Sunday, May 19, 2024

Highway to the Phantom Zone

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Spoiler Warning for Krypton 1×10: “The Phantom Zone”

Welp, here we are folks. The season finale for Krypton. How will it turn out? Will it continue the streak of disappointments, or will it go back to relative quality of the earlier episodes? Let’s find out!

Brainiac arrives on Krypton, looking out over the no longer domed city of Kandor, and declares that it’s time. Which, I mean…yeah, it better be time! You took down the dome man, there’s nothing protecting Kandor from the toxic atmosphere and the raging eternal blizzards! If you don’t bottle it now, everybody will be dead and this whole thing will have been a massive waste of time for you!

Down in the chaos, Seg and Nyssa try to figure out how to get people inside and away from the toxic gas that makes up the atmosphere. Lyta and the General catch up to them, awkwardly dodging the question of where Jayna is. Seg tells them that the cultists hid Doomsday from him, and the General brushes it aside. He has a new plan, one that requires Seg to take him to the Fortress of Solitude. He’s going to bring Val back.

Apparently, Val isn’t dead. See, the Kandorian method of execution, at least in Val’s case, was essentially pushing the victim off a cliff. Val took advantage of this and built a device to transport himself into the Phantom Zone, a dimension outside of space and time. He took advantage of not aging to keep an eye on Brainiac and to study him. The General met him in there, however, and stole the device Val planned to use to escape the Phantom Zone, since the General felt that he would be a better candidate to save Krypton than a frail old man. Now that Doomsday is off the table as an option, the General considers Val their last, best hope and goes back to the Phantom Zone to retrieve him.

He does so, prompting a rather heartwarming reunion between Seg and Val. It’s undercut somewhat by the fact that throughout this scene we can see Superman’s cape, and it’s almost entirely gone, most of the shield consumed. Still, that’s a minor detail that frankly provides nice context more than anything else. It’s a genuinely touching scene, and Cameron Cuffe does an excellent job in silently reacting to the return of his grandfather. However, much to everyone’s shock, Val declares that their hopes were misplaced. In his mind, there is no way to stop Brainiac.

We then cut to…Dev, in a strange building. He contemplates his rather cool looking robot arm (Dev is now in good company, alongside Bucky Barnes and Cable) before pulling on a long-sleeved jacket and glove to hide it. Once dressed, he hears thunder, and looks out a window to see Kandor slowly being consumed by the storm. Aaron Pierre does an excellent job in this scene, just using his body language and facial expressions to convey Dev’s state of mind. No dialogue, just music and body acting. I’ve never been hugely impressed with Aaron Pierre in this role I admit, Dev hasn’t really caught my attention previously, but this…this is an excellent scene.

Outside, we cut to Jax, and her little group proclaiming it the end of days. For some reason, she is the character we get to see react to Brainiac announcing himself to Kandor and beginning the process of bottling the city. Which…why? I get that my strong dislike of Jax is subjective, but she only appeared three episodes ago, hasn’t had much screen time, and has never faced off against Brainiac personally. I get that most of the main cast isn’t in Kandor right this minute, but why not have Dev reacting? We were just with him, and he was previously possessed by Brainiac.

Either way, we return to the Fortress, where everyone is arguing. It turns out that Val’s knowledge of the Phantom Zone allowed him to view a multitude of possible futures, and in every single one they lost and Brainiac took Kandor. Brainiac’s victory is so assured, in fact, that he’s already working on scouting another planet while he abducts Kandor. Seg takes this news fatalistically. He believes his grandfather and is honestly more concerned with the fact that anybody in Kandor when Brainiac takes it will be trapped in there with Doomsday. He’s not happy about the probability of Kandor being taken, and the destruction of Krypton that will follow, but he’d rather take on things one issue at a time.

Lyta isn’t having any of that and declares that there is no future where she goes down without a fight. Which is a nice sentiment, but Lyta, you couldn’t stop Brainiac when he was in a fleshy body and he was in a place where you could breathe in something other than poison. All you have is a rifle. Val attempts to dissuade her by telling her what it’s like being in a city that’s been taken by Brainiac. You are paralyzed in whatever position you were in when your city was taken, never aging but never moving. This is…odd. As far as I’m aware, this is never what being inside Brainiac’s captured cities has been portrayed as before. And frankly, it doesn’t make much sense from a scholarly position either, unless Brainiac is only interested in architecture and biology and not sociology or psychology as well.

It does lead to us finding out where Adam is however. Yeah, remember how he appeared in some strange place, in front of a woman doing the mannequin challenge? It turns out that he’s in one of Brainiac’s bottled cities. More to the point, it’s one from Earth. There are contemporary cars, and people in jeans holding cell phones, and signs in English. Which leads me to assume that he’s traveled in time as well as space, since if this was an Earth city from the time Krypton is taking place it’d be a city from the 1800’s.

Even after learning about the freeze, Lyta still isn’t convinced, and stalks off. Nyssa, who hasn’t spoken since Val returned, follows her, pointing out that she knows of a tunnel in the catacombs that leads to Kandor, and offering to let Lyta follow her back. She refuses to tell Lyta why she wants to go back into Kandor, and the two head off. The very next scene shows the guards readying themselves to flee the city. Dev attempts to restore order, but they won’t listen. And then Lyta shows up, already back in her uniform. She punches the most vocal of the guards, telling them that they never give up or surrender, quoting her mother. The woman she said filled her with fear her whole life, the woman she tried to kill in the last episode. Huh.

Down in Black Zero HQ, Jax prepares her people to evacuate. They’re going to flee into the wasteland on foot, heading for the nearest city-state. They won’t all make it she admits, but some of them will. And they’ll be bringing the Codex with them, the genetic template for all the Houses of Kandor.

Nyssa has already made it to the Genesis Chamber, though, and is retrieving the pod that contains her and Seg’s child, Cor-Vex. Apparently, the computer that runs the Genesis Chamber is sentient, because when it attempts to run her through red tape, Nyssa pulls a gun on it, which leads to her request being fast tracked.

As Seg and the General race through the catacombs. the General offers up a way to save Kandor. He wants to hand over Val, who has something that Brainiac can never get on his own: knowledge of the future. Seg opposes this plan, so the General points out that, in his timeline, Seg died fighting Brainiac, attempting to convince Seg to give up his grandfather to save his own skin.

Back in Kandor, Nyssa encounters Jax inside the Genesis Chamber. Given her hatred of Daron, Jax is not happy to see her. It’s okay for Jax and Black Zero to flee the city, but it’s not okay for Nyssa to. Jax isn’t moved by Nyssa’s pleas for her child either, but decides to show Nyssa something.

Over in the military guild, Lyta and Dev issue orders to the remaining guards, who fly out to conduct an air strike on the generator building where Brainiac is. Before they can even fire however, Brainiac waves his hand and all their hovercraft are destroyed. Lyta is understandably devastated that she sent dozens of people to their deaths. Dev attempts to comfort her, pointing out that since it was previously punishable by death to even suggest that aliens exist, they have no way of knowing how to fight them. He also tells her that Jayna would have done the same thing.

So, this show really needs to decide if it thinks Jayna was an abusive parent or not. Because sometimes, last episode included, she was portrayed as such, albeit a regretful one who realized that she’d been abusive and wanted to make amends. Other times, like now, she’s portrayed as a role model for Lyta and a good parent. It’s frankly frustrating. I’m not asking the show to make Jayna a villain, but pick a narrative for her and stick to it!

We then go back to the Genesis Chamber, where Jax sends the henchman who accompanied her off with the Codex before asking Nyssa what she remembers of her mother’s death. Nyssa’s mother died in a hovercraft accident and it turns out that…ooh boy, that might trigger some nasty memories if Nyssa learns that Jax forced Daron into a similar accident.

Regardless, Jax offers up an additional bit of information—Nyssa was in the craft with her mother, and while the crash killed her mother instantly, Nyssa lived, albeit with a severed spine. Her brain still functioned however, and Daron had it transferred into a new body. I have thoughts about this, and the way they portray it, but I’m going to hold off until season 2 airs. This is Nyssa’s last speaking scene of the episode, and she’s with someone whom she not only doesn’t know, but one who has an express and vested interest in making this feel like a very bad thing. I’ll wait until we see how it’s addressed more to deliver a verdict.

Outside again, Seg and the General continue their evacuation, but the General decides that enough is enough, he’s going to offer Val to Brainiac. Seg tries to stop him, first physically and then verbally, but fails. The General tries to pull a ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ on Seg, to which Seg responds that giving Brainiac access to the knowledge of multiple futures would possibly destroy the universe. The General says that he doesn’t care so long as Krypton survives and heads off. He finds Brainiac in short order and makes his offer. The being is surprised, first by his boldness, then by how strong his love for Krypton is, and accepts his offer.

And the offer was made none too soon it appears, for we cut to Dev and Lyta assisting with the evacuation. But as they do, the dome Brainiac was building around Kandor is completed, and they all freeze in place.

But all is not lost, as Seg and Val prepare for Brainiac’s arrival. When Brainiac does show up, the General right behind him, Seg pulls a gun on Val and threatens to shoot him if Brainiac gets closer. Brainiac merely knocks Seg aside with telekinesis, chiding him first for thinking that he’d believe that Seg would kill his grandfather, and second for thinking that Brainiac would be fooled by the Val hologram. Seg recovers from being slammed into the rock walls of the Fortress remarkably quickly and reveals that he wasn’t trying to trick Brainiac about Val. Rather, he was tricking him into standing on the platform of the Phantom Zone portal (someone explain to Seg what a trick is please). Seg activates the portal, and Brainiac is sucked into it. Before they can close it though, Brainiac’s tentacles grab Seg and start to pull him in.

The real Val steps up and grabs Seg, trying to pull him to safety. It’s a losing battle sadly, and as they struggle, Seg sees Superman’s cape. It’s repairing itself, threads materializing and weaving themselves together in an impressive image. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, seeing that stopping Brainiac prevents the destruction of Krypton and thereby stops Kal-El from becoming Superman, but it’s a good visual. Seeing that he’s succeeded gives Seg the courage to let go, telling his grandfather to start believing in a brighter tomorrow before he’s sucked in.

Val, of course, quickly tries to reopen the portal, determined to save his grandson. The General however, is worried that doing so will let Brainiac back in, so he shoots the controls to the portal before declaring that his father’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. As he does so, Superman’s cape changes, shifting from red and gold to black and red, the sigil of House El becoming the sigil of House Zod. This is a chilling image, this symbol of hope becoming something from a Space Nazi costume but…why? It’s implied that this changes at least in part because Seg is gone, which means that he only has one child, Cor-Vex, who will presumably be raised by Nyssa. So why wouldn’t the cape have the sigil of House Vex? Maybe something will happen in the next season to explain it.

We fast forward to one month later. The General has taken control of Kandor and is giving a speech, flanked by Dev and Lyta, all dressed as Space Nazis. He reveals that he is conscripting the Rankless into the army, and we see Kem back finally. He doesn’t speak (nobody but the General speaks for this penultimate scene, it’s more of a montage) but he looks sullen as he takes his new uniform. Then we shift to Val, who the General is apparently allowing to stay in the Fortress even though Val is clearly working on repairing the portal to the Phantom Zone. Nyssa and Jax arrive, and Val is clearly happy to see his protégé again, while Jax looks close to tears. Over all of this we hear the General explain that he is going to build an intergalactic empire with Krypton as its capital.

Elsewhere, Adam is still trapped in that bottled city, and as he wanders through it he finds a monument to the General. Which, again, is chilling, but why? The General was able to come to power because Brainiac was defeated. Why would a city in Brainiac’s collection have evidence of the General’s empire? Oh, and we don’t see Jayna or Daron at all, so no idea if either of them are still alive.

Regardless, the General reveals that he has already unified Krypton, with the leaders of the other city-states gathered in his audience chamber, as he orders them, and all the universe, to ‘kneel before Zod’!

Underneath Kandor however, we see that Doomsday has awoken, as he begins to smash his containment unit, roaring as the episode ends. We only get a few seconds of him but seriously, how does Krypton, a basic cable show, have a better-looking Doomsday than Batman V Superman, a major blockbuster?

Well, that was the season finale of Krypton everybody! It was…fine. It never made me angry at least. It’s not the best episode of the season, but it did its job. If Krypton had been canceled I’d probably be a lot harsher with it, but given that a second season is confirmed, I’ll give it some leeway. It’s not a dud of an episode, it’s just not a shining gem of one either.

Images Courtesy of SyFy and FOX

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