I’ve been really enjoying Stargirl. It ties heavily to the Justice Society of America and the Golden Age, two of my favorite things from comics. I really like the idea of legacy heroes, and the tradition being carried on. Last episode, Icicle, was amazing, hitting a great mix of comedy, action, tragedy, and introducing a villain who is actually menacing. Sadly, I think they hit a bump in the road with “Wildcat,” the next episode. I disagree with a lot of the choices made, and I really don’t like that they seem to be reducing the JSA to people who had the right props, talismans, whatever you want to call it.
The episode starts with us learning the history of Yolanda Montez, one of the girls from the “rejects’ table” at lunch. In a few short minutes, they spin a very believable version of a modern tragedy, taking a popular, outgoing girl and turning her into the sullen, withdrawn outcast we’ve seen so far. To no great surprise, jock/bully Henry King and mean girl Cindy Burman were part of her fall. It’s even sort of a PSA but not heavy handed about it. I give them big points for the opener.
Moving from three months ago to now, Stargirl looks over the loot from her felonious burglary of the JSA Headquarters/Museum. Toying with a few items, she goes from worried to disappointed as she tries out Johnny Thunder’s pen, mulls over the other items, and consults the school yearbook. Why she has what must be last year’s book when she just got to town, I have no idea. There’s a bit of family chaos around the breakfast table, as Mike is fixated on Pop Tarts, Pat is trying to get them to eat healthier, and Barbara sort of undermines him on the way out to work. Courtney also doesn’t eat, rushing off to school. Mike is a dick at breakfast, so at least he’s consistent, but he does namedrop someone who might become very important later. Pat tries to offer Courtney some sympathy and understanding about losing a friend, but she’s not listening, and raises some concerns about how they’re going to handle the Injustice Society. At school, she goes back to her yearbook, seeing some pictures of Yolanda that really determine who she’d be in the new JSA. There’s also another run-in with Henry, Yolanda, and Cindy. In fairness, Henry is actually ok in this scene, although Cindy makes up for it in nastiness. Courtney tries to help, and gets rebuffed again by Yolanda. With what we’ve learned about the girl’s history, it makes a bit more sense now.
Pat spends some time at the junkyard, presumably scrounging for parts for either his garage or for STRIPE. Getting back to his business, he finds Denise Zarick, reeling from last episode’s double tragedy, now with a dead car to boot. Down in the evil lair, Icicle meets with Dr. Ito, who has apparently become a hybrid of two comic characters: Ito and the Dragon King. The Dragon King has strong ties to the early days of Courtney’s hero career, so this is an interesting choice. They gaze at the portrait of the Society (I guess both teams liked getting their pictures done?) and there’s an interesting reference to one of their past members, Shade. Shade was a run of the mill Golden Age villain until James Robinson recreated the character as a much more interesting man in a comic called… Starman. Ito also makes an odd request of Icicle, who grants it. It says something that even the ruthless Icicle seems uneasy with Ito. Courtney meets up with Yolanda again, and Yolanda is getting sick of it. Courtney tries to get Yolanda to come over for dinner, and doesn’t have the background yet to understand Yolanda’s heartbreaking line about her mother taking her phone. Yolanda goes home and there’s a striking difference from how we saw the family in the opening to the current atmosphere. Yolanda’s not just going through hell at school.
Courtney goes over her yearbook and wonders about the changes in Yolanda and is a bit surprised at seeing she and Henry used to be an item. At school the next day, Courtney keeps being a perky stalker, and at least gets Yolanda intrigued. Yolanda shares some of her heartbreak, and they agree to meet up later. Pat fixes up Denise’s car, and has a somewhat disturbing conversation with her before she takes off, apparently leaving town for good. He does get a minor clue about the late Mr. Zarick, but I don’t know if he catches it. That night, there’s conveniently no one home, so Courtney and Yolanda can bond and get up to hero hijinks. If Blue Valley is such a small town, where does everyone keep going at night? I can’t imagine Pat’s big on the nightlife, or that he lets Mike stay out a lot, especially after notionally grounding him last episode. Yolanda finally tries on the Wildcat costume, and they’re clearly going for a mixing of the comic versions of the original Wildcat and his later replacement. Now he apparently had a magic costume, and the girls test out some of the properties in a really stupid way. I am amused that Courtney is doing training via Wikipedia, which just can’t be a good idea. Later, Mike sees some of the evidence of the earlier training, and the scene just gets dismissed as a cheap laugh.
Stargirl fills in her new Wildcat about the Injustice Society, and they both mock the earlier names. Courtney seems to have no problem gambling on getting her new friend in all sorts of trouble. Actually, Courtney is a lot less likable this episode in my opinion. Wildcat comes up with some good ideas, so they’re off to do some breaking and entering at the hospital, because what’s another felony or two? This turns into another test of some of Wildcat’s powers, and another example of how Beth Chapel, of the reject table, has no life but seems fine with it. Courtney makes some confessions about her lack of experience, leading to a very reasonable, if exasperated, question from Yolanda. Courtney’s idea of a distraction could potentially have killed a lot of people if both Yolanda and the staff hadn’t been smarter than she was. Are they trying to make her into a dumb blonde this episode? Creeping around, Yolanda finally finds what they need, then ends up in Dr. King’s room. She’s about to settle a score when she hears something that reminds her of Henry’s humanity. The two fledgling heroes witness an odd scene with a visitor that should have set off some alarm bells for Courtney. Leaving, the two do a few stupid things, including going up to the roof (why?) and continuing the grand CW tradition of being absolutely horrible with secret identities.
Returning to Courtney’s bedroom (1- where is everyone? And 2- they need a better base of operations), they pore over the visitor log and reach a few conclusions. Then Yolanda makes an important decision and goes home to try and share her new realization with her family. She makes a great speech, but unfortunately has terrible parents, or at least unforgiving ones. Her brother seems to side with her, and the grandmother is just there for atmosphere, as she never gets a line. I will give them credit for not doing the easy, cliché wrap up moment. The odd trend of every bedroom window being open continues, as Yolanda sees something from the indefatigable Courtney, and ends up giving in. The show wraps with Pat going back to the junkyard and finding something that bodes ill for someone we saw earlier.
What I liked: The opening with Yolanda was great storytelling. They did a fantastic job with that. Her family’s reaction near the end wasn’t what you’d hope for from the story, but it made sense. Yolanda’s idea about how to investigate was a good one. The namedropping could be really interesting for later, and I was intrigued to see the Dragon King, with all his ties to the early Stargirl stories. I’m curious to see what they do about the mention of Shade. They managed to make Henry a bit more relatable with just one sentence. I hope Pat is starting to realize how far in over his head he is, and that’s before he learns about Courtney’s thefts.
What I didn’t: Courtney was excessively stupid this episode, and that hasn’t been her so far. From the practice with Wildcat’s powers to the diversion at the hospital to the secret ID screw up, she was just… dumb. I get trying to simplify decades of comic book history for a tv show, but the way they did Wildcat just grated on me. If you want to rely on JSA props, maybe don’t ignore Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, or Hawkman? I do wonder how they’re going to handle Hourman, since in the comics, his powers are essentially drug-fueled. Hell, bring in Fate’s Helm if you’re going that route.
The first few episodes were really good, so this one stood out even more as a disappointment. I’m hoping they get back to their usual standards with the next episode. I’m giving this a 2.5 out of 5. That might be kind.