Krypton – Season 2 Episode 5
“A Better Yesterday”
Krypton escalates the conflict between Val’s resistance and Zod’s regime through exploring what War turns people into.
One of the main key figures in terms of the progression of this Civil War is Jax-Ur; she has concluded that becoming as uncompromising as the ones they fight again is the only way to win a War and has fully subscribed to that idea. Her fixation in this episode is exploiting Zod’s only known weakness and killing Lyta. As far as anyone can tell Lyta is the only one he actually cares about so getting rid of her should constitute a crippling blow for him. It’s a reasonable plan in terms of strategy but it’s concerning because Jax-Ur is displaying a complete lack of empathy and is seen to be going too far according to Val as well as the others she works with.
Jax-Ur and Lyta are connected in that they are both lacking in empathy though the circumstances surrounding it are very different. For Jax-Ur it’s a choice because it is deemed necessary to mount an effective resistance where Lyta had it taken from her. It isn’t explicitly identified as a comparison or explored in explicit details but it amounts to an interesting summation of what both sides are fighting for. Val’s resistance is broadly fighting for the right to choose where Zod wants everyone to subscribe to his extreme vision of the perfect Krypton. Zod can only accomplish this through coercion and reconditioning but Jax-Ur has been able to make a choice and whether anyone agrees with it or not it’s the very spirit of what the resistance stands for. Within that is is Nyssa who acts as something of a wildcard as she’s working to figure out a way to make her own choices; in a way she manages to do that by only looking out for herself which is a good fit for her at this point.
Many would say Jax-Ur goes too far in this episode in the actions she takes and I would certainly be among them but the question over the necessity of making difficult and unethical choices in order to secure victory hangs over everything that happens. The Codex weapon that she tried to deploy in the previous episode is a physical example of what she’s willing to do and causes a lot of friction in her relationship with Val who identifies her as the wrong hands to wield such a weapon. His reaction shows that he wouldn’t have expected her to go so far and reinforces the growing sense of uncertainty. Val believes in the cause but isn’t sure what it is he’s willing to do in order to achieve victory so he comes across as more reluctant than he has previously. Having this profound ideological split within the same side helps establish complexity and starts to build Jax-Ur as a different sort of threat equally as dangerous as Zod but in a different way.
Val isn’t shy about making his disapproval known to Jax-Ur who fully stand by her actions and points out that Val being an El may be inspiring to a point but won’t be enough to reassure them forever. The recent loss of a significant portion of their ground forces will be enough to make the loyalty of the troops waiver as they wonder how possible it is to actually reclaim Krypton. Jax-Ur’s view is that they need a victory for the benefit of morale if nothing else and the aforementioned exploitation of Lyta is her best plan to achieve that. Zod can be manipulated if Lyta is put in danger and she wants to take advantage of it.
One of Val’s failings is that he’s idealistic to a fault. His plan for Lyta involves convincing her that overthrowing Zod is the best thing for Krypton’s future. He’s confident that she’s a good person who has lost her way and thinks he can bring her around to his way of thinking. He sees Seg as the key to this as he’s convinced that he is the one who can bring out the good in her. It’s certainly a noble sentiment though may also count as being naive. It’s clear from the outset that this plan would never work though that does depend on the knowledge of Lyta that Val doesn’t currently have access to but even at that Jax-Ur’s viewpoint is a bit more realistic considering the circumstances. As with many arguments the truth is somewhere in-between but there’s no time to realise that considering the urgency of the current situation.
Jax-Ur’s plan appears to work at first when Zod agrees to remove his troops from Wegthor in exchange for her but he ends up underestimating her and substitutes the soldiers for prisoners. Once Jax-Ur finds out about that she wastes no time in making good on her threat and killing Lyta. It’s supposed to be a shocking moment as it shows that Jax-Ur is far from all talk and will follow through on her threats/promises without hesitation. This is met with shocked reactions from all in attendance including Val who will now be forced to question who he has allied himself with. The shock of Lyta being killed is somewhat deflated because there’s no way the female lead of the show has actually been killed off especially when it has been established that Kryptonian technology is advanced enough to bring her back in some form whether that be a clone like Nyssa or some sort of advanced healing. It’s also possible that this is a trick since the audience only sees this happen through long distance communication. This episode makes specific reference to Seg’s vision of Zod strangling her shown in the first episode of the season strongly suggesting that this is being built to in some way. Come to think of it having her cloned might be enough to trigger that as Zod will see her as an abomination that looks like his mother and try to kill her because of that.
As far as Zod knows his mother has been publicly executed. This has some really interesting implications for the coming episodes. Even if it happens to be a trick Zod believing it to be true is what is most important as it is exactly what he feared would come to pass when he was keeping Lyta away from the front lines. It’s unclear if his very existence is at risk because of Lyta’s death as we have seen actions in the present impact the future before but even if it isn’t then it’s still impactful for him as he has lost the person he cares most about. Of course this could end up making him even more dangerous as a man with nothing to care about has nothing to lose so the resistance could see themselves dealing with a more brutal opponent who will stop at nothing to avenge the death of his mother and punish those responsible. It’s entirely believable that Zod will react in this way.
Zod’s regime is called into question by Seg who uses the assumption that the reconditioning will have brought him around to Zod’s way of thinking to get close to him unopposed and take him hostage. This provides plenty of opportunity for them to have meaningful discussions about their views on family and what it is they stand for. Seg is in opposition to everything Zod does and uses Lyta as an example of that. Once again the dialogue hints at the violation that the reconditioning amounts to and Seg accuses Zod of using it to create the parents he always wanted to have even if that doesn’t come naturally to them. Zod insists that isn’t the reason but there’s likely an element of truth to it as he clearly wants that family unit in his life. He makes explicit reference to discussing things as a family which Seg shoots down with a cutting declaration that they aren’t a family, never were and never will be. This is naturally the opposite of what Zod wants to hear and there’s the sense that Seg fully believes in. His remark about Zod’s vision being misguided if he has to force people to come around to his way of thinking is great as well and Zod acknowledging the point while pointing out that he is willing to recondition people to bring them around to what he considers the right way of thinking. In his mind everyone else is wrong and he’s right which is a very dangerous mindset as it completely ignores alternate viewpoints.
From a character driven point of view Seg makes his disgust of Zod reconditioning Lyta abundantly clear. Zod insists that he barely changed anything and there’s no reason to doubt that because Zod is no liar. Seg’s view is that Lyta’s empathy was the best part of her and removing that is to remove the essence of the person that she is. Lyta’s relationship with Seg has always been based on compassion and tenderness so Seg lamenting the loss of that makes a lot of sense and adds to the overall tragedy of everything going on. Adding as many personal losses for the characters as possible grounds the conflict and makes it feel more meaningful.
The tease of Brainiac from the previous episode is followed up on with the reveal that his presence is very prominent. He tells Seg that it’s a small fragment that is active in his mind but it’s more than enough to give Seg certain advantages that will come in handy. There’s no love lost as far as Seg is concerned but he is forced to recognise that Brainiac’s advice makes a lot of sense and that he can be a useful asset. The uneasy partnership they strike up is immediately fun with Brainiac identifying the location of targets for Seg meaning that he can take them out without looking in a way that reminded me of Venom of all things. It’s a cool sequence thanks to Cameron Cuffe’s casual physical performance conveying how easy it is for him to hit with pinpoint accuracy. Of course Brainiac will become a problem for him before long but this works as an extension of his plan in the first episode of the season that now proves viable through necessity for Seg. Teaming Seg with Dev and Jayna is already paying off and will likely provide much of the exciting action in the coming episodes.
A strong episode that provides compelling exploration of how War changes people, reinforces Zod’s unflappable conviction, supplies meaningful debate and excels in grounding the conflict in the characters. Jax-Ur’s increasingly extreme behaviour makes for an interesting foil for Val who continues to be a symbol of hope but does little of actual substance. Jax-Ur makes the point that he will end up becoming irrelevant especially after such significant losses. Her plan to use Lyta because she’s the only one Zod truly cares about is a reasonable strategy as it exploits his one weakness but the way she goes about it is arguably too much. Val wants to appeal to her better nature and thinks that Seg is the one to reawaken it which makes for a noble yet naive sentiment. In some ways Jax-Ur’s plan works and killing Lyta when Zod doesn’t live up to his end of the bargain is appropriately shocking on the surface as it shows Jax-Ur’s conviction. This also likely creates a brutal and vengeful version of Zod who will stop at nothing to avenge the death of his mother. It’s unlikely that Lyta is truly dead but the impact on Zod is the important thing.
Zod’s regime is called into question by Seg who points out that there must be something wrong with his vision if he has to brainwash others into subscribing to his ideals. This is acknowledged by Zod but he also fully believes that his way is the right way and he is happy to force people to see that. On a more personal level the alterations to Lyta is something Seg has issue with as Zod removed her empathy and Seg saw that as the best thing about her. This serves as a reminder of the basis of Seg and Lyta’s relationship while also suggesting that the person Lyta has become was essentially there all along since Zod didn’t change much. It all helps ground the conflict and makes it more meaningful. The uneasy partnership that Seg strikes up with the fragment of Brainiac is clearly setting up problems down the line but for now it’s a lot of fun and creates a meaningful action sequence while also providing a voice that makes a certain degree of sense for Seg to bounce off. Teaming Seg with Dev and Jayna is definitely a good idea as well.
- Jax-Ur as a foil for Val
- the complexity associated with the possible necessity of Jax-Ur’s actions against Val’s ineffectual ideals
- Jax-Ur following through on her threat and the implications Lyta’s death has for Zod
- the Zod/Seg conflict and the exploration of Zod’s commitment to his cause
- grounding the conflict in character relationships
- the uneasy Seg/Brainiac partnership
- excellent action
- Lyta’s death feeling like an obvious misdirection
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