Stargirl: Brainwave

Stargirl

Family meeting- Barbara has questions about Courtney’s after school activities. 

I’m enjoying Stargirl a lot. They are weaving together histories of the Justice Society, the Injustice Society, the new generation of supers, and a few other figures from the Golden Age of DC Comics. While there’s a lot of focus on one character, we see bits and pieces of a few other things of importance. I love that they are throwing in so many things for long term readers like me, but you don’t have to know them to follow the story. The villains get a lot of screen time in this episode, but what else would you expect from an episode called “Brainwave”?

The episode starts off vaguely “Decades Ago,” as Henry King discovers his powers, with help from a stressful situation, as is often the case in origin stories. Still concerned with scientific research and method, King records a video, detailing his experience and what led up to it. A moment later, we see that his son, Henry, Jr., is watching that video. He learns that a lot of what he’s going through parallels his father’s experiences. Down in the basement, Courtney goes over her encounter with Henry, shaken by what she heard from him. She ponders everything she knows about Henry, and comes to a surprising decision that sort of parallels Jr.’s story from the comics. Pat, who she’s notionally been talking to, is distracted. He goes over what he knows about Dr. Ito AKA the Dragon King, and talks about the Seven Soldiers of Victory. The Soldiers are a very obscure Golden Age hero team that included the original Green Arrow and Speedy, Shining Knight, Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy, the original Vigilante, and the Crimson Avenger and Wing. Wing and the Avenger are some of the oldest comic book heroes, appearing in the small gap between Superman and Batman, and this is that team’s first live action appearance, even if it’s just a picture. Pat wishes he could call on them for help, but they’ve apparently lost touch. Well, we know where one of them is.

Speaking of the former team, Justin, the Shining Knight, has an odd interlude as he mops one of the school hallways. Beth and her AI goggles go to Cindy Burman’s house, but “Chuck” tells her no one is home and Cindy is now suddenly studying abroad with her mother. This bodes ill for the poor woman. Cindy herself, we see, is in a cell connected to the tunnels below Blue Valley, and her wheedling and temper tantrums both are not enough to get her father to let her out. There’s some disturbing parenting from Ito, and the mad scientist broods about what he’s just learned about Henry, Jr. The young man himself is continuing to study his father’s tapes and practice with his telekinesis.

At school the next day (do any of these kids actually go to class?), Courtney shares her newest idea with the team. To no surprise at all, there’s some strong resistance, and I can’t really blame at least one of the characters who isn’t having it. Rick and Courtney debate the leap of faith metaphor before the gathering ends with someone storming off. Henry keeps watching tapes, and I’d say that Henry, Sr., is well along on the psychopathic spectrum. Whether he was always that way, got there through a trauma he discusses, or was driven there by his telepathy is a matter for debate. His binge watch gets interrupted when the maid comes in, bearing unwelcome thoughts and news of Henry’s father’s lawyer wanting a meeting. In the tunnels below the city, Dr. Ito addresses at least most of the ISA. His discovery about young Henry will allow his plan to move forward, and, as supervillain plans go, it’s a fairly grandiose and dangerous one. Later, Jordan is in his office, thinking about his plan and success, when Barbara comes to visit. Jordan talks about his late wife and some of their little rituals, and Barbara invites him and his family over for dinner. Isn’t that the set up for roughly half the sitcom episodes in existence?

Henry goes to the hospital to see his dad, and finds, as many have before him, that untrained telepathy is a great burden. He also hears some unpleasant things about his father. All this pushes young Henry more solidly into agreement with his father about people in general, which isn’t good news for anyone. At the Pit Stop, Pat is going over old records when Rick and Beth come in. Rick is far from happy about what Courtney’s been up to, and takes some of that out on Pat. Pat takes this in stride (he really could be a great mentor for all of them) and introduces Rick to the less fun, but very necessary, side of heroing. Beth is predictably thrilled. Pat leaves them to it so he can deal with family business, and, of course, Rick immediately goes off on his own.

Visiting hours at the hospital get even more complicated when Courtney drops in to see Henry. Unfortunately, part of his developing talents starts things off on a bad note. Giving her credit where it’s due, Courtney pushes ahead, and actually comes across as a mature and caring person, which she doesn’t always manage. They talk about the deaths of Joey Zarick and his father, the ISA, and people wanting to be loved. Courtney makes some good points, but Henry isn’t in the mood to listen, and drives her out. She goes, but makes the offer for him to talk to her any time. At home, Pat walks in on Barbara cooking, or trying to. This really doesn’t seem to be one of her skills. Pat offers to help, and is about to come clean with her about the hero thing, but Courtney shows up and distracts them both. Barbara, flustered about her boss coming over, goes to take care of more preparations while Courtney and Pat have a whispered argument about the truth. This is when the Mahkent family arrives, and there’s no time to finish the discussion.

Henry’s night at the hospital gets worse. He goes to take some pills to damp down his powers, but gets yanked into a dark empty room by a very angry ex who wants a chat. He’s clearly surprised on a few levels, which I think is fair, and he gets an ultimatum delivered to him that I completely understand. While he reels from this visit, the family dinner drama goes on as odd blessings are shared, histories exchanged, and compliments given. I really like that Jordan Mahkent isn’t just being played as a two-dimensional villain. The man clearly believes that what he’s doing is right, and, if you can overlook his villain side, he’s actually a fairly nice guy. He’s certainly more polite than Mike, who shows up to get in one line showing him as an obnoxious jerk. While Beth finds something interesting about the history of Blue Valley (and really, how did Pat miss this?), dinner goes on and a minor mishap leads to a secret being revealed. Courtney and Pat debate what to do, and the evening ends quietly and peacefully. Almost.

The two wrap-up scenes are going to change a lot of things. In one, Courtney rushes downstairs to get the staff and go after Jordan. Pat tries to talk her out of it, but then someone walks in on them and Courtney’s secret gets blown in a scene very similar to the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming. At the hospital, Henry has a meeting with a shady lawyer that goes badly, has some intense results, and changes part of the status quo of the series. There’s going to be a lot of fallout from both these scenes.

 

What I liked: I’m a huge hero geek, so I was thrilled to see the Seven Soldiers of Victory acknowledged. This also means that this world has its own Green Arrow and Speedy, or at least did, which could be interesting if the show ever takes part in one of the crossovers. Courtney showed some maturity here, which is a good step forward for her. I completely understand Yolanda’s take on events from this episode, and sympathize with her. I’m really curious if Justin had a flashback, a visitation, or a hallucination. I like how Neil Jackson plays Jordan/Icicle. His may be the best consistent performance of the series. I’m glad Pat keeps trying to tell Barbara what’s going on. I feel bad for what Henry is going through. I can’t find it in me to feel bad for Cindy, though.

 

What I didn’t: Rick, Beth, and Mike are all one note characters: hothead, geeky smart girl, and irksome kid. Mike got one scene to rise above that, but keeps defaulting to it. I’m not sure I buy Pat completely losing touch with his old team, unless they explain that better, or his missing the important history Beth found.

 

I thought this was one of their better episodes. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. I can’t wait to see what happens in the wake of this show’s revelations.

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