The saga of pre-Superman Krypton continues with “The Rankless Initiative.” We heard hints of it last episode, and it’s looking to be as bad as Lyta feared. But there’s a lot else going on as well. I have to admit that, just like over on Gotham, I’m not but so worried. We know Krypton will survive, we know the House of El comes back. The only “modern” character we’ve seen so far is Adam Strange, and he should make it back home eventually, although he’s such a minor DC character (sorry Adam) that I can’t say it’s a huge deal either way.
The episode opens with Seg and Adam getting to the Fortress, and Adam meeting Holo-Val. They have brought the Brainiac probe to Val so he can analyze it. Val calls it a Sentry, which makes no sense at all. A sentry is a guard. This is more like a scout or a spy. At any rate, it sounds like bad news for whoever finds it first, and they come up with a plan. Adam shows a streak of cowardice that Val very amusingly calls him on, but their first plan falls apart before it really gets started.
There’s a small flashback from three days ago of Brainiac launching the probes, which seems wholly unnecessary. Kem’s bar is full of people hiding from the Thugs of Officialdom (I can’t remember the guards’ real name and I don’t care that much), with some of them praying to Rao for deliverance. Two of the ones Kem pays particular attention to are the neighbors that were so kind to Seg after his family died, Rhom and Ona. Rhom promises to pay Kem back for the food soon. Naturally, Rhom is the one to find the Sentry, which bodes ill for her.
Seg, Val, and Adam try and figure out what to do next. Seg’s plan, such as it is, is to send Adam to Kem’s to check for black market contacts while Seg goes to the Guild, figuring the Sentry should have turned up at one of those places. Seg gets maybe a few feet into the Guild when Nyssa pops up out of nowhere. Does she have him LoJacked or something? He thanks her for the favor of allowing his family’s memorial, and she just nods. She knows about Seg and Lyta, and just comments that she has her own secrets, which seems to be an understatement. Seg then talks to Lyta, stunned she killed someone, even when she explains why. He asks if she’s heard about anything unusual turning up lately.
Rhom sells the Sentry in the market, which makes it seem like all her scenes are in the three day ago time frame, with everything else in the present. It’s an odd way of doing things, however they meant it. The weird priest, The Voice of Rao, seems very worried about the supposed Black Zero terrorists (have we actually seen any of them so far aside from the one bomber?). Nyssa wonders why the Voice is so worried, and her father, Daron, doesn’t care as long as the Initiative works.
Primus Zod, Lyta’s mother, goes on about Black Zero, mentioning Jax-Ur, another name from Superman lore. They think they have narrowed down that Black Zero’s stronghold must be in Sector 19, which they will wall off, send everyone out, and search. Lyta suggests getting intel before just randomly attacking, but neither Daron nor Mama Primus care. Seg has no leads and Kem tries to reassure him that Adam probably has it under control.
Primus Zod pulls Lyta aside to bitch her out for speaking up at the meeting, and gives her various warnings. Dev-Em, Lyta’s arranged husband, clears out her new locker and they talk about caring for each other. He knows she did what she had to, and warns her not to let the squad down. Wow, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of confidence in Lyta’s leadership. She shares her worries about this whole plan, and Dev reminds her they need to follow orders.
Adam finally finds the Sentry in the market and scams his way into getting it. Lyta gives her troops a very careful briefing regarding their rules of engagement. She’s very precise about not targeting the innocent. Lyta lays down the law and then tells them to move out.
Adam makes it back to Kem’s running and hiding and scamming, which seems to be his default setting on this show. Again, I think so far Booster Gold would have been a better fit for this role. Kem and Seg run their own little joke on Adam before the heroes return to the Fortress. Again. As much as a problem as it was getting there in the first episode, they seem to be commuting with ease now. Their attempted return gets interrupted when the Thugs show up and seal off the area. So much for that plan.
Lyta’s orders to one side, the troops are their brutal selves. Seg goes to her, disappointed in what she’s doing, and she defends her decisions as the situation continues to deteriorate around them. Seg sends Adam off with the Sentry to the Fortress. Somehow Adam is supposed to be better at finding his way around then Seg, who has lived here his whole life? Adam gets there somehow anyway, and Val has no good news at all. Adam also asks Val for another favor, which isn’t great news on Adam’s part, either.
Rhom is looking a lot worse than last time we saw her, then gets much worse as the Sentry manifests in her. She gets the obligatory “I’ve gone bad so my eyes change” effect, as well as some new powers that let her beat down several of the thugs. Kem at least gets Ona out of the path of immediate danger. Back at Kem’s (another establishment with no name, what IS it with that on hero shows?), Kem and Seg do what they can to make Ona feel better. After more talk about the situation, Kem stays behind to take care of the kid, and Seg goes to try and save the mother.
Rhom’s rampage left behind dead thugs, which pushes the live ones over the edge. Things get ugly and the thugs start taking it out on the crowd, manacled or not. Primus Zod is looking uneasy from her nice safe spot back at headquarters, while Lyta shows up to discipline her troops. Lyta, at least, is being fair. Seg and Adam have a tense conference over their coms (when did they get those?) and figure out Rhom has gone to a nearby communications center. Adam and Seg have very different ideas on how to handle the situation.
Under Adam’s voiceover, Rhom stalks her way into the communication center, dealing with the guards easily. Desperate, Seg goes back to Lyta for a gadget he needs to stop Rhom. It really says a lot that Lyta never really finds out what’s going on, but gives Seg what he needs, at a lot of risk to her career at the very least.
While Lyta stalls Mama Primus, Seg goes in to the communications hub. What he finds removes any doubt about Rhom being under Brainiac’s sway. Seg sees enough so that he really shouldn’t be disbelieving Adam’s story any more, which will be a relief. Predictably enough, Seg tries a bit of emotional appeal, but Rhom is too far gone. Seg’s new toy, which seems to be some kind of super-EMP, is a great choice to use against Brainiac. He’s either a sentient machine or some kind of bio-mechanical being, so either way, EMP is bad for the Brainiac. Lyta finally meets Adam as Seg gets help escaping. I can’t imagine this is going to look for Lyta’s new command. Lyta wants to bring this new information to the Council, but Seg has a great reason to not trust them, given his family history.
The show wraps on a few dark scenes. Nyssa mocks Daddy Daron for the way the operation went, with the sole arrest being the soldier Lyta disciplined. I suspect there will be more about that in episodes to come. Val isn’t sure he can save Rhom, and makes a few dire pronouncements about their future and Rhom’s mission. And, we finally see some action from the space-borne menace.
What I Liked: Seg clearly is a compassionate man, which makes sense for Superman’s grandfather. Kem is one of the rogues with a heart of gold. Lyta is trying her best to change things from the inside. Val has some great lines as snarky scientific advisor. I’m really not sure which side Nyssa is on, which is intriguing to watch. The hint of Brainiac was well done.
What I Didn’t: Yes, I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it: Booster Gold would be a better choice than Adam Strange. I’m hoping Ona doesn’t hang around as random kid/orphan/designated for cute scenes. Primus Zod is more like what we’ve come to expect from someone with that name, and I don’t care for her at all. Daron seems to be too many stereotypes at once: corrupt ruler, closed-minded purist, and personal coward behind it.
It was a good, not great, episode. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5.