The House of El and The House of Zod are historic enemies. You’ll likely recognize the name “Zod” from most Superman adaptations — General Zod has appeared in Smallville, the original Superman films, Man of Steel, and even gets mentioned in Supergirl and Batman vs. Superman. Zod is one of Superman’s most prevalent and formidable enemies, and their house rivalry traces all the way back to… you guessed it, Krypton. With Lyta being from The House of Zod and Seg from The House of El, their relationship is certainly taboo (even if Seg wasn’t promised to another.)
This is Romeo and Juliet in space, folks. With aliens. And superhero mythology. It’s is a science fiction-romance daydream, and we can’t wait.
Krypton isn’t as isolated from Superman’s story as you might think
Viewers may be thinking something along the lines of, “So, who cares about what happened 200 years ago? We don’t know those characters.” It’s a fair question, to be sure. But Krypton is ready for you. Not everyone in Krypton is unknown. In fact, you may be very familiar with a few of the characters appearing in (and on) Krypton.
First, Braniac. Like Zod, Braniac is a well known (and downright iconic) Superman villain. The Krypton writers aren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel here — they are utilizing key figures from the mythology in new and interesting ways. Braniac is part human, part technology, and all evil. His claim to fame is shrinking the Kryptonian city of Kandor so small that they are able to fit into a bottle. But Kandor isn’t his only shrunken city — Braniac collects these bottle cities.
“It moves from planet-to-planet. It’s known as the Collector of Worlds, but it’s true name…is Brainiac.” – Krypton trailer
Aside from the iconic villain, what other characters can we expect appearances from? Adam Strange, having never appeared in live-action, is admittedly less well known. But not for long — Strange makes an appearance right from the start of Krypton, and he brings Superman with him.
The Man of Steel doesn’t appear in the flesh, sure, but his presence is all over Krypton. Seg-El’s knowledge of his legacy shapes his entire story, and Superman’s presence is almost as concrete as anyone else’s. Fans of Superman won’t be disappointed by his absence — he’s around, even if not physically present.
Although the show takes place in a distant time and on a distant planet, it’s far from unattached to the Superman mythology. It is still, through and through, a Superman show.
The set design is gorgeous, intricate, and just alien enough
Kryptonians are technically aliens, but they are aliens that easily pass for human. With similar skin tones (no little green guys here!), similar physiology, and an identical outwardly appearance, Kryptonians are almost-human. And SYFY’s Krypton is almost Earthly. But not quite. The world that the set designers have built feels familiar enough not to distract us, but there’s no mistaking where we are at any given moment.
The set is built on winding structures, circular shapes, and lots of gray. The texture is especially noticeable. Much of Krypton’s scenery seems to be inspired by the natural flow of water — swirling blues and grays set the scene while light filters in a way that is reminiscent of the sun peeking through the ocean. Much of the background follows a pattern remarkably similar to the structure water takes when mixed with oil.
It still needs to feel like a real place. One of the hardest things about doing the show is to have interesting sets, interesting designs, that feel alien, but still feel real. The further you go from what we know, the less real it can feel. So that’s what we tried to do.
Like Earth’s oceans, Krypton is familiar — it’s something we know a lot about, but have never fully explored. So what better inspiration for the set than water? The vibe created evokes a feeling of near uncanniness — it’s not wrong, exactly, but it’s not entirely natural, either.
But, then, our definition of “natural” is defined by Earth’s parameters, and obviously, “natural” means something entirely different on another planet. Like Kryptonians themselves, the world of Krypton just feels different, and alien, but in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s unmistakably other-worldly, while simultaneously entirely plausible as the origin of these almost (and often super) humans.
Krypton isn’t Smallville, and it isn’t Gotham
Admittedly, the words “prequel” can often generate an eye-roll. Do we really need another superhero prequel? But the term “prequel” undermines and devalues Krypton. It’s technically a prequel, yes, but it’s so much more. Krypton’s premise isn’t built on a promise — we aren’t waiting for Superman to take flight, or a childhood batman to don a mask. No, Krypton is something all its own, and the fact that it’s technically set 200 years before Kal-El’s journey is almost irrelevant.
By deciding to set Krypton 200 years B.K. (before Kal-el) the writers are avoiding what could’ve been a major issue — we are nowhere near the destruction of Krypton, and it’s impossible for the show to “time out.”
When you’re dealing with a prequel, there’s a concern that the audience might feel like they know how this is going to end, so why engage? “When there’s so much out there to watch, why do I watch this show when I know how this story ends?” That was one thing we discussed early on, and we addressed that by adding a time-travel element to the show. I think the world itself is fascinating, and I think there’s enough there for people to be interested in. But adding that time-travel element makes the stakes affect the here and now, so it’s not just a look back at an ancient civilization somewhere else.
With Krypton’s fate being the only major event we know about, we aren’t sitting around waiting for any particular thing to happen. The writers, although technically building towards the destruction of the planet, aren’t leading up to ever actually showing it. Because of this, they can take their story anywhere they please — they aren’t bound by any expectation or endgame. All they have to do is end the story with Seg-El alive to carry on his bloodline, and they’re good to go.
This freedom is sure to free Krypton from the bounds of most prequels, due to the temporal distance they’ve placed between the show and the set canon.
This is not Superman’s story — this is a brand new tale full of action, danger, love, with just a little touch of Superman mythology
From Cameron Welsh and David S. Goyer (known for Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman, among other things) comes a science fiction adventure, full of just enough Superman to keep his fans on board. But don’t be mistaken — the show stands entirely on its own. With brand new characters to root for and against, and a newly deepened mythology, Krypton (and Seg-El) are sure to be remembered not just as Superman’s predecessor, but for its own triumphs outside of the well-known tale.
Krypton is a great jumping-in point for anyone who’s unfamiliar with the Superman mythos. It’s also a great fix for fans of the Man of Steel. Krypton fills multiple roles; prequel, sci-fi fantasy, love story, heroic adventure. There truly is something for everyone on Krypton.
Check out the trailer below!