Below is a recap for Krypton, Episode 2, "House of El": EXTREME SPOILERY TERRITORY AHEAD!
Exploring relatively uncharted, yet extremely important, corners of the DC Universe is one of the goals for Krypton executive producer David S. Goyer and showrunner Cameron Walsh, and watching this sophomore episode after all the heavy lifting of last week's premiere, you can feel the rich breadth of stories ready to erupt into prime time.
Sure, we had a galaxy of surnames, guilds, and royal houses to sort out from the absorbing pilot, but it was a measured presentation that firmly established the main players and the universal stakes at play.
With Seg-El's parents gunned down by Jayna-Zod after they were accused of treason for continuing to follow Val-El's heretical scientific findings, the Man of Steel's grandson must decide his chosen path while juggling relationships with his bound partner, Nyssa-Vex, and his stormy romance with Lysa-Zod, daughter of the Sagitari commander who blasted his poor parents.
Brainiac, the Collector of Worlds, is coming, and he's hoping to bottle up the grand city of Kandor! Houses are plotting, the High Priest is nodding, Supes' scarlet cape is disintegrating, and Adam Strange is still wearing that Planet Detroit baseball cap .
Time is ticking, so let's zoom into this week's episode, titled "House of El."
CHILLIN' AT GRANDPA'S SECRET PAD
We last left Seg-El inside his grandfather's cavernous Fortress of Solitude after the time-traveling Adam Strange whipped out the iconic red cape of Superman. The famous garment was embroidered with the legendary family sigil, proving that the lineage of the House of El continues into the future.
This chapter picks up at that exact point inside the chilly scientific chamber, with Seg skeptical about where the bright red cape came from, and doubtful that Strange is telling the truth. Strange does his best to explain how he teleports across light-years using something called a Zeta-Beam, and asks Seg to trust him. This transportation method is only "one passenger per ride and is a bit temperamental." Superman's grieving relative rejects it all, consumed with anger over his folks' death, and intent on seeking revenge for his family. His first stop is Chief Magistrate Daron-Vex.
REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED BOLD
Seg is apprehended back in Kandor by more Sagitari goons and taken to the posh abode of Nyssa-Vex. His genetic partner informs him that her father, Daron-Vex, and His Reverence, the Voice of Rao, are waiting for him. She presents him with a more suitable change of clothes emblazoned with the black sigil of House Vex.
Clad in his handsome uniform, Seg meets with Daron in his office, where the golden-masked High Priest and his attendants stand listening to Vex explain the meaning of the Six Old Gods depicted on the mysterious robed figure's ornamental headpiece. We're given a brief history lesson on how the elder god Rao created the stars and planets, and a treatise on the nature of chaos versus order. Seg, playing along with Strange's plan to infiltrate his enemy's inner circle, is told that the investiture ceremony officially welcoming him into the Vex family will occur tomorrow. Bummer!
LOCKED AND LOADED
In the Sagitari weapons room, Commander Quez-Ul passes out new blasters to the other officers and lets Lyta-Zod in on the current plan to head down to the ghetto sections of Kandor to smoke out the Black Zero terrorist group. Lyta protests to her intended mate, Dev-Em, explaining to everyone that Seg's folks were not actually part of Black Zero, and that the rankless are not their enemy.
Dev removes his shirt as he gears up, displaying a pair of ultra-ripped pecs and a nasty smear of scars across his back. He shares a short story of how his family was killed in some Black Zero attack, resulting in his disfigurement.
Lyta's Military Guild mom, Primus Jayna-Zod, shares a moment with her daughter. Lyta implores her mother to rethink this new offensive as it will only lead to more chaos, repeating that Seg's parents were not terrorists. In typical Zod fashion, Jayna sticks to her guns and reminds Lyta of her constant defense of the rankless and tells her to pay more attention to staying alive instead of the struggles of the lesser classes.
RITES AND RITUALS
Seg enters Daron's office and requests to have traditional funeral services performed for his parents, Charys and Ter. Those favors are denied due to his folks dying as enemies of the state. Seg takes the bad news in stride, then has to sit through another history lesson on the complex relationship between House El and House Vex.
Daron tells him how much he admired his grandfather, Val-El, and of the advanced computer system the deceased man developed that threatened the entire planet. Val used the technology to detect a presence millions of light years away that was gathering worlds, and predicted that one day it would come hunting for their planet. Seg finds a way to get Daron's approval to continue some of Val's earlier work and serve Kandor in the same way his grandfather could have. This placates the scheming Vex for the time being. Score one for House El.
DRESSING LIKE KANDORIANS
In a more humorous segment, Adam Strange gets a new suit of regional clothing using connections from Seg's best friend, Kem. His Kandorian peasant garb looks a bit less conspicuous, except for the gray hoodie and Detroit Tigers baseball cap he's still sporting.
Seg arrives to make a new deal with Strange and tells him of his newly-acquired position in the Science Guild, with unlimited access to their databanks. His plan is to scan their computers to try and provide proof backing up Strange's claims about the doomsday arrival of Brainiac. If Strange can offer up evidence to support the dire warnings, Seg won't off Daron-Vex. If not, he'll implement that homicidal mission in two hours time.
Lyta-Zod, thinking it's the only way to change the dangerous course of the city's loyal enforcers, challenges the brutish Commander Quex-Ul to a combat duel for the privilege of taking over his division command. Overbearing mom is none too pleased with this reckless development, and hides her fear that this could turn out badly for her fragile daughter. Jayna's usual stern countenance softens briefly, revealing a familial bond that may suffer dire consequence should her inexperienced (and too soft) daughter fail. As a final word, Jayna blesses her kid with a sincere prayer that Rao's grace be her shield in this foolish endeavor. Could Jayna have a softer side? Nah!
PEERING INTO THE BEYOND
Connected into the Science Guild's deep space sensors and planet-wide arrays, Kem informs Seg that there's nothing being picked up in the way of an alien spaceship hellbent for Krypton. Strange corrects them and insists it's out there somewhere. Seg, his limited patience at an end, tells Strange that his time is up and marches out of the bar and into the crowded, neon-lit streets of the rankless. Stopping at a blacksmith's stall, Seg purchases a lethal dagger and secretly slips it up his sleeve, then walks off with a fierce look of determination etched on his boyish features.
BEWARE VEXES BEARING GIFTS
Intent on killing Daron-Vex, Seg storms into their chambers but is intercepted by Nyssa-Vex, who always seems dressed for a gala formal dance. In a clever bit of manipulation, Nyssa hands over a polished urn bearing the El family crest and containing the ashes of his parents. Seg's ire is momentarily subdued by this touching gift and he's perplexed by her unexpected gesture, contemplating his next move and reminded of his parent's sacrifice for him and the El legacy,
Seg pays a visit to his old home, now trashed by the Sagitari and scattered with rubble and broken furniture. He sits alone sadly in quiet contemplation where he once resided in simpler times. It's a beautiful, somber moment we're allowed to absorb with a silent extended take.
Kem discovers a strange atmospheric anomaly on his handheld computer screen that indicates a recent meteor shower has struck in an area of the Outlands not known for such occurrences. Strange leaps to conclusions and believes this is a bad sign that they must go and investigate. A plan is devised to tag along with a salvage crew. But it just might cost the time-traveling Strange his wristwatch and cherished Tigers cap!
Oh, it's on! The duel to the death between Commander Quex-Ul and Lyta-Zod begins, and it's a splendid ballet of brutality as the two combatants inflict severe pain on each other. The stunt work and fight choreography here are exceptional; it's a fluid display of magnificent martial arts. There are no pulled punches in this cruel contest. When the bruises and blood mount to a climax, Lyta looks into her mother's eyes and snaps the neck of her buffed opponent without blinking an eyelid. No mercy!
Cutting back and forth with the fight, Seg returns to Val's Fortress of Solitude to gain new perspective on his plight. He discovers a special station with a panel inscribed with a cryptic Kryptonian message and the now-familiar House of El crest. He spills his own blood on the engraved metal and triggers a sophisticated computer hologram of his grandfather, Val-El. The lifelike avatar explains that he foresaw this day and created the program to guide and educate Seg through the advanced simulation.
This system mirrors the phantom image projector of Jor-El we've witnessed in Richard Donner's Superman, as well as Zack Snyder's Man of Steel. Val teaches Seg some of the grand achievements of House El, and reminds him that he's the torchbearer of their legacy who must keep that flame alive. We hear the name Zod-El spoken by Val. In the Superman: Earth One graphic novels, Jor-El's brother, Zor-El, is recast as General Zod and was responsible for Krypton's civil war and eventual destruction.
Finally, we learn of Val's frightening discovery of an interdimensional realm outside of the normal space-time continuum that he calls the Phantom Zone. Yes, this is the precise cosmic netherworld that Jor-El imprisons General Zod and his accomplices inside, only for them to later escape to wreak havoc upon planet Earth.
Seg, bolstered by his inspirational chat with Gramps, enters the Vex living chambers, where Daron believes him to be early for the investiture ceremony. But the Son of El declares that he will not be absorbed into the Vex family and strips the sigil from his clothing using the illegal dagger acquired in the grimy slums of the rankless. Seg agrees to comply with Daron's wishes to join the Science Guild and bind with his fetching daughter, but he refuses to become a Vex. Daron is ready to open up a can of Kryptonian whoop-ass when the High Priest suddenly intervenes and allows Seg's proposition. We hear the Voice of Rao speak for the first time, and it's with a gentle male voice we don't immediately recognize. Any guesses who it might be?
Strange and Kem brave a fierce storm in the jagged rock spires and spines of the hostile Outland region. Tracking the supposed meteorites from space and where they fell, and seeing a pattern of scorch marks in the earth, we see a small blackened device that Strange instantly recognizes. It's one of Brainiac's scout probes and he unveils it in front of Seg back inside Kandor's protective dome. The pod-like probe lies like a giant grooved egg. Hey, Easter is this Sunday! Strange announces that the theory of Brainiac's violent vacation to Krypton was incorrect. He's not on his way, he's already here!
Wow, that was a lot of plot unpacked in one session, and you've got to admire the smooth storytelling channels that Krypton's creative crew so effortlessly cruises upon. How did you like the second episode, and where do you anticipate this heroic prequel tale heading?
Until next week, may Rao's light forever guide your way!