By Bryce Cross, E23 Reporter

Nearly everyone knows the origin story of Superman. He came from a dying alien planet, crash landed and was raised on Earth to eventually become humanity’s shining light and savior. So why watch a story about a planet destined to die? Syfy’s origin story to the origin story, “Krypton,” actually gives us a reason to care through a premise involving time travel – taking us back 200 years before Superman to show us the world through his grandfather’s eyes.

The pilot introduces us to Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), a hotheaded young man (with a familiar sense of justice), who finds himself ridiculed and degraded by the rest of society after his grandfather Val-El’s (Ian McElhinney) forbidden research is revealed. Val is absolutely convinced the planet is in mortal peril but is shunned by his peers as well as the planet’s elites who dismiss the theory, stripping his entire family of their social status.

We know, of course, that Val absolutely hit the nail on the head – although not quite in the way we think. Superman’s origin has always shown the collapse and massive explosion of Krypton; however, it is thanks to the admittedly intriguing time-travel element mentioned earlier that we find out a bigger threat looms over the planet.

The sudden appearance of Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos), a time-traveler from Earth, confirms Val’s concerns as Strange warns Seg of Brainiac (Blake Ritson), an alien hellbent on destroying planets and collecting civilizations, akin to trophies. His impending arrival would not only bring about the end of Krypton but doom the timeline as Kal-El and his grandson Superman would never be born.

“Krypton”’s biggest hurdle with the pilot is getting the audience to care. We know the fate of everyone on the planet; it’s inevitable. However, by introducing Adam Strange as a visitor from another time as well as allowing the show to stand alone — away from other DC TV shows and movies – it keeps the pilot fresh. “Krypton” offers new concepts visually and hints that there’s much we still have to learn about the universe. “Gotham” is similar to “Krypton” as it’s an origin-origin story, and as amusing as “Gotham” can be, it often feels like the show pads for time until we see Bruce eventually become Batman. With “Krypton”, there’s 200 years of leeway to explore and uncover.

Tonally and visually, the pilot has the aesthetic seen in Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel,” with only Superman’s cape as a splash of bright color amidst the muted, dark cityscape. “Krypton” is ambitious though, showcasing a wide array of world building. From displaying the architecture of the privileged elite to the graffiti symbols in the lower class slums, the city of Kandor feels populated and dense, rich with history and culture.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, thanks to Cuffe’s Seg-El, who has far more attitude and roguish charm than we’ve probably ever seen in Superman. Through many, somewhat cluttered conflicts set up in the pilot aside from Brainiac – political unrest due to a terrorist group and forbidden romance with General Zod’s ancestor – Seg is able to have a sense of humor and resolve through it all, even with so much on the line.

Adam Strange is also a joy as a fish out of water from the future. There’s serious potential in the chemistry between him and Seg. It could elevate the show to even taller heights. With the implication that the future could be changed by  Brainiac, I wouldn’t mind if “Krypton” just focused on Seg and Strange traveling across the DC Universe to stop threats that are manifesting way before they should be. Given the way they play off of each other so well, a galactic road trip like that could be in the cards down the line.

The “Krypton” pilot isn’t perfect. It establishes its world and a new spin on the Superman origin but also finds itself busy and, at times, bogged down by Seg’s other conflicts. They may pay off in future episodes, but for a first episode, “Krypton” is jam-packed with competing storylines. However, seeing such an ambitiously crafted world and culture through a humorous and adventurous protagonist is refreshing. As it stands, “Krypton” is an entertaining surprise. It delivers on giving audiences a new take on the Superman mythology and has tons of potential to fly to new heights as long as it doesn’t crash under the weight of too many plotlines.

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