Thursday, January 23, 2020

Supergirl Episode 510: The Bottle Episode

Welcome to the new year and my hope to stay on top of my reviews of the Supergirl television show, including this week's episode titled The Bottle Episode.

I have to start out with a bit of an apology. The hope was that I was going to review the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover but by the time I got settled to take down my notes and grab screen shots, the event was over. I can only say that I was extremely impressed with it. It followed the COIE storyline for the most part, even having the Spectre fight the AntiMonitor! There were cameos which I loved (including the BoP Huntress, Kevin Conroy as a jaded Batman, Marv Wolfman himself - getting autographs from the heroes he killed!, and the Ezra Miller Flash!) And there was a moment in the finale where it looked like Supergirl was amping up to sacrifice herself to save her cousin (in the vein of Crisis #7) only to be stopped by the Ray Palmer Atom. It even stuck the landing showing us how all the DC entertainment universes exist in a multiverse and by giving us the Super Friends. And, of course, it unified the Berlanti-verse, something I have felt was needed since Supergirl jumped from CBS to the CW.

So there is my most bullet-y of bullet reviews.

But just like in the comics, the post-Crisis universe needs to be explored and defined. And that is what makes the latter part of this season so delicious. The heroes and a handful of villains still remember the old time line. But they are working in a new world with new personas. That is certainly going to make things a bit juicy.

And the main part of this episode is to redefine Brainiac 5, bringing him much closer to the comic reality than before, a move that I applaud. Maybe just maybe we'll get a Kara/Querl romance in the future now. We'll have to see.

But onto the details of this overall excellent episode.

 The show starts out with one of the best post-Crisis reveals that you could want. Lex Luthor is a 'good guy', in charge of the DEO, and appearing in commercials with Supergirl touting how the world is safer with the DEO.

Supergirl even gives her 'Help, Hope, and Compassion For All' tag line (I hope Sterling Gates gets a nickel every time it is uttered.)

Look at Kara standing like an icon next to Lex! Funny and insane. It truly is a whole new world. Kara (who remembers the old timeline) can't help but be nauseated.

And then we get a few more tidbits. Alex has had her memories restored by J'onn. But it wouldn't be safe to restore everyone's memories without there being madness.

Oh, and the DEO is over a Hellmouth now. Don't think that little throwaway line was lost on me. We haven't heard the last of that.

One of Kara's first goals is to go to Lena. Even though in the new universe she hasn't tried the Non Nocere plot and is friends with Kara, Lena deserves to know the truth and Kara is going to tell her up front this time.

 It turns out that Lena already remembers the old universe. Lex would only help the Monitor if Lena came through the Crisis okay.

Even though Lena killed him, Lex wants her as a partner. They are billionaire philanthropists on this planet, the perfect cover. And he can only imagine what they could accomplish together.

The best part of this scene is when Lena tells Lex that he was being played by Leviathan. And, despite his brilliance, Lex has never heard of Leviathan. He looks surprised ... something we haven't seen in this Lex before. Jon Cryer has just embraced this role. And that subtle shock spoke volumes.

Now Lex has an enemy ... and one he isn't prepared for.

While this discovering the new universe is a big part of this story, the main plot is the discovery of several Brainiac 5's who survived the Crisis and are now appearing on Earth. Here our Brainy meets a sort of 'hip dad' version of himself. Both are buying a smoothie to give to Nia.

This episode really gives Jesse Rath the opportunity to shine, playing different personalities of the same character. Seeing these guys say the same things at the same time, trying the same fighting moves at the same time was hysterical.

And how great to hear our Brainy ask if this other Brainy was a Martian, a Durlan, or have a face of clay. All nice DC riffs.

 As for Supergirl, even her attempt to preemptively smooth things over with Lena with honesty is met with derision. Lena remembers everything, including Kara's 'betrayal'. Lena won't 'keel over and forgive'.

But in an interesting wrinkle, Supergirl makes the same pitch to Lena that Lex did. Imagine the good these two could do together.

So who will Lena side with?

 Meanwhile we get all the Brainy's in one spot ... the DEO.

There is our Brainy, the supportive hipster one, a nervous one, and even a woman. And that woman in her universe is the head of the DEO.

But there is also an addled one with an eyepatch, screaming 'don't let him open the bottle' before he blips out. A techno-virus erased him.

Again, I love seeing Rath spread his wings here. We have seen him do it within the one prime Brainy. Here to see him interact with himself is brilliant.

 As for Leviathan, Gamenae, the woman who kept saying her technology was the key for Leviathan's dominance is now inside Obsidian. She is a mentor and friend to Andrea and starts to make her pitch for an actual VR world where people experience all their senses.

Sounds to me like she wants to create a Matrix style fake world to imprison everyone.

That would set up an wild 'what is real and what isn't' sort of ending to the season.

 The Brainiac's determine that a wormhole from the Crisis manifested in Al's Bar (we finally have a name for the alien bar!). Some survivors from other universes are hanging out there. That includes the witches who brought about Reign, now shilling phony fortunes in the bar.

More than any other season, this season really seems to be embracing the history and continuity of the show. Given the whole new timeline, it will be interesting to see how much still happened.

 Now I thought that Jon Cryer sticking around as Lex was a bonus to this season.

We learn that in this new world Lillian Luthor is free and running the Luthor Foundation! She is still just as wicked, and still wickedly played by Brenda Strong. And she also knows about the old Earth. While her memories aren't restored, Lex filled her in.

Lena asks her mother who she should partner with, even offering that chance to Lillian herself. But Lillian gives her some evil stepmotherly advice. Partner with Lex. Emotions won't get in the way because she will never trust him. If Lena pairs up with Kara, eventually they will become friends again leaving Lena vulnerable again.


I hope Lillian and Lex are regulars the rest of the way.

 The mystery of the technovirus and the bottle continues to stymie the Brainiacs. But our Brainy can't seem to get past the first step. It turns out the 3 circles on his head personality inhibitors, code to keep the darker side of his intellect and personality submerged. However, that also means he can't be his optimum self. He is held back.

The female Brainy tells him that if he loves people, he won't succumb to those urges. She is married and her wife loves her. She protects everyone to protect her wife as well. Love shouldn't minimize people. And our Brainy needs to access his true self if he wants true happiness.

I like this female Brainy. I wonder just who her wife is in that universe? Alex? Kara?

 In the DEO armory, the nervous Brainy shows his true colors as a cold and deadly villain trying to open up a bottle with a tiny Earth in it, his Earth shrunk and plucked out of the Crisis.

When confronted by Nia and brawl breaks out. Now we know the villain. Now we know the bottle.

Rath is chilly as this calculating villain ... at least in this scene.

And seeing a world in a bottle totally reminded me of Morrison's 'Orrery of Worlds'.

Of course shrinking and bottling things is a well worn path for Brainiacs. So that was a nice call to the DCU. Of course this time it is done for a heroic reason.

And given the seals on the bottles, he needed a blade in the armory to cut through the bottle and re-expand it, a move that would destroy this Earth.

 We then get some background into our Brainy.

As a child, when he said he liked visiting a snow world, his mother shrank it! His father, appalled by that evil, placed the personality inhibitors on Querl, hoping to quell any darkness within his son.

Interesting to hear how fear drove his father to this. He could have trusted his parenting instead.

And sad to think that Brainy has been suffering because of his mother's sin.

 The only other thing that could open up a Brainiac bottle is magic. That means the Kryptonian witches! I guess we should have called them 'Checkov's coven'. See three witches in the first act, be prepared for magic in the third.

There is a decent barroom brawl as everyone tries to get the bottle from the evil Brainy while holding off the witches.

Kryptonians shooting handbeams and being blocked by the Super's hands?


Or no?

 During the battle, the personality inhibitor broken in an earlier episode by a Leviathan bomb goes on the fritz again. Nia tells Brainy that he doesn't need them. She trusts him and loves him.

When he removes the inhibitors we get a transformation into a green skin, purple-body suit wearing, blond haired Brainy.

Shades of Legion of Superheroes! We have our Brainy! Finally!!!!

 And he convinces his tormented doppelganger to give up the bottle.

It is a nice scene. We see how much anguish this Brainy is feeling for surviving. How he feels responsible for bottling his world. How he wants to help them. Even Supergirl tells him that she can empathize.

And so this Brainy and the witches agree to be shrunk and placed in the bottled Earth until a safe way to expand them is found.

But our new Brainiac seems calm and confident. That is something we haven't seen. And again, kudos to Rath for really showing his range.

 With the bottle secure all that is left is the wrap-up. But what a wrap-up.

The surviving Brainy's - the woman and the hip dad - download themselves into Colu's cloud. But they give their experiences and lives to our Brainy to incorporate. And so we have an old school 3 dots style Brainiac 5.

Before she downloads though, the female Brainy tells our Querl that the history of this world is similar to her own. Brainy needs to realize that Leviathan is the bigger threat. To succeed, our Brainy will need to be secretive and team up with Lex. And he must do so alone and without emotions.

He heeds those words and breaks up with Nia.

 Meanwhile, Lex goes to Lena again to make his pitch this time under the compulsion of a truth seeker.

Yes, he will try to betray her when she is no longer useful. But she will certainly do the same thing to him. There will be no unnecessary homicides ... although there may be some. And simply put, Lex doesn't want to be alone.

The two Luthors shake hands. The unholy alliance has begun.

 But at an award ceremony for Lex, Lillian drops some truths.

Lena was leaning towards joining with Kara. Somehow Lillian helped Lex. And, in fact, Lillian is the true partner with Lex.

Wheels within wheels.

I love the Luthors on this show. Everything sizzles a little more when they are on the show. And Brenda Strong just slays it.

 William Day is also suspicious of this new polished Lex.

Perhaps we will get a William/Kara alliance in digging up the dirt and exposing this Lex for what he is!

But the biggest shock was the ending.

Brainiac goes to Lex and offers to help him with Leviathan. He really has gone to the dark side. And you would think, after all these characters have gone through, that Brainy would know that keeping secrets from your friends is a disaster.

If this alliance wasn't a big enough cliffhanger, Lex hands Brainy a pic of a person of interest from the future, someone who can fill in some information about Leviathan.

The person?

Winn Schott!

Whew! Now that is an episode!

We get a new take on Brainiac 5, one closer to the comics. We get a standard convoluted Luthor family gambit filled with fidelity and backstabs. And we get a single Earth with a new history.

The stars here are Jesse Rath for portraying all the Brainiacs with all their quirks. And, as said, the addition of Luthors is always a big win. And we had three of them! Amazing!


Anonymous said...

Thankx for the review. For some reason, I had a hard time
understanding what happened here. This really helps.

As for COIE and your "bullet-y' review:

I asked this question last year, but didn't get an answer
(or maybe I missed it?)

In Aftermath#2, B 4 the 1st commercial, Kevin said 'Kara'
("care-a"), while Marc said 'Kara' ("car-a"). So which one is right?

Why is there this inconsistency during the past 30+ years?
Obviously, I never knew from just the comics (no sound).

I don't know anyone who pronounces their own name multiple ways.

I see that there are many opinions, but I assume the creator of
Supergirl s/b the "official" one.

I would really appreciate knowing how I should call
"my favorite Kryptonian"...

As for the story:

. I had a very hard time believing the evacuation.
Even at 1000 per ship, it would take 3 million ships. Yea, we have
at least that many vehicles in the US (no doubt many more), but at
maybe 5 per car, that would take many hundreds of millions. And
even at super-speed, which wasn't done, it would take a very long
time for them all to go thru 1, or even more, portals.

Much more believable is the Star Trek Animated episode, 'One of
our planets is missing', where a similar evacuation of a planet
took place. It had 82 million people, but they only saved 5000
(some children). Their ships (ie: a la the Enterprise) only held
about 500 people, and it is many football-fields in size. And that
one took place hundreds of years into our future w/much better tech.

Finally, in the end, this evacuation was useless anyway, since
nearly everyone was destroyed after the 3rd episode. So, maybe
next time, a little more believability from the writers would be

. So the end DID have the Super-friends! The music was from it.
The building WAS the 'hall of justice'. And 'Gleek' was the Wonder
Twins' "pet". Hah!

. Thank goodness they didn't kill off Kara this time, tho, like you
said, I certainly got afraid when she started going toward him!
And earlier, when she held the other Kal's cape (reversed).

Kinofreak said...

So no 'real' crisis review?

Anonymous said...

Lillian has nowhere to go, Lex & Lena will suck all the air out of that room sooner or later, she must align with Kara or B5 or perish.
If Jon Cryer is signed on for the rest of this season then I am all-in, he and Ms McGrath are the worthy opponents the Supergirl TV Franchise has sometimes struggled to generate nigh these five years. I still love Gene Hackman and I even have a soft spot for Lyle Talbot, but Cryer's Lex is being to look, sound and act...definitive.


Scrimmage said...

What the COIE did for Supergirl (and the ArrowVerse) was the same thing that the infamous “Bobby steps out of the shower..” episode once did for Dallas; it gave the writers and showrunners the opportunity for a rare “do-over,” to ability to erase some regrettable moments and events from previous seasons, and to reset some of the characters' back stories, and their relationships to one another.

While Bobby Ewing's “return from the dead” was actually a plot device to show that the entire previous season was just a dream in the mind of Bobby's wife, Pamela, and that none of it had ever really happened. The difference is, in the COIE, all the previous seasons DID happen, but only a few characters remember things the same way as the viewing audience. That leaves practically EVERYTHING up for grabs!

As Anj pointed out, it also served to unite the multiple universes of all the DC/CW heroes into one, “new and improved” reality. We'll have to find out what is still “history,” and what has changed along with everybody else, but it seems to me that the longer they remain in this new, singular UNI-verse, everyone's memories of the old multiverse would almost have to begin to fade, as a natural reaction, in order to stave off the madness the J'onn warned Alex about. The entire timelines of the old multiverse have been wiped out, so basically, they never existed, and therefore, there's nothing for anyone to remember. It would be interesting if only Supergirl, J'onn, and perhaps Lex retained their memories of the Crisis, while everyone else eventually accepted this “new” reality as business as usual.

I guess I should've expected that, in order to adjust for Melissa Benoist's demanding shooting schedule during the COIE, the first episode afterward would have Supergirl in more of a supporting role, while featuring multiple versions of Brainiac-5 in all his (and her) glory! It's clear that Jesse Rath has given a lot of thought to his characters' backstory, to explain how someone with a supposedly 12th Level Intellect could be so socially awkward and clueless. The differences between each version of Brainy, some subtle, some not so much, were brilliant variations on a theme. Now we know that “Brainy Prime's” personality, and his full intellectual (and emotional?) potential had been artificially inhibited by his father, ever since a traumatic, planet shrinking incident, which proved that NEITHER of Querl Dox's parents ever truly understood him. Sheesh! Why couldn't his mom have just given the poor kid a snow globe, for cryin' out loud??!! In the end, the new, green skinned, blonde haired, “Ultimate Brainy,” is a VERY interesting upgrade for the character, who apparently will now focus more on the task at hand – saving the world, for instance – than on his love life.

I'm just hoping that, in this new, consolidated universe, there are far fewer aliens living on Earth, in National City, or elsewhere, than there were before. Having so many “refugees” (from WHAT??), AKA “strange visitors from other planets,” takes away from the mystique, and the uniqueness of Kal-El and Kara being “the Last Son & Daughter of Krypton!”

KET said...

Just a small note in regard to one of the Brainys: the one with the eye patch who didn't last long was a riff on Escape From New York's Snake Plissken character. Naturally, we thought he was dead.


Anonymous said...

While the show still struggles with making Supergirl relevant in her own show, and the "Lena with a grudge"-arc has overstayed its welcome - this was a really great episode. I have been waiting for OG Brainy.1

Rob S. said...

Thanks for spelling out "Non Nocere." Every time I hear it, I think Lena is talking about Neneh Cherry.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Yes, this new world means that some of Supergirl's continuity can simply be whisked away. Interesting. I do like they are still leaning into their own internal history.

Yes, Jon Cryer has definitely brought a 'one step ahead' narcissism to the role of Lex which works perfectly!

As for Neneh Cherry, Alex is always in a Buffalo Stance!

shawnh71 said...

Me too

Jason O said...

Lol I still do. I actually had to Google it to see that wasn't the case.

Martin Gray said...

I’m still behind. But I heard ‘Nenah Cherry too.

Apart from the ending, with Brainy breaking up with the ever-excellent Nia because Secrets Are Good, I liked this episode lots, from the meta title on, even if circumstances meant not much J’onn and not much Kara. Having Jesse Rath’s sister as a Brainiac 5 was a great idea. And is it me, or was the toy monkey a reference to Koko? The comics-accurate Brainy look is superb.

Was Kara actually emitting blasts from her hands? I read it that she was blocking witches’ energy, but I was ironing at the time so may have missed something.

There are too many characters in this show. We don’t need another evil tech lady, or dull Kelly Olsen.