Krypton – Season 2 Episode 8
Krypton introduces an important piece of Superman mythology as Zod’s impatience starts to get the best of him.
Colin Salmon’s Zod is the definitive version of the character as far as I’m concerned. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say this. I’ve enjoyed every live action version of this character in one way or another but the version appearing on this show is the most nuanced, weighty and interesting. This is helped by Colin Salmon’s incredible performance adding so much texture to what could otherwise be a fairly simplistic character.
Superman II dealt with the prospect of the villain getting everything he ever wanted in a fairly limited way. In that film victory bored Zod as there were no more challenges to face or enemies to fight so the whole thing was fairly hollow for him. A similar thing is happening here though Zod’s hold on Krypton is far less secure than the Superman II version’s hold on Earth. His focus is on maintaining his power and there’s a great deal of desperation attached to this. Impatience ends up being the justification for many of his actions as he probably feels that every second spent not in complete control allows his enemies the opportunity to overthrow him. I suppose we can add paranoia to the list of character flaws when looking at it like that. Having this impatience and desperation be the main motivating factor for him works really well as it allows the character to make mistakes without compromising his prior confidence.
His entire focus at this point is taming Doomsday so that he can be used as his chief weapon in his quest for intergalactic domination. Finding a way to control Doomsday is really urgent for him because of the enemies that I mentioned before but also because there’s no guarantee how long Doomsday can be rendered inert. If he wakes up then that becomes a problem that is nearly impossible to solve. Ultimately Zod’s impatience in this instance will probably prove to be his undoing as it sets events in motion that could result in his downfall.
This episode reveals that Lyta is alive which comes as no surprise though that doesn’t render her death bereft of impact. The Lyta that was killed was actually a clone created by Zod to be more in line with his memory of his own mother. Apparently the real Lyta wasn’t familiar enough for him so he created a clone that he then reconditioned to behave more like the mother he remembers. It’s a clear example of Zod’s compulsive need to be in control of everyone and everything around him. What he doesn’t like he changes and he doesn’t accept anything outside of how he sees the universe.
The fact that we were watching Lyta’s clone up until the point of her death does neatly explain the rapid changes in her personality and the out of character behaviour but I’m in two minds as to whether it was actually good. On one hand it allowed the writers to alter Lyta to conform to the needs of the plot without sacrificing her established character but on the other it feels like a convenient explanation to justify making such radical alterations. I wouldn’t say this reveal retroactively improves those episodes because at the time the truth wasn’t known so the shift in Lyta’s behaviour was still jarring. It is good that Lyta is unchanged by the behaviour of her clone and can return as the audience knew her but keeping the audience in the dark about what this episode reveals can’t help but feel cheap and manipulative.
It is important to note that the death of the clone is still impactful as there was still a death. Clone or not the version of Lyta that was killed was a living, sentient being with a lot of potential and a future that she will never get to experience. This isn’t something that should be lost sight of as Jax-Ur still killed in cold blood, Zod still lost someone he cared about and a living being lost her life. This reveal doesn’t invalidate anything the show did in the aftermath nor does it render that death unimportant.
Zod has been keeping the original Lyta docile by putting her under the thrall of a Black Mercy; a creature that locks its victim into the fantasy of a perfect life while keeping then paralysed. Lyta’s fantasy involves her building a life with Seg in Kryptonopolis with their relationship fully accepted by her family. It’s about as perfect as it can get as far as she’s concerned as she doesn’t have to hide her feelings for the man she loves and doesn’t have to fight for their relationship to be accepted. Seg is also no longer rankless so is able to proudly display the House of El crest just as he always wanted to so as fantasies go it’s a pretty good one that gives Lyta everything she could ever want.
The Black Mercy also appeared in a first season episode of Supergirl though this example is a far better one. In the Supergirl episode there was a very superficial approach to her fantasy that lacked much in the way of emotional impact that the audience could latch onto. Part of this was down to the fact that very little about Kara’s life on Krypton was known and the writers didn’t take the time to develop this so as an idea it fell flat. This episode does a far better job because it leans into familiar elements and distorts them in the right way. We know a lot about Lyta and what she wants out of life as well as the forces that work against her getting that. Last season her mother didn’t approve of her relationship with Seg so in her fantasy she does, Seg’s family were disgraced in the real world so in her fantasy Seg can proudly wear his family crest, society opposes their union so in her fantasy there is no barrier to that. It’s easy to draw a line between Lyta’s actual life and what would be her ideal fantasy because we’ve spent a lot of time with the character and can understand what the idyllic life would be for her.
As with the comics the fantasy created as a result of the Black Mercy’s influence can be broken if the person in its clutches realised that the fantasy is a fake. The episode cites the removal of too much toxin as the reason behind this though I think Lyta’s intelligence had a lot to do with it too. As much as she’s an optimist she’s also painfully aware of how unfair life is within the confines of the class system on Krypton so on some level she will be questioning the fantasy that is playing out in front of her. The Black Mercy concocts the fantasy based on whatever is in its victim’s mind so the description of Zod when she and Seg submit blood samples to produce a child. The description is accurate to Zod as he is now which likely means that Lyta’s subconscious is trying to warn her that what she is experiencing isn’t real. After this the fantasy starts to fall apart and the dream turns into more of a nightmare. Everything takes a dark and negative turn for her until she fully rejects the fantasy and is able to escape.
The writers come up with a reasonably clever way to establish how uncommon this is. Zod can often be counted on as a fountain of knowledge considering he’s from the future and always very confident. He talks about few people having the awareness to see through the illusion and even less who are capable of rejecting it. We only have his word for it but this is backed up on a visual level by how invasive the Black Mercy is. The oozy grotesque design and the way it plugs itself into Lyta brings to mind brutal body horror and really highlights how much of a violation the creature actually is. Even once Lyta escapes she is still stained by it which shows that the effects won’t be easily shrugged off.
Seg and Lyta’s reunion is a really satisfying moment. Both of them never imagined they would see the other again so the happiness and relief experienced by them is infectious. Their relationship has always been one of this show’s best assets so taking the time to celebrate that and let the impact of their reunion sink in is absolutely the right choice.
The episode is fairly light on the other characters. Seg and Nyssa touch base on the loss of Jor’El to set up how hopeless the situation is since they can’t locate Brainiac. This leaves Zod’s resources as their only hope which leads them to infiltrate one of his strongholds and end up being caught breaking in. Zod’s scene with Seg and Nyssa is really well done in terms of performances though it retreads a lot of the same ground covered previously without progressing the arguments much. Seg does bring up Lyta’s death and accuses Zod of being responsible. The conversation works on another level with Zod and the audience knowing that she’s still alive while Seg tries to use it as leverage to knock Zod off balance. They dynamic of Zod trying to assert his authority and scare Seg only for him to not even flinch is entertaining to watch as is the moment Zod gains the upper hand by threatening Nyssa.
A strong episode that makes good use of an important piece of Superman lore, offers great character driven plotting and sets things in motion for Zod’s potential downfall. Revealing that Lyta is alive and that a clone of her engineered to act in the way Zod remembers his mother comes as no surprise but the death still has impact because a living, sentient being still lost her life. It still proves Jax-Ur is an extremist and the impact the death had on the characters remains valid. It also goes some way towards explaining the rapid changes in her personality though it doesn’t retroactively improve the episodes where this shift was too swift and unearned. Zod is keeping Lyta docile using a Black Mercy and her fantasy where Seg’s standing in society is restored and she has the blessing of everyone to bond with him is about as good as it gets for her. A combination of Zod being too impatient when it comes to finding a way to control Doomsday and Lyta’s own intelligence allow her to see that it’s an illusion and she is able to reject it. The moment shared between Seg and Lyta when they reunite is really well played and given the appropriate amount of time to sink in.
The Black Mercy itself is visually excellent which completely sells the grotesque and invasive creature keeping Lyta docile. In terms of other plots the episode is fairly light but Seg and Nyssa touching base on their inability to locate Brainiac works well enough and their capture by Zod where he tries his best to be threatening and Seg doesn’t even flinch until Nyssa is threatened. Watching Zod interact with Seg and Nyssa is always entertaining and showcases Colin Salmon’s considerable talent in this role. Unfortunately their exchange doesn’t bring anything new to the table but it’s entertaining all the same.
- the grotesque visual design of the Black Mercy
- the death of Lyta’s clone still having impact
- Lyta’s Black Mercy fantasy
- her reunion moment with Seg
- Zod’s dynamic with Seg and Nyssa
- the reveal that Lyta is alive not fixing the weaknesses associated with her change in behaviour in prior episodes
- very little added to the argument between Seg and Zod
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