Krypton Episode 3 Review: The Rankless Initiative

Krypton regains its footing in an episode that comments more directly on class, oppression, and occupation

This Krypton review contains spoilers.

Krypton Episode 3 Review

The fact that this episode is not called “The Black Zero Initiative” tells us everything we need to know. This episode of Krypton continues the promise of the first two with a strong story that deepens our knowledge of this world and the characters in it.

It’s not hard to see the parallels between the Rankless Initiative and the police brutality we see in our own world, or in occupied territories like Palestine and Iraq. The nominal reason for what’s meant to be a brutal crackdown in Kandor City is that terror group Black Zero is hiding among them, according to vaguely referenced intel. Palestine particularly comes to mind with the reference to human shields. I look forward to learning more about Black Zero firsthand in future episodes, so we can decide for ourselves whether they’re freedom fighters, or just another group making life difficult for the Rankless.

Like in so many societies organized around class-based oppression, the Rankless are far greater in number, but lack the technology, finances, and political power to assert their will and enforce their rights. In Rhom’s story, we see how oppression is a self-fulfilling prophesy: those in the greatest need are forced to take on low-paying, menial jobs with a high risk of danger. The continual need to work for their own survival makes it nearly impossible to have the wherewithal to organize in a long term and meaningful way, while those of rank have the leisure time and resources to preserve their status.

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Here again we see Seg’s relative privilege compared to the other residents of Kandor City. He’s able to slip in and out of Kandor City and Guild areas thanks to his lofty connections and new Guild position.

Lyta is like so many “good cops” – she’s trying to make things better from the inside by keeping the bad apples in line. Of course Seg disagrees, and it’s easy to see why. Lyta may be able to help the people she loves, like Seg, to keep them safe, but she can’t be everywhere at once. How will she protect the rankless who don’t have paramours in the military?

Ultimately, her quarrel with Seg is a philosophical one, but also deeply personal. Seg seems to subscribe to the view of Audre Lorde, a woman many years and galaxies away: the master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house. That is to say, it is impossible to participate in a deeply flawed system without becoming part of it, and the system is designed to preserve itself. Of course, Seg fails to see how his move back into the world of the Guilds, including his impending marriage, is his own version of the same need to make the best of what’s been sent his way, from the inside out.

The powder keg that is Sector 19 is easily set off by sentry-possessed Rhom and the super-strength it gave her. The Sagitarii are understandably upset by this, but rather than resolving the situation rationally, they let their emotions, and very real prejudice, get the best of them. Lyta’s earlier plea for calm, rational action from her squad wasn’t enough, but it’s important that Krypton frames her method as not only the morally right thing to do, but also the most effective way to achieve their stated goals. A refusal to follow through on that exposes the real aim of the powers that be: destroy the Rankless.

It’s worth noting that separating out members of a specific group, under the guise of anti-terrorism actions, is the seventh stage of genocide. Furthermore, the forcible separation of children from their parents, as the Sagitarii tried to do here, is one of five components of genocide, as outlined in international human rights law.

The disagreements between mother and daughter Zod have only become more interesting now that Lyta is higher up the chain of command. While they have differing views on how to achieve the same goals, there’s also a strong unspoken desire on the part of Jayna to warn her daughter not to show her personal politics and loyalties so readily. There must be a backstory there, and I’m excited to hear it.

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Where do Jayna’s true sympathies lie? Was she once more independent and loyal to her values like her daughter is now? How will Lyta navigate the power structure as she comes to be less naïve about its priorities? Watching her choose to bury her true allegiances, as her mother has, in order to be a secret agent of change would be worthwhile. So too would be a turn toward the revolutionary. Right now Lyta’s ethical quandaries are more interesting than Seg’s straightforward quest, in part because the stakes for Lyta are tangible, the ramifications swift, and the progression of her story more readily deepens our knowledge of her world.

Somehow Adam’s fish out of water cultural references are drained of the charm that characterizes, say, Kara and J’onn J’onnz’s stray observations of Earth on Supergirl, or Ichabod Crane’s bemusement at the 21st century on Sleepy Hollow. It’s still unclear how his character is meant to add to the narrative, beyond the odd comic relief, which could easily be fulfilled by Kem, and roguish charm, which Seg has in spades. Adam did drop in the fact that he can’t go back home yet, so we have that little caper to look forward to.

The House of Vex had very little screen time, in exchange for giving the Rankless Initiative the room it needed to develop. This was the right move, but I’m still left wanting more of Nyssa. Morally ambiguous and more likely to actually develop real affection for Seg, she’s far more interesting to me than her spineless, sycophantic father. The Voice of Rao made it clear that the House of Vex is on the line since the Rankless Initiative didn’t work out. How will this slippery pair get out of this one?

Kem’s relationship with Rhom is the first time we really see who he is as a person and has the added benefit of filling in some much-needed detail about the only lifelong Rankless that we’ve come to know so far. For that reason alone, I hope there’s a way for Rhom to come back from the sentry’s control and help us get to know the Rankless as characters, rather than as largely anonymous plot devices.  


4 out of 5