Krypton– Episode 10: “The Phantom Zone” (Season 1 Finale)
Starring: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Colin Salmon, Shaun Sipos, Aaron Pierre, Wallis Day, Hannah Waddingham, Ian McElhinney, and Blake Ritson
Written by: Chad Fiveash, James Patrick, Stoteraux, and Cameron Welsh
Directed by: Ciaran Donnelly
Major Spoilers Ahead.
Krypton goes full Barry Allen and straight up bones its own timeline to end its first season on an ambitious and cheekily teasing note with “The Phantom Zone.” Written by a trio of show staffers and directed by a returning Ciaran Donnelly, this tenth episode finds the show vastly improved from the last time Donnelly was behind the camera. Leaning into those better elements, “The Phantom Zone” even doubles down on a few. He takes the show and characters far outside their established boundaries and sets the show up for a truly weird and wild second season. Remember how when we first started talking about this show, I was often frustrated and bored by it? “The Phantom Zone” has taken that old me and shown him a world where Krypton continues to get good. I frankly cannot wait for you all to join me in that world.
SO, a lot to parse through with this episode. Let’s just take it point-by-point. First up, Val-El is alive and returned from the Phantom Zone. It is revealed he has been living since his execution all the way back in the pilot. He also has gained a kind of foreknowledge of the future having spend so much time in the PZ and studying the timelines it would, I guess, broadcast around the prisoners inside like a sort of basic cable syndication channel from beyond the veil of time.
You guys already know I love this kind of junk. One of the show’s great strengths from the jump has been its willingness to dive into the more Silver Age-y, sillier aspects of Superman lore and this development has that in spades. Also, it gets real, actual Ian McElhinney back on set and mixing it up properly with the cast and that’s a real boon to the acting of the show overall. Hologram Val-El was always fun for a lark, but McElhinney is getting to play flesh-and-blood Val. One back from the Phantom Zone no less. It should pay out big time once the show comes back in 2019.
Also, Brainiac is defeated! Sucked into the Phantom Zone, no less! But at the cost of Seg-El (whomp-whomp), who pulls some classic House of El trickery and lures Brainy into a trap, but finds himself caught in it as well. Honestly, I am not too torn up about this. I don’t expect many others of you are either. Cameron Cuffe’s presence was always a real drag anyway. I know, somehow someway, he is gonna break through the barrier, probably with some kind of ill-advised facial hair, and assume his place as “lead” of the show again.
But, in terms of the story, this particular episode is telling Seg’s sacrifice in a neat little bow on the first year of Krypton. This direction not only reinforced Seg’s commitment to the values of Superman but sets him up to see the real cost of those values next season. Here’s to hoping Cuffe maybe loosens up next season.
But here is where things take even WEIRDER turns though, because, in defeating Brainiac, Seg then changes the timeline. We’re treated to a chilling transformation of Superman’s cape — the iconic sigil warping from House El to House ZOD. Now, left unchallenged, General Zod (Colin Salmon going FULL VILLAIN MODE) can now rebuild Kandor City in his own image. This comes in the form of a new Rankless conscripted force of Sagitari, a conquering space fleet, and the forced allegiance of the rest of the Kryptonian city states.
The writers even tie a neat Lost-like turn into Adam Strange’s bottled predicament. They reveal that he IS in a bottled Earth city dot dot dot THAT IS RULED BY ZOD. A bronze likeness of the tyrant adorns the city square. (An argument COULD ALSO be made that that’s Metropolis that Adam is stranded in and Zod has replaced Kal-El as Earth’s “Superman.” I KNOW RIGHT?!).
Oh, and Nyssa is a clone. Kinda great that THAT reveal is the one that falls the lowest in terms of priority. But, yes, while “The Phantom Zone” really has a lot going for it in terms of ambition and major developments for next season, I am frustrated that the women — the glorious and magnetic women of this show — get largely sidelined for the finale. Nyssa, at the very least, gets to act her ass off alongside Hannah Waddingham. I sincerely hope she stays a major part of this show. The cliffhanger at the end suggests she will. After both escaping into the city in the middle of Brainiac’s bottling process, both Lyta and Nyssa get unsubstantial side missions in the overall plot.
Nyssa’s turns out to be a real mindfuck as Jax-Ur lets her in on the great secret of Kryptonian genealogy. Showing her that the Council perverted her research and built a seemingly immortal clone lineage for themselves; Nyssa’s father being a large contributor to the research. The first Nyssa actually died in the skimmer accident that took the life of her mother. Not before the Council could download her consciousness and implant it into another clone body. Wallis Day really goes for broke during these scenes, playing the ridiculousness of the moment quietly, powerfully sincere, emoting silent horror. It is a real testament to her acting abilities, especially in the realm of super-silly genre fare like this.
Georgina Campbell also brings it to her scenes. Unfortunately, the script fails her this time around. While Nyssa is off having her world shattered, Lyta and a newly Bucky-fied Dev-Em (because metal arms are so hawt right now) try and mount a counterattack against Brainiac. Which is promptly swatted out of the sky and routed. Much of these scenes relegate Campbell to looking pensively out of a window and tearily shouting into a communicator, which is…not great. It reminded me a lot of how the WWE makes wrestlers watch other wrestlers or sworn enemies on television monitors backstage. It is, truly, one of the weirdest/most entertainingly frustrating things about wrestling. I shouldn’t be thinking about it while I am watching a show about Superman’s home planet. Georgina Campbell is far, far better than that.
Verdict: Watch It.
Season Grade: B-
While often puzzling, hokey, and saddled with a true dud of a leading man, Krypton really earned its “Most Improved” trophy thanks to it sticking to its guns and delivering a truly fun season finale in “The Phantom Zone.” We talk a lot about the “next Game of Thrones.” We speculate and debate what shows have started to scratch that itch now that we know GoT is halfway out the door. “The Phantom Zone” has given Krypton a pretty damn strong argument for its candidacy. You want intrigue? Here’s a planet under tyrannical rule. You want monsters? DOOMSDAY You want tangled lore and soapy elements? This thing is based on a DC Comic, SON. I am a changed man. Krypton may have been a chore at first, but now, it’s gonna be a privilege.
Until next time, may Rao’s light be your shield, and I’ll be seeing you.