Warning: This Krypton review contains spoilers.
Krypton Season 2, Episode 8
Even though Dru’s last name is Zod, this week on Krypton, the general is quite Vexed. Meanwhile, Lyta returns with a captivating hero’s journey, which just so happens to involve the Black Mercy parasitic alien plant from the comics.
First up, can we talk about Zod’s management style in “Mercy”? He threatens a lot in shades of Darth Vader, but he’s having a bit of a Skeletor moment (a la “Why do I surround myself with fools??!!”) when all of his employees are kind of sucking at the job.
To be fair, Lis-Ser is a damn good scientist, and has been cracking the code on both Doomsday, and the Black Mercy. But it’s hard to be great at her villainous task when Dru keeps threatening her. Someone should tell the general that positive reinforcement is more effective, and that teamwork makes the dream work (the dream of conquering other planets via unstoppable beast of destruction).
I kid, but Colin Salmon is the definitive live-action Zod for me at this point. He is so incredibly good in the role. While a bad guy, he believes what he says, and I don’t think he is prone to lying. That is what makes him so scary when he asserts “no victory without sacrifice” (or even that what he does to Lyta “brought her peace in a way”). He’s a man on a mission, but heavy is the head that wears the crown, and we see that as well.
I do wonder if a frustrated Zod will begin making sloppy mistakes. We see a little of that with how he deals with Nyssa and Seg as prisoners.
I love anytime he mentions his history before returning to Krypton, such as when he talks about the Black Mercy. The parasite, introduced in 1985 when Mongul attached it to Superman (and created by Alan Moore, and Dave Gibbons), is a clever take on the “Adventures in Comaland” trope.
As it happens, the “real” Lyta, or Lyta Prime, did indeed do some horrible stuff, including shoot her mother. However, the regret sets in, and she becomes a little less on board with Dru’s plans – and even calls out that “the version of me who made you what you are failed you.” Ouch. So naturally he takes her out, drops a Black Mercy on her, and replaces her with the clone (who was enough like his actual mother that her death at the hands of Jax-Ur still bummed him out).
Lyta’s Black Mercy fantasy is executed nicely. The art direction, and costume design, on Kryptonopolis (the future home of Jor-El, from which Kal-El is launched) is appropriately bright, and optimistic compared to the darkness of Kandor. Everything feels right, and echoes more of the traditional Krypton aesthetic. The fantasy of Jayna approving of Seg binding with her daughter is too good to be true, but that’s the thing about fantasies; we want to believe them so much that we overlook the flaws, at least initially.
But Lyta ends up having the worst binding day ever when the oracle reveals her son with Seg will grow up to be a tyrant, and mass murdered. That’s kind of a buzzkill. It also allows Georgina Campbell to have a meaty hero’s journey as she pokes holes in her fantasy, and journeys back to the land of the living (though she only woke up because Dru was greedy for Doomsday’s power, and instructed Lis-Ser to take too much Black Mercy toxin).
Regarding the design of the Black Mercy itself, we have seen it in live action before, on Supergirl. In The CW show, it more closely resembled the blossoming organism from the comics. Still, I prefer this slimy, sludgy variation more. Rather than sitting on its host’s chest, it makes sense that it would invade Lyta’s mouth, and nose. Maybe this is what the parasite looks like after feeding on the same host for many months. This design allows for a really gross removal as Lyta wakes, and pulls a lot of that nasty tubing out of her mouth.
I like Lyta’s return, and her scenes with Ann Ogbomo’s Jayna were incredibly touching. Both women are radically changed people, but they are still mother and daughter. The reunion worked (after a few Sagitari are blown away because that girl needs zero recovery time). It also contrasts nicely with Lyta’s fight with Zod. He is willing to take her out without hesitation, and although she gets some good hits in, we eventually circle back to Seg’s Phantom Zone premonition of Dru strangling Lyta.
Meanwhile, Seg & Co. are on a mission to break into Fort Rozz, take out Zod’s fleet, and save Val/Kem/Adam on Wegthor (well, and a lot of other poor souls) of certain demise. Fort Rozz has also appeared on Supergirl, and it’s a nice touch to now have it here. However, an elaborate break-in/heist was teased, then abandoned rather quickly. But for a moment, there was an exciting, almost Ocean’s 11 energy injected into the episode. I would have enjoyed seeing more if it, and love when Seg breaks out some of his old Rankless criminal tricks.
What I found to be amongst the most satisfying aspects of the episode is the coming together of these former adversaries after they’ve traveled so much road. Seg wryly sums it up, referring to “back before we were all friends.” And by the end of the story, we have a changed Seg, Nyssa, Lyta, Jayna, and Dev united as allies.
Think back to the first episodes of Season 1. This is really something else, and each of these characters have grown. Who knows if it will last, and one has to sympathize with Nyssa and Dev as they see Seg and Lyta reunite (there’s no question they are each still in love with their former intendeds).
But the moment that sealed the deal on the episode is Dev encouraging them to get a move on, and escape. Jayna, the fierce warrior, who now has a soft spot, looks at the daughter that has been returned to her, and at the man she used to loathe, and says, “Yes, but let’s give them this.”
There is a war to be won, but it takes a superior Zod to see that there still has to be time for love.
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