Prequ-El

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Krypton Season 1, Episode 1

“Pilot”

SUMMARY: After thwarting a terrorist attack, Seg-El is granted a rank and house that had been denied him since his family was disgraced over his grandfather’s treasonous scientific research. He is also given a wife, which may cause friction with his secret lover, Lyta-Zod. Then his parents are killed. Then Adam Strange shows up to warn Seg about Brainiac, because those are characters whose names we know.


Syd: With Margaret in Chicago for C2E2, I decided instead of missing a week of our strictly maintained schedule, I would do something a little different. So we’re taking a break from Young Justice to watch the pilot for SYFY’s new Smallville prequel, Krypton. Now, you may think that I can’t write anything coherent about a TV show on my own and you’re probably right. So I brought in a special guest. You may know him as my cohost from Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School or from various bars around New York City. Say hello to the people, Foley.

Foley: Very excited to be here, especially right now before the show even starts. At this moment Krypton has the highest potential for greatness. Until we hit play I cannot be disappointed. That said, I for one hope to be pleasantly surprised by this interstellar period piece with no “known” DC characters to mess it up… Until like episode 3 when they bring in Hawkgirl for no reason (The reason is a love triangle).

Syd: Now, before we watch this, I have to say, this is a bad idea, right? Like, Krypton as a concept only exists to be destroyed. Right off the bat, there is the burden of creating an entire lived-in world while they are also weighed down by the established continuity of all of cosmic DC. Also, they’re going with the version of Krypton where they don’t have superpowers on Krypton. The entire time I’ll be thinking about how much better it would be if they went with the more interesting original version of Krypton where everyone was Superman.

Foley: Thanks to you I watched a LOT of Supergirl… Powers can really mess up a show.

Syd: That was the least of Supergirl’s problems. Here, if the main character is a cryptofascist, I can chalk it up to cultural differences.

Foley: …Until they do the slow cutaway to the Kryptonian Holocaust. I still can’t believe Supergirl went there.

Syd: Let’s start this up, then, and see if it’s actually offensive or just regular dumb.

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Foley: They start us off with wistful narration, which is incredibly original. Also this entire show you’re about to watch is apparently a message in a bottle to Superman… By the way, this show is about Superman, in case you didn’t know.

Syd: Is it? Is it?!

Foley: Yes. but it’s also about his grandfather’s grandfather, Barristan Selmy, who was kicked out of the Kingsguard for being Galileo, and sentenced to the vaguest of deaths (Walking the plank into… “The Ice”). But it’s about so much more than that!

Syd: It’s about how the House of El gained it’s status and led a fucking revolution, apparently? Look, if this is going by the movies, which it is, the House of El looks pretty well off for their lineage dating back – what? Forty years? Fifty?

Foley: Though what are Kryptonian lifespans… Maybe each generation is 200 years instead of 20.

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Syd: Anyway, the show starts with Seg -El’s grandfather, Val-El wearing Superman casualwear, with a full-on red Superman S cape. (The S stands for hope, because this was written by dumbass David Goyer, who wrote the execrable script for Man of Steel.)

Foley: It’s Kryptonian Ath-Leisure! The S can stand for “snug”, he IS about to be sentenced to “death by ice”. Laugh now, but when he inevitably comes back in the penultimate episode with super powers, this will be why he survived the icy tundra.

Syd: We have already hit one of the big problems with doing a Superman prequel. You have to have a lot of the Superman iconography to make it on-brand, but this is so long before Superman exists, meaning he got all of his iconic stuff from those Kryptonian data recordings, meaning that Clark Kent never had a fucking original idea in his entire life.

Foley: Also, prequels always suck.

Syd: Don’t you dare talk that way about X-Men: First Class.

Foley: Exception that proves the rule, and even that is technically not a prequel as we now know due to Days of Future Past, it’s an alternate timeline, completely different thing… Though by the way, isn’t this show now an alternate timeline due to time traveler shenanigans?

Syd: Oh, and boy does this show not know how to handle that, but back to the story. Val, ever defiant, refuses to swear loyalty and declares, “We are not alone in the universe!” This is a fucking dangerous line for this show to start on. There is almost nothing we know about Krypton in the original Superman origin story but it is really important that by the time of Jor-El they not be a space-faring race. That’s why there were no Kryptonians off-world when Krypton was destroyed. Of course, Man of Steel shows Kryptonians as having established colonies that died out, but doesn’t explain how that happened when all of the colonists were fucking invulnerable and fuck Man of Steel – it’s so fucking stupid.

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Foley: Maybe they’re just a really homesick race, and always try to stay within… blast radius of home?

Syd: Oh, right. Because Mom’s apple pie and an easy commute trumps being an unkillable god amongst men.

Foley: Weird fact, they have shown NO kryptonian food this episode. DO Kryptonians eat? Do they even poop?

Syd: Superman definitely eats, but I don’t remember them ever showing him poop.

Foley: I mean, you’d know if he did. I’ve destroyed a toilet in my day, but Superman would leave a literal trail of destruction in his wake.

Syd: Ah! But that’s not the case. Look, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” was a formative work for me, but then I saw a thread on TV Tropes (I’m not going to try to relook it up) that rightly pointed out that we KNOW his involuntary muscle movements are not proportional to his strength, or else his blinks and his breathing would also be destructive, not just his pooping and ejaculate. Since they aren’t, we know that his involuntary muscle movements are human-level normal.

Foley: That puts him in an oddly precarious position, if he’s regular he should be fine… but god forbid he’s ever even slightly constipated, one small push and the peristaltic waves will level the Daily Planet’s facilities… Side-note, do you think Super-Farts have the same ice effect as his breath? Maybe that’s why he always keeps the uniform on under his clothes? The Kryptonian fabric gives him two sided protection!

Syd: Well, I think his farts have different powers than his breath. They probably just smell like cinnamon rolls. He is Superman, after all. Hey, you know what I miss about Margaret? How little she talks about superheroes farting.

Foley: Fair enough. So let’s skip ahead. Speaking of time skips right after Seg-ment witnesses his grandfather die by himself, the show jump skips 14 years and our main character is now a 20 something Australian bar brawler. He refuses to pay cops money he owes them, and fights them with mild help from the bartender… I would like to take this moment to say that the fight choreography is actually much better than I expected.

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Syd: So Seg shows that he’s a badass by making irreverent comments about his assailants’ mother and sister as he’s being beaten. One pugilist says, “Always have something clever to say?” and my heart sank as I realized that implying he was having sex with someone’s mother was what passes for “clever” on this show.

Foley: Yet weirdly we’re later shown that Krypton is for the most part a post-fucking society… So go figure.

Syd: It isn’t really, which we’ll talk about later.

Foley: So, Seg-way loses the fight when the cop pulls a gun on him. The quirky less-masculine bartender pulls a gun on the cop and demands MC pay him. We then realize this was all a con set up by bartender and Seg-way in order to… Gamble on it? Still not sure how it works out, but it establishes that our hero hates cops, has a quirky street-smart best friend, and is SCRAPPY!

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Syd: The bartender was taking bets on how long Seg-alicious would last in the fight, knowing that he can take a lot of punches. So, it isn’t actually cheating at all. He’s the most honorable hustler I’ve ever seen. It’s like they wanted to create a grifter character but forgot the grift.

Foley: So Seg-witter yells that all drinks at the bar are free, which of course everyone took him at his word for and swarmed poor bartender. Our hero escapes home to his mom in the confusion.

Syd: He has a fight with his parents – which is obligatory, since he’s the protagonist and is not yet a orphan, so his parents aren’t long for this world.

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Foley: His mom, who chastizes him for fighting cops for money as if he had forgotten to do his homework (“oh you boys and your cop fighter gambling rings!”), appears to be Krypt-Irish, which in the bizarre world of Krypton (the show, not the planet) explains Seg-quester’s Krypt-Australian accent… By the way, the domed city of Kandor has accents.

Syd: Well, this is a translation convention. They aren’t really speaking English. Seg-o-saurus was raised on the street, so he has a criminal accent. His mother is full of Earthy wisdom, so she has a Celtic accent.

Foley: Are we saying the slums of Kandor are Gullway Bay? Wow… Supergirl at least waited half a season before parodying a famous genocide.

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Syd: Cut to General Zod’s grandmother teaching his mother Kryptonian kung-fu. Each generation gets lighter skinned until they’re Terrence Stamp. Not a complaint, mind you. I actually like that they build in diversity. Frankly, they didn’t need to hold Zod’s established skin color from the movies into account when casting the previous Zod generations.

Foley: That said, they’re the only two people of color in the entire show. It honestly feels a bit too token-ish for my liking.

Syd: It totally does. I will give them credit for putting forth minimal effort, while still noting that they didn’t put forth any more than that.

Foley: Speaking of minimal effort, Momma Zod literally demands her daughter kneel before her, and when she does Momma Zod stabs her through the hand for listening to her. Parenting like that will fuck you up for at least 4 generations

Syd: Well, this Kneel-Before-Mrs.-Zod reference is at least more clever than the Yo’ Mama jokes in the bar fight.

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Foley: Plot contrivance and painful exposition tells us that Seg-rateriat’s dad forgot something on his way to work, and so our hero and his quirky sidekick go to the “Legal District” (Kandor is split into guilds and districts… It’s like Clariel meets Hunger Games) to give it back to him. They are stopped by the black storm-troopers, because they’re not allowed in there, which begs us to wonder why Seg-rateriat thought this would work? Anywho, it’s fine because before our hero can punch more cops, a Black-Zero terrorist breaks into the room and his arm starts glowing ominously.

Syd: Black Zero follows the super-edgy Nineties comic book naming convention of taking two negative words and smashing them together – like Bloodshot or Warblade or Black Fire or basically Rob Leifeld’s entire career.

Foley: CatWoman?

Syd: Hey, cats are awesome.

Foley: This is what happens when Margaret leaves for the week, she only has herself to blame…

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Anywho: So of course, our Seg-regation jumps the terrorist who is about to kill all the cops and the man who… what do you call it when you assassinate someone legally?

Syd: …Execute?

Foley: Exactly, the guy who executed his grandfather. But he’s a hero you see, so he saves them all anyway… Well all of them except the blackzero guy, they laser his bomb-arm right off.

Syd: Seg-shell is rewarded for his heroism by being recommended for the Science Guild, and is it just me or does that seem like a non-Seg-uitor?

Foley: Ba dum bump… but seriously, his grandfather was exiled for being a mad scientist AND all we’ve seen this guy do is punch cops… Yet obviously the best place for him is in the Science Guild? Where he will either create more mad science that you’re trying desperately to cover up or more likely… punch cops.

Syd: He is definitely of the Batman mold, in that all of his problems are solved by punching. Too bad there isn’t a Kryptonian Tibet to send him to for training – and we know there isn’t, because there isn’t a single Asian actor.

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Foley: Speaking of Politically Correct writing… He also gets awarded with the ability to “Bind” (read: Fuck) Sir Vix’s youngest daughter (This is not a play on words, the main antagonist’s last name IS vix. He is the sole patriarch, he IS Sir Vix). Cause, ya know, Kandor’s an elevated society like that.

Syd: Well, a woman’s life is standard reward for heroism, even on a distant planet,

Foley: Little Vix, who also happened to be there for some reason by the way, is COMPLETELY down with the arrangement, she eye-fucks Cameron Cuffe in a way that should be illegal but honestly makes her my favorite character so-far.

Syd: Ok, let’s jump into your weird fetishes and skip over the time travel scene for the moment.

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Foley: Excellent: To the Genesis Chamber!

Syd: Now, I need to address my own biases to talk about how things that remind me of the movie Man of Steel infuriate me, but things that remind me of the comic “Man of Steel” excite me. The birthing matrix was a concept conjured by John Byrne so that TECHNICALLY Superman was born on Earth. His gestating was done in his space capsule and his birth didn’t happen until he emerged. That’s how we get the scene in this show where Seg-mund Freud and the Little Vix-En combine their genetic material in a computer via thumbtack.

Foley: So Superman was the original anchor baby?

Syd:  He would be, if his parents weren’t dead. It just means that he isn’t in America illegally.

Foley: He DID steal Doc Savage’s jobs though, didn’t he?

Syd: Anyway, by consequence, there was a scene in “Man of Steel” explicating that sexual reproduction was looked down upon and seen as unsavory in Kryptonian society, which I’m actually glad they kept for this show.

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Foley: Because THIS Seg-ratary Of State FUCKS! He fucks Mama Zod’s daughter, as we see in a different scene. Thus giving Krypton all of 26 minutes or so before establishing its first love triangle… Well done?

Syd: I like love triangles and Margaret isn’t here to contradict me, so, yes, well done.

Foley: I prefer love icocahedraspheres, but I suppose I’ll let it slide for now. Speaking of actual Krypton on Krypton fucking… Are there Kryptonian phylactics? Are Daughter-Zod and Seg-mental using the Kryptonian rhythm method?

Syd: I have to say, if natural birth is seen as unnatural, yet the populace is totally fucking (because I’m sure these two aren’t the first people who thought of this), we have to assume that abortion is pretty common on Krypton. At least more common than carrying babies to term.

Foley: I dunno, it’s a tiring sci-fi trope that the hero is the last one who makes love the REAL way. How did these two even meet by the way if Seg-party was stripped of his status at like 5.

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Syd: They met the old-fashioned way. She executed one of his friends in the street and caught a glimpse of his piercing eyes. It’s standard romantic comedy meet-cute stuff.

Foley: Well now that we’ve moved on to your weird fetishes… Time to get back to the time travel plot. Adam Strange, who you can tell is a space and time traveller due to his uniform (Converse Chuck All Stars), has been bumbling around Krypton like sea-sick drifter. He finally at some point meets up with Seg-tember, and gets incredulous that Seg-tember doesn’t know who the Detroit Tigers are (because all time/space travellers from cities like Detroit or New York treat travelling to other planets hundreds of years in the past like they merely popped over to a flyover state). This Strange man (a verbatim lampshade hung by Seg-tember’s mom in a later scene) then gives him the crystal from Superman: the Movie (The 70s movie), tells him to find the fortress, and for plot reasons, literally disappears into thin air without explaining anything. Zeta Beams are a hell of a drug.

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Syd: Are we sure these are Zeta Beams? Zeta Beams aren’t really a time travel thing, and DC TV shows would be fucking DYING to drop a term you might recognize from a comic book. So, them not saying Zeta Beam is suspicious.

Foley: It’s Adam Strange, that’s like… his thing, and they only last for a short while. Do Zeta Beams allow you to go to Krypton hundreds of years ago? No. But more importantly, shut up, you’re over-thinking a mediocre show. I give them three episodes before they call them Zeta Beams by name.

Syd: My bigger concern is why the fuck is it Adam Strange? No, Zeta Beams do not do that. Adam Strange’s thing is that he travels to a specific planet to meet his space girlfriend. Why didn’t they pick a time traveller for this? Maybe Rip Hunter is already being used for Legends of Tomorrow, but this is exactly the sort of exposition dump that John Constantine did in Swamp Thing and we KNOW that Warner Brothers loves giving Matt Ryan work. What brainstorming session ended at Adam bland-ass Strange?

Foley: No man is an island, but as far as IPs go: SYFY is. So instead we get Adam Strange.

Syd: I thought that Warner Brothers having the rights to all the characters was supposed to avoid bullshit like this. Marvel isn’t as bad as this.

Foley: But then we wouldn’t get Zeta Beams. Moving on! The prism is proof of a… wait for it… proooophecy. For our hero is not just a hero, he is a FATED hero! We find out more about this when his mom randomly steals a skimmer to save him from breaking curfew to fuck Zoddina (Is she a skimmer pilot? A taxi driver as her kryptonian blue color job? No. She steals it, because she has to be a bad-ass and die quickly so our hero’s journey can truly begin).

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Syd: She takes him to Val-El’s Fortress of Solitude, and maybe I’ve sounded a little negative up to this point, but I was mostly going along with the show, but this was the moment when I said, “Fuck you, show.” Not only is it called the “Fortress of Solitude,” but it has statues that are in the exact same position as the statues of Jor-El and Lara from Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

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This would be like if little kid Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins tripped and fell into the cave under Wayne Manor and it already had a mechanical dinosaur and a giant penny in it. Why are they trying to strip any shred of meaning from anything recognizable in a Superman comic? This show isn’t worth it.

Foley: Seg-mund the seamonster and his leia-fied mom run back home, to find the cops banging on the door. His mom hides him in the cupboard, which thankfully the black stormtroopers don’t look in, and they arrest her. She, in order to get a highscore in death-flag speedruns, yells that she is a member of Black-Zero and the troopers take her away to stand trial. Thus allowing us to bookend this pilot with another House of Ellios member on trial with their life hanging in the balance. This trial goes even worse, the fascist big brother state has the ability to know there were two bio signatures on the stolen skimmer, but not to know who they were…

Conveniently, Seg-mund’s dad takes the blame, grabs a guard’s blaster and aims it at Momma-Zodd. Kryptonian suicide by cop. I want to take a moment here and point out that Kryptonian security SUCKS. This is the day after a bomb almost killed the entire council (a fate prevented only because of a random kid, down the hall, was able to tackle him). Now we have a terrorist, purporting to be from the same organization on trial, and security STILL sucks. At this point, the council deserves to be taken out. But instead they allow the accused Black Zero terrorist to run over to her dead (and ARMED) husband’s body, grab the SAME laser pistol, aim it at Momma Zod as well, and get shot… as well. This entire scene makes NO sense to me. At no point do Kryptonian secret service rush the senators away, or jump on their golden monkey god-head in a defensive line, stop the mom from running to the gun, or anything like that. The important thing is…

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Syd: WE HAVE AN ORPHAN HERO! Hooray! I was afraid that our hero might have some sort of complicated familial relations – maybe some conflicts with the previous generation that future episodes would have to work through. You know, something relatable to the audience. Thank heavens he’s now an orphan and has to make his way on his own.

Foley: Which is where quirky side-kick bartender comes in! Seg-no needs something: The exact same ship his mom had (Hurray for recycling FX). He pilots it, cause he can pilot things now, and goes back to the Fortress of Solitude. Where he once again meets up with Adam Strange, and in keeping with his character: Seg-no punches him.

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Syd: So Adam Strange exposition dumps while holding Superman’s cape. Where did he get Superman’s cape? Who knows! Anyway, the cape acts as a ticking clock, because if it disappears, that means that Superman no longer exists and history has been changed. Since this show is using Back to the Future rules for time travel, I should point out that Back to the Future was a wacky comedy, not hard sci-fi. Its mechanics for time travel work for a fun romp, but don’t hold up under scrutiny. Using this as shorthand really strains credulity, as, from Strange’s perspective, everything that takes place in the past has already happened. How much time does time take to adjust? And did you notice that the last sentence was actually nonsense to anyone who isn’t a screenwriter?

Foley: Maybe it’s magic not hard sci-fi? This is the curse of dead Superman, and the cape is like the rose from beauty and the beast. Seg-olas has until the cape chimes midnight to kiss the evil alien entity with his fist, or superman will stay dead forever! This, by the way, is the big reveal shot at the end: Our big-bad is not Sir Vix, The voice of Rao, or any of the other guardians of the hidden temple. The alien presence that Barristan Selmy found was a being that goes from planet to planet, devouring them, albeit apparently very slowly, as it has admittedly been at least 14 years since he set his sights on Krypton… Which due to this being a DC show will NOT be Galactus, but instead Braniac.

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Syd: I should probably explain Brainiac. In Superman lore, “Brainiac” is a normal Coluan name, and not just something we sarcastically call stupid people. When he was first introduced, Brainiac was a space criminal with advanced alien technology. This has remained more or less the case over his various incarnations – though his focus has shifted from shrink rays and force fields to robot bodies and spaceships shaped like his head. Scientific progress marches on. Originally, he was the last survivor of his home planet and his evil plan was to repopulate his world by abducting people from other planets. These abductees included Kryptonians, because of course you’re going to want your engineered world to be full of supermen, and humans, because most of the readers are humans and you want to keep them interested. His home planet was later named Bryak and then even later Colu by a writer who didn’t realize that his home planet had already been named.

Brainiac was a popular supervillain, so naturally, he recurred often, then he was ruined forever when it was revealed that he was really a robot the whole time. This kind of retcon is pretty common and had been pulled on the likes of Magneto and Dr. Doom as well as Superman and Batman. Generally, it doesn’t ruin a character, as this is usually a precursor to introducing the REAL Dr. Doom/Magneto/whoever. It’s usually just a way to reboot a character without destroying a series’ continuity. However, this time it really did destroy the continuity because there was no REAL Brainiac, he just stayed a robot for decades. And this is one of the worse characters to do this to, as at that point he had a son as an established character. I’ve read several attempts to reconcile this, they usually involve time travel and they are all stupid. You may notice that his original evil scheme was very biologically based. That may be why his motivations were changed to be about information gathering and data analysis. I can’t tell you the specifics because every time he tries to explain his evil plan, I fall asleep midway through because they made Brainiac so fucking boring.

Eventually, five decades or so later, after several retcons and reboots, they brought in the original Brainiac, who had transferred his brain into a robot body or something. It was the best compromise we could hope for at this point. This was after Superman the Animated Series had introduced Brainiac as a Kryptonian artificial intelligence – which works fine as a self-contained thing, but doesn’t explain why he would ever make a humanoid body for himself. The Supergirl TV series actually had the best compromise, where Coluans were actual space creatures, but they were technoorganic like the Phalanx (for those of you who didn’t read X-Men, the Phalanx are kind of like the Borg). This still didn’t explain how they were compatible with Earth computers, but that’s closer to willing suspension of disbelief.

My point is, we get almost no information about this Brainiac, the detail about him conquering planets on his way to erase Superman’s existence doesn’t really jibe with any previous version of Brainiac, so God knows who the character in the show even is.

Foley: I think he’s just here to destroy Superman, maybe he just didn’t know where Krypton was exactly? So he’s been just eating every planet in the vicinity? Who knows, I’m certain we’ll find out in the penultimate episode, as this plot will be dropped so we can focus on love triangles and political intrigue.

Syd: I was hoping we would have a better idea of what the premise of this series is, but the episode is over, so:

GRADING THE EPISODE

Foley: I honestly give it a bland C, it wasn’t horrible. I’ve watched worse pilots and like I said, the action scenes were actually well shot. It’s a run of the mill sci-fi action show, I was expecting worse. However I also was in no way blown away either. Give me some female characters with actual characteristics outside of their wanting to fuck Pre-Superman and more than two token PoC and I’m willing to bump it up to a B minus.

Syd: I give it a qualified C. Look, as entertainment goes, it’s middling. It’s fine. It’s a setup for a sci-fi series that they can do something with. BUT as a big fan of Supergirl and a moderate fan of Superman, this show has absolutely nothing of what I like about either of those series. I feel like if they are promoting this on the back of the Superman brand, they should offer something that Superman fans like. Instead, we have a dull sci-fi show whose every contribution to the Superman mythos is negative.

Foley: Krypton seems like it might just be the Super Mario Brothers 2 of Superman shows. It’s Doki-Doki Panic, just reskinned to be full of capes and S symbols… but that isn’t a death sentence, Super Mario Brothers 2 was one of my favorite games growing up. And everything else superman related in the last 10 years has been pretty horrible, so maybe it’s for the best.

Syd: But I was so much more hopeful after playing the first level of Super Mario 2 than after watching this pilot. Maybe they need the option of playing as Princess Peach.

 

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