In the aftermath of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, nothing is quite the same as it was. But by all accounts, it seems like Supergirl has more to adjust to than anyone else so far. Not only has her world merged with that of Earth-1 and Black Lightning’s un-numbered Earth, but one of her world’s greatest villains has re-written his own history in the process, and only a scant few people remember his long record of trying to take over the world and kill Superman. That’s a pretty big change, and other pieces have been pushed around in the process, making Supergirl’s return a bit weirder than Batwoman’s.
Kara is trying to come to terms with her own new normal, a world where her worst enemy is the world’s greatest hero. A world where Lex Luthor isn’t just a good guy, he’s the best guy. Kara doesn’t get much time to dwell on that, though, because suddenly, Brainy seems to have a bunch of clones. A suave one, a nervous one, an eyepatch one, a female one. Okay, the post-Crisis world can get pretty weird. Awesome.
Brainy didn’t suddenly reproduce, though. Instead, it seems that a wormhole dragged a bunch of Brainiac 5s from their worlds to Earth-Prime during the Crisis. Them and all the other denizens of Al’s Bar, the place where the aliens of Supergirl’s world went to hang out. That includes doppelgangers of the Kryptonian witches who sought to raise Reign and terraform Earth into a new Krypton, and a second Al.
That’s weird enough, but things quickly go sideways when one of the new Brainiacs dies, killed by the Anti-Life Equation. The ALE has taken different forms throughout the history of the DC universe, but here it seems to take the form of a virus that seeks out techno-organic life like that of Brainiac.
One Brainy too many
Then again, maybe not. Nia accidentally discovers that the shifty-looking brainy has ulterior motives. Before the Crisis set in, he managed to bottle up his world, as Brainiacs are wont to do, and he seeks to unleash his world. It’ll destroy both worlds in the process, but this particular Brainiac is past caring.
Let’s take a moment, though, to discuss the episode title, “Bottle Episode,” which it turns out is anything but. In TV, a bottle episode is an episode of a show designed to save money and time. Usually, these episodes take place entirely or almost entirely in a single room. “No one is leaving this room until I get my pen back/we find the killer/etc.”
Supergirl‘s episode is, instead, about a bottle, but we see multiple areas of the DEO, J’onn’s office, Lena’s office, Lilian Luthor’s office, a press event; you get the idea. Often times, shows will make bottle episodes to balance out more expensive episodes, similar to the way that so many anime will drop in an episode that sums up the previous story arc. This episode has different settings, visual effects, and doesn’t leave out any of its main actors. I can’t help but wonder if someone proposed a bottle episode and got this instead.
A Very Brainy History
This is, of course, a reason to explore Brainy himself. The previous season hinted at this when Brainy broke one of the circular lights on his head and went into logical overdrive, and this episode gives us a chance to explore that fully.
Brainy has struggled so far between his emotional and logical sides. We saw his emotional aspect earlier this season when he attempted to woo Nia Nall and ended up writing an entire book and buying her hundreds of breakfast burritos because she mentioned she liked them.
We learn that the three lights on Brainy’s head are personality inhibitors. As a young child, Brainy’s parents took him on vacation. He saw snow for the first time and, upon seeing how much he loved it, his mother bottled up the planet. His father returned the planet, and the young Brainy was furious. Seeing the mother’s darkness manifest in the son, the father applied the personality inhibitors to help Brainy stave off the darkness.
This, however, has kept Brainy one step behind the other Brainiacs; that allows the desperate Brainiac to hide in their midst and come within inches of finding the key to open the bottle. The other Brainiacs find out and admonish Brainy for intentionally holding himself back. Brainy, for his part, fears the potential danger that could come with that.
Could an ultra-logical Brainy see value in unleashing the bottled world? Could he see value in bottling Earth? But Nia and Kara tell him they’ll love him no matter what, which is a nice idea, but… really? Will you really love him if he tries to destroy the planet? Ultimately, Brainy removes the inhibitors to defeat the other Brainiac and the witches, and stays in control.
But why that song?
There’s a fight scene here where Brainy, Nia, and Supergirl fight the Witches and the other Brainiac, which is for some reason set to N’Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me.” The unleashed Brainiac 5 goes full Neo on the witches and saves the day. The witches go from “we’re going to help this guy destroy the world” to “we surrender, let’s go hide in the bottle” very, very quickly. This new Brainy has long blonde hair and seafoam green skin like his comic-book counterpart.
Once the battle is resolved, the remaining Brainiacs decide to join the Brainiac collective via Brainiac 5. The female Brainiac takes a minute to talk to Brainy first, though. While Jesse Rath plays all the other Brainiacs in different outfits, actress Meaghan Rath plays the female Brainiac. This is a great bit of casting, as the two are real-life brother and sister. She tells him that, on her world, she refused to work with Lex Luthor to defeat Leviathan, and that if Brainy wants to save the world, he has to ignore his temptation to do the same. He has to set his emotion aside and work with Luthor.
Elsewhere in National City…
While all this is going on, Lex is pushing at Lena to work alongside him, and has restored her memories to help her along. My hopes of Kara and Lena restoring their friendship have been dashed. Ultimately, Lex makes the bold move of using the alien squid (is that redundant?) that forces people to tell the truth to convince Lena. He tells her that he’ll betray her as soon as she inconveniences him, that he’s lonely, and that he’ll avoid any unnecessary casualties while helping Lena with her Non-Nocere device.
This episode ultimately does very little with the show’s overarching plot, other than to let us know that the Leviathan of Earth-Prime is better hidden than the one of Earth-38. It also reframes the square-jawed reporter William, who suspects the Luthors as much as Kara (which will give them lots of opportunities to make out later, I’m sure).
What it does do is highlight Jesse Rath as Brainiac 5, showing that neither the actor nor the character are nearly as one-note as they can seem at a glance. The other thing it does is put Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor at the center of the story once again. It seems like Luthor will continue to be part of the Arrowverse for a good while yet. For my money, he’s the best live-action Lex Luthor, and I’m glad we’re getting more of him.