Before it was canceled by SYFY, Krypton was giving its DC Villains the treatment they deserve. Barring a surprise pickup by another network or streaming service, it is safe to finally judge the Krypton series as a whole. The series did a lot of things right when creating a show about Superman without the character actually being present. One of those things was introducing multiple Superman villains to the series in a unique and comic-accurate way.
From Brainiac to Zod, Lobo, and Doomsday, Krypton did not shy away from tackling some of the most famous villains in the Superman mythos. Not only did they succeed in bringing them to life, but these villains also serve as the true lasting legacy of Krypton as a whole.
Superman's Villains Aren't As One-Dimensional As You Think
Superman's rogue's gallery often does not get the respect it deserves. Compared to Batman and Spider-Man's iconic villains, Superman has not enjoyed that same benefit. In the 7 times Superman has appeared on film, he has only been faced with the same 3 villains; Lex Luthor, Zod, and Doomsday. Naturally, this has built a perception among the fans that Superman has a weak list of villains. The truth is that Superman's villains aren't as one-dimensional at all. The character has a host of villains like Brainiac, Darkseid, and more that have not gotten the live-action treatment they deserved on film.
Richard Donner toyed with the idea of Brainiac for Superman III before being removed as director from Superman II, and Zack Snyder's Justice League cast Ray Porter as Darkseid (and shot all his scenes) before he was cut by Snyder's replacement, Joss Whedon. The problem is not that Superman villains are poor, it's that the majority have never gotten real screen time. While the comics and animated interpretations certainly did justice to characters like Metallo, Mongul, Parasite, Toy Man and Livewire, most of these characters will not be appearing on the big screen anytime soon. Krypton, being set in the past and on an alien planet, also does not have access to the Earth villains that Superman faces. Instead, it expertly weaves multiple cosmic level villains together and doesn't even need Superman present to deliver on these adaptations.
Krypton Has Delivered On Superman's Villains
Krypton started off with many of the same scoffs that Gotham did. How do you create a show centered on one of the most popular characters of all time, without the actual character? Gotham's approach was to focus on the villains and Krypton followed a similar model. Season 1 of the series immediately introduced audiences to Brainiac for the first time in live-action. The character was stunningly brought to life by Blake Riston and the character design received high praise.
The first season also introduced Zod, played by Colin Salmon. Season 2 featured Zod as the primary antagonist of the season and Salmon's performance was both unique and strong. This is the third time Zod has been focused on in a Superman property. Superman II brilliantly brought him to screen through Terence Stamp's stern and totalitarian performance while Man of Steel gave Zod a fully three-dimensional character treatment and was perfectly brought to life through the intensity of Michael Shannon. Colin Salmon also brings his unique approach to the character with a brutally violent nature and characteristics derived from both cinematic interpretations.
Outside of Zod, Season 2 also focused on Lobo, whose spinoff series was also axed by SYFY, despite impressing audiences with his comic-accurate character design and personality. Prior to Krypton, Lobo's only true chance to shine was in animation. Portrayed by Emmett J. Scanlan, Lobo was equipped with all of his classic mannerisms, euphemisms, and brutality, Lobo was one of the highlights of the final season and Krypton did justice with the character.
Krypton also brought Doomsday to screen. The character looked distinctly comic-accurate and featured all the same death and destruction Doomsday is expected to bring. The surprising element of the show was taking an entire episode to focus on Doomsday's origins and giving a tragic backstory to the monster that would eventually kill Superman. While the series was cut short in season 2, there were also potential hints of Darkseid's presence looming with the Omega Symbol. While it is unclear if the ultimate DC villain would have made an appearance, or if it was in fact a reference to The Omega Men, the tease itself shows why Krypton was so special, it truly swung for the fences.
Krypton Explores Superman Well (Without Showing Him)
Unlike Gotham, which at least allowed audiences to follow the journey of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, Krypton had a harder challenge of not having Superman appear at all. The series takes place two generations before Kal-El was born and features Cameron Cuffe's Seg-El as the lead. While season 1 commonly name-dropped Superman in an effort to draw in viewers, even using his iconic cape as a plot device, season 2 does not. Instead, it doubles down on the fact that the timeline of Superman has been completely distorted by Adam Strange. With the cape that represents Superman's timeline destroyed and Brainiac taking Jor-El to Earth an entire generation before he would ultimately send his son, there is no Kal-El in this story.
Without the mention of Superman or even a hint that the timeline is gearing towards Superman, it is remarkable that Krypton still manages to explore Superman well. Adam Strange's entire character is based on how inspired he is by Superman. Zod's hatred for Superman firms his resolve on every action he takes during the season, including the harsh treatment of his own mother. Seg-El routinely channels his grandson's heroism and good-willed nature as the hero of the series, at times even quoting lines that the Man of Steel is known for.
While the series has met an untimely end, not unlike the planet it is named after, Krypton still leaves behind a strong legacy on the Superman mythos. The showrunners and actors all clearly loved the Superman lore and brought justice to characters both new and old during their two-season run. One can hope that DC Universe, HBO Max or another platform can ultimately bring the show back for a third season, but if Krypton truly ends here, it will end having done justice to Superman and his villains.