the word of rao review

Everyone, I can’t believe I’m typing this, but…this week’s Krypton, “The Word of Rao,” was actually good. I’ve been waiting for this day.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a bone to pick. The action might have been surprising and the overall tone has shifted from stagnation all the way to third gear, but it’s not a great show. Not yet. The story this week – saving Lyta, who has been framed by Daron as the fall guy for the botched Rankless round-up, from execution – got quite convoluted. But let’s get into what worked in this episode work and what didn’t.

We’ve got stakes!

What’s funny is that Krypton is supposed to be all about stakes. This planet is doomed, after all. And yet, the show has never had a believable or even sustaining sense of urgency.

But this week, the show’s urgency has finally arrived thanks to the interpersonal dynamics between the characters. In this case, it’s Jayna and Lyta’s strained relationship. Again, the mechanics of the stakes are easily understood. Jayna doesn’t want to see her daughter carted off as a traitor – being a Benedict Arnold isn’t the Zod way – but she also wants to keep her oath of loyalty to the state, which means not interfering with the state’s plans for her daughter. She has to weigh the love for her daughter against her pride for her house; if she really wants to help Lyta, she’ll have to join up with the Vex House, and she can’t stand them and rightly so – they’re double crossers.

Seg’s urgency also comes from his emotional ties to those he loves. He’s pulled in two directions this week – he wants help Rhom in her final moments of life, but he’s also trying to save Lyta after he learns she was imprisoned. He has a brutal encounter with Jayna and Lyta’s intended, Dev, and actually tells Nyssa the truth about his relationship to Lyta all in the name of saving her life.

For two episodes, Krypton has been virtually emotionless and tonally uneven. But the magic just might be happening now that we’re finally seeing how all of these characters interact with each other. It’s beginning to feel more like an ensemble show, and I hope the rest of the season will build on this.

Krypton’s high-energy action 

The action shocked me this week. It’s great to finally get some scenes in which I have to either turn my head or close my ears.

The action complemented the rest of the scenes, which contained quicker, snappier dialogue. We got our quick moment between Jayna and Seg, and then we got some brutal moments between the mysterious Black Zero Commander and one of his underlings (whose neck he snapped), and Seg and another mysterious soldier, who got a horrifying bug up her nose thanks to Seg. In fact, the bug provided one of two body horror moments in this episode; Seg was originally tortured with this bug, which travels up a person’s nose and through their brain (presumably), and the Voice of Rao himself becomes a victim of a weird slug-thing that shoots out of a Superman-like statue given to him by Rhom’s daughter Ona (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) as an offering for her mother’s safe passage to the next realm.

Overall, the action felt like it had more of a purpose in this episode. This episode is the closest Krypton has lived up to its potential as a fast-paced, slightly campy, but actually entertaining sci-fi show. It finally didn’t take itself so seriously.

Seg finally punched Adam Strange

I’m still finding Adam to be the most annoying character on this show. I can’t tell if we’re supposed to find him endearing, funny, or obnoxious. As it stands, I’m finding him extremely obnoxious. Seg has been threatening to punch Adam many times already, but during this episode, he finally did it. I cheered.

What pushed Seg over the edge was Adam intervening with his efforts to save Lyta. Every time Seg tried to leave, Adam kept holding him back. Eventually, enough was enough, and Seg snapped. Of course, he then got caught by Black Zero. But at least Seg got that punch in. Adam needed that punch.

So many ways to save Lyta!

There were so many plans made by characters to save Lyta and I’m not sure any of them will actually work. First, Seg gets Nyssa to act as her lawyer. She then tries to talk her father Daron out of charging Lyta on the cooked-up allegations, and later tries to strike a deal with Jayna for her loyalty. But while all of that is going on, Seg struck a deal with Black Zero to break Lyta out (after a big show of each other proving their loyalty to the deal), only to then kill the remaining guard and escape. There’s a lot happening, and it’s very confusing as to who’s going to get to Lyta first.

It feels like it could have been streamlined and made more effective. We could have had Jayna be compelled on her own to help her daughter in the first place. I get that her relationship with her daughter is non-existent due to her faults as a mother, and I get how important her house pride is to her. But at some point, a mother puts her daughter’s happiness and wellbeing over her own, right? Maybe I’m being to idealistic here. For all of Jayna’s focus on having nerves of steel, I wish she actually utilized them when it counts the most. Blood is thicker than water as they say, and it’s certainly more important than narrow-minded pride.

The Kem and Ona subplot 

Let’s talk about the Ona-Kem subplot. I suppose this was done to build up some character for Kem, who has largely been relegated to the sidekick role. But it was all…weird? Not weird in a truly definable way, but just not well thought out.

Most of the subplot revolved around Kem trying to figure out a way to tell Ona that her mom’s dying. Enter this convoluted journey to the other side of town to meet Mama Zed, the woman who raised him after his parents died. I thought we’d see a lot more of her in this episode since a great deal was made about her, but she doesn’t say much.

The subplot was also weird because of what happens during the Nova Cycle celebration, which was moved earlier by Rao to distract the angry Rankless. We don’t know much about Ona in the first three episodes, but we’re told in this one that she and her mother were extremely pious. Ona’s so pious that she gives that aforementioned statue to the Voice of Rao as an offering. But somehow the offering moves the Voice of Rao so much he proclaims her to be taken on as his novice? And she’s immediately put into child-size robes? How could the Voice of Rao have possibly planned for this?

In any case, the subplot is here so that we have something else for Kem to do – as Ona’s makeshift “uncle,” he can now officially worry about her and her wellbeing as any parent worth their salt would do. He’s being given some dimension outside of his sidekick role. But Ona is also getting some dimension as well, along with Rhom from beyond the grave. Why did Rhom give Ona that statue if it had such a dangerous animal in it? Why is there a dangerous animal in it? It’s a mystery I’m genuinely intrigued by.

Is the Voice of Rao dead?

Please say this isn’t so. This episode featured the most character development we’ve gotten for the Voice of Rao yet. He might project himself as a deity, but he’s just a conniving politician like the Vex house, demanding a sacrificial lamb in order to deflect and distract from the failed Rankless Initiative. If he’s dead, the show has lost an intriguing character.

However, his death could create a vacuum within Kandor, one that would certainly turn everyone’s worlds upside down. Who will fill his spot? Could one of the house leaders step up to the task? Could Ona be killed over her statue? These are serious questions to pose, and again, the concept of understandable, immediate stakes comes into play. What happens after the death of the Voice of Rao could destroy the social order as it stands, sending Kandor into uncharted territory.

Overall, this was a good episode! I’m impressed! Please keep going this route, Krypton. Two things, though: No more nude shots of Nyssa. Female objectification like this has always been problematic, but in a post-Time’s Up world, it’s feeling especially gross. Also, please, don’t wait until the midseason or season finale to show us Brainiac. Show us Brainiac, like, right now.

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