Warning: Significant spoilers ahead for season 1 of Krypton .
The first season of Syfy's Superman prequel Krypton focused on the denizens of Kandor, the Kryptonian city bottled and preserved. by the malevolent alien AI Brainiac in Superman canon. But even before Brainiac (Blake Ritson) arrived, the show felt claustrophobic, with almost all the action relegated to a few sets that primarily showed off the city's rigid caste system. That's changed in season 2, where the show feels uncorked. The characters are now taking the stars, as part of a story that continues exploring the politics of Superman's home world, while also examining its place in the galaxy. By embracing the potential of the show's science-fiction setting, Krypton writers have made the show stand out in a market packed with comic book adaptations, and they've shrugged off the inherent limitations of a prequel ̵
Season 1 ended on a particularly dramatic note, with Superman's grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) saving Krypton by trapping himself and Brainiac in the Phantom Zone , a prison outside time and space. Seg's time-traveling future son General Dru-Zod (Colin Salmon) then shattered the Phantom Zone Projector, to ensure that sacrifice wasn't undone. Detroit native Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) hoped it would be worthwhile. The show's most annoying gimmick, a time-displaced Superman cape that was slowly fading out of existence like Marty McFly in Back to the Future knit itself back together to indicate Superman was no longer being eliminated from the future. But now, it showed the symbol of the House of Zod, rather than El.
Season 2, which launches on Syfy on June 12th, picks up six months later. General Zod has taken over Krypton and started transforming it into the world of shining skyscrapers that Kal-El was born into Superman canon. Now, Zod has set his sights on the survival of his race at colonizing other worlds, in a plan that harkens back to the plot of 2013's Man of Steel . The slums occupied by the Rankless, members of the Kryptonian subclass who do not belong to one of the houses have been eliminated, with most of the residents conscripted into the military to crush a rebellion led by Seg's grandfather Val-El (Ian McElhinney) and forms the terrorist leader Jax-Ur (Hannah Waddingham). Meanwhile, General Zod's grandfather Jayna (Ann Ogbomo) is trying to lead her own rebellion on Krypton, and is having adventures on Brainiac's home planet, after inevitably escaping the Phantom Zone.
After a season where it felt like all the characters were just a short walk away from each other, the physical and narrative distance between this season's suddenly being jarring. Kandor still seems to be the only city on Krypton that matters, but the writers are improving on last season's worldbuilding by further examining the impacts of the planet's sophisticated technology. Unfortunately, the story's bigger scope comes at the cost of personal narratives, with some characters feeling totally isolated during the first half of the season.
end of episode five, the last of the season's 10 episodes made available to critics. But separating them from so long shows off both their strengths and weaknesses. Only existed as a hologram for most of season 1, and he is even less of a compelling character in the flesh. As a hologram, he could be forgiven for being an extremely generic mentor character for Seg, and he could blame his limited programming whenever he didn't actually have any sage advice to give. When fleeing from the Phantom Zone, he claimed that his time gave him insights into the past and future, but that seems to have been entirely forgotten. Instead, he is just hopelessly optimistic about Jax's ruthless pragmatism.
And despite Jax's assurances that he is an important symbol as El, he does not seem to have any loyal followers. The entire rebellion plot of feels like a lackluster retreaded by season 1's efforts to overthrow a different tyrant ruling Krypton. And while their rebellion's conflict with Zod eventually results in a surprisingly dramatic payoff, it starts off as a collection of clichés as old as Star Wars : a scrappy coalition of mostly nameless soldiers whose audiences only know they should cheer for Because their enemies wear scary helmets and commit genocide,
Zod's mother Lyta (Georgina Campbell) has been badly undermined this season. In season 1, she was a fierce character who knew what she wanted and took it, whether that meant having an affair with, or challenging a superior officer to battle, to win improved standing in Krypton's military. But this season, she's entirely subservient to Zod, always asking him for permission to carry out her ideas, and often being sidelined as a result. Segssing fiance Nyssa-Vex (Wallis Day) is downscaled as well – her political maneuvering was a highlight of season 1, but her skills seem to have nearly disappeared as her priorities have narrowed to protecting her infant son. Their weakness strength strengths Zod, who does make for an excellent antagonist. Salmon radiates power, perpetually standing ramrod-straight in his striking costume, which suggests both military and royal authority. Even on the verge of violence, he feels perpetually calm, possessed of a dry white
Season 2 starts off significantly stronger than season 1 and a great part of that comes from better use of Adam and Adam. They initially suffered from the plight of so many protagonists: he was saddled with a tragic backstory and great destiny, but he didn't have enough charm to carry the burden of the narrative. Meanwhile, Adam's doomsaying prophecies made him feel more like a plot catalyst than an actual character. This season, you have taken on a variety of inept charms in their misadventures together, reminiscent or Legends of Tomorrow 's time-brittle Ray Palmer and Nate Heywood. "Was I dead?" Seg yells after an accident requires Adam to resuscitate him. “Maybe just a little bit. But you undeaded you, ”Adam reassures him. Their bumbling works particularly well when they're confronted by the alien bounty hunter Lobo (Glen Martin). Showrunner Cameron Welsh and Krypton 's writers have nailed their portrayal of the swaggering, hyper-violent Superman antagonist, giving him a 13-year-old boy's lewd sense of humor, Wolverine's regeneration powers, and a seemingly endless Supply of medieval and futuristic weapons can use to menace the heroes. Created in the 1980s, then revived in the 1990s as a spoof of gritty superheroes, Lobo became a fan favorite in his own right. While he appeared in several animated adaptations, this marks the character's live-action debut, and the constant stream of jokes he unleashes at Seg and Adam's expense make him a real highlight of the beginning of the season. It's unclear when the character might return to Krypton, but it certainly has unfinished business to tend to.
While Lobo is the season's comedic star, Seg's best friend Kem (Rasmus Hardiker), who served as season 1's primary comic-relief character, continues to deliver plenty of witty, self-deprecating dialogue. While everyone else is playing high politics and dealing with cosmic threats, Kem is there to help keep things grounded by just focusing on his own survival. His perpetual exasperation with Adam contrasts particularly with the self-proclaimed hero's attention-seeking attempts at nobility.
The scenes between them bring some much-needed humor to a show that regularly gets bogged down in melodramatic soap opera theatrics, which feel at odds with its more outlandish plots. But some of Krypton 's heavier moments also strike strong emotional chords, by combining highly related issues with strong performances. Jayna's newfound understanding of her family's toxic legacy and her efforts to make herself a real standout. This season is also taking a page from The Expanse in examining some of the practicalities of waging war across planets, with oxygenators that let soldiers breathe in thin atmosphere proving to be the most strategic resource. But the show's attempts to make big points about genocide, loyalty, and family legacy are undermined by inconsistent writing. References to the family name “El” meaning “hope,” or riffs on “Kneel before Zod” crop up in almost every episode in the first half of season 2, and both were already old in season 1.
Krypton is far from a perfect show, but it has respectably big ambitions. It's not just trying to tell another Superman story: Welsh and his crew are seeking to build an entire world, combining established canon with compelling original characters to deliver a mix of fast-paced action and slow-burn intrigue. The time-travel element also makes the show's final outcome seem much less certain than most prequels. If this show is given enough time to run its course, it will probably be with baby Kal-El heading toward Smallville, but this season's focus on a future where Zod takes over Earth shows that Welsh is willing to explore the potential of other options .
Many flashes on The Flash have focused on the idea of using time to make things better often makes them much, much worse. In Krypton s second season, there are hints that Adam's latest efforts make things right might result in disaster for the entire universe. But these risks are the key to the show's success, letting the writers produce something that feels distinctly different from other prequels or superhero shows. In season 2, they're still keeping their viewers guessing.
Krypton returns to Syfy on Wednesday, June 12th at 10PM ET.