Krypton – Season 2 Episode 7
“Zods and Monsters”
Krypton explores the origin of Doomsday as Seg and Nyssa work to deal with the immediate Brainiac problem.
Doomsday is traditionally less of a character and more of a plot device. He was dreamed up to be a formidable opponent for Superman capable of killing him. Anyone that has heard of him will know that he’s the being that killed Superman. In truth there isn’t a lot more to him than that in terms of characterisation. Typically he’s a mindless force of nature that does nothing more than destroy. It makes sense to a point but becomes redundant in subsequent appearances. Smallville turned him into the darkness within the Davis Bloom character which allowed for emotional stakes to be attached to that threat. The less said about the Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice version the better.
The Krypton version of Doomsday is a volunteer subjected to an array of brutal experiments in order to fashion him into a weapon. Dax (Staz Nair) is a family man who wants to do right by his wife Enaj (Danielle Galligan) and people. He submits to the experiments because he wants the death and destruction to stop so his motivation is made perfectly clear right from the beginning. Not much time is spent getting to know Dax as a character but Staz Nair’s performance is strong enough to establish his fear and determination. The brief moments we see between Dax and Enaj are really endearing and suggest a strong connection that is being broken by these experiments.
It was revealed last season that Doomday is the joint creation of the House of El and House of Zod. Both parties are represented through the scientists Wedna-El (Toni O’Rourke) and Van-Zod (Dempsey Bovell). Together they work to fashion Dax into the weapon they believe can fight for them and bring the war to an end through sheer brute force. It’s mildly interesting to see the El be the one lacking in empathy when the Zod is concerned about what is being done. Toni O’Rourke does a lot with fairly little screen time in characterising Wedna-El as dispassionate and results driven. She refers to Dax as “The Subject” most of the time showing a complete disconnect between the person and the experiments in her eyes. In contrast Van-Zod is eager to slow down and consider what they’re doing to the person.
The trouble with this is a lack of context for Krypton of the past. We are told of the worst War in their history but it’s only referenced within the confines of the lab that the flashbacks are set in so it’s difficult to accept that there is a horrific conflict happening outside of it. All of the featured characters have an opinion but we never see the conflict so it never feels quite real. There was a real opportunity to draw a parallel between the War of back then and the conflict happening in the present day that isn’t made use of. There is merit to the reveal that the War ends as Dax is being subjected to the experiments therefore rendering them pointless. This backs up Wedna-El’s driven nature as she assumes that another conflict won’t be far off so what she does is still necessary. It’s possible that this is the only way she can live with herself though the lack of context makes that conclusion little more than idle speculation. It does make sense given the available information though needed more work to really flesh out the characters involved and what continues to motivate them.
Despite the lack of context in terms of the characters and the time period they inhabit the episode absolutely accomplishes turning Dax/Doomsday into a sympathetic and tragic character. Seeing his humanity -I realise he’s Kryptonian but Kryptanity doesn’t sound as good- stripped away piece by piece as he’s continually killed and resurrected. This is consistent with the comic book Doomsday who becomes immune to lethal force after being killed by it once. Dax becomes more monstrous the more invulnerable he becomes until his body resembles the creature that has been periodically featured. The last of his humanity is taken away when he watches his wife run away in terror. This could suggest that he’s immune to sentimentality which makes him the perfect killing machine since he will never feel anything close to sympathy.
Zod manages to capture Doomsday but still has to make him compliant and it turns out that exploiting those memories is the best way to do it. They are deeply buried which could be intentional or some sort of defence mechanism where Dax is concerned in order to deal with the trauma of becoming a monster. Either way they are accessible and Zod is able to use them to gain control of him. I wonder if he will use Doomsday’s memory of Zod’s ancestor trying to protect him to secure this partnership as another form of manipulation. There isn’t a connection between Zod and Doomsday as such other than the capture aligning with his goal of being a cosmic conqueror. Using his wife’s name to complete the reconditioning is a really chilling moment and a reminder that Zod is an expert at getting what he wants. How this will play out from here is anyone’s guess but Zod having Doomsday in his arsenal is a definite cause for concern. The CGI on Doomsday is incredible and the production team are disguising their inability to use him frequently for budget reasons really well, the alternative material provided around the character is strong enough to not miss the spectacle.
The Brainiac problem escalates rapidly for Seg when Brainiac realises that there is no intention of bringing him back to the ship. Luckily Nyssa is around and performs more or less the function I mentioned she would have in the previous episode by taking over when Seg is incapable and making sure that Brainiac isn’t able to achieve his goals. They head to the fortress and are reunited with Holo-Val who helps them find a solution. It has been a while since Holo-Val appeared; I was sceptical about seeing him again after the return of the real one but it’s clear he still has a function within the show. Ian McElhinney’s performance as Hol-Val is very different to how he plays the real one. His inability to understand sarcasm and the largely flat line delivery help to remind the audience that he is a simulation programmed to respond in certain ways. He’s also a neat way of answering the need for extensive scientific knowledge at a moment’s notice.
Seg and Nyssa’s relationship remains fascinating. The episode puts a scenario in front of them where Seg has to place his trust in Nyssa and she has to trust herself to do what is necessary to save Seg. She lacks that faith in herself but Seg gives her a quick yet powerful pep talk about the greatness he sees within her and places his trust in her without hesitation. It’s a monologue that could be given to Superman with no changes and work just as well so it’s easy to make the connection between Seg and his grandson which is obviously deliberate. She acknowledges that he always has the right words and gets to work turning a scalpel on his brain stem. It may turn out to be a temporary fix in a broad sense but it accomplishes the goal of restoring Seg to his true self on a physical and symbolic level. Symbolically it allows him to reaffirm his commitment to restoring the El name to its former glory. Seg sees that as the symbol of hope and the light in the darkness that is Zod’s regime. He puts on the El crest and displays it proudly to signify that he’s ready to give his people hope. Seg opening his shirt to reveal the crest with the John Williams Superman theme playing is the perfect kind of cheesy moment that just comes together wonderfully. It sets the tone and suggests the role that Seg may occupy in the coming episodes.
For Nyssa the trust definitely goes both ways. Getting her and Seg’s child back closes the book on what she felt was necessary to achieve her goals so she’s looking for hope to carry her into the next phase of her life. She is ashamed of the Vex name and wants her son to be raised as an El so they end up giving him the name Jor’El. It’s a strong reveal because it comes from the right place where the characters are concerned and supports the relationship that has developed between them. It’s no surprise that the baby would end up being Jor’El though it doesn’t actually mean very much for that character at this point. Having it link to his parents and the connection that exists between them is great but Jor’El remains a blank slate that doesn’t impact the show one way or another at this point.
This stands to change after Brainiac kidnaps him. It makes perfect sense that Brainiac would infect the fortress and use the technology to summon his ship though it doesn’t entirely make sense that he would see the El name as the thing about Krypton worth preserving. I don’t get the impression that his time with Seg has led him to conclude that the Els represent Krypton at its best. If he had knowledge of what Kal’El would become then it might be a more reasonable conclusion but for the moment it’s a fairly confusing decision. Of course it has emotional heft considering everything Nyssa went through to get him back and the pain of losing him is expertly reflected in Wallis’ Day’s hysterical performance. It’s a great cliffhanger with lots of open questions as to how this will be dealt with as the options for going after Brainiac are limited. I’m guessing Adam’s Zeta Beam will come into play and perhaps Doomsday will be deployed against Brainiac as well but time will tell on that.
The image of Brainiac’s ship suspended over Kandor as the citizens look on helplessly completely positive that this is the end for them is beautiful and cholling . Even Zod looks terrified which tells us a lot about the kind of power Brainiac has. In that moment Zod knew that there was nothing he could do to stop Brainiac if he decided to collect Kandor. He knows better than most what Brainiac is capable of so the fact that he is afraid of him instantly solidifies the threat that Brainiac represents.
Adam and Kem’s double act never ceases to be entertaining. They continue to bounce off each other brilliantly and this episode does a lot to give Kem depth. Him taking on the role of soldier might seem like an unnatural fit considering he once ran a bar but that’s entirely the point and Adam addresses this directly. It turns out that he has seen combat in the past and it has helped shape the man he is now. His sympathetic approach to dealing with the enemy is interesting as it makes the conflict less black and white. He sees them as victims more than anything else and is more concerned with helping them. Ordering his troops to give up their meals for those more in need is consistent with his frequent altruism as a bar owner and adds further complexity to the conflict as it shouldn’t result in a loss of humanity in order to defeat the enemy. Adam respects this approach and Val does as well. This ties into his cause being a symbol of hope for the people of Krypton and gives Kem some really meaningful character development while maintaining the fun dynamic he shares with Adam.
A strong episode delivers a compelling origin story for Doomsday and allows Seg to take an important step forward in his personal development. The Doomsday origin story works really well as far as the character is concerned. Dax and his wife Enaj are very endearing together which allows their relationship to feel significant with very little screen time while also establishing everything that Dax has to use. Having the El scientist lack in empathy and the Zod be more concerned about what is being done to the person is mildly interesting and defies expectations though the whole thing suffers due to the lack of context where the War being waged is concerned. There was an opportunity to link that conflict with the one playing out in the present but the episode fails to do this as the War of the past isn’t explored in any detail. The episode excels on the personal touch of Dax losing his humanity and everything he endures to become an invulnerable monster is appropriately brutal. The final loss coming after he sees his wife run away from him in terror is especially powerful and seeing Zod manipulate that is chilling.
Seg and Nyssa working with Holo-Val to get rid of Brainiac is brilliantly handled. The speech Seg gives to Nyssa about what he sees within her and how he completely trusts her is an obvious link to his more famous grandson and gives Nyssa the motivation to believe in herself. Solidifying her loyalty to Seg by having the child take his name is another great moment as is the reveal of the House of El crest to the tune of the Superman music. It’s no surprise that the child turns out to be Jor’El though it’s a strong reveal as it feels earned based on the development of the relationship between the characters. On its own the reveal does nothing as Jor’El isn’t a character at this point though this stands to change after Brainiac kidnaps him. It’s difficult to accept that he would see the Els as the best of Krypton based on his time with Seg but it has emotional heft as shown by Wallis Day’s hysterical performance once Nyssa realises what has happened. Kem and Adam’s double act continues to be really engaging and using it as the springboard to explore Kem’s approach to being a soldier. Seeing the enemy as people and making sure that they are fed when he finds them is consistent with his previously established altruism. It’s enough to impress both Adam and Val and highlights everything Val’s cause stands for while maintaining his fun dynamic with Adam.
- quickly establishing the characters involved in the flashbacks
- Dax and Enaj’s endearing interactions helping to establish the emotional stakes
- the brutality of Dax’s gradual loss of self
- Doomsday’s monstrousness being cemented by watching his wife run away in terror
- Zod using the memories to make Doomsday complaint
- Seg’s pep talk to Nyssa
- Nyssa solidifying her loyalty by having the child take on the El name
- Seg wearing the El crest and having this accompanied by the Superman theme
- the image of Brainiac’s ship over Kandor and the fear in Zod’s eyes
- Kem and Adam’s dynamic
- Kem as an honourable soldier embodying the precise values that Val’s cause stands for
- a lack of context in the flashbacks for the War raging supposedly raging outside
- missing the opportunity to connect the War of the past to the one of the present
- Brainiac seeing the Els as the best of Krpton feeling unearned
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