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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In its second episode, Krypton still seems stuck in the Phantom Zone

Illustration for article titled In its second episode, Krypton still seems stuck in the Phantom Zone
Photo: Syfy

“I just don’t know what I’m meant to do now.”

These words from Seg, spoken early into “House of El,” double as a character coming to terms with his entire life changing and the episode itself sort of turning to the audience and shrugging its DCEU shoulders. After a pilot that was heavy on table-setting, Krypton’s second episode largely doubled up with more of the same. Long speeches whizzed by filled with words like Zeta Beam, Force Dome, and—as if this show isn’t borrowing enough from Back to the Future—the Space-Time Continuum. Not that there’s anything wrong with world-building; Krypton is still a mostly dull show that remains intriguing because the writers are working so hard to make this doomed planet breathe while it’s still alive. But by episode’s end—and the reveal that Brainiac’s presence has been on Krypton the whole time—it’s hard not to notice that not much actually happened over the past hour. At every turn, most of these characters just don’t know what they’re meant to do now.


Well, except for Lyta Zod. Lyta Zod beats the shit out of a grown-ass man and it rules.

So far, the women of Kandor are running away with Krypton. Next to Seg, who spends three-quarters of the episode making an Arthur fist behind his back, Lyta is a doer. Her response to Seg’s wishy-washy nature out near the Borderlands is a great contrast of character, the perfect example of the difference between houses El and Zod.

“Only you know what’s inside you. What you’re capable of. You just need to be true to yourself. We both do.”

With that, Lyta takes matters into her own, neck-snapping hands. The Kandorian Duel scenes are the most frenetic, exciting moments of the episode, filmed by director Ciaron Donnelly with just enough cuts to keep things intense but also avoid Iron Fist levels of visual confusion. And there’s an undercurrent of heroics to Lyta’s story here. Her decision—defeat her superior in a fight to the death to save dozens of innocent Rankless from an all-out raid—is equal parts brutal and brave, and Georgina Campbell puts in a performance to match it.

Special shout out once again to Ann Ogbomo as Jayna-Zod. The look of pure, motherly pride at the sight of her daughter snapping a man’s neck was perfect. The Zod family is fucked up and I love them.

Illustration for article titled In its second episode, Krypton still seems stuck in the Phantom Zone
Screenshot: Syfy

Compared to the frantic field trip that is Lyta’s episode arc, Seg’s A-plot feels like an 8 A.M. history class. Cameron Cuffe is still perfectly capable playing the rough-around-the-edges rogue with a lot of feelings, but “House of El” strands him in scene after scene of another character explaining things to him. In great detail. Adam Strange needs Seg to know that Superman sent him through time on a Zeta Beam. Daron-Vex needs Seg to know that he was friends with Val-El once, but Val’s supercomputer was too ideological dangerous to exist. Val-El’s hologram needs Seg to know that actually fuck that, his supercomputer was dope and allowed the El patriarch to see between dimensions. I had to laugh by the time Val tells Seg “It would take millennia for us to detail the achievements of our house.” Like please, at this point, you might as well just go for it.


At least in the case of Val-El’s not-quite-a-ghost, it confirms that the great Ian McElhinney will be sticking around to act as a sort of mentor to Seg (with Strange seemingly slipping into more of a comedic sidekick position). The soft, perfectly grandfatherly tone that McElhinney perfected over on HBO to make dragon warfare sound quaint and reasonable is put to masterful work here. The familiar chemistry between Cuffe and McElhinney helps to brush over a bit of rushed storytelling; Seg very quickly jumps from demanding Adam Strange prove Brainiac’s existence in under two hours to swearing on the House of El to fulfill his grandfather’s destiny. But you believe it because McElhinney, a veteran presence, gives the moment weight.

The moment Seg slashes the Vex sigil from his shirt in front of the man who gave it to him, he starts to feel like an entirely new, much more interesting character. At least, a character that isn’t floating out in space, bouncing between moping and several different motivations. Seg—and, by extension, Cuffe’s performance—has a bit of life breathed back into him by a relative who technically died decades ago.


Of course, the people surrounding Seg, including his intended bride Nyssa-Vex, are all more two-faced than the literally many-faced Voice of Rao, and we end “House of El” with most of their motivations still unclear. But finally, after much, much worshipping of the Kryptonian deities EX, PO, SI, and TION, this show seems to be headed down the right path. Seg-El might still not know what he’s meant to do, but at least he’s doing something.

Stray Observations

  • I played back the Voice of Rao’s dialogue more times than I care to admit to see if it sounded familiar. Honestly, it sounds a good amount like Blake Ritson, the actor set to play Brainiac, especially played next to this brief tease of the World Collector’s voice.
  • It also sounds a whole heck of a lot like veteran voice-over actor Jeffrey Combs (Brainiac in Injustice 2, among many other things) a performer who, to the best of my knowledge, is not involved in Krypton in any way.
  • I kind of enjoyed Adam Strange and Kem teaming up as a sort of at-odds, comedic buddy duo, but “go to the Outlands and sort of look around a little” is a terrible plan, even worse because it actually works.
  • Voice: “May Rao’s light forever guide your way. Seg: “You too.”
  • Wallis Day is wonderfully icy as Nyssa-Vex, who straight up gifts Seg his dead parents’ ashes as a power move. In a show filled with characters sketched from the Game of Thrones 101 textbook, Nyssa feels like the only one fully-fleshed out enough to anchor the political intrigue portion of this show.

Vinnie Mancuso is a contributor to The A.V. Club. You can also find his pop culture opinions at Collider.com, Decider.com, or being shouted out a Jersey City window between 4 and 6 A.M.