Krypton– Episode 2: “House of El”
Starring: Cameron Cuffe, Georgina Campbell, Shaun Sipos, Elliot Cowan, Ann Ogbomo, Aaron Pierre, Wallis Day, Rasmus Hardiker, and Ian McElhinney
Written by: Cameron Welsh
Directed by: Ciaran Donnelly
The women of Krypton handily outshine the men in the show’s shaky second episode “House of El.” The continuing Game of Thrones’ing of the Superman mythos, director Ciaran Donnelly, and writer Cameron Welsh delve deeper into Kandor’s caste-based society. We follow the fierce Lyta-Zod (a hard-knuckled, but vulnerable Georgina Campbell) as she ascends the rungs of Kandor’s warrior class to protect the rankless of the city. At the same time, Seg-El struggles to accept his new “family.” He navigates the treacherous world of the Kandorian upper class. Unfortunately, most of Seg’s plot is about as interesting as watching YouTube “skeptics,” despite the episode trying its damnedest to make Seg an interesting lead. Lucky for us, Krypton still has plenty of badass and magnetic female characters to keep us on the line. For now at least.
Picking up directly after the pilot’s cliffhanger in the proto-Fortress of Solitude, Adam Strange is still imploring Seg-El to look into the looming threat of Brainiac. Much to the episode’s detriment, however, Seg ain’t buying it. He’s more concerned about avenging his fallen family aiming to get close enough to Daron-Vex (Elliot Cowen) to stick a knife in him for what he’s done. On paper, it’s not a bad idea. The episode’s execution of this plot leaves a lot to be desired. Welsh’s script keeps spinning its wheels in regards to Seg’s character. It undercuts the small amount of growth he showed in the pilot. He reverts back to the angry, sulking character from the opening moments of the pilot.
Welsh tries to gussy up this plot by making him the foil of Krypton’s version of Margaery Tyrell, Nyssa-Vex (a vampy and calculating Wallis Day). Unfortunately, stacking Cameron Cuffe’s dower Seg next to Nyssa only serves to highlight Cuffe’s shortcomings as a lead. I’m not sure yet if it’s just the show’s characterization of him or Cuffe’s limited performance. This plot really doesn’t support the episode as well as Donnelly and Welsh really want it to. Seg starts to shine a bit once we are back at the Fortress. He’s being held up by the hologram of his grandfather. This marks the welcome return of Ian McElhinney and the plot device of Kryptonian ancestors from beyond the grave. I wish it didn’t take most of the episode’s runtime to get our LEAD CHARACTER doing and saying interesting things.
Thankfully, the women of Krypton are more than capable of picking up the slack that Seg-El can’t carry. Wallis Day’s Nyssa is a true scene stealer. She quietly manipulates her newfound “mate” with the ashes of his fallen family. She slips him into the Science Guild of Kandor to further ingratiate him toward her for her family’s nefarious purposes. Day really cuts an impressive figure throughout the episode. I found myself constantly wondering what she was up to every time she was off-screen.
Not to be outdone, the House of Zod also has an impressive showing during this second episode. Most of the B-plot this week is focused around Lyta. After learning of a planned violent raid against the rankless of Kandor to smoke out the “terrorists” Black Zero. She takes it upon herself to challenge her superior officer in single combat to protect those who can’t protect themselves.
This leads to all manner of juicy scenes with Campbell. Her imposing mother Jayna-Zod (the statuesque Ann Ogbomo) and sympathetic fellow soldier Dev-Em (a dreamy Aaron Pierre), culminating in a viciously entertaining fight in which Lyta lives up to the creed of House Zod. “We Don’t Ask For Mercy, and We Do Not Give It.” To say that Campbell, Ogbomo, and Day steal the episode would be a woeful understatement. Everything involving them is vastly more entertaining than anything having to do with Seg and Strange. This, despite the script’s best efforts.
Verdict: Watch It But Just For The Ladies
Despite an angry wet blanket of a lead character and some meandering forward momentum on the Brainiac front. “House of El” was at least a fun watch thanks to the group of amazing women assembled in its cast along with the show’s understanding of what makes the Superman symbol such an enduring and inspiring icon. Hopefully, next week we can actually get Seg and Strange in on the fun. For now, I am more than happy just hanging around Krypton’s trio of powerful women and getting misty-eyed about Kal-El’s crest.
Until next time, do no harm, but take no shit and I’ll be seeing you.