Netflix's Canceled 'Jupiter's Legacy' Looked Awful But Was Surprisingly Good
Nowadays, most “adult superhero stories” are built around one idea: “Superman, but he sucks so much ass that, even with his super physiology, it’s a miracle he hasn’t died yet from fecal poisoning.” This admittedly gave us some pretty great comics, animated series, and live-action shows like Injustice, Invincible, or The Boys, but it would be nice to have a truly dark superhero tale about something other than Superman being a dick. Jupiter’s Legacy was that kind of show. Until Netflix canceled it after one season and a cliffhanger ending. Why? Most likely because the ratings were less stellar than they’d hoped, but the fact that the show looked like a low-budget porn parody of itself probably didn’t help.
Jupiter’s Legacy has some of the most depressing wig work this side of a children’s cancer ward, though with not nearly enough care put into it. The characters look like they’re wearing used mops from a foreclosed porn cinema on their heads, and their costumes take you more out of the story than having Neil deGrasse Tyson sit next to you and explain all the ways that Jupiter’s Legacy got physics wrong. Even the make-up looks off, and make-up is one of those things that I almost never notice because I always try to immerse myself completely in the show. (And that is why I needed all that meth for my Breaking Bad rewatch, Your Honor.) But I sure noticed it here. That being said, if you can somehow get past all this, you’ll be rewarded with a surprisingly deep and engaging superhero story.
The show centers around a generational gap between young superheroes and the old guard that created the hero code of conduct: no killing, no self-promotion, no intervening in politics. The younger generation is now actively pushing against those rules, not because they all want action figures of themselves etc. But because the world has changed and now many of those rules not only don’t apply, they are actively getting some of the younger heroes killed.
There is also some pretty great commentary on how heroes have an obligation to get involved in politics if it can save lives. The old generation, for example, was around during the Holocaust but apparently did nothing to stop it. And yet, the most powerful hero in the world, the Superman-esque Utopian, has seen firsthand what disastrous effects not adhering to the code can have. Setting yourself up as a supreme authority on morality and justice can make you do some truly vile things, and incessantly seeking the limelight has sent someone very close to The Utopian down a road of drugs, alcohol, and self-destruction.
Essentially, what we have witnessed throughout Season 1 of Jupiter’s Legacy is a world that’s slowly transitioning from the Golden Age of comic books into the world of The Boys, but none of the sides are presented as a strawman. Good, solid arguments for and against both worldviews are thrown at us all the time, to the point where it’s hard to say for sure who is right. That’s a sign of really good writing.
Then there is the origin of The Utopian and the older superheroes, which is an amazingly well-crafted psychological horror story set in the 1920s/1930s. Those scenes are just packed with suspense and have an almost Lovecraftian quality to them. Put it this way: there is a scene in the show’s present where a supervillain almost destroys half a state and kills millions, and it’s … fine. But there is ONE suicide scene of an ordinary human in the flashback part of the show that will stay with you for days because of its disturbing, eldritch horror undertones. Nothing in the original comics came even close to being so impactful.
Because, yeah, Jupiter’s Legacy is based on a comic series by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, so all those who want a continuation of the story can get it. But TV shows can do a lot of things that comics can’t, and it’s just a shame we won’t get to see those things because Netflix’s costume and wig budget for the show apparently consisted of just a flashlight and hastily-drawn directions to the garbage bin behind a Spirit Halloween.
Follow Cezary on Twitter.
Top Image: Netflix