Supergirl – Season 5 Episode 10
“The Bottle Episode”
Supergirl explores the new world that the characters now inhabit as they all try to find their place within it.
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” ended with a monumental shift for the Arrowverse as we know it. All of the currently running CW DC shows are now set in the same universe and there are significant changes to the world that the characters once knew that are slowly starting to make themselves known. The most glaring change is that Lex Luthor is now seen as the closest thing to a Saint that anyone could get. Pretty much everyone has great admiration for him and he’s in charge of the -now public facing- D.E.O. which means that both Kara and Alex work for him.
J’Onn has restored the memories of everyone close to him which means that all of the main characters are aware that Crisis happened. It’s not possible to do the same on a global scale because doing so would cause their brains to literally explode which is naturally not a great option so they’re stuck with the world as it is and have to find a way to work within it.
For Alex this presents a crisis of conscience as she wonders if she can find it within herself to continue working for an organisation run by Lex Luthor. J’Onn provides the expected words of wisdom through sharing an experience he had when he was Director. A Human found out that his partner was an Alien and reacted violently but since the Human was inflicting the violence the D.E.O. had no jurisdiction so there was nothing J’Onn could do. Despite that, he went with what his conscience dictated and stepped in. He encourages Alex to do the same and take the action that allows her to do the most good. At this point the best thing for her is to remain where she is because the resources of the D.E.O. allow her to help a lot of people. Leaving that behind would endanger a lot of lives so she elects to compromise her morality a little so that she can still help people. It reminds me of the oppositional relationship she had with Colonel Haley so it’s bizarre that she didn’t think back on that experience to help inform her decision given the similarities.
Lex isn’t ignorant to the animosity directed towards him by the Danvers sisters and chooses to address this head on. He proposes that they maintain the appearance of being close allies while privately keeping an eye on each other. He likens it to a game of chess and appeals to their better natures by pointing out that his way means that they can work together to deal with whatever threats come their way. Lex is very interested in Leviathan to the extent that he seems almost afraid of them so it suits his purposes to put aside his hatred for Kryptonians for the moment. His proposal is both intelligent and rational while still maintaining the antagonistic relationship that existed between these characters before now. Having them forced to work together to keep up appearances for the sake of the public could be an interesting development as it puts Lex in a position of power that Kara and Alex can’t do anything about.
For now it’s in all of their interests to work together which provides a fascinating moral grey area for the show to play around in especially when considering Kara’s old fashioned values and principles. Her conversation with William provides some hope that even this revised history for Lex has dark threads that can be pulled to reveal his true self to the world. This is basically an episode where the characters have to find their way towards being comfortable working with Lex and it’s handled really well for everyone who has to make that decision.
Lena is another character who has to find her way to being comfortable working with Lex. His deal with The Monitor meant that she kept all of her memories which means that she’s aware of the Crisis and still feels betrayed by Kara. I’m glad that the writers didn’t use Crisis as an excuse to resolve that without putting any work in as it has become one of the cornerstones of the season so far. Lex offers her the opportunity to be his partner because he always wanted them to be on the same page and share in their successes. Lena is understandably reluctant because of everything he did to her but her options are fairly limited at this point because of how much influence Lex has. She still wants to achieve her goal of removing the violent tendencies from Humanity and Lex is the best person to help him get there.
The major barrier Lena has is her inability to trust Lex so she looks to partner up with their mother, Lillian. She does need a partner to achieve her goal because her attempt to do it alone failed but the last person she wants to work with is Lex. Lillian is arguably no better as an option but Lena feels more comfortable working with her mother than she does her brother so her first thought is to ally herself with what she sees as the lesser of two evils. Lillian isn’t interested because she’s happy with her current situation which makes Lena think about partnering with Kara on a simple professional level. I’m not sure why she would think along those likes as Kara would never help her achieve her goal of forcibly changing the Human race though it’s possible that she puts that on the table to entice Lillian into taking her up on her offer.
Lillian reflects her manipulation back on her and preys on Lena’s need for companionship by telling her that she will end up being friends with Kara again which will only lead to a repeat of her being hurt. She takes Lena down a road that turns Lex into the only option by pointing out that she doesn’t actually have to trust him because she already knows that she could never trust him which makes that partnership one of pure convenience with no emotional risk. This is something that resonates with Lena and her decision is made when Lex subjects himself to a Truth Seeker so that he’s incapable of lying. His answers to Lena’s questions are as expected. For example he doesn’t say that he won’t turn on her and points out his awareness that she will use her technology on him the first chance she gets. In essence they both know exactly where they stand which makes for a more honest partnership than she can have with anyone else, at least according to Lena’s current mindset.
Kara and Lena share one scene together that acts as a reminder of the current state of their friendship. It’s a good scene in the sense that all scenes between Melissa Benoist and Katie McGrath are good but the content itself is very repetitive. Nothing new is being brought to the table at this point as all of their conversations are largely the same. It’s always heartbreaking to see the once strong friendship so badly broken but there will have to be some progression sooner rather than later.
Leviathan weren’t exactly the most interesting of threats before Crisis and I’m not convinced they can suddenly become that in this new world though maybe a fresh start is what was needed to establish them as worthy foes. Lex’ interest in them pretty much confirms that they have to be a far bigger threat than anything that has come before because Lex has been firmly established to be as intelligent, resourceful and devious as they come. Right now their anonymity is their greatest strength. Lex appearing to be afraid of them makes sense because lack of knowledge is his greatest weakness. Right now his focus is on gaining that knowledge. Lena’s single utterance of him being their puppet in the old world really gets to him because he had no idea they even existed before now. Hopefully something can be done to make good on Leviathan as a threat in this revised universe.
They certainly seem to be doing a better job of hiding themselves in this new universe as there is next to no mention of them throughout history and it appears that the conflict Kara had with Rama Khan didn’t happen here which makes me wonder what else has changed in the history of the show. There’s an air of “One More Day” about the show at this point and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. There are glimpses of headlines that show Lex’ involvement in events that happened earlier in the series which suggests that the Supergirl that is in the memories of everyone outside the main cast has a lot less agency than “our” Kara has because of how much of her success will be attributed to Lex Luthor. Time will tell if it benefits the world the show belongs to or makes it worse.
At the moment the only development on the Leviathan storyline is Cara Buono’s Gamemnae being on the Obsidian board of directors. She goes by Gemma Cooper and is connected to Andrea as her former college mentor. Andrea appears to have no idea that Leviathan are involved which means that she may never have been granted powers by the amulet. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened and didn’t through the context given to us in this episode but Andrea appears to be a C.E.O. who is being manipulated by Leviathan without her knowledge. Gamemnae/Gemma -I’ll refer to her as Gemma from now on- appeals to her desire for wealth and influence by encouraging her to continue to develop her technology in order to create a fully virtual world that people can actually live in. Gemma talks about people being able to actually feel things they pick up and live the life that they truly desire. It all sounds too good to be true which means that it probably is though it’s unclear how that will benefit Leviathan at this time but I’ll certainly admit that I’m intrigued by what has been suggested here. Cara Buono does a great job in her scenes here. She’s personable and persuasive while being the right amount of sinister that isn’t obvious but definitely present.
The main plot is the least interesting part of the episode but still has merit. It focuses on Brainy meeting other versions of himself from different universes and solving the mysterious death of one of the Brainys. Jesse Rath plays all of the Brainys except from one where his real life sister Meaghan Rath plays the role. Jesse Rath clearly has a lot of fun bringing the various Brainys to life. Each of them has memorable affectations that help set them apart from the others. None of them are especially deep but they’re not really supposed to be as they function as a means to an end more than anything else.
Their purpose is twofold. The first is to help establish how much the world has changed post Crisis. There is mention of the Multiverse being destroyed which we as viewers know not to be true as evidenced by the cameo appearances at the end of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” so it looks as if something is in place that means Earth-Prime is unable to detect other universes. For all intents and purposes the CW shows exists on the only Earth, at least as far as the characters are concerned. The other Brainys are refugees from destroyed Earths as are others who congregate in Al’s Bar. The suggestion is that there will be others from destroyed universes that turn up over the course of the season which will allow for different versions of familiar characters to impact the show in various ways.
One of the Brainys is essentially the villain of the piece though he is motivated by a desire to restore his Earth after saving it by putting it into a bottle before it was destroyed so he represents the impact of the restructuring of the universe and the effect it can have on those who have the knowledge of what has changed. Some niggling issues aside, Kara and the rest of Team Supergirl haver returned to a mostly positive universe but the antagonistic Brainy approaches this from the perspective of having lost everything and wanting to do whatever he can to get it back. Kara was no different not so long ago when she was fixated on using the Book of Destiny to restore her destroyed universe despite the danger it represented to her. If things had gone just a little bit differently then Kara would be in the same boat though the episode fails to make that point which is a massive misstep on the part of the writers as there was a chance for an interesting parallel here.
Ultimately the point of this plot is another example of being true to oneself. Brainy is always restrained because the three circles on his forehead are personality inhibitors. We know from previous episodes that his heritage scares him and he doesn’t want to follow the villainous ways of those who preceded him. As such he has always kept a large part of himself locked away which is noticed by the other Brainys who haven’t restricted themselves. They freely interface with the “Big Brain” and seem to suffer no ill effects which tells Brainy that his fear of being his true self may be unfounded.
Some insight into why Brainy is worried about being uninhibited is given when he explains that his father put the inhibitors on him after his mother bottled a family vacation planet. His mother was everything that Brainy didn’t want to be and his father didn’t want to risk him turning out that way so he placed inhibitors on him to dull his potential. It’s a very quick recount of a tragic backstory that doesn’t doesn’t really have the time to settle in because it comes so late in the episode and is dropped in as a quick justification for Brainy’s insecurities over his own sense of self. Part of the issue with this plot is that it’s very tone deaf and muddled about what it’s actually trying to achieve. The duplicate Brainys don’t provide much in the way of insight into who he is, the idea of lost universes and the impact this is having on them receive little more than lip service and there is the tacked on character story where Brainy wrestles whether to allow himself to be uninhibited. It’s messy and definitely bites off more than the episode can chew.
Supergirl has always been a show about people finding their true selves and learning to be comfortable with that. It defined Kara early on, Alex went through her own journey of self discovery in the second season, Lena has always grappled with her legacy as a Luthor, J’Onn worked to find a balance between pacifism and the need for action in certain circumstances and Nia recently grew to accept her surprise role as Dreamer. These are only some examples of character journeys tied to identity on this show which makes it even more surprising that such an important revelation for Brainy feels so rushed. The moment he decides to remove the inhibitors which brings on a profound physical change in him feels unearned and the ensuing developments really don’t work.
His conversation with the female Brainy where she warns him about Leviathan and tells him that he can’t allow himself to be distracted by Nia because that will end up being his downfall is really bizarre. For one thing she talked about how important the key relationship in her life was and how much strength that gave her so telling Brainy to cast off his romantic connection doesn’t fit with what we know about her. What makes it worse is that Brainy heeds that advice and breaks up with Nia for her own good. Characters making mistakes isn’t a bad thing as it makes them more interesting but this is a repeated mistake that he should be above by this point. It’s true that Brainy and Nia have always had difficulty communicating but their feelings have always been clear and it’s apparent that they make one another better by virtue of those feelings. Once again their break-up represents a problem that could easily be solved with a simple conversation but instead the writers go down the route of manufacturing angst through having Brainy believe that ending this relationship is for the best. Allying himself with Lex is an interesting development and I really like how Jesse Rath plays the uninhibited Brainy. I suspect the end result will be that Nia appeals to him on an emotional level by entering his dreams and showing him his true self.
Ending the relationship removes another strong storytelling possibility. Nia knows better than most what it means to live a restrained life. She has also managed to find a way to be true to herself by going through a profound physical change. There was a real opportunity for her to help him adjust to his new normal and give her the benefit of her experience of accepting her true self. It’s possible that it will come in time but it looks as if Brainy will spend much of his time working with Lex to bring down Leviathan therefore detaching himself further from the interactions that make him more interesting. It’s a shame the Brainy plot contained so many misfires as there existed the seeds of something really compelling.
A compelling episode that places the characters in interesting situations as they find their place within their new world. For Kara, Alex and Lena the purpose of this episode is for them to become used to the idea of working with Lex even though it’s the last thing that any of them want to do. Lex puts forward a reasonable case to Alex and Kara that it’s in their best interests to work together while keeping an eye on each other through their close proximity. They are forced to recognise that it’s better for the world that way and J’Onn’s advice to Alex about doing what puts her in a position to do the most good helps her arrive at that decision. Lena deciding to work with Lex because her only other option is Kara and she is forced to recognise that doing so would lead to them becoming friends before Lena is hurt again. She can ally herself with Lex because she knows she can’t trust him so there is no emotional risk. Lillian preying on Lena’s need for companionship is appropriately nefarious on her part and sets her up to do exactly what Lex wants. Based on this episode a fresh start may be exactly what the Leviathan story needed as they appear to be much better at hiding themselves in this new reality. Gemma makes for an interesting antagonist so far due to her ability to manipulate Andrea and the sinister undertones in the way she conducts herself. Lex having no knowledge of them in theory makes them more threatening since Lex has been well established as being the pinnacle of intelligence but it remains to be seen if they can measure up to that promise.
The Brainy plot is too muddled by an abundance of content to even out into anything coherent. Jesse Rath delivers a routinely great performance in his various roles and the idea of him removing his inhibitions to become his true self is theoretically engaging while also matching the arcs of pretty much every other character in the show. The problem is that it’s far too rushed and all of it feels unearned. His tragic backstory receives very little attention and the choices he makes following this change are baffling because they fall on tired angst building tropes. Breaking up with Nia for her own good after being told by the female version of himself makes no sense especially when she talks about how positive it was for her to have love in her life. It removes the potential for Nia to share her experience of being true to herself and feels entirely contrived as a development for them. The idea of someone being driven mad by the loss of their entire universe was another missed opportunity as it mirrors Kara’s exact mindset during the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. It isn’t addressed that Kara was about to do much the same thing the villainous Brainy is doing.
- Lex making a strong case for why working together is the best thing for Kara and Alex
- J’Onn helping Alex realise that keeping herself where she can do the most good is the right thing to do
- Lena coming around to the idea of working with Lex on her own terms
- Lillian using Lena’s desire for companionship to manipulate her
- Jesse Rath’s varied performances adding memorable affectations to the various Brainys
- Leviathan appearing to be a more enigmatic threat than before
- Lex being concerned about Leviathan because he has no knowledge
- the Brainy plot having too much going on to be coherent
- a rushed and unearned tragic backstory for Brainy
- Brainy’s acceptance of his true self having little impact
- the angst manufacturing decision made by Brainy when he breaks up with Nia
- missing the opportunity to hold up a mirror to Kara through the impact of losing a universe
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