Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers for Jupiter’s Legacy.
I just want to admit right off the bat that I’ve never read the comics Jupiter’s Legacy is based on, created by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. To be honest, I asked to review Jupiter’s Legacy because a superhero series divorced from Marvel or DC’s domination of the television market intrigued me. There have been others, but most have been forgettable or short-lived or both. I’m afraid to say, Jupiter’s Legacy will likely fall into the “forgettable” category.
If you’re looking for dour, grim, and overall a superhero series that takes itself far too seriously, do I have a show for you! Jupiter’s Legacy, for a genre show, is about as jolly as The Handmaid’s Tale, and considering that show takes place in a dystopian hellscape, that’s not exactly a winning endorsement. The main character is Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian (Josh Duhamel), who lives his life by a legalistic, moralistic Code and spends most of his time either growling in one timeline or going mad in the other. Oh yes, that’s right, Jupiter’s Legacy has two whole timelines, one in the 1920s/30s, the other in the present-day. And while that would be a cool concept, it results in giving Duhamel and his co-stars really odd old-age makeup in the present of the show.
The most interesting character is easily Walter/Brainwave (Ben Daniels), Sheldon’s older brother, who clearly has the weight of the world on his shoulders, but who isn’t too concerned about it in the present. In the past, Walter is the character with the most nuance, too. He has a complicated relationship with everyone in the “Union,” which appears to be this universe’s version of the Justice League. This universe isn’t too far off from our own, though — there’s a reference to white supremacists, who one character refers to as “Nazis,” which is about as close as you’ll get to this show taking any kind of concrete stance on any political issue. This is despite the fact that the Union is constantly torn over whether they should do more in the world to stop it from going to hell.
Just why it’s going to hell is spoken about in broad strokes: the economy, people are tilting towards the morally gray, anything that remotely makes Sheldon just a little angry. Stuff like that. Speaking of making Sheldon angry, he has two children with Grace/Lady Liberty (a very fun Leslie Bibb), who are more trouble and angst than they’re worth. Brandon/The Paragon (Andrew Horton) is just a moody, depressive guy who murders a supervillain in the first episode, while Chloe (Elena Kampouris) is a drug-addled miscreant model who rejects her father’s Code and the Union entirely. She is extremely relatable, except for the part where she is an utter, total brat.
There’s a collective of young superheroes, but they are mostly forgettable cannon fodder for the increasingly violent supervillains, each of them falling because superheroes don’t kill, according to Sheldon. They don’t all follow him blindly, but they do mostly end up dying. Fitz Small/The Flare (Mike Wade) is the smart guy in a wheelchair in the present and the one black guy in the past on the whole team. Grace is the one woman. If this is supposed to be a subtle satire of superhero comics, I don’t think it’s quite achieving its goal.
For the most part, the actors do their best with some just baffling lines and melodramatic plotlines, and the design of their suits does them no favors — it’s a lot of cliched looks, in general. If the point of Jupiter’s Legacy is to be depressing, it succeeds handily! If the point was to be a fun superhero romp with a little bit of a darker flare than the MCU…it fails miserably.
Jupiter’s Legacy is now streaming on Netflix.