Posted On May 18, 2021
Jupiter’s Legacy is the kind of TV series I should eat up. Based on a comic book series by Mark Millar – who I regard as a genuine talent – and telling the story of superheroes who have evolved through the 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond; real people who have real lives; and who aren’t exactly perfect (shades of Watchmen anyone?), this is the kind of superhero story I like to read or watch… in theory at least.
And, cards on the table, a good half of Jupiter’s Legacy was on point for me. I’m not going to be coy about that. Particularly once I got past a god-awful fourth episode and started to settle on the characters I liked, and the story unravelled, I was actually really into the final few episodes.
The problem is how this series starts. Opening episodes of many series are sub-par and here we have a first episode that didn’t grab me. Fortunately it gave off, “You should be liking this…” vibes, which is what kept me going. I could see promise but just couldn’t get into it early on. Perseverance was key.
The second and third episodes picked up a little, but then the aforementioned fourth episode just bored the pants off me. When you’re four episodes into an eight episode series, and it’s just not firing… well, say goodnight to good reviews. Which has been this show’s reality since it launched.
Here’s the thing. Jupiter’s Legacy is a game of two halves. There’s a backstory which starts around the 1929 stock market crash, which is a little slow to begin with but gets progressively more interesting… particularly once you get past episode four. There I go, mentioning it again, but it’s true. I learned after finishing the series that the initial showrunner was replaced halfway through production. Now, I don’t want to put 2+2 together to make 5, but it seems suspicious to me that I genuinely resonated more with the series in its second half than its first half; could that have been the change in showrunner?
The backstory – especially once all our regulars get into cool 1930s adventurer gear and the story pays serious homage to King Kong for an episode (sans ape, of course) – really pays off. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it’s the background to how these people got superpowers almost 100 years ago, and are still around in the 2020s. As far as superhero backstories go, it’s certainly a good one.
But then you have the modern-day storylines which run parallel to the origin story stuff, and it’s these that are quite variable. There’s mundane stuff, like one of the heroes killing an escaped super-villain when the whole ethos of ‘the Union’ – the group the heroes belong to – is absolutely against taking life. Yeah, we get it, the kid will have to learn he did the wrong thing. Then there’s super cliche stuff, like the daughter of two of the lead superheroes is a druggy model who doesn’t want the superhero life, despite having powers. It’s no coincidence that the rotten fourth episode I talk about is half about this daughter being a completely unlikeable snot, while the other half is a bloke wandering through a dusty midwest during the Depression. I almost gave up on the show there and then, quite honestly.
The modern-day storyline I liked the most is the one that’s barely told. In the 1930s flashbacks, we meet a character called George Hutchence (Matt Lanter), who is the best friend of the series lead, Sheldon Sampson (Josh Duhamel). George is clearly a rich, Great Gatsby type and, initially, seems quite shallow. As the backstory moves on, however, he becomes quite pivotal to the story. I’m not sure if this is the reaction the audience members are supposed to have, but I really liked the character, and Lanter’s portrayal – yes, that’s the same Matt Lanter who voices Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars – is fabulous. In the modern-day side of Jupiter’s Legacy we learn that while George became one of the Union’s super heroes along with Sheldon and some others, he eventually betrayed them. You wonder, who? what? when? where? why? and it’s actually very intriguing to see George so close to these people back in the 1930s while in the modern-day, he’s basically their biggest adversary… yet we never see him. It’s this storyline, above and beyond anything else, that really got me going. If the series makes it to another season, I think it’s a no-brainer there will be a lot more of this to come.
Of course, I could always go and read the comics that this series is based on, but I want to try and keep some surprises for the television series. Perhaps if Netflix doesn’t renew the series after its initial terrible reviews, I might have to go and look it up. Whether Jupiter’s Legacy does get renewed or not… who knows? I think it’s probably shown enough promise to get there, but the reviews don’t miss. The show is a terrible grind at times, which is frankly criminal when there’s only eight episodes to begin with. You can perhaps expect boring stuff and padding in a series of 24 episodes, but not this.
Jupiter’s Legacy has a good story struggling to get out, and I think the performances are really quite good across the board. A second series with tighter writing and more focus on the stuff that’s actually interesting, could be an amazing thing to behold. But how many people will be lining up to try it?