House of El Review

Each week with my Krypton recaps, I’ve decided to pose this central question: Is the show getting better? Hope that the show will, in fact, find its footing after the uneven first episode is essentially what these recaps are floating on, after all.

So, to the answer about if Krypton is getting better…I’m not sure if it is? The answer is filled with insecurity because I honestly don’t even know what happened in “House of El.”

This episode was filler disguised as a plotting

It was only at the end of this frustrating episode that I realized all it was is a way to keep the mystery of Brainiac from revealing itself. Indeed, much of the episode was about not just keeping the mystery of Brainiac a secret, but about keeping every possible mystery about anything pertaining to the House of El and Adam Strange’s prophecy a secret. Absolutely nothing was revealed, and at the end of the episode, we’re basically at the same point we were at last week.

This leads me to wonder if Krypton actually has a story to tell. Is the show procrastinating and stretching stuff out simply because it doesn’t know which way to go? If there was a ton of things to say about the planet Krypton or the House of El, I feel like the show would be bursting at the seams with engaging details. But alas, Krypton doesn’t seem to have much going for it aside from the amount of mileage it can get from the aura of Superman. Superman’s cape alone gets as much screentime as some characters.

So if there’s literally no story to tell, then what is the show doing? And if there is a story to tell, then why won’t it hurry up and tell it? Perhaps if it quit being so obsessed with self-seriousness and worked harder to earn all of the story beats it’s presenting us, then I’d be intrigued to just go along for the ride with the characters. Heck, if the characters were just more likeable, I’d love to just see them onscreen.

For example: dven though Sleepy Hollow is a show that hurt me to the core in its later seasons (I will never be over Abbie’s death!), the show’s duo of Abbie and Ichabod were so entertaining that I would have been just as happy to watch them fix a car and go to the grocery store as much as I would be to see them fighting supernatural evil. Perhaps that’s what’s the most annoying thing here – none of the characters have any true chemistry with one another. Even if the actors are having fun with each other off-screen, somehow none of that is bleeding through to their onscreen work.

Too many characters providing too few clues

Just last week, I thought Seg might be the most unlikable character in Krypton, and Adam should be the character we should follow. It turns out that advice was a mistake, since Adam might be even more unlikeable than Seg.

This week, we realized Adam has no common courtesy towards someone who just lost their parents. Adam also doesn’t seem to realize that Seg lost his parents via advice Adam gave. If Seg had cold-cocked Adam at some point in this episode, I would have cheered, because Adam’s callousness not only makes you like Seg a whole lot more, but it also makes you start to think that Adam might not even know what he’s talking about. If he knows why Seg (and, frankly, us audience members) should care about anything happening, then why won’t he just spill the beans already so he can get back to Detroit and leave Seg alone to grieve?

Of course, we know the whole time that Adam does know exactly what he’s talking about, because how else is this show going to get off the ground? At the end of the episode, he’s somehow able to find Brainiac’s detector gizmo in the midst of unfathomable, arctic temperatures and gusty winds of Kyrpton’s non-terraformed landscape. He also inexplicably takes off his face protector after finding Brainiac’s gizmo, just like how people in movies inexplicably take off their glasses after making a huge discovery. In subarctic temperatures and high-force winds, you’re seriously going to take a layer of protection and heat off of your face?

Technically, Adam’s jerkiness isn’t even his fault; it all goes back to the severe lack of story at the heart of Krypton. We’re supposed to care about what Adam knows because we’re already in the future with Adam and we know about Superman. But how do you get an audience to care about Superman’s grandpa? How do you retcon Krypton into something more than just a means to an end? The questions that are central to the outcome of this show are also questions that are central to the development of these characters. Why should we care about Adam apart from his knowledge of Superman? Why should we care about Seg apart from his eventual relationship to Superman?

Even Seg’s hologram grandpa Val withholds secrets for no reason. To be fair, Hologram Val does tell us a lot more about the Phantom Zone and that Brainiac is out there, but we already knew Brainiac was out there last week! Can you tell us something we don’t already know, Hologram Val? Can you give us more clues as to why Brainiac wants to suck up planets? Instead, Hologram Val gives us the tired line of Seg having to find out the answers for himself by completing Val’s work. I mean, sure. But the line also feels like another way to keep teasing the audience along when there’s actually no story to be shared here. The constant tease gets frustrating after a while.

None of this is to say that there can’t be a fantastic show about Krypton before its destruction. Films and TV shows revisit the past all the time, whether that’s a fantasy/sci-fi past or a historical reconstruction of past events and past lives. But with whatever story you’re telling, there has to be a point. The characters have to tell us something interesting. They have to mean something. If not even Adam can explain what he means to a story, then maybe the characters need to go back to the drawing board.

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