I finished watching the first season (volume?) of Jupiter’s Legacy. I was concerned about the quality of the writing by episode 2 and by the end of the season, I decided that this is a fairly bad show. It’s not terrible but in some episodes, I desperately wanted to skip ahead past Sheldon Sampson’s (Josh Duhamel) scenes because he is a terrible person. I didn’t skip anything because now and then, there were moments of hope. But ultimately, I was disappointed in the show. I’ll describe it a bit more. Total spoilers ahead…
Jupiter’s Legacy is about 6 people who inadvertently went on a quest during the beginning of the great depression and how, because we know what is happening in modern times, they got superpowers. The show tells the story of how the quest is started and finished while showing the same characters dealing with their modern-time difficulties. The quest is started by Sheldon Sampson, one of two brothers whose father dies by suicide. Sheldon sees his father in visions and his father is an asshole and taunts his son constantly. Sheldon, who appears to be a part-time lunatic, ends up gathering friends, acquaintances, and a few strays, to help him with the quest and they eventually get superpowers and costumes. The flashbacks to the quest are sometimes interesting especially given that we see the modern versions of some of these characters while others are conspicuously missing. The problem with the flashbacks is that although the story is compelling, the main character somehow manages to convince people to do things that are absurd. It’s all plausible but sometimes I was really having to suspend a lot of disbelief. I did like that Sheldon’s best friend George, played perfectly by Matt Lanter, was very loyal and supportive of Sheldon, even in his most crazy moments. George’s backstory supported his attitude and loyalty very well. Some of the other characters seem like they would have just ignored Sheldon had they been real people with their same backstory. One thing I look for in a TV show or movie is characters that act like the people they are supposed to represent and not act out of character simply to support the plot. I always go to Starbucks and never to the other local coffee place so if I were a charcter in a story and I suddenly went to that other coffee shop and then saw a murder that I then solved, there had better be a good explanation about why I decided to do something I didn’t normally do.
In modern times, Sheldon has two children, a son who wants to be like his dad, and a daughter who wants nothing to do with him. I found the daughter Chloe’s (Elena Kampouris) story to be interesting because it shows a person with superpowers having a non-superpowered job and overall wanting to avoid the superhero lifestyle that she is constantly pressured to adopt. Yeah, she’s a high-paid model, but it’s still a job that is more about snorting coccaine and less about flying and punching villains. She has her drug habit and much of her storyline is a bit of a trope like most of the other storylines in this show. But even if her character is a bit of a stereotype, the room available for character development and the few hints that the character might have to make difficult choices in the future, make her story interesting. She is also involved in a Romeo-Juliet-style relationship with the unpowered son of one of the original six superheroes. Yes, there is not much original in this show. The son, Brandon (Andrew Horton) doesn’t do much. Sure, he kills a bad guy causing a huge rift between him and his dad, but Brandon doesn’t try to defend himself or his actions in any compelling way and he is overall a bit weak/uninteresting emotionally.
Sheldon also has a wife Grace (Leslie Bibb) who was also part of the original 6 to get powers. She had been a reporter and like most of the characters on the quest, was dragged along by Sheldon who had a vision of the quest and manipulated everyone in that vision to go along with him. Grace was not very interesting in the flashbacks but as the wife of Sheldon Sampson, the most powerful superhero on the planet, she has a lot to deal with in modern times, especially since she seems to be fairly equal in power to most of the others.
Now I’ll get to the problems with the show and with the main character, and I’ll admit that this is where the show seems a bit more original and less derivative. I think some of my dislike of the show is represented in a few scenes: The first scene is when Brandon kills a super-powered villain who is about to explode and kill all of the nearby superheroes as well as possibly kill thousands of people in a nearby city. Sampson is overly upset that his son broke “the code” and killed someone and has absolutely no tolerance for it regardless of the number of lives that were just saved. After the death of the bad guy, every character in the show acts as if this was some sort of execution or vigilante justice, and no one, not a single character in the next few episodes mentions that taking life as self-defense is usually morally justified in modern human society. This was not a non-powered innocent person that was killed, this was a villain with superpowers who had just a moment earlier killed a superhero! In my mind, this tells me that the writers were more concerned with their storyline than with writing characters that acted like real humans. They seem to have wanted not a single person to make a rational argument to defend Brandon. Sure, they “fixed” this many episodes later, and that leads me to my next scene…
Sheldon is seen in a therapy session with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental help professional. At least it’s presented that way just so the later reveal that this is a villain in prison has more impact. It’s just another derivative contrivance, having the main character get psychoanalyzed by a prisoner (Silence of the Lambs?) and it’s not one bit interesting. The therapy itself? That was actually one of the better parts of the show. It is interesting is that for a moment, there seems to be hope for Sheldon. After all, he is an abusive asshole who thinks that he rules the world, or at least his small group of heroes, and we are often left wondering if his character will change in any way because of the events of the story. I’ll be blunt and say that how he treats his family is abusive. He is especially terrible to his daughter. Back in his therapy session, he asks the “therapist” if he thinks he, Sheldon, is a narcissist. I am amused when the therapist prisoner guy says “no” given that Sheldon is clearly suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder or something similar (fictional characters don’t usually suffer from mental illness in the same way as real people, being made up characters, so a diagnosis is more for amusement and review than an actual description of real symptoms). For a moment, it seems like Sheldon might develop as a character but we are left wanting in that area and he continues for the entire season to be a bad father, an ignoring husband, an oppressive “leader,” and overall a big jerk. It’s painful to watch at times.
The final straw for me when deciding if this show has any hope of being good is when the flashbacks show the six people from the quest being back in the United States discussing their new superpowers and what to do with them. Sheldon takes on the role of leader of the group because he is a narcissistic asshole and states outright that they need to follow a code. The code is simply two rules: Do not govern and do not kill. The first thing I thought was that both of these things are things that involve the six superheroes breaking the law and that a code of not violating the law might have been easier to maintain and enforce. The fact is, Brandon set a rule that the six superheroes should not become murderous villains and take over the world and simplified it in his simplistic “code.” Let’s face it, he must have not trusted these people to not use their superpowers for evil or he would have never had to make this code in the first place. Keep in mind that there was no hint of superpowered villains in the world at that point in the story, just regular humans who could never defend themselves against such powerful people. Had Sheldon trusted his cohorts, he might have mentioned in passing that even though they could not be held accountable by mere humans, that they should follow the law. This get’s us back to Brandon who is punished for killing a murderous killing mutant who was about to kill himself, his family, and a portion of a small city (along with having moments before killed at least one minor-level superhero). The immediate response from a sane person would be “It really sucks that you had to kill that guy to save all those people but it was totally justified. Let’s take you to a therapy session when this is over so you can work on handling it emotionally.” But Sheldon, being a total monster of a dad and leader, puts his kid in “time-out!”
This “don’t kill” rule reminds me of something Penn Jillette said: “Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to … and the number for both is zero.” Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats….” This is the same issue in Jupiter’s Legacy where it’s somehow assumed by Sheldon that their superpowers have suddenly changed their morality and made them killers. It’s a terrible assumption and only irrational people make it. Sheldon acts irrationally when he creates his code against killing.
We eventually find out at the end of the season that the big-bad for the season is not who we thought it was. We get to see some potential for Chloe to develop as a person and Brandon learns to not kill bad guys, something that never seemed like a real problem anyhow. We see that Grace is totally ineffective at communicating with her husband, him being a narcissist and all, and we finally learn that Sheldon is the same dick that he was at the beginning of the season and has not progressed or regressed as a person.
I must say that the mystery of how these characters might develop kept me watching. In the end, I was not satisfied with the way the writers used cliches, tropes, and characters that don’t act in character, just to keep the mediocre story going. The sub-plots with Chloe and the people around her, were the most interesting part of the show. Seeing a dad verbally abuse his daughter and subjugate his son, was a bit sad. I don’t really recommend this show to anyone who isn’t willing to watch mediocre TV.