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Krypton - House of El - Review: "Brainiac is Here"

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Krypton 1.02 "House of El" - Review:
Directed by Ciaran Donnelly & Written by Cameron Welsh

The second episode of Krypton continued to explore more of the world that we already knew, essentially acting as the second part of the pilot episode as it put Seg in a position where he was questioning Adam Strange's story, preferring instead now that he has lost everything to go on a mission of revenge and take out the man who had taken what little he had from him, Daron-Vex, which would surely see him suffer the same fate as his parents. This forced Adam to team up with Kem (Rasmus Hardiker), who whilst wasn't exactly a believer of Adam's storyline about the faceless evil heading their way, didn't want to see his best friend dead.

Seg may be a Vex now but he's not going to be taking it lying down, especially as if Adam is right, his grandson will still be known as Kal-El. In a meeting with Vex, Seg tries to request funeral rights for his parents but is quickly shut down. He's gearing up for the assassination attempt only to be confirmed what he had already been told earlier. Val-El, his grandfather, was a brilliant scientist who was corrupted by his belief that a world collector was heading their way. Val's research was deemed heretical in the process, and given that his grandfather also believed what Adam believed, it's enough to convince Seg not to lash out there and then. Seg presents Vex with a more reasonable suggestion at hand, allowing him to join the science guild.

We're still in the early stages of Krypton, but unfortunately, it's spending too much time focused on Seg's assassination plans which we know he's not going to follow through with anyway because Vex is going to be around for future episodes. The revenge storyline is a tried and tested television trope and whilst Krypton has used tropes successfully before, with the death of Seg's parents managing to leave a memorable impression on the audience, it failed here, and it didn't need to take out as much of the episode as it did.

Seg brings the tablet that he stole from Vex to take to Adam and Kem as he reasons that any proof of Brainiac will be on the device. However, it's obvious to anyone that Vex won't leave evidence as damning as this around for anyone to steal, and it's almost certainly going to be tampered with in a way that shuts down Seg's chances of listening to him, in a frustrating way, as it's pretty clear that Seg should have taken this into account. An argument could be made in his defence that he's angry with revenge in mind, but Adam and Kem could have brought this up. I would have also liked to have seen more depth put into Seg's handling of his parents' deaths rather than a simple revenge-driven quest like this, as it's far too one-note and rings hollow, especially as the audience themselves are now ahead of Seg in their belief of Brainiac's existence. It shouldn't have taken Seg that long to catch up.

Meanwhile, Quez-Ul (Gordon Alexander)'s unit is about to raid the Rankless buildings, stripping them of what they already have in the search for Black Zero. Lyta is convinced that this will only lead to more division and resentment between both classes, so she decides to challenge Quez-Ul to a round of combat where the only way out is killing the opposition. This is something that her mother Jayna is less than happy to hear, as she fears that Lyta will be defeated by Quez-Ul fairly easily and does her best to talk her daughter out of it. It looks like she underestimated her daughter however as she is able to emerge victorious in the fight, claiming new leadership over the squadron.

I like that Krypton is adopting a more serialised nature than the Arrowverse, which is largely focused on a bad-guy-of-the-week format coupled with an overarching series arc. House of El proved to be a way where we could get to see what the format of this show was going to look like going forward too. Although I worry by bringing Brainiac to Krypton this early the writers may be rushing the plot forward a bit, but it's still early stages so there's plenty of room to watch the story unfold from here.

Seg does end up receiving his parents' ashes from Nyssa, who comes under the pretense of giving him some closure but as we see at the end, she's doing her best to win his trust and gain his loyalty, in a rather Machiavellian move. We haven't really been given much time to explore Nyssa's character at the moment but it's clear that her main objective is securing the better interests of her family. Taking their ashes to the fortress, Seg uses their DNA to activate his grandfather's hologram, which finally gives him the definitive proof of Brainiac's existence and explains to him that House El has done its best to bring hope to Krypton no matter what condition the world is in. Val-El stumbled across Brainiac by travelling through the Phantom Zone and exploring multiple different worlds, and tried to warn his people - only too be taken in and killed in response.

Seg ends up returning to Vex, fully on board with stopping the threat now that he's had a talk with the holographic version of his grandfather, and now is dissuaded from his motive of revenge, instead deciding that he will go through with his plan to join the Science Guild, on the condition that he keeps the House of El name, not wanting to wear another quest. Vex is disappointed (you could even say that Vex is quite -vexed) at this, but relents to the Voice of Rao's approval that Seg will wear the crest of the Science Guild as a compromise, meeting them in the middle. It's also good to learn a bit more about the history of Krypton's so far unexplored religion - where we learn that the people of Krypton used to worship many gods, but now they only worship one - Rao. We still could learn a bit more about how the religion element works in this show because the world of Krypton still feels very small and enclosed at the moment, and we haven't quite yet been able to see just how diverse this world has the potential to be. But then the show has to balance a plot with all its world-building that's going on at the moment, so it's understandable that with so much going on, some things are going to be left to the wayside.

And whilst all this is going on, Kem and Adam are teaming up in the background on their own adventure that forces Adam to surrender his Detroit Cap that he hung onto even when changing into more Kryptonian clothing. I must admit that I did enjoy their scenes together much more than the rest of the episode, with the bar scene in particular being a standout where Adam tried to convince Kem that Seg would pay for any services that he required and that Seg had insisted Adam would need alcohol as well. They end up travelling into the icy wasteland outside the city where Adam stumbles across the meteorological abnormality that they were investigating in the first place provided by the data that Seg received for them. It's confirmation that Brainiac is much closer to Krypton than they already realised, and he is already on the planet, having sent a Empire Strikes Back-esque probe out to stake claim to the next world in his path.

The show is still finding out what it wants to be and it has as much promise in its story as it has as plenty of room to go off a cliff completely. It could work on developing some characters a bit more, particularly Adam, but the shorter, ten-episode length of its first season has really allowed for a much more constrained approach than the twenty-plus episodes that the network shows tend to offer. We also got an explanation of sorts this week as to why Superman and other Justice Leaguers didn't join Adam in the as-of-yet unrevealed time machine, as it could only carry one person - him. I'm not sure why but I was kind of expecting Krypton to become a time-travelling adventure with Adam and Seg journeying throughout the DC Comics multiverse, but then again, I suppose there's Legends of Tomorrow for that. What this show does succeed in doing is presenting a story that is compelling even if you remove the Superman time-travel elements from the show completely - there's enough storyline and potential there with the bid for Seg to reclaim his House of El name and the Black Zero conspiracy plot to last at least a season, if not more.

What did you think of House of El? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to check out the next episode of Krypton on Syfy next Wednesday.

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