AMMAN: “Jupiter’s Legacy” has an intriguing premise and some serious pedigree behind it.
Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight’s source material is the eponymous comic-book series written by Mark Millar, the man who created two of Marvel’s most-beloved storylines: “Civil War” (The Avengers) and “Wolverine: Old Man Logan.” Millar’s knack for exploring the darker side of heroes and asking awkward questions about just how much freedom superbeings should be allowed to have in society is on display again here.
“Jupiter’s Legacy” focuses on a generation of superheroes who acquired their powers in the 1930s. The tale of how they did so is told in flashbacks (a misleading description given the painfully slow pace at which that story unfolds) intercut with the present-day storyline when those same heroes, or most of them at least, are looking to pass the torch to a younger generation of superpowered folks, some of whom are their own children, and some of whom have no wish to be superheroes.
The original heroes, led by The Utopian/Sheldon Sampson (basically Superman), played by Josh Duhamel, and his wife Lady Liberty/Grace Kennedy-Sampson (basically Wonder Woman), have all lived according to The Code — a set of ideals formulated by Sheldon when they first got their powers. The main two being not to kill and not to meddle in political affairs. The Code is being called into question in a world where supervillains have no such qualms about taking lives.
The show could have been — and occasionally tries to be — an intriguing meditation on parental dynamics (including the strain put on kids whose parents are the moral compass and defenders of the world), the transfer of power, the morality of killing to save lives or refusing to kill even though it may cost them, and the difficulty of remaining apolitical in an increasingly politically divided country/world.
Unfortunately, when the show does address those issues, it does so with all the subtlety and nuance of a foghorn. And by trying to cram so many hot-button topics into a show that also requires plenty of action, DeKnight presents the audience with an often incoherent story containing several jarring gear changes.
There is little time for any real character development either, so DeKnight falls back on genre tropes and stereotypes. There are peppy heroes, sardonic heroes, dumb-but-cute heroes… You get the picture.
And yes, it’s a superhero show — a genre that doesn’t lend itself to great dialogue, but even that low bar is too high for “Jupiter’s Legacy” to clear. You can almost see the actors wincing at some of the lines they have to deliver. Save them the embarrassment and watch something else.