How ‘Krypton’ Expands the Superman Mythos Without the Man of Steel

Jonathan Domineck
TV Superman
TV Superman DC

When the SyFy channel announced the Krypton series, questions immediately arose as to whether a prequel centering on Superman’s grandfather’s quest to save an already doomed planet was actually needed. But now, after the show’s first season, Krypton has more than justified its existence.

The series delved into previously unexplored aspects of the history of Kal-El’s home planet and his lineage in an exciting yet thought-provoking manner that quickly established Krypton as the Superman origin story we never knew we needed. Yet, the question still remains as to how a Superman-centric show can effectively expand on his mythos without actually featuring him.

Not Just Another Prequel

Seg-El and Lyta-Zod
Krypton further explores the dynamic between the House of El and the House of Zod.

Krypton differs from other DC television prequels like Smallville and Gotham. Instead of just reimagining the early years of a known hero’s journey, the series is set some 200 years before the hero we know is even born. This allows Krypton to tell a unique story that isn’t confined by our expectations as to how Superman ultimately becomes a hero.

In fact, the only thing we think we know about Krypton is that the titular planet must meet its destruction for Superman to exist. This allows a lot of leeway for the show to dive deeper into the folklore of the ill-fated planet. The series builds on the images we have seen of Krypton in Man of Steel and other Superman stories by further exploring the planet’s culture and society. It also examines the legacy of the House of El, depicting how the family regained its prominence as a symbol of hope after the shame of being stripped of its rank.

However, the underlying premise of the show presents an interesting dilemma. If Superman’s grandfather is successful in his efforts to save Krypton, would the events that led to Superman’s escape to Earth cease to exist? Krypton is not just another prequel in that changes to the planet’s timeline have the potential to shift or even erase the existence of the superhero we know and love.

A Cape Is All We Need

Seg-El and Val-El
Superman's cape looms in the background as a symbol of the success or failure of Seg-El's journey.

Krypton focuses on the journey of Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El. As the series takes place over 200 years before Superman was even sent to Earth, the only physical reference we have to the Last Son of Krypton is his cape. Amazingly that’s all we need.

In the series, Seg-El is befriended by Adam Strange, a time-traveler from Earth’s future who has come to warn him of the danger to his grandson’s legacy. Adam presents Seg-El with Superman’s cape as a proxy as for how his actions impact his grandson. This creates an odd dynamic between the two as Seg-El struggles with Strange’s true motivations. But, as the plot unfolds, we see parts of the cape change in ways that keep the viewer tied to the fate of Superman without actually having to see him onscreen.

Other Familiar Faces

Brainiac
Brainiac on screen in a way that truly pays homage to the character from the comics.

Besides Adam Strange, Krypton features a few other familiar characters that have had dealings with Superman. Among them are some of his most revered enemies including Brainiac, General Zod, and Doomsday.

Brainiac serves as the series’ primary antagonist. He is a perfect character for the role as his history with Krypton far outdates his rivalry with Superman. We know Kandor is a city that somehow ends up in Brainiac’s collection, but how will Seg-El’s efforts to thwart his conquest affect Superman’s fate?

Dru-Zod
Kneel before Zod! General Zod travels back in time to reshape the history of his doomed home planet.

And what of General Zod? He has also traveled back in time, but his motivations to reshape the history of his doomed home planet appear to be more focused on conquering it for his own self interest. Krypton adds another layer of complexity to his relationship with Superman by further exploring the dynamic between the Houses of El and Zod before the planet’s destruction.

But, even with the existence of some of Superman’s deadliest foes, Krypton never feels like you need Superman to swoop in to save the day. Seg-El and his allies appear to be more than capable to hold their own. Superman’s cape is the only acknowledgment of his existence that we need to advance the story.

No Need for a Crossover

Doomsday
The perilous threat of an awakened Doomsday lingers.

Krypton benefits from being outside of the collective universes of the DCEU and Arrowverse. One reason is that it allows for greater flexibility when dealing with the time travel aspects of the show. The other shows or movies don’t have to immediately explain the ripple effects that come from changes occurring in the timeline. Similarly, the series doesn’t need to apply limitations to storylines that feature characters who appear in other properties.

Krypton has its own distinct dark tone that naturally fits for a program about a planet destined for destruction. The standalone nature of the program allows it to provide a more in-depth imagining of what life would have been like on Krypton without forcing it into the overarching theme of some other universal narrative. As such, there is no need for Krypton to crossover with any other properties. It can stand alone with the freedom to extend the Superman mythology beyond what we have come to know in other associated media portrayals.

Unique Perspective of Life on Krypton

The Voice of Rao
Krypton provides a unique perspective into the planet's societal structure including its religion.

Krypton provides a unique perspective on what life was like on the planet before its destruction. The show explores the planet’s culture and provides a glimpse into its religious and social structure in a way that no other Superman property has been able to do.

Krypton is not just another prequel that leaves viewers waiting for Superman to evolve and save the day. It is an epic journey that immerses viewers into Kryptonian culture and helps them understand how Superman’s heritage ultimately contributes to him becoming a legend. While its possible Superman may one day appear on the series, Krypton is effective in adding to the Superman mythology without actually having to have him in it.

Season 2 of Krypton will return in 2019.

Jonathan Domineck
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