The newest DC/CW show, Stargirl, has been a lot of fun. While there’s absolutely a darkness in the backstory, most of the present has been fairly light and entertaining. That’s absolutely not the case anymore. The leader of the villains returns to Blue Valley, and things aren’t going to be the same, in all sorts of unpleasant ways. There are some shocking developments as we get to meet “Icicle.”
Fittingly enough for a show with its roots back in the Golden Age of heroes, the episode opens with a flashback: eight years ago, roughly two years after the deaths of the Justice Society. We get to see an event that shapes one of the main antagonists, and get a glimpse that he comes from a very unusual family. It’s a tragic beginning that is possibly supposed to give us some sympathy for the bad guy in question. In the present, it’s a scene of domestic chaos at the Dugan/Whitmore household. Mike really doesn’t care for his father’s music or menu choices, and, after he leaves, Pat and Courtney have another argument about Stargirl and the Injustice Society. She’s determined, I have to give her that. There’s a lot of talk about a big family dinner, so you just know that’s not going to work out as planned. Pat offers some mature perspective on being a hero, and Courtney, predictably and understandably enough, doesn’t want any part of it.
While Brainwave’s son checks in on his hospitalized father, and has a few odd things happen to him on his vigil, Mayoral candidate William Zarick spends some time with his kid, Joey. Joey seems like a good kid, not at all like bully Henry King, Jr, son of Brainwave. Zarick is ducking an important phone call, which is understandable, but not real smart. At Blue Valley High (everything in town seems to be Blue Valley fill-in-the-blank), Courtney sees the aftermath of her battle with Brainwave, and we get another glimpse of the mysterious janitor. Inside, the hallway is the same weird, almost carnival-like atmosphere. Courtney runs into Joey, and does one of the first spontaneously kind things we’ve seen her do. While an excited Joey dashes off to get ready for the big talent show, Courtney sees Yolanda, one of her fellow lunch outcasts, who is dealing with some graffiti issues. Courtney tries to reach out, and Yolanda sulks off.
Back at the hospital, Pat pays a call on Brainwave/Dr. King, and shows he’s not great at undercover work. William Zarick gets home, and finds Icicle waiting for him. In the comics, Icicle has often been a second-string, not really impressive villain. This is not that character. He’s full of presence and menace, and Neil Jackson plays the role very well. Icicle, AKA Jordan Mahkent, has an unfriendly chat with William, and sheds some light on his fellow villain’s background. Pat’s work on the STRIPE suit gets interrupted by the call most parents get at some point or another: his son’s in trouble at school. Pat brings him home, explains his punishment, and basically doesn’t get anywhere with the kid. Pat really does seem like he’s from another time (he actually is, in the comics), and Mike isn’t relating well. Barbara shows she will stick by her guns at work, when she proposes a new idea, which is fairly bold after Mr. Sharpe kept shooting her down before. Now, Sharpe isn’t in charge, Mahkent is, and he seems impressed with Barbara’s passion for the small town. I think I see a subplot building here, and I hope I’m wrong. I also suspect she’s not exactly endearing herself to Sharpe, which isn’t a great plan, but then, she doesn’t know who he really is.
In another chaotic scene in the school hallway, Yolanda is being bullied by Cindy, the resident Mean Girl, and her sidekick. Courtney steps in again, and no one is happy about it. Things get a bit better in math class, where she makes a new friend, Cameron, but gets called out by the teacher for talking in class. Of course, the teacher uses a really dated reference to do it, and confuses some of the students. Barbara rearranges her desk, leading to a klutzy moment when Jordan comes in, and they talk a bit more. Once again family dinner comes up, and now with two mentions, you know it’s doomed. Courtney has a strange encounter of the frigid kind on her walk home. That part is a bit odd; why does Pat make such a big deal about driving her to school if she’s in walking distance? At any rate, she rushes off to find Pat, who is concerned about the new development. There’s more arguing about Courtney’s father, and more lame covering up when Mike wanders in. Seriously, that kid needs better supervision. There’s also an odd bit of here again, gone again, with the Cosmic Staff, which shows up to make a point and then somehow is gone by the time Mike arrives.
Stargirl and STRIPE go to follow up on what Courtney saw before, and, just as Pat warned, walk into an ambush. Needless to say, family dinner doesn’t happen, Barbara is disappointed, and Mike is annoying. Stargirl shows herself to be impulsive and inexperienced, and Pat has some work to do on his STRIPE gear, especially since it’s not like he didn’t know the powers of the opposition ahead of time. There’s some classic heroism and the very beginning of some teamwork between Stargirl and STRIPE, but it gets overshadowed. Their battle spills over to some of the Blue Valley residents, and there’s a tragic death that Icicle quite deliberately caused. It does have a nice visual at least. In the aftermath of the death, one of the cast members leaps into ill-considered action.
Shocked and stunned by what’s happened, Courtney and Pat talk. He takes her on a field trip, and they go to the mothballed headquarters of the JSA. It’s an odd place, part memorial, part museum, with the members of the team depicted in either big blown up pictures, or what appear to be Alex Ross’ classic drawings. I suspect the real life versus drawing will determine who we see on the show versus who we don’t, which is disappointing for me in regards to at least one of my favorite JSA-ers. Oddly, there’s no mention or representations of Sandman, Hawkman, or Hawkgirl, who were either seen or mentioned earlier in the season. Pat talks about the late team being his friends and family, and he and Courtney disagree about the relics, for lack of a better term, of the fallen heroes. I actually sort of agree with her on this one, although I’m not pleased about how they seem to be reducing some of the heroes here. The two also argue about continuing in light of the recent tragedy. Pat makes a decree, in part prompted by Courtney unintentionally echoing some of Starman’s last words. Jordan Mahkent gets a very emotional visit from one of his coconspirators, and shows his very classic villain management style. We also see that his family is very dedicated to their cause.
Barbara has gone off to an important meeting and Pat finally imposes some discipline on Mike at a very quiet dinner. Courtney’s new friend Cameron gets home after an emotional day, and we see what a small town Blue Valley really is. After some melodramatic gazing out the window, Courtney takes matters into her own hands once again, and does something very rash. Her actions make me wonder a lot of things, and indicate some changes to come for the show.
What I liked: I’m very much enjoying the show overall. Brec Bassinger is doing a great job as Courtney/Stargirl, and Neil Jackson is an impressive Jordan/Icicle. It would be easy to let Barbara just become a random supporting character, and I’m glad she’s doing things she believes in. The JSA HQ was impressive, if sad. There were several big surprises this episode I didn’t remotely see coming. I hope Justin the janitor’s story is similar to what he turned out to be in the comics.
What I didn’t: It seems like Pat should have been better prepared for this battle, all things considered. Where the heck is JSA HQ in relation to Blue Valley? Is the Valley some weird nexus point of things heroic (it’s the home of Kid-Flash in the comics). Does the place have no alarms, like the lack of security in all the other CW hero bases? Mike went from amusingly quirky to just plain annoying. I don’t think I like where they’re going with the heroes’ artefacts, and who they picked was a bit odd. What happened to Sandman, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl? A few things in the battle with Icicle didn’t quite make sense.
Despite my issues above, I really enjoyed the show and series. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.