When Krypton was first announced, many people dismissed it as a simple prequel starring Superman's grandfather. Then it was revealed that the stakes were much higher: Brainiac had gone back in time to attack the planet and prevent Superman from ever being born, while space adventurer Adam Strange travelled back to stop the villain. But last night's new twist - honestly, "twist" barely does it justice - was next-level bananas.
The most recent episode of Syfy's time-travel/prequel series Krypton blew up the show, but not yet the planet, with last night's introduction of a familiar Superman nemesis: General Zod. Not Zod as a baby, mind you - he hasn't yet been born in the time of Krypton - but the adult Zod of Superman's era, who has also travelled back in time
Initially appearing last week as a mysterious "Commander" with knowledge of Brainiac, and played by Arrow and James Bond franchise alum Colin Salmon, the iconic Superman nemesis revealed himself to his future mother Lyta-Zod (Georgina Campbell) at the end of episode five, "House of Zod." Showrunner Cameron Welsh described it as a "game-changing twist," which... how could it not be? The villain's arrival turns the whole first season on its head, Welsh told journalists, including io9, during a visit to the Belfast set in Northern Ireland.
"Adam [came] to Krypton with a very specific message to Seg - Superman's very existence is under threat, and we have to stop Brainiac," said Welsh. "But we all know Brainiac was always coming to take Kandor City; that's what Adam Strange got wrong."
That is to say, Brainiac isn't any more of a threat to the planet than he was before the show's story began. Instead, it's Zod who is trying to alter Krypton's history. "But not to destroy Krypton; to save it," said Welsh.
According to the showrunner, the conflict that emerges shapes the second half of the season. For instance, when Adam Strange realises he was wrong, and that Zod is seeking to alter the future, Strange tries to convince Seg that history needs to play out according to plan, and his planet needs to die. If Krypton survives, Kal-El would never become Superman and save the universe from countless threats.
"If you extrapolate that, it means allowing Kandor City to be taken to ensure Superman's birth," said Welsh. More importantly, the reveal marks a "big moment" in Seg's hero's journey, because Zod and Adam will both be "vying for his soul."
"A grandson on an alien planet, and you're being asked to let go of the only thing you've ever known, the only home you've ever known?" posited Welsh of Seg's dilemma. "To let all of that go for this abstraction based on this information from Adam, who has already proven to be unreliable, and untrustworthy. Seg is torn."
Although fans know Zod as a villain, Welsh states the character who's shown up in Krypton's past won't act like the villain most fans think of, primarily because he doesn't need to be... for now. Welsh says this version of Zod is similar to Michael Shannon's iteration of the character in Man of Steel, as he feels extremely duty-bound to his planet.
"The Zods have always seen themselves as the warrior defenders, protectors of Krypton," said Welsh. "That's what they have been born and raised to do, and he has had a long time in the Phantom Zone to think about it." Of course, if Zod does succeed in saving Krypton, that means no Superman down the road. But that isn't the general's secret goal. "That's just a bonus," said Welsh.
Instead, Zod's bigger mission is more... cosmic.
"What we start to learn about Zod is his idea of protecting Krypton or saving Krypton goes beyond just defeating Brainiac," said Welsh. "He is thinking more 'maybe Krypton becomes the center of an intergalactic empire, maybe this needs a fresh start, new leadership, and maybe look beyond, and start colonizing other planets, build up our defences, and never let Krypton ever feel threatened again.'"
Things become infinitely more complicated when Zod is now directly interacting with the younger version of his own mother, Lyta; after all, the general is old enough to be her father. And the last we saw of Lyta and her mother Jayna (Ann Ogbomo), things were pretty tense after the Sagitari leader sacrificed her honour to save her daughter.
"We have set up this difficult dynamic between Lyta and her mother," said Welsh. "Zod comes along, who is more like a father figure [to Lyta], and they start to grow closer together." He also teases that Lyta starts to fall under Zod's sway - after all, "he is a charismatic, manipulative kind of guy."
So... yeah. General Zod has travelled back in time to save Krypton, build an empire, and mentor his own mother, and now Seg, our protagonist, needs to ensure his planet and nearly all its inhabitants die. Suffice it to say, Krypton's gotten much crazier, but it's also gotten a hell of a lot more interesting, too.