When Krypton returns next week, the SYFY series' second season starts where its first season left off: going at breakneck speed. The episode begins six months on, and a lot has changed. Certain plot points get glossed over in the premiere, leaving backstory to be inferred, to be revealed during one of the season’s rare quiet moments, or simply to dangle out there, making audiences wonder what it all means. The impact of all of this is that it leaves fans simultaneously exhausted at the end of each hour of television, and also wanting more because it is not easy to stop a moving train and feel alright with it.
At the beginning of the premiere, most of our major characters have been separated by the events of the finale and everything that has come since. The story of pulling certain characters back together will undoubtedly be a long game for the season, with a good deal of real estate over the first few episodes given to those emotional ties and the implications for certain relationships going forward. This is, like the rest of Krypton, anchored by some terrific performances, particularly by series star Cameron Cuffe, who ends up spending a lot of time alone, acting against visual effects or a relatively emotionless Brainiac (Blake Ritson) in the premiere. That kind of work can often go too broad and turn into pantomime, but Cuffe nails the level he needs to be at and stays there, making his first encounter with somebody friendly a particularly heartwarming beat.
In my review of the Krypton pilot last year, I said that the women of Krypton made it soar — and the first few episodes are not kind to those women. There are traumatic experiences, theft of agency and identity, and a heel turn that may render a particular character radioactive to many of the fans. There may be some criticism of the way one particular character was handled, but given the show's track record, it seems likely that this is a case of tearing down characters so you can build them back up -- and most (not all) of the women in the show handle the adversity well and seem on their way to getting their act together fairly early on. If you look at the screen time given the women of this show, last season's pilot and this season's premiere -- both of which were laser-focused on Seg and Adam Strange -- are probably the two episodes with the least representation. Like last season, that changes dramatically from the first to the second episode.
This season has been promoted with a very “bring on the bad guys” mentality — “it’s a bad day to be a hero,” the tagline says — and the result is a season that feels a bit darker than the first. If you thought the Voice of Rao was creepy, the Zod regime is five steps beyond. We get some stuff that’s a step below a horror movie, and the person responsible is not who you would expect. Doomsday is a looming, menacing presence in the first few episodes, although in the first half of the season, we get only hints about what his destiny in the story will be. Brainiac's endgame becomes quickly and terrifyingly clear.
The show’s Lobo will not win everyone over in his first appearance -- the smaller build and sarcasm seen in the trailers is pretty indicative of what you get out of him throughout, and for those who go into it wishing he looked or sounded different, it will take a bit of getting used to -- but by midway through the second it is really clear what they are doing with him. It’s a cool take, and offers a lot of possibilities. Emmett Scanlan delivers a great performance, managing to take a character who is larger than life and truly bizarre and ground him just enough that he still feels like an oddball in the world of the show, but he does not feel like he doesn't belong.
Maybe the character most unchanged from season to season is Zod; Colin Salmon's intensity continues to tell us that this is a character who is passionate, focused, and a little crazy, but has the best intentions (at least in his own mind). The terrible things being done in his name don't faze him but he is, generally, not seen directly overseeing them. This is a good decision creatively because it means we rarely see him step over the line into objectively, obviously evil territory. This is a man whose appeal to the masses you can understand, and it will not take long to see how and why he will probably level up his menace.
All in all, Krypton continues to use elements of the Superman mythology incredibly well, building a rich world and populating it with likable characters -- or at least those you like to hate. With standout performances from Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, and Hannah Waddingham to start the season -- as well as performances that will reshape how you see Zod, Brainiac, and Lobo from Salmon, Ritson, and Scanlan -- this series remains incredibly exciting to watch week to week.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Krypton Season Two premieres on Wednesday, June 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SYFY.
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