Stargirl: Summer School, Chapter Six

Really, children, you’re out of your depth here.

They’ve been doing a good job showing Cindy Burman, AKA Shiv, putting together a team to challenge Stargirl’s fledgling Justice Society of America. Now, at least most of the pieces are in place and Cindy is making her move. But there are a lot of surprises coming for everyone, and one of my own laments about modern superhero tv and movies is proven right once again. There is some great camera work and editing, a big fight, and a nasty reveal for just about everyone in “Summer School, Chapter Six.”

The episodes starts off with Yolanda’s job at the diner (which I’m surprised her parents let her have, the way they treat her). After she deals with a troublesome customer, her day gets much worse. Isaac Bowen shows up, acting even odder than usual, and he makes some threatening statements before storming out. Beth goes to meet her father, determined to save her parents’ marriage. Dad at least listens more than normal, and admirably sticks to a deal he made with Beth’s mother, but doesn’t tell Beth anything at all she wants to hear, and more or less blows her off. I will say again, the Chapels are terrible parents. Crushed, Beth goes outside and tries to call Rick, but gets interrupted by Artemis, sporting a new look, some weapons based on her father’s gear, and a lot of threats. A potential moment of bonding passes as Artemis is too mad to listen to Beth, and takes off after threats and minor assault.

At the high school, Courtney and Pat go through the wrecked art studio in the wake of poor art teacher Paul Deisinger being possessed by Eclipso. Credit where it’s due; I hadn’t realized until recently that Deisinger was loosely based on a minor foe of Stargirl’s from the comics, so that was a nice deep cut and a good twist of someone’s story to fit the current narrative. Pat and Courtney talk about what Eclipso did, what else he could do, and Courtney shows Pat one of the pieces that may have a bearing on their current situation. Cameron wanders in, worried about his teacher, friend, and mentor, and gets only half answers to his concerns since Pat and Courtney are still trying to preserve their secrets (too little, too late). After seeing a different piece of art, and learning something surprising from Cameron, the two hurriedly leave, startling each other by being in synch about their next steps, and rush off to different destinations. At Zeek’s junkyard, we get another nod to an earlier episode (I love the continuity here), and Mike scrounges around for a project for him and his father to work on, Zeek offers some odd advice, but then, he’s an odd guy. Mike’s tour of the junkyard was no doubt fun for the prop department, as we see a few things relating to events from season one, and then Mike gets a nasty surprise when Cindy shows up. She has a lot of unkind things to say about Mike and his father both, and gives a really cumbersome name to her team. Things are not looking great for Mike.

Cindy’s plan has gone into high gear, and I have to admit, it’s a good one. Pat gets to the Pit Stop and starts STRIPE, but before he can even get inside, he gets attacked. Pat is out of his league, but even taking that into account makes a really bad showing of things. He does get in a few good lines, but by the time things are done, the JSA is not getting any help from either STRIPE or Stipesy. It’s one of the more brutal scenes of the series so far. In the aftermath, Barbara and Courtney spend some time at the hospital, while Rick and Yolanda pick through the wreckage at the Pit Stop. Beth joins them and they start to realize how far this conspiracy goes.

After Barbara offers Courtney some reassurance, Court gets a call from Cindy. The former mean girl has gone full supervillain, making threats and demands, and utterly not listening to anything Courtney has to say. Eclipso whispers evil nothings in Cindy’s ear while Courtney has some very understandable doubts about what lies before her. Barbara encourages her and says something very un-mom like that I absolutely loved. Not sure what else to do, Barbara makes a desperate phone call. That doesn’t go like she thought it would, but she manages to convey the seriousness of the situation, and possibly get some help for Courtney and her friends. All of this leads to a really phenomenally well-done scene, possibly one of my favorites in the series so far.

The JSA arrives at the school cafeteria as agreed on, and it’s a big brawl between the young heroes and the newly gathered villains. The action is great, and shows my concerns about at least one of these new heroes being in the field at all. It also shows the value of training over raw power. But they did a truly great job with the camera work, especially the editing between different parts of the battle. This was some really impressive production, and certainly one of the best things I’ve seen on tv in quite a while. The battle starts to swing the heroes’ way after a bit, and then things get ugly. The real big bad emerges, and nothing goes as anyone expected. Even the unexpected arrival of a more or less independent player doesn’t sway things. The power of the Shade, and they make him seem damned impressive, is no match for Eclipso, and some of the effects of this fight spread over the entire town. By the time it’s done, there’s a rescue, a death, a disappearance, and the realization that the kids are in so far over their heads they can’t see the top of the pit. Additionally, something serious happens to one of the main weapons on the show. It’s a bad week for the props department.

Courtney’s family gathers at the hospital to compare notes. No one has any great ideas or new plans of what to do. They really could use both the Thunderbolt and Jennie/Jade, but they have no idea how to contact either one. I suspect those two will be back near the end of the season. Mike makes an admission that has to be tough for a kid his age, and follows it with a reasonable demand. The rest of the team is at the Pit Stop, where Beth gives Rick some bad news that he ignores. Yolanda offers some insight about some of what happened, and then says something surprising given what she’s been wrestling with all season. The episode ends with a horror trope as an enemy takes a new form and things are looking bad for Blue Valley.

What I liked: The big fight was amazing on almost every level. Cindy’s plan was a decent one, and it wasn’t wholly her fault things spun out of control. A smart villain is hard to fight, but makes for a good story. The nods to scenes past at the junkyard were nice to see. I really enjoyed Barbara’s pre-fight talk with Courtney, and Courtney herself has had some real growth since the series started. Artemis showed herself to be the smartest person involved in the fight. The Shade is a fantastic character, and Jonathan Cake continues to give a great performance.

What I didn’t: One of the JSA has no business at all being out in the field, and that came across glaringly clearly in this episode. Someone needs to talk to this would-be hero before they get themselves killed. The team as a whole needs more training. Hourman’s powers weren’t quite what they were supposed to be. I’d really like a clearer picture of this world’s hero population. Were the JSA (and the 7 Soldiers before them) the only superheroes in the world? If so, why? If not, they really need to call for help.

This was a great episode. I really loved that big fight particularly. I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5.