Krypton Episode 10 Review: The Phantom Zone
With its season finale, Krypton delivers its best episode yet as Brainiac works to add Kandor City to his collection.
This Krypton review contains MAJOR spoilers for the season finale.
Krypton Season 1, Episode 10
Thank Rao there’s a second season of Krypton! The Superman prequel series ended its first season with its strongest episode yet, proving that this show is at its best when it goes big.
If you need any evidence of that conclusion, look no further than the season finale’s opening moments, which see Brainiac’s beautiful ship (vaguely reminiscent of the protomolecule ship recently seen on The Expanse) drifting into Kandor air space in a stunning visual of the quality that is unlike anything I have seen on superhero TV before. The ship moves like a ghost and, in many ways, that’s what it is: a ghost spaceship filled with entire cities and worlds frozen in time if not in consciousness, filled with people who are condemned to a life with no real future. Frankly, it’s horrifying.
It’s horrifying even if you don’t fully understand what Brainiac’s ship represents, which is a majority of the people who live in Kandor. Krypton never really pulled off giving this city a real personality beyond its main characters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t empathize with their terror as Brainiac’s ship floats closer and Brainiac’s alien, all-powerful self looks down over the city he’s about to conquer.
From the people’s perspective, there is no outside threat from other worlds. Val-El was murdered 15 years ago for spouting such heresy. And, even before that, the Rankless especially have been distracted with having to deal with the threats that exist within their own city: mainly, the daily oppressions enacted by the Guild class. They don’t have time to follow the political machinations and assassinations taking place far above their streets.
But, this, this is in the here and now. This is the protective force field around Kandor failing and letting the harsh, eventually deadly elements in. This is an alien conquerer coming into the city and treating them like ants for his farm. This is chaos on a scale that Kandor, a powerful city, has probably never experienced before.
It is in this context that Seg is trying desperately to create the kind of better future his grandfather always promised him could exist for Kandor. At this point, though, Seg would probably settle for any future at all. After his and Nyssa’s failed attempt at stopping Brainiac, and given that Doomsday has fallen out of his reach, Team Seg is out of ideas. Well… Seg is out of ideas. The Zods always have a plan.
Dru-Zod’s plan revolves around bringing an apparently not-dead Grandpa-El back from the Phantom Zone, which is where he actually went when he was apparently “executed” by Daron-Vex all those years ago. Apparently, Grandpa-El and Dru-Zod were frenemies (well, probably more enemies) during their shared time in the Phantom Zone, which is something I desperately hope we get to see in flashbacks: these two sniping at each other across not-time and not-space like an old, bitter married couple.
With the use of the Fortress of Solitude, which has a handy dandy gateway to the Phantom Zone (when activated), Dru is able to retrieve Grandpa-El from the Phantom Zone. Yes, it seems entirely too easy. No, I couldn’t really be bothered to care because Seg was so gosh darn happy to see his grandfather in flesh and blood (sorry, Val-Hologram). We have watched Seg go through losing so many people this season; it’s nice to see him finally get someone back.
Of course, when it becomes clear Val-El doesn’t have any kind of plan for taking down Brainiac (which, fair enough), Dru-Zod comes up with a follow-up plan of his own: they trade Grandpa-El for the safety of Kandor and Krypton. It’s a plan Seg refuses to even acknowledge as an option, and it’s understandable why. Not only is Seg seriously short on family, but, if Brainiac is intent on conquering the entire universe, he’s probably going to eventually circle back around for Krypton, right? Besides, in the immortal words of Steve Rogers: We don’t trade lives.
While Seg might not be on board with the plan, Dru-Zod has never been one to take advice from an El, even if that El is technically his father… and he’s not going to start now. He makes the deal with Brainiac, leading him back to the Fortress of Solitude. Once there, however, Seg hatches a plan of his own, tricking Brainiac into standing on the platform that, when activated, serves as a gateway to the Phantom Zone, and sending the supervillain to an infinity of nothingness.
The catch? Brainiac manages to take Seg with him, in a devastating moment that sees Grandpa-El trying desperately to hold onto his grandson. In the end, Seg, upon seeing Superman’s cape restore itself (and, presumably, the timeline), chooses to let go, ever the hero. It turns out that, in the end, Seg does trust Adam Strange, and we learn that in the most devastating way possible.
It’s a hell of a way to end the first season, with our riff-raff hero character sacrificing himself to a fate worse than death to ensure that Kandor will be OK. It might not save Krypton, perhaps nothing ever can, but it gives Seg’s people another day to live and fight for that better world Seg has believed in since he was a little boy. That’s what it means to be an El: to hope.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper season finale without at least a few cliffhangers. We get a peek into what Kandor looks like one month following Brainiac’s defeat and Seg’s disappearance into the Phantom Zone. In that time, Dru-Zod has instituted what looks like a military dictatorship over Kandor and Krypton, with plans to take over the rest of the universe. In other words: he has truly revealed himself to be the General Zod we know from canon. Kandor has traded one conquerer for another.
I’m not sure how into the clone plot I am. It’s fascinating, sure, but this show already has a lot of plot points to delve into without adding secret clones to the mix. And, while I understand how finding out you’re some kind of clone would mess with your head, I also feel like Nyssa is still her? Like, she has all of her childhood memories. So what if she’s a clone? For a culture that apparently has sentient computer interfaces, you’d think Nyssa would be pretty chill about this.
Seeing Jax-Ur and Val-El reunite was pretty sweet.
Is anyone else still on board with the idea that Jax-Ur might be Nyssa mom? It’s a theory that is like 95% based on their respective looks, but this show loves a good parent-hiding-under-your-nose plot, and Jax-Ur and Daron-Vex seemed to have some seriously awkward history.
Sadly, neither Jayna nor Daron-Vex (less sad about that one) appear in this episode.
I ended the first season not being particularly invested in any of the romances. All of them felt contrived and like something Krypton felt it had to include, rather than stories the show genuinely seemed interested in telling. Hopefully, that changes in Season 2 because I genuinely like Seg, Lyta, Nyssa, and Dev all as separate characters. I wouldn’t be opposed to some non-heteronormative loving, either.
How brilliant is the phrase “bottling Kandor”?
I feel like Val-El would have been way more messed up after spending so much time in the Phantom Zone. Granted, we don’t know how long he was actually in there from his perspective, but I wouldn’t have been opposed to some Robin-Williams-in-Jumanji overgrown hair action. Krypton, you have another chance to get this right with Seg. Start growing that hair, Cameron Cuffe.
Adam Strange hangs out in one of Brainiac’s frozen worlds for the entire episode. What happens to him when Brainiac’s ship starts to malfunction? What happens to all of the worlds Brainiac has collected?
Apparently, Nyssa is maternal? I wish they had delved more into this prior to Nyssa risking everything to return to Kandor and rescue her and Seg’s unborn child. It’s weak writing to just assume that all women characters want children without actually articulating that as a character motivation.
Ah! Doomsday is coming! Talk about a killer cliffhanger. Poor, Kandor. Can’t catch a break, can they?
“Kneel before Zod.” See you next season, kids.