WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of Krypton, "House of El," which premiered Wednesday on Syfy.
More than five years after its release, director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel remains divisive, for its dour tone, its characterization of Pa Kent, a destructive battle in Metropolis that would've left more than 100,000 dead and, most of all, the controversial ending in which Superman snaps the neck of his foe General Zod. For fans still a bit raw about that latter scene, this week's episode of Krypton undoubtedly brings unwelcome memories rushing back.
Developed by David S. Goyer, who wrote Man of Steel, the Syfy drama is set on Superman's home world 200 years before his birth, where his grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) must restore his family's honor, save Krypton from impending destruction by Brainiac, and ensure his grandson's destiny as the greatest hero in the universe. It's a tall order, complicated by the planet's ruling theocracy, a rigid caste system involving guilds, arranged marriages and genetic engineering, and a forbidden romance between Seg and Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell), daughter of the head of the military.
Yes, Zod. It's unclear what Lyta's familial connection is to the future General Zod (mother, most likely?), but that certainly adds a Romeo & Juliet-style wrinkle to the story. However, it isn't the name of Lyta's house that makes the character interesting but rather her worldview and her relationship with her mother Jayna-Zod (Ann Ogbomo).
On the surface, the dynamic between the two appears straightforward, with Jayna as the stern military parent repeatedly disappointed by the shortcomings of her child, who may not be suited for the Sagitari, Kandor City's elite guard. In fact, when we meet the Zods in Krypton's pilot, Jayna uses her daughter to make twin points during combat training: that the Primus of the Military Guild doesn't play favorites, and that, surrounded as they are by foes, the Sagitari can't afford to show weakness.
"Black Zero! Beasts of the Outlands! Factions within other city-states!" Jayna tells the assembled Sagitari as she pins Lyta to the floor. "All of them seek to annihilate us. We are Sagitari. The tip of the spear that guards this city. We never ask for mercy. And we never give it!" To underscore her point, she sinks a knife through her daughter's hand.
And yet, Jayna turns a blind eye to Lyta's clandestine romance with Seg-El, whose family was stripped of its rank and ostracized, and even covers for the young man when he's caught visiting his imprisoned mother. Jayna later kills Seg's parents when they point weapons at the Voice of Rao, Krypton's enigmatic leader, a move characterized by an accusing chief magistrate Daron-Vex as "an act of mercy."
In this week's episode, "House of El," the Sagitari prepare for a crackdown on the "rankless," Seg's home district in the lowest rung of Kandorian society, in an effort to root out members of Black Zero. Lyta realizes no good can come of that, as the Sagitari are heavily armed and led by a commander who doesn't distinguish between the terrorists who tried to assassinate the Voice of Rao and the everyday rankless "shitheads" simply scraping to get by. When Lyta's pleas to her mother, Primus Zod, fail, she resorts to the only option remaining to protect the rankless, and possibly Seg: She challenges Commander Quex-Ul (Gordon Alexander) for leadership of the Sagitari, invoking an ancient tradition granting her the right to a duel.