Krypton: 2.08 Mercy
So episode eight is another surprisingly decent episode. Mercy is primarily focused on Lyta who, surprise, wasn’t dead after all. While her resurrection was pretty inevitable, parts of it don’t make much sense; when Lyta became uneasy with his plans, Zod trapped her in a fantasy using a Black Mercy and replaced her with a clone who was then imprinted with her memories and reprogrammed to be more conducive to his plans. It was the clone that was murdered of course. I’m not sure why Zod felt it was better to clone Lyta and reprogram me a clone rather than just reprogram Lyta herself? But Lyta, we find out, is living in a perfect fantasy world.
A character stuck in a fantasy world is a pretty standard trope in genre shows. It's happened in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Smallville and even Supergirl. They’re not really my favourite episodes and can often tread the same ground but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this variation, especially Georgina Campbell. I haven’t been shy in my reviews of talking about how poor I find Georgina Campbell’s performance, yet everything in Lyta’s fantasy world is engaging, light, relaxed and likable. I’m slightly reevaluating my criticism of her performance as Lyta; perhaps it is entirely down to being a directional choice? If that’s the case, I’d still regard it as being a poor choice or a choice that doesn’t pay off – so its still to my mind a bad performance – but this episode has made me appreciate that Campbell is capable of a far more enjoyable performance.
Lyta’s fantasty world revolves around Seg, moving to Kryptonopolis, getting a nice flat and getting married. This fantasy allows for some nice production and costume design and its refreshing to see another part of Krypton, especially a part that feels more akin to Krypton as the shining star of advanced civilization that we expect. Kandor is just so dull and lifeless, this view we get of a wider Krypton is lush and vibrant and while its mostly just an establishing shot and Lyta’s apartment, coupled with the bright and breezy costumes, it really effectively creates a sense of this world.
The episode gives Val, Adam and the rebels a rest this week, which allows it to focus not only on Lyta’s fantasy but Seg and Nyssa – who now want to get the kidnapped Jor-El back from Braniac. The whole episode feels like it has a bit more space to breath. Zod is still trying to control Doomsday; its this mission that prompted him to tell his scientists about his mother in the hope that the Black Mercy can be used to create a mind control serum for Doomsday.
There is still too much explaining going on and I’m not sure why Zod confessed so much of his plan, but it’s the experiments done on the Black Mercy that causes Lyta’s fantasy to start to crumble and she eventually escapes the fantasy and the Black Mercy. This does lead to another over explainy scene where, after finding Jayna and Dev trying to sneak into the citadel, she tells them what has happened to her. Georgina Campbell’s performance seems to drop back to its starchy, badness once she’s out of the fantasy.
Colin Salmon is and has been constantly great in the role of Zod and its a shame that we’ve had arguably the best on-screen, live action Zod in one of the poorest Superman related projects. He has some really awful dialogue to deliver but he does it with conviction and flair and you really believe the idea that he loves Krypton and its people but still craves power and dominance. A baddie working towards what he thinks is the greater good.
The Black Mercy has been woven into the story pretty well; an alien parasite that induces a fantasy state on its victims, its popped up in various comics, cartoons and TV shows (Supergirl used it not long ago) but is usually the focus of the story itself. Here its used as a element of the story and the fact Zod needs it to try and control Doosmday – triggering his mother’s escape – works. It just doesn’t make much sense why he went to such dramatic lengths to imprison his mother in the first place?
I definitely feel like Krypton is improving a little; this has some fun moments, good lines and the acting is generally pretty good. Branching out again with the locations and production design shows scope but again, its too little too late. Had a couple of episodes been this solid in the first season it might not feel like such a lost cause. The show, overall, is still really boring in its emotional scope with predictable beats and obvious character moments - a likeable cast just isn’t enough to paste over such big cracks.
A surprisingly strong episode but I still won’t miss this show once its gone.