Stargirl: Summer School Chapter One

What do you mean there’s no crossover this year?

After a long hiatus that felt even longer because of all of the chaos around the COVID pandemic, Stargirl returns for a second season. The first one was about choosing a path, discovering who you are, and, honestly, some foolish choices made by some teenagers, as well as a vast criminal conspiracy and superheroes and villains clashing. Now, in season two, we see some of the aftermath of the heroes’ big win, as well as new characters and complications. There’s a lot to learn in “Summer School: Chapter One.”

Unspecified decades ago, in Melody Hills, Indiana, we get an introduction to what is supposed to be the big bad of the season, Eclipso. He’s a very nasty, powerful entity, whose origin has been rewritten several times. Here, we see him operating like something out of a horror movie, and his corruption of an innocent ends up having an unexpected tie to one of the characters we’ve seen before on the show. Back in our present, Stargirl patrols Blue Valley, but it’s a small town and there’s very little going on now that the Injustice Society has largely been accounted for. Stargirl seems to be obsessed with heroics, while her teammates are a lot less inclined to prowl around at all hours in costume. We also see Beth dealing with a loss she suffered last season before the heroes all go their separate ways for the night.

Returning home, Courtney spends most of the night in the basement going over old case files from the JSA. Pat finds her, and she is clearly desperate for an excuse to stay in costume. Pat tries to talk some sense into her as she goes through a list of assorted JSA foes from the comics, and Pat explains why she doesn’t need to worry about each in turn. For most folks, it’s probably just a scene showing Courtney’s mindset, but for comic book geeks like me, it’s a nice checklist of various Golden Age villains. As the two finally leave the basement, we get a hint of what’s going to be coming later. Come morning, Pat is making plans for the summer and getting excited about them when Mike walks in. Mike has been out attending to something from last season, and it’s a nice touch of continuity. The two disagree about summer plans, and Mike has some ideas along the same lines as Courtney’s. This turns into a family discussion before they make a decision in an odd way.

At her home, Beth is working on trying to restore the Charles McNider AI to the Dr. Mid-Nite goggles. That doesn’t go well, and she deals with the usual vague neglect from her parents as she sends them off with pre-made meals. The girl is an amazing cook, in addition to her other talents. After her clueless parents leave, Beth finds something that rocks her world in a very not good way. The local radio news talks about a string of odd recent break-ins (I’m surprised Courtney hasn’t jumped on this) while Rick drives through the woods. He sees a few things that aren’t right, and starts to wonder if something he wanted to believe he’d dealt with hasn’t been after all. It’s interesting we don’t see anything of his homelife, but then, we know from last season it’s really not good. Yolanda is also having some issues stemming from the big JSA vs ISA fight and goes to seek counsel, but can’t bring herself to actually ask for help.

As they walk to school for the last day, Courtney and Yolanda are in completely different places. Courtney is complaining about her family’s summer plans and making contingency plans for extremely unlikely emergencies, while Yolanda is brooding on what happened in her big final fight against Brainwave. Courtney, to her credit, offers honesty instead of bland reassurance. That’s a harder path, but in my experience, a better one. Yolanda also offers some advice about what Courtney should do when she sees Cameron, her kind of love interest from last season who now carries a lot of complications for her. Pat gets to work and makes arrangements to accommodate his summer plans, and we can tell from the get-go it’s not going to go the way he hoped.

The last day of school goes along, and it’s not really a great day for anyone. Rick has a run-in with a teacher that goes badly, Beth is out of it from what she learned earlier, Yolanda is still withdrawn, and Courtney’s hyper-heroism leads to a big problem with a fellow student and then the principal. Called in to the office, Courtney, Barbara, and Pat meet with the principal, and it’s not good news. In addition to the incident with the fellow student, Courtney has vastly overestimated her abilities and is in serious trouble. She’s shocked, her parents disappointed, and no one is happy. In the hall, Courtney blurts out the usual kind of careless teenage comment that is really harsh to Pat, who has been nothing but nice to her. Pat delivers a parental edict that shocks Courtney, but is more than fair. In a distant town, we see someone from the end credit scene of last season embarking on an interesting hunt.

Courtney meets up with someone and has a chat while some elders look on disapprovingly, but also disagree about what to do about it. Pat returns to his garage and finds, as predicted, that he has utterly lost control of the situation. I have to say, him setting this up in the first place was a really bad idea. This new JSA really needs a secure base. Rick makes a trip out to the woods and leaves out a few offerings. Beth, for all her brilliance is still very immature on some fronts, tries to fix what she learned about earlier, but it goes badly. Then, to add heartbreak, a partial success leads to a devastating result for her.

At home, Courtney is once again obsessively going over files late into the night. Finally, something happens that gets her attention and might justify some of her concern. The staff glows and flies to her as she hears noises downstairs. Courtney finds an intruder, and the two have a fight that’s loud, bright, and hard on the kitchen. The rest of the family comes downstairs in time for the intruder to declare their identity, and it’s going to really throw a curve to Courtney and some of her ideas about what should be happening. As if that wasn’t bad enough, a villain returns, takes in some familiar surroundings, and embarks on a new mission with some surprising ideas and twists, as well as some troubling help.

What I liked: I’ve missed these characters. They’re not quite the same people they were when we first met them, but they shouldn’t be after all they’ve been through. I’m excited about the character that appeared at the end of the show. Rick’s new hobby seems interesting. I feel very bad for Beth but the various things happening around her make perfect sense from what we’ve seen so far. The bad guys are shaping up to be a really menacing force, and I bet I know at least one of their first targets. The person on their hunt interests me and I’m not sure what’s going to come of that.

What I didn’t: I feel bad for Pat. He tries so hard, does just about everything right aside from questionable security choices, and almost never catches a break. The man is, in part, just too nice. I also feel bad for Beth. Rick is going to get himself in a lot of trouble, but he seems good at that.

It was a good start to a season that has a guest coming up I’m really looking forward to several episodes from now. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

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