Stargirl has done a decent job balancing between some light-hearted fun and more tragic notes. It’s hard not to have tragedy when you open the series with an entire team of legendary heroes being slaughtered. But now, a new hero has risen, and Stargirl is continuing her ill-advised attempt to reform the Justice Society of America. She wants to take down the villains who killed, among others, Starman. Courtney has convinced herself Starman was her father, and now is trying to find essentially random kids to fill the boots of the other dead JSA members. Because if veteran heroes lost to a group of ruthless villains, untrained amateurs are a good choice, right? After recruiting her new Wildcat last episode, Courtney ends up with two more potential heroes in “Hourman and Dr. Mid-nite.” Interestingly, the Infinity, Inc,/second generation versions of those two characters both debuted as heroes in the same comic book. So I guess they’re continuing the tradition here.
Nine years ago, we see someone manically writing in a journal, and then checking their watch. After the book, with a big clue, gets boxed up and mailed off along with some familiar-looking files, we see Rex Tyler and his wife Wendi making frantic preparations. The two are clearly getting ready to go on the run, and are leaving their son Rick behind. Wendi’s brother, Matt, is pressed into service as a very unwilling guardian for young Rick. The elder Tylers flee, only to not get far before their journey comes to a sudden and tragic end. In the present day, under an ironic soundtrack, Rick has grown to be a teenager who works on cars, or at least one car, and Matt’s disposition hasn’t gotten any better with time. They have a clash that speaks of Rick suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hand of his uncle. Wendi wouldn’t be pleased. Walking to school, Rick stops at the site of the fateful accident and enacts a ritual, probably not for the first time.
Elsewhere that morning, Courtney gets woken up by Mike’s Halloween antics, and then the family dog nearly blows her secret identity. Realizing she needs to keep things secret a bit better, Courtney makes the questionable decision to lug all the JSA artefacts around with her in a giant gym bag. In her haste to get going, she drops something important. She and Pat banter about her baggage, and Pat fills her in on what he believes he’s learned about the Wizard. They then move on to Courtney’s theory about the Fiddler, and continue to not see eye to eye about much of anything. At school, Courtney tries to hide her stuff in her locker, has a minor disagreement with Yolanda, and they both get stalked by Beth Chapel. We also hear another DC character get namedropped in passing, and Yolanda points out a noticeable flaw in Courtney’s “Bring back the JSA” plan. Distracted, Beth has a run-in with the school’s odd janitor.
Continuing the trend of bad names in town, the next scene is in Blue Valley Theater. Steven Sharpe, AKA The Gambler, has a thing for old movies, and meets some kind of informant there. Among the interesting movie posters in the background are ones that mention Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl of the Doom Patrol), Carver Coleman (a character from the recent Doomsday Clock series), and later a Sgt. Rock movie (Rock was DC’s big World War II heroic soldier character). While Sharpe pays off the man, Pat and Courtney have car trouble. This is an interesting choice by the writers since, as Courtney herself remarks, Pat’s a mechanic. Enter Rick Tyler, who talks cars with Pat for a few minutes before walking off. Courtney is fascinated because Tyler’s presence sparks a reaction in Hourman’s hourglass. Courtney stalks the poor boy all over town before he confronts her and things don’t go at all how Courtney hoped.
At the Dugan-Whitmore home, Barbara gets into the spirit of things with bunny ears, and then gets an unexpected visit from Beth Chapel, who continues babbling non-stop as usual. Beth gets relegated to the living room, and, through a series of coincidences, ends up with Dr. Midnight’s goggles. These goggles act nothing at all like any of Dr. Midnight’s gear in any form, but resemble the technology of JSA-er Mr. Terrific a lot more. Beth learns a lot and makes a new friend, sort of. There’s a lot of info, and a blink-and-you-miss-it nod to Civic City, original comic book home of the JSA. Oddly, there’s also some biographical information about the first Dr. Midnight that seems to not fit what we’ve learned about the characters so far. Courtney comes in, not pleased to find Beth in her room, and they debate things superhero. Pat drives out to the Harris place to try and reconnect with Rick, intrigued by some things the young man said, and finds nasty Uncle Matt instead. Their place is called West Farms, which might be a nod to Wally West, the original Kid-Flash who lived in Blue Valley in the comics.
As Halloween night approaches, we see what Rick’s side hustle is, and I can’t imagine his heroic parents would approve. The kid definitely knows how to handle himself. With another interesting soundtrack choice, the trio of Courtney, Beth, and Yolanda track Rick down. He’s at a big party at the home of Mean Girl Cindy, of course, and Yolanda, seeing her ex Henry, refuses to go inside. I can’t say that I blame her. Beth and Courtney go in, and Beth shows she’s largely lacking in actual life experience. I once again wonder how all three kids are sneaking around at night without getting caught by their parents. Cindy continues to be mean, turning her ire on her sidekick and then on her boyfriend, showing a truly sociopathic level of indifference to Henry’s worry over his father. Henry leaves and has an odd run-in with Yolanda, hinting at things to come. Courtney manages to find Rick and tries again to explain what they have in common. Beth and Yolanda join them, and Rick finally starts listening. Beth makes a key observation about an important piece of equipment, and Rick starts on the path of becoming Hourman. Courtney comments about how important secret identities are, which is rich coming from her. Rick stalks off and Yolanda is worried about what he’s going to do next.
Rick finds his uncle’s truck and works out some aggression, showing his new powers are working just fine. Left by the others, Beth sits alone and paints a sad picture of her life. Her new friend tells her something important about an earlier event. After a quick costume change, Stargirl and Wildcat catch up with Rick at the scene of earlier tragedy. Rick rages about his past, letting out some things he’s likely kept bottled up for years. He lets out some of his anger and destroys something we saw earlier. Things are getting tense between Rick and Stargirl when Beth finally arrives, sharing what she learned earlier. This part of the show doesn’t really make much sense to me, but it convinces Rick. He’ll join with the others, but has his own agenda and is clear about that from the start.
The episode ends with a few scenes of interest. Sharpe and a compatriot act on the earlier information he purchased. The villains do what they need to, and seem to enjoy it. Pat gets a delivery at his garage that rouses his suspicions. Going home, he looks for Courtney, but finds something else that is going to make things awkward the next time he and his step-daughter talk. I’m curious to see how that conversation goes.
What I liked: It was interesting learning more about both Hourman and Dr. Mid-nite. Beth found something that’s at least well-suited for her. Rick is an interesting character, and I understand his reluctance to just join up. I don’t agree with what Courtney is doing, but I give her points for persistence. I really can’t figure out what the villains are up to, but I’m along for the ride. Things are building slowly, but interestingly, with Justin the janitor. We even got a hint at what’s going on in Mean Girl Cindy’s life. Mike’s scene with the jack-o-lanterns was kinda funny.
What I didn’t: I don’t like how easily they are trying to replace the JSA, and I have a lot of concerns about novice heroes meeting seasoned villains. The big emotional scene near the end with Rick made no sense to me. How are Yolanda and Courtney evading their parents so easily? They gave a nod to Ted Knight earlier, so I’m hoping we’re going to hear that Dr. McNider was working with Curtis Holt to explain a few things that happened.
I thought this was a lot better than the Wildcat episode, but still had some issues. I did like all the nods to various other DC characters and history. I’ll give this a solid 3 out of 5. I wonder who they’ll randomly replace next?