Stargirl: Shining Knight

Wait, our janitor is who, now?

The first season of Stargirl (season two is already confirmed) is building to a head as the heroes are sorting themselves out and the bad guys are advancing their evil plans. This episode shakes Courtney up, shows the difference between blood and chosen family, confirms something I was afraid of, and sheds more light on the background of one of the so-far minor characters. Considering the title is “Shining Knight,” you probably already know which one.

The episode opens with Justin wandering down a country road, and staring at some horses. He asks about his trademark steed from the comics, but has apparently worn out his welcome with the farmer he speaks with. Justin does get what might be in contention for one of the best lines of the season: The wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away. Justin is clearly not doing well, and wanders off clutching his head as a bus roars by. The bus, as it turns out, is bringing someone to town in response to a message we saw a few episodes ago. Sam Kurtis, Courtney’s long-absent father, has arrived after the email Barbara sent him when she first learned about Courtney’s masked identity. Once again working in an Easter Egg, as he passes the theater, the poster now is for Haunted Tank, a DC property from World War II.

The Dugan-Whitmore home is in turmoil as Courtney, Barbara, and Pat are all worried. Barbara has a few normal reactions, which I don’t blame her for, and Pat points out the various problems with them. Pat urges Barbara to take Courtney and leave town, but Barbara shows the kind of person she is and raises some moral objections to them running away. Barbara has really impressed me through the season, and continues to do so. Their discussions are interrupted when the doorbell rings, and Mike, up early for his paper route, comes down to tell them someone’s upstairs looking for Courtney. Why a kid who grew up in LA is letting strangers into his house is an issue for another time.

The stranger is, of course, Sam, who surprises everyone by showing up. Courtney, having constructed the elaborate story of Starman being her father, is in complete shock and denial. There’s an awkward meeting between Pat and Sam, and, after a lot of chaos, Courtney further surprises Barbara by saying she wants to talk to Pat. The chaos of this season does seem to have brought the two of them closer together, or at least given them some shared experiences. Once upstairs away from prying ears, Courtney has a mini-freak out about Sam being her father, her belief about Starman, and essentially questioning everything she’s told herself since the series started. Pat does his best to be supportive, but they get interrupted by Mike wandering in with a series of reasonable, if ill-timed, questions. Pat, stressed beyond the breaking point, doesn’t handle Mike showing up as well as he could have. Downstairs, Barbara is a lot more civil than Sam has any right to expect as she asks some pointed questions. Finally, it’s agreed that Sam and Courtney will for a walk and have a talk before she goes off to school.

While Justin staggers to his maintenance closet and has some memory issues, Sam and Courtney have a very awkward talk. She asks some very direct questions and, to his credit, Sam doesn’t try and excuse himself. He does make some effort at reaching out and mending fences, and Courtney gives him a chance over breakfast. Pat, already having a rough day that’s arguably still part of his bad night, goes to the garage, which is apparently the new hangout spot for Rick and Beth. I guess Pat doesn’t lock his business when he’s not there? Rick is obsessing with his father’s journals, and Beth tells Pat that Yolanda is at church, praying for Henry. I was really hoping he survived his apparent death last episode, but from everything we saw in this one, I guess he didn’t. Pat tells them about Sam’s visit and the proof Starman wasn’t Courtney’s father, but gets interrupted when a very confused Justin shows up, carrying his sword and hallucinating the Dragon King and his minions. Just what you want, someone experiencing a different reality than the rest of us with a magic sword that cuts damn near anything. Pat does his best to calm Justin down and talk Rick out of jumping the confused knight.

Jordan the Icicle gets to his office and finds Henry King, Sr, there. It’s a tense meeting, and Henry is clearly not necessarily buying in to Jordan being the one in charge. Unfortunately, Henry has gotten his memories back, and is more than ready to go wipe out Stargirl and her friends. Jordan urges caution, and they bicker over that, edging in to threats. These two are clearly not best friends. Henry then also reveals a twist on a comic book plot point, and some new capabilities that will change Jordan’s plans. In the diner that seems to be the only place in town to eat Courtney and Sam talk. Again, he seems contrite and reasonable. At the garage, Pat tries to explain the 7 Soldiers of Victory to a very confused Rick, as well as getting some information from Justin about what happened to him and how he ended up as an amnesiac high school janitor. Interestingly, they’ve given Justin something even his comic book counterpart didn’t have. Justin also pauses to give Pat some well-deserved praise for the STRIPE suit.

Back home, Pat settles Justin on the couch, Barbara worries, and Pat reassures her about Courtney. Barbara continues to be an amazingly impressive woman, worrying about Justin even in the middle of the chaos blowing up in her life. Sam finally reveals why he’s really there, and he’s just as slimy as I thought he’d be. You can practically see Courtney’s heart break, and she has one of her first real father/daughter moments with Pat afterwards, which Barbara sees, but we don’t get a good read on her reaction. After his very touching scene with Courtney, Pat goes after Sam for a quick chat and puts the man in his place, and also shows some sign of the hero he used to be. Crushed, Courtney goes back to the basement lair, and we see both another impressive scene from Barbara and more bad news from Courtney. The kid is having a bad day.

Jordan drops by Barbara’s office, and calls his ally for some tech support. As the Gambler hacks Barbara’s computer, Jordan sees some disturbing evidence of what’s been on Barbara’s mind lately. I guess we do a slight time jump, as we’ve gone from Sam buying Courtney breakfast to lunchtime at the school. She meets up with her friends, is clearly utterly crushed, and tells them about her recent discoveries and what she’s decided. Even Rick says some encouraging things to Courtney, but she’s not in the mood to listen. The school then has a memorial service for Henry King, Jr, where his father speaks and manages to work in some asides to Courtney via telepathic threat. Shaken by the assembly, Courtney goes home, runs to the basement, and pleads with the staff, still getting no response or reaction. They do some great subtle lighting and prop work here. Pat does his best to reassure the distraught young heroine, and quotes something Justin said earlier.

The closing scenes balance hope and ominousness nicely. Courtney gets both Pat and Barbara to come downstairs with her as she tries to get the staff to work again. There’s a really well-done show of power, and Justin even rallies himself enough to come down and see what’s going on. Down in the tunnels/lair, Henry King and Jordan Mahkent meet up. Jordan has had a change of his icy little heart, and gives some new marching orders to Henry as a countdown ticks along in the background. There’s a big confrontation coming for the two-part season finale.

What I liked: It was great seeing more of Justin, and I can’t blame Rick for being skeptical of the man. It was also perfectly fitting that Beth knew who Justin was. Courtney’s scenes with Sam were ugly, but nicely executed and believable. I really liked Pat with Courtney in this episode, and Pat telling off Sam.

What I didn’t: I’m disappointed they apparently really did kill Hank. Sam’s a jerk and however well they wrote the scene, I really can’t stand the character. I feel bad for Mike, who’s really getting shafted in the information department.

I’ve loved this series so far, with the admitted bias that I’m a fan of the Golden Age heroes, who are most of what we see here. I’m giving this one a 4 out of 5. There’s going to be a hell of a lot going on in these last two episodes.