Dismissing the warnings of her intended, Dev-Em (Aaron Pierre), that Quex will show no mercy (there's that word again), and the concerns of her mother, Lyta is determined to engage in a fight to the death, not only to ensure the "rankless initiative" doesn't turn into a bloodbath, but to prove something to herself and to Jayna. "A mother who doesn't believe her child is capable of being a warrior," Lyta coolly observes. "[...] I see it in your eyes, mother. I always have. You try to hide it, but you don't think I will ever be worthy of the Zod name."
With that, Krypton becomes as much about Lyta pursuing the honor and respect that have eluded her as it is about Seg-El restoring the name of the House of El. What follows is a brutal fight that that no one in the audience expectes Lyta to lose, not because she's established herself as a great warrior (she hasn't), but because her death would bring to an abrupt end what promises to be one of the drama's major storylines. The question is how Lyta wins, and what she might do in victory.
Despite enduring a sustained, bloody beatdown from Quex-Ul, Lyta ultimately gains the upper hand, first breaking his arm and then, despite his plea for mercy, snaps his neck and drops his limp body to the floor. Because that's how Kryptonians, or at least members of Kandor's Military Guild, roll, apparently. "We never ... ask ... for mercy," a breathless Lyta proclaims while staring, unblinking, at her mother.
The duel's deadly outcome makes sense within the rules established for this fictional world: Had Lyta spared Quex-Ul, she'd be viewed as weak by her mother and the Sagitari under her command, and potentially face threats from her vanquished rival. But her decision is clearly -- transparently, even -- crucial to her character arc. Not only is Lyta's relationship to Jayna altered, she becomes active in her new role as commander rather than reactive as a rank-and-file member of Fourth Squad Sagitari. But that comes with additional responsibilities that will no doubt one day place her in direct conflict with Seg-El.
However, as "logical" as Lyta's killing of Quex-Ul may be, that scene is impossible to view outside of the long shadow of Man of Steel, in which Superman snapped the neck of a homicidal Zod, purportedly to save a group of innocent bystanders. (He also killed Zod in 1980's Superman II, although there the villain's demise was far more ambiguous.) Goyer has repeatedly attempted to explain the rationale for the scene, with limited success, so it's tempting to interpret Lyta's killing of Quex as an effort to revisit the controversy or to retroactively introduce some kind of historical precedent. And, hey, maybe it is, even if it doesn't really work in that context.
But it does work within the parameters of Krypton's story, and what we know about the Military Guild and, to a limited degree, Lyta-Zod. Her disregard of "mercy" is a fitting callback to the lesson so painfully instilled by Jayna-Zod, rather than a jarring break -- or is that snap? -- with what the audience perceives as her established character.
Airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy, Krypton stars Cameron Cuffe as Seg-El, Shaun Sipos as Adam Strange, Georgina Campbell as Lyta-Zod, Elliot Cowan as Daron-Vex, Ann Ogbomo as Jayna-Zod, Rasmus Hardiker as Kem, Wallis Day as Nyssa-Vex, Aaron Pierre as Dev-Em, Ian McElhinney as Val-El and Blake Ritson as Brainiac.