WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Krypton Season 2.
In the realm of cinema and television, discussions about the best live-action take on General Zod usually involve Terence Stamp's villain in 1980's Superman II, followed closely by Michael Shannon's war-dog take on the Kryptonian in director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel in 2013.
However, Colin Salmon, Zod from SyFy's Krypton must be mentioned in that discussion, since he easily delivers the best take on the character with a villain as cerebral and ruthless as the books depicted.
Stamp's Zod wasn't as action-oriented, as he was more into politicking and playing mind-games with Christopher Reeve's Kal-El. Of course, he had Non as his muscle and Ursa doing his bidding, so Zod only really need to speak well, and he certainly did, as evidenced by his iconic "Kneel before Zod" line from Superman II. Stamp's Zod stood out from the other Zods we saw subsequently in DC's cartoons, animated movies and the largely forgettable efforts of Callum Blue on Smallville.
In Man of Steel, Shannon's depiction of Zod proved to be one of the brightest spots of Snyder's film. His Zod was a ruthless physical threat the clearly illustrated just how strong Kryptonians could be. However, it was just a bit too aggressive and the film didn't give him quite enough time to breathe or paint him as a dictator; he was merely a warlord and a terrorist.
With Salmon's Zod all of these facets combine to produce to a multi-dimensional villain that feels ripped straight from the comics, especially DC's New Krypton era. As a time-displaced warrior, you even feel sympathy for this TV Zod, because he's a man out of time trying to prevent the end of his planet he already foresaw.
This is what sends him on a rampage as a madman and military strategist. He isn't about invading anywhere just yet; he's all about protecting his homeworld and that's why he's at odds with the House of El. What makes the new Zod even more intriguing is he's actually linked to this bloodline as the son of Seg-El, meaning he's Jor-El's brother and Superman's uncle. This family tree dichotomy adds so much more nuance to his role, and as he ingests all of this, Zod puts it aside and places duty first. He even clones and reconditions his mother, Lyta, as a puppet so he can rule Krypton's army without question.
That's pretty twisted even for Zod, who wouldn't do that to his offspring in the books. But here, he's simply hungry to make sure his people survive, that's his legacy after all. This Zod doesn't just manhandle the resistance led by Val-El and Seg, though. He also opposes Brainiac and using fear as a catalyst, he turns the planet into a bloodthirsty world that wants to strike first rather than be reactive. It shows how sly his oratory skills are, and he's smart enough to earn even more respect by physically showing up to take on the rebels and other enemies he's convinced everyone they need to stand against.
In other words, this Zod talks the talk and walks the walk, painting himself as a true leader and more so, a fearless soldier. It comes full-circle when he uses the Black Mercy to mind-control Doomsday after facing him in a tense gunfight. Zod incapacitates the beast and then brainwashes him in an ambitious plan that he alone was certain would work, making the beast his lackey in most commanding fashion. When he tells him to kneel, it's one of the best live-action DC moments ever in any medium and the perfect testament to a Zod destined to be something more.
He's cunning, clinical, a science genius, a super-soldier and quite unforgiving against his own blood, which leaves you wondering if Salmon's character really has any weakness. Usually, Zod's ego would be his downfall, but this spin on the character doesn't really have one yet. This Zod doesn't let narcissism get in the way, and he's willing to kill a few Kryptonians for the good of the many. This is the Zod we deserve and when Salmon's stint is done, it'll be tough to see anyone topping his take on the 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.