The Rankless Initiative Review

It’s that time of the week in which I view the latest episode of Krypton and ask the question foremost in our minds: Is the show getting better? Dare I say that this week, we’ve seen some improvement?

This week’s episode, “The Rankless Initiative,” actually has a better defined pace and a clear motive: Seg needs to save Rhom (Alexis Raben), a friend to Seg’s family, from the clutches of Brainiac’s parasitical sentry designed to relay information about Krypton back to the big baddie himself. This showed a clear path Krypton could take going forward. By becoming a “monster-of-the-week” show, Krypton could establish a rhythm for itself while building its overarching storyline. The key word here is “could” – if Krypton will continue this course is anyone’s guess right now.

Krypton finally gets a monster-of-the-week

Personally, I’d been hoping Krypton would establish some kind of mode of operations for itself, and the monster-of-the-week is the surest bet for a show like this. Maybe it’s cliched, but this set-up is classic for a reason; it allows for the show to have a definite point of view each week and gives the audience something to latch onto. For a show like Krypton, clearly defined goals are a godsend.

Still, there’s not a lot about this week’s monster-of-the-week that makes sense. Why would Brainiac use a parasitic sentry when there’s a lot that could go wrong with using one? For instance, what if the person who became infected turned out to be a bad host and immediately died? What if the person’s immune system is such that it can actually reject the parasite? Why would Brainiac use a parasite at all? Why wouldn’t he just use his brainiac powers to learn more about the worlds he wanted to destroy? Besides, I thought he already knew everything he needed to know about Krypton? Otherwise, why would he already be en route?

But at least the task of saving Rhom from death gave Seg a definite goal this week as well as a bonafide way to rack up his heroic points with the audience. Even though Seg is Superman’s granddad, Seg himself hasn’t earned the right to be called a “hero,” despite how much this show wants us to see him as one. Seg’s commitment to saving an innocent life sets him on some path mimicking the hero’s journey.

At any rate, Seg saved someone. Now he can start start earning that hero title.

Unearned preachiness

Krypton has already faced the criticism of trying to be like Star Trek, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and other types of “appointment viewing” TV shows already. Now it’s trying to be woke, too?

The actual Rankless Initiative – a military occupation devised to suss out the Black Zero terrorist organization hiding within the Rankless population – is rife with the type of unearned social justice messages Krypton has been threatening to pursue since the pilot. I was secretly hoping that Krypton wouldn’t try to comment on heady topics such as militarization of the police force, the killings of unarmed men, and military occupation of oppressed states, but for whatever reason, the show believes itself to be well-equipped to not only handle such topics, but teach its audience something they couldn’t learn from other, better produced shows.

To be fair, I commend Krypton’s writers for wanting to weave in threads from real world events into a sci-fi show, since sci-fi is at its best when it teaches us something about our current culture. But if a show is going to say something about current events, it has to have a much more direct, much more poignant voice. As it stands, Krypton is a show about nothing. Can a show with literally no stakes and little forward inertia actually be capable of delivering messages about today’s world that will resonate with audiences? I don’t think so. A TV show has to know what it’s about first before it can preach to others in a convincing manner. A show definitely can’t preach about social justice issues successfully if it decides to lazily outfit a black guy in a top dyed in Pan-African colors and an Asian guy with a space wok in the same episode.

It was almost groan-inducing to see Krypton try to give us “Black Lives Matter” in space when the show can’t handle such a serious conversation. Sure, there was a twist – it was a white guy who got killed by police. But the story beats were as predictable as you can imagine. Lyta asks one of her subordinates, Tai Un (Jennifer Lee Moon), how a handcuffed man is now dead on the ground. Predictably, Tai Un says she was threatened. Lyta arrests her for the death of the man and tells her she still has the privilege of defending her innocence in court, a privilege she took away from the man. There’s nothing wrong with the dialogue. But the way it’s played out just makes everything sound like cardboard, rendering the emotional exercise moot and annoying.

The Brainiac repeat

We saw the same shot of Brainiac from the pilot at the end of this episode; the only difference being that his eyes showed in a Matrix-esque fashion that he was uploading information from Rhom’s parasite. I just think that’s lazy, if not also a little tacky.

The sight of the exact same scene from two weeks ago reiterates how little story Krypton actually has. It keeps dangling the threat of Brainiac over the series, yet it never gives us the depth of feeling we need to actually be afraid of Brainiac. The lack of feeling is present throughout the show. Do we really care about the Rankless? Do we care about the Zods and Lyta and Seg’s unresolved feelings for each other? Do we even care about Seg himself and his mission?

Maybe I should be asking the show itself if it cares about these characters, since any show’s first job is to make us care about its characters and its story. I believe that Krypton cares about the idea of these characters and the idea of the planet Krypton, but it doesn’t care enough to investigate what Krypton could actually have been like. Nor does it care to actually investigate its characters and give us a pantheon of people we hope somehow survive the planet’s eventual cataclysm.

So, to get back to our weekly question…is this show is getting better? This episode definitely showed promise. But these characters have got to become more likeable and more realistic. The show itself has to become more interested in its own world. How can it ask us to be fully invested if it’s not?

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