In the fourth episode of Syfy’s Krypton, The Word of Rao, the Vex family plots against the many-faced theocrat as Brainiac seeks a new host for his parasite, and Seg’s nose for trouble backfires on him – literally. The Word of Rao aired on April 11, 2018.
Yeah, we’re covering Krypton now, despite having missed the first three episodes. Consider this a catch-up, if you like. Besides, The Word of Rao might have been Krypton’s fourth episode, but it’s one of the first to really allow the show to flex its spandex-clad muscles and feel like its own, quite compelling thing. We’ve started to move away from vigorously wanking off Superman mythology and instead embraced the rich storytelling potential of Kal-El’s homeworld – and long before he pulled on his underwear and buggered off to Kansas.
Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe), Supes’s granddaddy, remains the show’s hero despite being the least interesting person in it. I’m still not entirely convinced that Cuffe can act, but admittedly he hasn’t been given all that much to play beyond the smug, handsome young man who whines about his problems at length but can’t think of a way to solve them beyond a left hook. In The Word of Rao, he’s captured by a mysterious group who are also working to save Krypton from Brainiac. Are they that enigmatic “terrorist” organisation Black Zero? Apparently not, which is lucky, because they seem like idiots.
Case in point: Before asking Seg a few questions, they instead bung a space-bug up his nose. But it’s to be expected, I guess – the leader of this group kills one of his men for touching Seg without permission, so it’s hardly a surprise they’d skip straight to torturing their only lead. This command structure seems a bit unusual, but what do I know about Kryptonian revolutionary culture?
Besides, Seg isn’t the brightest notch on Batman’s utility belt either. After cutting a deal to exchange his knowledge of Brainiac for the group breaking Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell) out of prison, he then escapes before the deal can take place to… presumably try and break Lyta out of prison on his own. But that’s only if he can find his way back to Kandor City from the frosty Outerlands, where he finds himself staggering, badly injured, by the end of the episode.
Of more immediate concern is the Voice of Rao, who, it turns out, doesn’t sleep in that many-faced golden mask after all. Not that we got a particularly good look at his real mush, but we did get to meet his attending handmaidens. Seems this fella has it easy. There’s no wonder the people of Kandor City – particularly the subjugated Rankless underclass – are so keen on religion. That was another theme in The Word of Rao, as Ona (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), the young girl whose mother, Rhom (Alexis Raben), was consumed by Brainiac last week, offered a gift – and herself – to the Voice during the Nova Ceremony.
It just occurred to me that if you haven’t seen this show, you will have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.
Anyway, yeah. I liked this scene because it cracked a window into how the faith of the Rankless sustains them in extreme circumstances, and also how the Voice of Rao maintains his deification by offering the lowly peasants the odd chance at rags-to-riches enlightenment; he accepts the gift – a statue of himself – and offers to raise Ona as one of his handmaidens. And the crowd loves it. Less happy about the scenario is Kem (Rasmus Hardiker), who was on babysitting duties, but then again I wouldn’t trust Kem to open a tin of beans.
That’s a point, though – does Kem believe in this shit? He mumbles prayers along with the crowd, and he lets Ona be accepted into the Voice’s ranks, so I assume he’s not totally opposed to it, but then again thus far Krypton has only really dealt with simplistic religiosity, and a key motif in that kind of thing is that clever people don’t buy it. Kem, according to the script, is the smart one.
No matter. Turns out that the statue was harbouring Brainiac’s parasite anyway, so on just his second go, the green-skinned collector of worlds has managed to assume control of the most powerful figure in all of Kandor. A bit of a contrivance? Maybe. But it made for a compelling final twist, and at this stage in the season, after a couple of ropey episodes, we really need that kind of thing.
This development will no doubt help the Vexes, whose explicit plot to overthrow the Voice was helped along in The Word of Rao by Seg giving crucial information to Nyssa (Wallis Day) about his love for Lyta-Zod. Gee, I wonder if that’ll be used to manipulate him? The platinum-blonde magistrate is so nakedly sinister that you have to wonder why anyone would tell her anything, but she’s also the clear brains of the operation. Daron might be her father and the Vex family’s figurehead, but he’s a moron, as evidenced by his terrible decision to use Lyta as a scapegoat for his dopey policy ideas. If you’re going to rile up the peasantry, definitely don’t do it in a way that also pisses off your most valuable and dangerous allies.
Nevertheless, with The Word of Rao, Krypton is gaining momentum and heading in an interesting direction. Are there things we still desperately need? Sure. Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) needs some backstory; his insistence on banging on about Superman and Earth and being snarky about Kandor’s political strife isn’t a good look in a show which wants us to care pretty much exclusively about Kandor’s political strife. Mythology is all well and good, but it occurs to me that the further away from traditional notions of Superman Krypton gets, the better it’ll be.