I have been patiently waiting for Mark Millar and Frank Quitely‘s Jupiter’s Legacy to come to life. Thankfully, Netflix has us covered and let me tell you that this will be one wild ride. In the series premiere, “By Dawn’s Early Light,” Brandon (Andrew Horton) struggles to live up to his father Sheldon’s (Josh Duhamel) expectations. In 1929, Sheldon suffered a crushing blow to his carefree lifestyle. I want to point out that this series features two very distinct storylines, so you are in for not just one superhero story but two.
Disclaimer: This is a recap and, by nature, will contain spoilers for Jupiter’s Legacy. If you haven’t watched it, I highly suggest you do so. Viewers can find the entire first season here on Netflix.
The season premiere of Jupiter’s Legacy, “By Dawn’s Early Light,” opens with a flashback to Brandon (Aidan McGraw) and Chloe (Sabine Halsey) as children. They are playing superheroes with a neighborhood friend when a fight breaks out after he accuses Chloe of missing him. Angry, she lets out a sonic scream that sends the boy and Brandon to the ground. The boy runs off scared while Brandon tries to calm Chloe down. Just as things seem to settle, The Utopian, Sheldon Sampson, arrives.
They try to explain that they were playing when Chloe accidentally let her powers loose, but Sheldon already heard. He reminds them that they aren’t supposed to use their powers and even quotes another famous line, ‘with great power comes great responsibility. Sheldon also reminds them that they need to care about people and everything around them. With their abilities, it is easy to get angry and hurt or even kill someone, but they need to remember that even bad guys are people.
Sheldon reminds them that the Code of The Union is service, compassion and mercy. The job is to get the bad guys and lock them up – not kill them. He asks them if they understand and while we see young Brandon agree, it is clear that Chloe doesn’t answer him. He quickly changes the subject to something brighter and asks if they want ice cream. But unfortunately, the world needs The Utopian and he leaves his children by themselves.
In the present, Brandon is in a diner listening to the news. Things don’t seem to be going well and the impression we get is that the United States is in a downward spiral. We then see a news piece on Blackstar (Tyler Mane), also known as William Henry Bendal, who was caught and locked up by the Union and about the stand trial. As the waitress turns away to look at the screen, Brandon overhears some commotion going on across town and quickly leaves.
We get our first costume change of the series as Brandon rushes off to save the day. Things at the scene get a bit out of hand when another villain shows up and decides she is taking over this job. Brandon, known as Paragon while fighting crime, shows up and while she warns him to walk away, he refuses. After some significant property damage and a pretty bad attempt at stopping her, The Utopian shows up and finishes the job with just the flick of a wrist.
Instead of seeing if his son is okay, The Utopian (Sheldon) reprimands him for not calling for back up on the mission. Brandon tries to defend himself, but Sheldon doesn’t want to hear it. He tells him to do better next time and pay for all the damages done to the building. That’s a fantastic dad-son moment there.
Later that night, on the Sampson farm, Sheldon is sitting in his room alone. We can see the bruises and scars across his body from years of protecting the world. As he washes up, we can hear the news again in the background. It solidifies that the United States isn’t doing well as a whole. We also witness a piece on Blackstar as he threatens Sheldon’s life.
The next day, Sheldon is in the kitchen talking with Grace/Lady Liberty (Leslie Bibb). They take a short trip down memory lane about bumping into Elvis Presley and how he was a good kid until he got into drugs. This segways into discussing their daughter, who Grace believes will be fine, but Sheldon thinks they should sit down and talk with her. Grace convinces him that right now, she won’t listen to them and give her time.
The conversation swaps to Brandon and Sheldon shares with Grace that he is worried that he is way too emotional. Brandon will one day take over as the leader of The Union and he isn’t anywhere near being ready for the job. Sheldon worries that he won’t ever be ready. On the roof, Brandon can hear the conversation happening (thanks to that super hearing) when his Uncle Water (Ben Daniels) shows up. He tries to get him to open up, but Brandon won’t. Instead, Walter uses his powers to read his mind. Walter doesn’t open up about what he heard and tries to get him downstairs to eat. But Brandon wants to know what his dad was like before he had his powers.
“By Dawn’s Early Light” shifts gears and we’re transported back to Chicago in 1929. A much younger Sheldon arrives at the Sampson Steel Mill. He chats with some of the workers, including Willie (Tyrone Benskin) and Fitz (Mike Wade), about his upcoming wedding. Things seem to be going well for him. In the office, Walter and their father (Richard Blackburn) are discussing not moving forward with a deal. Walter is worried now isn’t the time to risk such a significant endeavor, but Sheldon sides with their dad.
Of course, their dad believes that Hoover knows what he is doing and we know that they are in for a rude awakening. Walter continues to worry about the money they are spending, but his father and Sheldon agree that this is more about family and creating working jobs. They need to do this now to keep everyone at work or risk losing it all.
In the present day, everyone sits down for the family meal. Walter tries to compliment Sheldon on the meal, but he doesn’t seem to take those well. Sheldon also reminds him that they say grace before eating in their house. Before Sheldon can start the prayer, Walter asks him if they will wait on Chloe (Elena Kampouris), but Sheldon warns him not to get his hopes up. During the prayer through Chloe makes a crash landing outside the house and comes stumbling in and once she settles, they finish saying grace.
Now it wouldn’t be a family dinner without something happening. Walter compliments Chloe on her latest fashion shoot, which strikes up the conversation about her lifestyle. Sheldon, who surprisingly saw it, thinks that she should be using her powers for good and not getting jobs and endorsement deals. The fight gets worse when Grace demands that Chloe apologize for how she is speaking to Sheldon. She gives a rather shotty apology and storms out, claiming this is her last family dinner.
Brandon tries to follow her out, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Brandon tries to get her to understand that he knows what it was like to have Sheldon as a father growing up. The only reason he sticks around is that Sheldon won’t be the Utopian forever and someday Bradon will be in charge. The Utopian is far greater than just their father and is a symbol to the people. Chloe knows that they suffered and their father will never admit it because it isn’t the ideal.
Brandon doesn’t want to hear it and feels like Chloe is just jealous that he was chosen. But Chloe drops some rough news on him that Brandon will never live up to the tremendous Utopian no matter what he does. Honestly, even Sheldon can never live up to the ideal he set as the great Utopian.
Inside, Sheldon and Walter discuss Brandon. They both can see how stubborn he can be, which Walter points out that he is very much like Sheldon. Walter believes that Brandon has potential and everyone can see it. But Sheldon knows that there are tons of kids in the world with it who still didn’t make it. Walter decides that Sheldon needs some time to relax and suggests getting out of the house for a bit.
“By Dawn’s Early Light” jumps to Brandon at a club with Barry, known as Tectonic (Stephen Oyoung), when he asks the photographer to stop taking photos. Brandon goes into a long spiel about how they need to be setting an example to those around them and shouldn’t focus on self endorsements. It sounds quite a bit like his father. Brandon decides it is time to leave, but Barry convinces him to hang out a bit longer. He understands how much he is willing to sacrifice to become the next Utopian but must remember that his dad has some unrealistic standards.
As they continue to talk, Brandon lets his walls down and even agrees that many original members resent them for having it easier. The younger supers were born with their powers and didn’t have to suffer as they did. Barry is worried that Brandon is throwing away his chance to enjoy life by constantly trying to live up to his father’s standards.
In 1929, younger Sheldon says goodbye to his fiance Jane (Meg Steedle) out front of his father’s business building when George Hutchence (Matt Lanter) makes an appearance. The two are catching up when the other people on the street start making a commotion. Sheldon stops someone and asks for an explanation and they learn that the Stock Market has crashed. Sheldon rushes inside to utter chaos as Walter, who is angry they just spent all of their money to expand, is trying to manage everything.
Sheldon rushes to the roof to find their father. His father starts talking about how he has spent his entire life trying to build something and that Sampson Steel runs through everything within the city. His father shares that he has been trying to build this legacy his entire life but then realized that he was just building his own box to spend the rest of his life in. Sheldon tells him that he needs to head back downstairs to help them figure out what to do next. He agrees and tells Sheldon that he will be right down. As Sheldon walks away, his father walks right over the edge to his death.
In the present, Sheldon and Walter have found themselves at The Union’s headquarters. Sheldon asks Walter when was the last time all of the original superheroes sat around that table together. Walter believes it was in 1960 something right before George, known as Skyfox, turned against them. The two discuss why Skyfox turned on them and while Walter thinks that it is because he was insane, Sheldon feels like Skyfox just thought he was doing the right thing at the time. The two continue to reminisce about the last 90 years and everything they have built.
We learn here that Walter and Sheldon have two very different opinions on what they have accomplished. Walter believes they have made a difference in the world, but Sheldon doesn’t. He feels like no matter what they do, things still get worse. Walter tells Sheldon that if they played a more active role in governing, things might get better. But Sheldon stands by the Code and that they don’t kill or lead. What they do is inspire people to make the right choices.
Walter opens up to Sheldon about how he wishes they had a more active role in WW2 and that they could have ended far sooner. But Sheldon sees that as a snowball effect forcing them into other conflicts like Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East and the next thing they know, they are governing. The real question is who would they answer to, who would hold them accountable. Sheldon views this as the end of people’s free will, but Walter thinks that free will is what is causing the world to fall. Walter reminds him that the evils of the world aren’t so black and white anymore.
Sheldon asks Walter if he thinks that the Code is outdated and Walter doesn’t necessarily disagree, but he feels like the times have changed and they need to change with it. Before the conversation can go on, Fitz and Petra/The Flare II (Tenika Davis) show up with news that Blackstar has escaped the supermax prison.
This is where the action in “By Dawn’s Early Light” really kicks in. The supers ban together to try and take Blackstar down. Two of the younger supers, Ruby (Gracie Dzienny) and another, are watching from afar when the fight becomes close and personal. The team is having a rough time bringing Blackstar down, even with Walter/Brainwave using his ability to subdue him. Just when things are looking up for the team, Blackstar murders two of the younger supers, one being Brandon’s friend Barry, before Walter breaks into his mind.
This holds him down for a short bit as the team tries to destroy his power core in the real world. Blackstar breaks free and decides to go nuclear, which will kill everyone. Brandon, who still hears his father’s words in his head about not being ready, decides to take matters into his own hands. He rushes forwards and, in one blow, kills Blackstar. This angers Sheldon, who feels like Bradon took the easy way out. The two argue over Brandon’s choice before Sheldon sends Brandon away and asks Walter to contact the Supermax to figure out how Blackstar got out. Walter uses his powers to do this and learns that something isn’t right.
The series premiere of Jupiter’s Legacy draws to a close as the real Blackstar arrives at The Union headquarters and comes face to face with what looks like his dead body.
Excuse my language Sheldon; this was one hell of an opening episode. Jupiter’s Legacy really hit the ball out of the park with “By Dawn’s Early Light.” First, I love the way they are telling two stories simultaneously. I feel like we have an origin story playing out in 1929 alongside a major change in the status quo during the present day. Both are emotionally charged and the past gives us a better understanding of the thoughts and values we see in the present day.
I have said from the very beginning that what drew me to the comics and the Netflix series is that this isn’t just a typical superhero story. This deals heavily with the life outside of the suit. We see how Chloe and Brandon are suffering from being raised by The Utopian, who put everyone else first. It is clear to see that Sheldon isn’t able to separate his life in the suit from everything else. It will be interesting how the dynamics between him and his children change throughout the season.
“By Dawn’s Early Light” ends with a rather shocking event – Brandon killing Blackstar. Now it appears this was just a clone, but it is still a big deal that Brandon killed someone. For the entire episode, we have seen Sheldon repeatedly preach about the Code and I can’t imagine he will accept any excuses for his son’s actions. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how the rest of this will play out and what twists and turns we will experience along the way!