Supergirl: 5.10 The Bottle Episode
So this is actually a pretty good first post-Crisis on Infinite Earths episode. Well done Supergirl. Good for you.
We deal with some big repercussions of the Crisis in a fairly casual way, reassuring the status quo without spending a lot of time on things. Its established that the majority of humanity cannot be given their pre-Crisis memory back or their heads would explode. I’m sure several of the inner circle will be let in on the secret as the show goes along but for the time being, our new normal is established. Lena knows about Crisis, meaning all our core characters understand what happened and what changed. Lex seems to convince Lena that she can do the good she wanted to do by working with him and that basically is where we leave the Luthors this week.
What I’m not sure about - and it probably doesn’t matter - is whether this post Crisis Lex actually was a good guy or if it was all a facade? Likewise, this new history of his; was he always evil just biding his time or was he good and suddenly, now the pre-Crisis Lex is inhabiting his space, has Lex turned evil (from the perspective of this Universe)? Also, what did Superman do in this new universe? If Lex was a good guy, Kal-El has never actually battled him. Has he just been fighting giant space stars and Metallo for 15 years? I suspect this question may never truly be answered.
The episode proper focuses mainly on Brainiac and the appearance of several other Brainiacs. I wasn’t that taken by Brainy when he first arrived on the show; I felt the characterisation was a bit much and he was so clearly being set up as a replacement for Winn. When he first joined the main cast I found him very irritating. He’s calmed down quite a bit or, perhaps more accurately, he’s grown into his character. I’ve became fond of Jesse Rath’s performance; I definitely like his performance more than the character itself. One of Brainy’s biggest problems for me was a lack of any decent story line. He’s floated around the main stories and had some significant interactions but nothing really good, nothing all him. The one through story line he’s had has been his relationship with Mia but I find her so insipid and boring it doesn’t add much for me - basically, I don’t think they work together.
Here Rath is given the central focus and he’s really good as a Brainy, several Brainys in fact. Several Braniacs have popped up and our team have to figure out how to deal with them. It’s a nice mix, one Brainiac is jittery and stressed out, one is very Zen and calm and one is a little tougher and aggressive. A nice touch is having Meaghan Rath, Jesse Rath’s sister, play an alt universe female Brainiac. Though if I’m honest, she doesn’t look that much like him? But she’s really good in her guest role and the idea is fun.
All these Brainiacs have been brought to Earth Prime thanks to a wormhole in Al’s bar – or something like that – and the episode starts off as a fairly silly comedy with Rath showing off his character acting chops in some goofy multi-Brainy scenes. But the episode takes a pretty dramatic shift and starts to focus on believing in yourself and the internal, emotional struggle we all go through. The Multi-Brainys are quite clearly there to echo different aspects of our Brainy’s psyche. He eventually faces some of his fears at his internal rage, his mother issues (Mum liked a bit of bottling it seems…) and his own struggle to be more contextually human.
The treat this week is a potential bomb which is, ultimately tied to the Brainiacs and the finally was surprisingly moving. The nature of Supergirl and the other Berlanti shows is such that they usually give us a little blast of action in each episode finale but this episode focuses more on a character being talked down, it’s an oddly more personal and focus resolution to the threat. One of the Brainy’s (basically) snapped during Crisis on Infinite Earths and in an attempt to save his world, shrunk it down into a bottle and now intends to release it. Which will of course destroy our earth. Rath’s performance, especially as this Brainiac, is really good and it actually progresses his character forward; something that has been missing for a while.
It does open up some odd questions though, chiefly that Earth Prime seems to think the Multiverse is gone and they’re the only one left? I’m pretty sure isn’t the case?
I think I’m finding increasingly that Supergirl is a show that starts strong each new season and mid-season break, with a couple of tight, emotionally charged and thoughtful episodes, before drifting into saggy, repetitive cartoon adventure. This mid-season opener (technically the Crisis on Infinite Earths episode aired for the break in the US) even has a pretty clever title. I hope it keeps the momentum of this episode going. It may not be the best episode ever but it’s a good standard to be at.