TW: police brutality, suicide
Based on the eponymous comics by Mark Millar, Frank Quitely and Peter Doherty, Jupiter’s legacy is a gritty superhero drama that cast members quickly describe as “human.” The show, directed by Steven S. DeKnight, jumps between the lives of a number of superheroes (and other individuals with superpowers, whether or not they use them for good). It focuses largely on the Superman-like character from The Utopian and His Family, serving as a sort of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) for a mature audience.
This aged superhero story is something we’ve seen before. Both Guardians films and television series, alongside The boys, fill in similar spaces, and I would be lying if I said that Jupiter’s legacy was catchier than other similar shows. In all five episodes I was able to preview, the show felt like it was too gripped: It’s a family drama, but it’s the ethics of policing, but these are superhero, but that’s a half-hearted critique of capitalism. At the same time, he jumps between the late 1920s and modern times while simultaneously jumping across the country from one episode to the next. The series has so much intrigue and interesting characters, but it’s hard to feel strongly connected to any of them because at one point it feels like six different storylines are happening simultaneously. It’s all the more overwhelming as viewers are introduced to an entirely new universe. While shows like WandaVision can get away with assuming the public already knows a bit more about the Marvel Universe, Jupiter’s legacy is stuck with the arduous, albeit exciting, task of creating something from scratch.
Perhaps the most important thing in the world of Jupiter’s legacy– more important than knowing how the powers were born or remembering the names and roles of the long list of characters that appear in any given episode is that The Utopian leads a collective of heroes called The Union, who operate strictly under the Code. Created by The Utopian, the Code requires that all members of the Union follow certain rules, including not getting involved in politics (as that would be “the end of free will”) and, most importantly, never to kill anyone. . This rule is quickly broken by Brandon, son of The Utopian, in a full-scale fight scene emerging out of nowhere with a slew of heroes, some of whom are only brought in to be immediately killed. Presumably, if Brandon hadn’t killed Blackstar, the attacking creature, then Blackstar would have killed The Utopian, along with other heroes. This naturally leads to a debate about the Code, with the public largely agreeing that Brandon’s actions were correct, despite his father’s unambiguous condemnation.
If you have already seen the start of Sky high, then you already understand the relationship between Brandon (also known as Paragon) and his father Sheldon (The Utopian). Sheldon sees Brandon more as a hero than a person and expects him to carry on the family legacy, ultimately leading The Union himself. However, he doesn’t think Brandon is at all capable of taking on this responsibility, and much of the parental responsibility is left to his mother, Grace (Lady Liberty). Chloe, Brandon’s sister, rejects her father and The Union because she thinks he’s so taken to being a symbol that he doesn’t know how to be a person. She’s right, of course, but she also serves as a symbol through a successful modeling career. Chloe’s story is one of the most interesting. She clearly cares about her family, but her struggle with addiction and the feeling that she will never be accepted by her father, as well as her direct opposition to the Union, prevents any sort of resolution. She’s also involved with Hutch, the dashing bad-boy son of a supervillain who was once The Utopian’s best friend. While some things seem a bit over the top (daughter of celebrity rebels and dating an older, edgy man), it’s still entertaining and exciting, maybe because Chloe and Hutch’s characters seem a lot more human than the guys. other characters.
The combination of Chloe and Hutch is clearly anti-establishment, but again, the show’s social commentary is difficult to read. The opening sequence features men shaded by American flags, and the heroes are clearly American (Lady Liberty, for example), but there are so many explicit comments about the crises in America at the same time. It sometimes feels like the show tries too hard to get its point across with nothing new – in the end, we watch a wealthy white nuclear family (descended from a steel baron, in fact) serve as face to America. The second episode takes place before the existence of superheroes and at the start of the Great Depression. We are shown a newspaper headline proclaiming the “Death of Capitalism” which informs Sheldon that his father, who committed suicide after the stock market crash, was not in fact a magnanimous and generous steel baron and that instead, he had lost the pensions of all his employees. Sheldon assumes the article is bogus and declares journalists “rotten little Marxists” before delivering a monologue on the importance of capitalism. Of course, later he learns that it was all true, and while it’s not clear if his political views have changed, he decides that superheroes shouldn’t get involved in politics. It almost seems like the show tries to separate the paragon (ha ha) of American values from all tangible reality, beyond a vague support for benevolence and goodwill.
Still, The Utopian’s character is intentionally flawed. He’s not a grandparent, but he also doesn’t seem to remember the non-superhero names of his teammates, whom he considers family. Chloe is quick to point out that this is unacceptable, but The Utopian takes all of her opinions with a grain of salt. (That’s understandable, as she’s notorious for throwing men through walls or cars at people she doesn’t like). Still, I find it hard to understand what the show is trying to say. He speaks explicitly (and not particularly tactfully) about police brutality, showing a moment when an officer sympathizes with Paragon about the loss of life before claiming they “should shoot all the bad guys.” Paragon is put in parallel with the police, especially the murderous police, but at the same time, he’s portrayed as someone we should empathize with, at least at the start of the series. I understand that the show attempts to offer a nuanced perspective on the range of “American” issues, talking about sexism and racism in the 1920s, class distinctions, police brutality, the death penalty and a number of other issues. But it seems like it bites a lot more than it can chew, leaving us to try to figure out a moral that they obviously want us to understand but that just seems out of reach.
So there is a lot going on. On top of that, the show is interspersed with Sheldon’s 1920s hallucinations, which will ultimately lead to him gaining powers. This bit of mystery is interesting, but it’s yet another element to juggle. Still, Sheldon’s 20s mania is useful as a tool to introduce George, later known as Skyfox, the former best friend turned villain and father of Hutch. I was particularly invested in this scenario; George is fun to watch and at the same time it has been hinted throughout the series that gaining powers was a painful experience and possibly an accident. I imagine that near the final episode, the “how” will be revealed, and I expect it to be exciting and probably politically charged.
Ultimately, Jupiter’s legacy does the most. It scratches the superhero itch and I have no doubts that it will work out well, as everyone loves watching people in capes trying to save the world while barely getting by in their own lives. But Jupiter’s legacy sometimes feels like a preacher or propaganda, as if the writers know they need to say something, but they weren’t sure what it was. Some of its tropes are cliché, and I often felt my hands were full trying to manage the names of the characters, let alone the storylines. Having said that, I think the series has potential. The world the creators built is interesting, and Hutch and his group of misfit, anti-establishment people with powers (who don’t get much screen time) felt ambiguous, interesting, and fresh. I want to end the series and I’m curious to see if the last few episodes clear up my questions about what I’m supposed to be focusing on, if anything, and exactly what the creators are trying to say. The show does a great job of avoiding painting morality in black and white, although it does so on stage at times. Still, what superhero world isn’t a bit morally loaded? Jupiter’s legacy spent the first half of their first season raising question after question and I can’t wait to see what answers, if any, they start to answer. I have a feeling that the quality of the last few episodes will make or break the show.