Donny Hadfield-Smith 6/2/2021 2:51pm EST
With great power comes great responsibility, and with the turn of a calendar page comes a new movie or series about superheroes; the latest being Jupiter’s Legacy, now available on Netflix.
In a time when you don’t need future sight to tell when the next show about people blessed with powers will be (it’s next month; it’s always next month), a project can’t just simply rely on the premise of superheroes to entice its audience. HBO’s Watchmen walked away from the 2020 Emmys with 11 awards, including “Outstanding Limited Series,” “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series” for Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series” for Regina King. Amazon’s gore-soaked The Boys grew its viewership by 89% in its second season and announced that a spin-off is on the way due to its success. WandaVision on Disney+ was praised for altering what it meant to be a “comic book show,” taking us away from the high action we’re used to in the Marvel Universe, and instead placing us in the suburbs and framing each episode like a classic sitcom. One of the theme songs used for the show-within-the-show, “Agatha All Along,” became a viral sensation and found itself on the Billboard charts at number 36.
Much like superheroes themselves, when a new show hits the scene, it must prove itself worthy to stand among the greats and not fall to the bottom like Painkiller Jane or Inhumans. What we’re finding in the oversaturation of super shows is that to succeed, emotion and connection are more important than the “BAM!”s and “POW!”s of the past. While incredible fight choreography certainly helps (Stagirl has some of my favorite action sequences since Buffy the Vampire Slayer), it’s the story-telling and character development of the previously mentioned hits that takes them to the top of the list.
Jupiter’s Legacy tries, but like a sidekick-in-training, can’t quite keep up. The show tells the story of the Union, a superhero team that has been protecting the world for the last 90 years with their leader, the Utopian, running the group tightly with his ideals: never kill anyone and never interfere in political matters. The world operates smoothly for nearly a century under their watch; however, when the Utopian’s son kills a villain during battle, the group and society at large begin to unravel.
The show offers insight on drug use, politics, struggles with power and morals, sexuality, and strained parent/child dynamics. In fact, the servings of unhealthy parent/child dynamics are quite generous, and found across the board (and multiple timelines); I can’t think of one character in this show who does like their parent. Chloe, the Utopian’s daughter, has enough teenage turmoil and angst to make you think you somehow changed the channel to Euphoria. In the Utopian’s case, his Daddy issues are so strong that his father haunts him from beyond the grave, gradually pushing him towards madness.
What works for me more than the overdone family drama the show tries to hit is its structure. Flashing back and forth between modern day and the Great Depression when the original members of the Union received their powers, we are granted with a lot of great period piece moments, and while nobody is asking for another origin story, these scenes provide a lot more fun and fresh drama than their current-day counterparts.
It’s trying. It’s checking all boxes, but as previously mentioned, there are shows who have already done this, and who have done it better. In the never-ending list of superhero stories, Jupiter may not have a legacy.
Donny Hadfield-Smith is the host of podcast: Truly Anything with Donny Hadfield-smith, co-host of Know That: A Real Housewives Podcast, and is a TV/Film/and 90’s nostalgia aficionado.
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