It shouldn’t surprise anyone thatÂ Krypton takes a classic hero’s journey approach to telling Seg’s story. Because, without a doubt, it is Seg’s story.
True, Lyta gets some cool airtime (and I will discuss the change in her circumstances at the end) but ultimately she will prove to either be Seg’s ally or enemy. Her value in the show is in respect to Seg. A Zod will not claim the spotlight here.
There are seventeen stages to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. Whether you know it or not, you know them all intimately from watching Star Wars: A New Hope or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even Finding Nemo uses the Hero’s Journey structure.
We start with the Call to Adventure. In the Pilot (watched by over 2.6 MILLION viewers, making it the best SYFY series premiere in three years and winning the night’s ratings race easily), we glimpsed Seg’s “ordinary world” as a Rankless, running scams and worrying about money with his parents.
He technically gets two Calls to Adventure. One is in the form of the offer of rank and status through the House of Vex. The other is the one Adam Strange presents when he gives him the key to Val-El’s Fortress of Solitude.
In “House of El”, Seg suddenly finds himself orphaned and unable to accept that his parents were killed by his (not-so-)secret girlfriend’s mother. Moreover, he refuses the mission that Adam Strange has thrust upon him. He doesn’t even believe that Brainiac is a thing.
Seg sort of emotionally refuses the call to Rank first, obtaining a blade at one point to kill Daron. But it comes to naught since he actually uses the blade to reject the House of Vex name, declaring he’d rather die Rankless than be one of them. Ouch.
So that’s Stage Two: Refusal of the Call done.
Nyssa-Vex plays a nice little two-faced game, furthering her father’s game by indicating to Seg that she opposes Daron’s plans as much as he does. I actually bought into it myself. Tricky, tricky…
Seg seems to get side-tracked a lot. So far, it’s been to his benefit. The first time he gets Daron alone, he starts by asking permission to perform traditional funeral rites for his dead parents but gets side-tracked when Daron mentions Val-El’s research into and perseverance on the organic threat encroaching on Krypton.
This twigs in Seg’s mind of Adam Strange’s talk of Brainiac and he switches tactics and convinces Daron to grant him a position in the Science Guild so that he can give Adam a chance to prove his story is true. When, initially, Kem says pretty conclusively that there’s nothing out there, Seg once again jumps back to getting vengeance on Daron and gets his knife on his way to Palace Vex.
While Seg is trying to further his stabby little revenge plan, Kem gets friendly with Adam in a I-think-you’re-totally-nuts-but-you-could-be-dangerous-so-I’ll-play-along way. With Seg’s access to the Science Guild’s data, they track down an anomalous meteor shower site, they trade Adam’s Earth treasures (watch and ball cap) for a ride out there.
On his way to stabbing Daron, Seg gets distracted by Nyssa who brings him his parents’ ashes in an urn emblazoned with the forbidden crest of House El. It’s a beautiful and touching gesture and, as we discover at the end, all orchestrated to bring him in line with the Vex family plan. Grrr…
The sight of the crest has an inate ability to bring Seg to his senses. With the urn in hand, he detours from stabbing Daron and returns to his family’s destroyed house in the Rankless slums to pay respects to his parents. When a neighbour drops by with her daughter to extend their sympathies, the little girl hands Seg another El crest on a broken piece of masonry.
It’s their meager offering is what truly turns Seg from his plan to kill Daron, I believe. It reminds him of what his parents truly stood for. And what his responsibility is as their son and as the grandson of Val-El.
Having unconsciously accepted his mission at this point, he returns to the Fortress of Solitude and finds — surprise, surprise — another crest of the House of El engraved into a motto banner below the much larger crest of House El. The banner reads:
“The blood of House El will forever bind us.”
So he pulls out his contraband blade and cuts across his palm to squeeze a bunch of blood onto the crest. As dramatic as it was, I couldn’t help be annoyed by the trope.
Besides being a hugelyÂ unhygienic key for activating the computer system (more on that in a second), cutting your palm has got to be the most injurious site you could choose. Surely, a drop from your fingertip would be just as effective? The palm (especially if he’s right-handed) is going to take forever to heal and is highly likely to get infected.
As for being a system key, it’s not exactly secure from counterfeiting. Considering how many times we’ve seen Seg get beaten up in these first two episodes, anyone could’ve gotten a blood sample. In fact, he should probably still have an open wound that he could’ve just pulled the bandage back from to turn on the crest.
Yeah, so I don’t think Gramps really thought that one through. Anyhow, this brings us to Stage Three: Supernatural Aid, aka Grandpa Val. At least, in holographic A.I. form.
I guess Adam is more of an active ally but he’s pretty supernatural in his own right even if he’s a bit clueless about what the plan is. Holo-Val, meanwhile, is a wealthy of House of El information and Brainiac exposition. He coins the term “Phantom Zone” for us (which was a bit of a thrill, I’ll admit) and lays the responsibility mantle on Seg pretty heavy.
After their discussion, Seg returns for his investiture ceremony into the House of Vex where he makes his big stand against Daron. With the backing of the Voice of Rao, he is permitted to wear the sigil of the Science Guild instead of House Vex (since House El is still outlawed) to Daron’s dismay.
While Seg wins his conflict here in political and almost philosophical terms, Lyta spends this episode fighting for her principles quite literally and physically and with lethal consequences.
When she meets with Seg and realizes that they cannot be together because her mother killed his parents, she is far more mature about the situation than is honestly realistic. It could speak to her life as her mother’s daughter but her advice to Seg, to herself, is the message at the heart of this episode, possibly the series:
“There are so many things in our lives that we can’t control. Only you know what’s inside you, what you’re capable of. You just need to be true to yourself. We both do.”
Taking action on her own words, she challenges her jerk of a commander, Quex-Ul (Gordon Alexander, Bounty Hunters) and forces her mother to officiate an official Candorian duel for command. A duel where no mercy is offered, asked for, or given. R.I.P. Quex, you toad.
Interestingly enough, Lyta’s journey has begun to take the shape of the Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdock’s alternative to Campbell’s patriarchal monomyth. It’s too early to be certain but it may point the direction for her relationship with Seg.
I usually take a minimum of three episodes to pronounce whether I like a new series or not. I can sincerely make the call on Krypton after two with the caveat that they’ll need to straighten out their focus.
By my count, Seg is facing an external threat (Brainiac, whom Adam and Zem found evidence of at that “meteor shower” site), an internal threat (House Vex, possibly the Voice of Rao), AND a societal threat (the Rankless Initiative/Black Zero). That could potentially boil down to a hot mess. I’m optimistic that it’ll all align soon.
KryptonÂ airs Wednesday nights at 10pm ET/PT on SYFY.
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