house of zod review

Here we are, week five into the recapping experiment that is “Is This Show Getting Better: Krypton Edition.” Last week, I noted that Syfy’s Superman prequel series was starting to get better, but the story was still being annoyingly shrouded in mystery. This week, in “House of Zod,” we’ve finally broken through the mystery!

It turns out, Black Zero are…from the future. Well, at least the leader is. We also get some much-needed backstory on Jayna and why she’s so soulless.

The Black Zero Leader is a Zod!

Not just any Zod, but Lyta’s future son! GASP! This changes everything!

That might have read as sarcastic, but this actually does change everything. It means the show can finally progress now that it’s not holding one of its secrets. If there’s one thing this show does too well, it’s holding secrets. It hold secrets so well, you begin to think there’s no story to tell at all, such as this week, when Seg repeatedly asked a woman he saves from death, Raika, why her people, the Cythonnites (folks underground who worship the ice goddess Cythonna), hate the House of El. All we get out of her is that the house destroyed the Cythonnites once, and they could destroy them again. But why?

To get back to the game-changing reveal, knowing the Black Zero commander is Lyta’s son raises the stakes and makes the looming presence of Brainiac even more dire. The main reason the commander has come back from the future is to save Krypton from Brainiac. Even though both the commander and Adam Strange are on Krypton for roughly the same reason, the commander’s urgency makes a lot more emotional sense than Adam’s, who seems like he’s only there because he selfishly wants Superman for Earth. The commander’s trying to save his home, and that fear is much more tangible.

The commander’s existence also shows us that Lyta herself is more important than we ever knew. She started out this episode set for execution, and ended it not only alive, but with renewed purpose. Yeah, she’s been important because she’s a high-ranking Zod and soldier, and she’s also important by proxy because of her relationship with Seg. But the commander’s presence confirms that Lyta will be one of the saviors of Krypton, as well as one of the most important members of the House of Zod.

The House of Zod is messed up

What makes the commander even more interesting is that perhaps his existence will change the nature of the House of Zod for the better, since as it stands, the House of Zod is really disturbing.

First of all, let me say that I appreciate that there are black characters on Krypton. I also appreciate that the show believes it’s giving black people dignity by making them warriors. We love Black Panther, and most of the character in that film are noble warriors. But there’s a big difference between the Dora Milaje and the House of Zod; the Dora Milaje have a sense of family and community. There’s a reason they’re protecting Wakanda; they’re protecting their people, history, and culture. The House of Zod are protecting Kandor for…what reason? Words like “honor” and “loyalty” are just buzzwords in this show, since we never actually understand the culture or the people the House of Zod and the other warriors want to protect. It seems like the Zods are just warriors for their own selfish pride. This is where poor world-building lets Krypton down.

Something I’ve found interesting to assess is how the lack of definition about Kandor has put the House of Zod in a murky, in-between place when it comes to characterization. On the one hand, I get what they’re supposed to represent; they’re supposed to be noble representations of black characters in science fiction. On the other hand, they fall on a spectrum of Strong Black Stereotypes. Regardless of how warrior-bound the house is, would they really be that heartless as to preach that family can’t save each other? Would Jayna’s dad really teach her daughter and son to basically kill each other to prove their loyalty to him and the house? I thought teaching the importance of family and community would help anyone training to be a soldier. The Dora Milaje live by that all the time. A soldier without a sense of community should be seen as dangerous to a Zod.

Regardless, though, the horrific backstory (including the fact that she’s haunted by that fact that she left her brother to die in the arctic wilderness) helps illustrate why Jayna is as messed up as she is. It’s a shame she literally has to learn how to be a mother because her daughter is on the chopping block. It’s equally shameful that she considers saving her daughter a stain on her reputation. But Jayna’s also one of the few characters on this show with any meaningful complexity, so beggars can’t be choosers.

What’s with the Cythonnites?

As I wrote earlier, the Cythonnites are yet another piece to this slowly evolving puzzle. How exactly do they play into the mythos that’s being created? Raika said they are protecting something; what is it? What did the House of El do to them? Was it the house’s penchant for scientific experiments that led them to destroying the Cythonnites before? Is this destruction what led Val to search for other planets, or did his discovery of life on other planets humble him into realizing that all civilizations are necessary for the ecosystem of the universe to thrive? Or am I just writing the show at this point?

Whatever the mystery is, I hope Krypton doesn’t take too long in keeping it hidden from us. It has taken four episodes to reveal the commander’s true identity. It’s been four episodes of wheel-spinning just to keep this bit a secret. I’m still not convinced Krypton exactly knows the story it wants to tell, but it seems it has more up its sleeve than I originally thought. However, the sheer amount of time it’s taking to keep us in suspense has long since moved past the point of being coy. Raika could have easily told us in two sentences what the Els did and what they’re trying to protect. But instead, we got obtuse stalling tactics. Enough already. Advance the story.

Is Krypton getting better?

Krypton is definitely heading in the direction of “better.” It’s more palatable, and that’s a victory by itself. However, strange plot points with no bearing on anything keep popping up. Like, when was Daron ever in love with the imprisoned Kol? If this was such a big deal, then why didn’t we see this in prior episodes instead of having it oddly shoehorned in right now? Also, Adam Strange as an ugly American isn’t endearing in any way, and I’m as perplexed by the show’s insistence that it is, much like how I was constantly perplexed by Julian Fellowes’ eternal love for Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, despite her antics being spoiled, insufferable and selfish, not cute.

But overall, the show is headed on a path towards finally making sense. Next week promises even more bombshells; let’s hope the episode lives up to the promo.

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