Major Spoiler stuff near the bottom. Be warned: I’m totally flying my geek flag throughout this.
Its no surprise, I think, that I’m a big Superman fan, although I’m definitely not what you’d call a “traditionalist” with that love. For example, I (mostly) loved Man of Steel – I still feel really, really bad for Henry Cavill who seems to have been born for the role only to get stuck with mostly crap outings ala Murderman vs Mopeyman: Twilight of Mediocrity and the abysmal Justice League that I still haven’t bothered watching though I’ve caught enough of the bits on YouTube to know “Ugh” – but I am thoroughly sick & tired of Lois Lane in every way (Superman/Wonder Woman, all the way!) That said, given the crap that DC has done with my boy Kal post Man of Steel and in the comics, I had no interest in this prequel at all when it was announced. Besides, it’s a prequel and those always kind of suck.
To my very great astonishment, though, I’ve discovered that I really like this show. It’s basically Terminator but on Krypton, with Adam Strange showing up 200 years before Kal-El was sent to Earth because he has knowledge that Brainiac has gone back in time to kill one of his greatest enemies before he even is born. (And then we find out that … well … that’s a spoiler!) Seg-El is the main character and he is Jor-El’s dad (though it’s up in the air who Jor’s mom is right now.) They’ve done the usual race-swapping stuff Hollywood likes – the Zods are black now, but DC’s Earth 2 (I think?) already did that with Val-Zod and the actors they’ve put in those roles have mostly worked for me. Especially Colin Salmon who I really like as an actor.
The big bad in the first season – Brainiac – has been done extremely well. I’ve wanted a live action Brainiac for a long time – I thought he should have been the bad for Man of Steel 2 before they ruined the DCEU with Murderman v Mopeyman, but honestly, now it’s going to be hard to top this version. He’s a smart, intimidating and powerful bad guy who, yeah, is kind of smug but that’s because he’s insanely intelligent, and that always makes for a better show. I’m not a fan at all of stupid bad guys … unless it’s on Justified because they did that so well it was impossible to not be entertained.
Because it’s modern SyFy – God, I hate that label – they had to throw in the 20-something love connection stuff and I very much tired of the “love square” pretty early on with the show, but that’s pretty common these days. They started out with Seg-El romantically involved with Lyta-Zod – there’s canonical stuff for that too. the Earth One: Superman books (I think?) made Zod into Jor-El’s brother (so he was Zod-El instead of the more traditional Dru-Zod) – but Seg was ‘bound’ to Nyssa-Vex (a wholly original creation, I think) and OMFG, I think I love her. She starts out as a schemer and manipulator, but as the show has progressed, she’s (naturally, since this is television) become legitimately emotionally invested in Seg. I think the show expected me to root for Seg and Lyta, but their chemistry didn’t really work for me while Nyssa & Seg are just a lot more fun to watch. Plus, in the season finale, she totally gives a speech about her unborn child (with Seg; they’re using the artificial gestation thing that John Byrne introduced in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman reboot comic Man of Steel. This was used in the Man of Steel movie as well and they used that name: Genesis Chamber) being capable of being more and greater than the culture believes if given the opportunity. This sounds so much like Russel Crowe’s Jor-El from MoS that I find it hard to believe that wasn’t intentional.
It isn’t wholly perfect, of course. I’m not super into the “Adam Strange” thing – he really doesn’t connect to Kal in the comics so I’d have leaned more into Superman’s mythos & had the time traveler who is trying to save the “greatest super-hero in the universe” (his words) from being invalidated from the time stream be Jo Nah, aka Ultra Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a team in the 31st century who were heavily influenced by Kal’s actions in the “present.” My reasoning for this is twofold: first, Jo isn’t known to be one of the Legion’s ‘great thinkers’ and all of Adam Strange’s actions thus far have been … let’s be kind and say ‘not well thought out.’ Since Jo is impulsive, it totally fits him to do something rash without thinking things through. Second, Krypton is (traditionally; obviously, this varies according to the writer at the time) a very high gravity world, which is one of the reasons Kal ends up with some of durability when he comes to Earth; a normal human on Krypton should be incapable of walking or crushed like a bug. Jo is not a normal human. He’s basically got Kryptonian powers himself – super strength, flight, durability, “flash” vision, super speed, etc. – but unlike Kal, he can only use them one at a time. If he’s on Krypton and constantly using his super strength to ensure he’s capable of being upright, that works perfectly. There’s also a really good story during the ‘5 Years Later’ run of Legion in the 80s (immediately following the Crisis on Infinite Earths that rebooted the entire DC comics history for the first time), I think, where Jo was thrown into the past & mucked around there.
Another one of the really interesting bits was the formal uniform that Kal’s ancestor (complete with red cape!), Val-El, wore in a couple of scenes below I could totally see Kal wearing basically the same thing, just with a bigger House of El shield ala the one Cav-El has on his suit. The pants would probably need to be adjusted too but this makes a bit more sense to me than the normal ‘spandex’ look. I’d really like to see a mock-up of Kal’s suit using this, maybe taking inspiration from the normal comics version of the Valor outfit (another LSH character.)
Now onto the real spoilers. You’ve been warned.
So, the plot of this is that Adam Strange has gone back in time 200 years before Krypton exploded because he has learned that Brainiac, “Superman’s greatest foe” according to him (debatable, I suppose. Definitely one of Kal’s tougher foes) is trying to wipe out his enemy before he was even spawned. This ultimately turns out to be bad intel as yes, Brainiac is coming to Krypton, but’s it is to steal the city of Kandor (the “bottled city” from the comics) which ultimately leads to the planet’s core destabilizing and going boom in Jor-El’s time. However, it turns out that General Dru-Zod (who escaped from the Phantom Zone) has also traveled back in time, though he’s trying to prevent Brainiac from succeeding (which means Krypton wouldn’t explode.)
As this is a prequel, you need stakes so Adam Strange has brought back one of Superman’s capes that is slowly disintegrating as the timeline gets corrupted (ala Marty McFly’s photograph.) This actually worked out fairly well with the obvious knowledge that when it’s gone, Superman is gone as well.
In the end of season 1, Seg-El (who I’ll be honest wasn’t much more than a generic stock Hero with the chiseled jaw and all that) manages to trap Brainiac in the Phantom Zone before he can bottle up Kandor, but Brainiac manages to take Seg along for the ride. Dru-Zod (who has been revealed to actually be Seg-El’s son, so he’d be Jor-El’s half-brother destroys the PZ projector so they’re both trapped. Kal’s cape, which had repaired itself then suddenly transformed to show Zod’s sigil instead while Adam Strange, who had teleported back to Detroit had actually discovered A. that he was in a bottled city of Brainiac’s and B. there was now a big statue of Zod in the city. On Krypton, Zod has seized power and is now ranting about conquering other worlds so they will KNEEL BEFORE ZOD! (I really dug Colin Salmon’s delivery of that, by the way.)
And under Kandor, Doomsday has woken up from stasis and smashed his way free.
Season 2, which is evidently coming in 2019, looks like it’ll be very … interesting.