Stargirl: Brainwave, Jr.

BWJR

You want us to work with WHO? 

The first season of Stargirl is almost over, although a second one has been confirmed. Events are really picking up steam as so many plotlines crash into each other in this episode. There are questions about allegiance, honesty, the future, and the past, as characters deal with some very wrenching discoveries on many fronts. Following up on last episode’s “Brainwave,” now we focus on “Brainwave, Jr.”

In the comics, Henry King, Jr. rebels against his father’s legacy of villainy, and becomes a founding member of Infinity, Inc as Brainwave, Jr. Infinity was a group made up of legacy heroes, billed as “the sons, daughters, and proteges of the JSA.” The Rick Tyler Hourman, Beth Chapel Dr. Mid-Nite, and Yolanda Montez Wildcat were all members over the years. Stargirl and STRIPE never were, both debuting in the comics after the team had folded. Hopefully, Beth and Yolanda will avoid the ugly deaths that their characters suffered in the comics in later years.

The episode opens two years ago in Blue Valley. After a pan through town with more DC nods at the theater (Strange Adventures, Prez, Unknown Soldier, GI Robot), we get to see the meeting of Pat and Barbara, which is a sickeningly cute story that really fits the two of them. That jumps us to where to last episode ended, with a shocked Barbara discovering Courtney in the basement with Pat, the Cosmic Staff glowing away. It’s a tense and ugly scene with a lot of confusion, accusation, anger, and really isn’t helped by Courtney’s ongoing delusion about Starman being her father. Also not helping is that this comes up several times and Pat never corrects it. In fact, Barbara understandably arrives at several mistaken conclusions that Pat doesn’t correct. Whether that’s out of guilt or trying to just let her get it out of her system isn’t clear. The scene ends with an understandable decision from Barbara that doesn’t bode well for the future of the family.

In other family developments, Henry is visiting his father in the hospital. I’m not wholly clear on whether this is immediately after his father waking up last time or not, but either way, there’s a bit of a plot hole here, as there should be a dead lawyer to deal with who is somehow never referred to again. Inconvenient corpses to one side, we learn about a shocking development with the older King as he starts to recover, and hear more about the death of Henry’s mom. Just as in the comics, Henry’s mom proves to be Merry, The Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks, also known as Gimmick Girl, a minor non-powered hero from the Golden Age. She and Brainwave have a very interesting meet up story, which seems to be a recurring theme this episode. The two talk about how the powers can change their lives, and there’s some father/son bonding in an odd kind of way.

In a less happy situation, Courtney is pacing in her room, very upset by the developments of the evening. Which are largely her fault, in my opinion. She looks at something tied to an old and painful memory. Elsewhere, Pat gets ready to make some changes for the night, and has an almost tender scene with Mike, or as close as you’re going to get with a kind of self-centered teenage boy. In fairness, Mike makes a nice offer. Back at the hospital, Dr. King has some bad dreams, which Henry picks up on some of. Just after Henry leaves the room, the elder King gets a visitor which doesn’t bode well for a lot of things.

Back at the King home, Henry goes through more of his father’s video journal entries. He learns more about his mother, including her death, and leaps to a conclusion. We also learn of some more close relations between some of the characters. Courtney gets a late night visit from the staff, pets it, and tells it they can’t go out tonight. Apparently not satisfied with this answer, the staff takes matters into its own lack-of-hands. The staff shows it’s every bit as foolhardy as Courtney is, goes and does something foolish, and ends up in enemy hands.

Come morning, Courtney realizes the staff is gone, and goes to talk to Barbara about it. Barbara has come to several decisions, none of which Courtney likes, and could be really bad for the future of the young hero on some ways. Courtney throws a lot at Barbara, who is in no mood to deal with it. At the Pit Stop, Courtney comes by to ask Pat about the staff, and kind of gets her face shoved in the mess she made. There’s a lot of emotion between her and Pat, and then her and Mike. Shaken by all this, Courtney gets more of a surprise when Henry reaches out to her in a unique way and they surprise each other. Courtney makes a rash decision, but is at least smart enough to realize they need help.

Going in to the office and doing some packing, Barbara reflects on a few things. She then sends a surprising email and decides to do some research. Interestingly, one of the things you can see in her inbox is from Royal Flush C, which is likely a nod to the DC minor villains known as the Royal Flush Gang. At school, Courtney does something rash and there’s a lot of dissent in her fledgling little JSA. She suggests an alliance that no one likes, and Yolanda shows she’s got a lot of insight into Courtney’s character, as well as a temper. Beth raises a good point that Courtney brushes aside, and there seems to be a rocky future ahead for the crew.

Barbara hasn’t gotten a lot of screen time, but most of it has impressed me. Her research is a great idea, and I like that she thought to do it. Pat is less thrilled to find her in her office, and urges her to do what she said she would earlier, for both her and Courtney’s sake. The scene gets even more complicated as their tense spat gets interrupted by Jordan, his parents, and a call from Courtney. So, points to her for actually trying to get some advice before her latest foolish plan.

Speaking of said plan, the JSA (in costume) and Henry (very much not) go down into the tunnels to see what’s going on and try and retrieve the staff. What could possibly go wrong? There’s some bickering about how to split up and search. Courtney tries to split them up in a way to minimize friction, good call there, but Yolanda changes the division of forces. They agree to do recon only and meet back in this spot as the tunnels branch off. The gathering in Barbara’s office breaks up, and Barbara once again impresses me with how clever she is. She’s really been overlooked a lot, and I’m hoping that changes.

Wildcat and Henry have a very awkward scene which shows some growth on his part. Wildcat isn’t really in the mood to listen, which is more than fair, and there’s a lot of pain in that exchange. Elsewhere, Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite make their own find, and Hourman goes off on his hot-headed own course, ignoring both common sense and advice from Mid-Nite. Henry, Stargirl, and Wildcat find the Dragon King’s workshop, and the caged Cindy gets in some really disturbing lines from the background. That girl has serious issues. This turns into a huge fight between the three heroes and the King’s minions, and the trio makes a good team. Henry has made a lot of progress with his powers. Then again, there’s something to be said for on the job training and desperation. Hourman continues his bad idea while Mid-Nite tries to talk him out of it. Henry does his best to save his dad while Wildcat manages a trick that both looks cool and utterly changes the course of the fight. Cindy keeps playing peanut gallery behind her locked door, whining sociopathically.

Henry finds out some really shocking things, and I’ll give him a lot of credit for still struggling on afterwards. Hourman finally agrees it’s time to go, vengeance left unsated for now, and the whole group meets up again and wisely decides to run. Back up top, Barbara again shows how resourceful she is, impressing both Pat and me. Jordan drops by her office, and is a bit surprised to find she’s not there. As he leaves, Barbara gets a return email that’s likely going to be important soon.

Either the tunnels have changed or our heroes have taken a wrong turn, as they end up trapped behind a metal gate. Slowly, menacingly, Brainwave closes in on them, making an offer to one of the group. There’s a lot of struggle and some debate as events progress, and some heroism that surprises at least some of the team. Then, there’s a showdown, a refusal, and what appears to be a character death that shakes up the heroes and I really hope wasn’t what it looked like. The episode ends on that somber note.

 

What I liked:  There was a lot of good stuff in this episode. Barbara was great, her reactions understandable, and she’s got a really impressive mind. There were hints of teamwork from the young heroes, which speaks of some hope for their future as a team. Henry had some impressive scenes, as did Yolanda and even Mike. The fight was really well done. Cindy as psychotic cheerleader in the background was entertaining. I love that they brought in Gimmick Girl. The revelations about her death were surprising and well done.

 

What I didn’t: Courtney just keeps blasting ahead on her own path and really needs to start listening to people around her. Pat had several opportunities to clear a few things up with Barbara and just didn’t, making things worse. I’m curious about the lawyer’s body. I really hope that apparent death wasn’t what it looked like.

 

I really liked this episode, and there were very few weak points. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5. They packed a lot in here, and I’m curious to see what they do with the final three episodes.

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