Last season, Stargirl and her new JSA fought the Injustice Society, a collection of skilled, experienced supervillains. That, as it turns out, was the easy part. Now they’ve been plagued by the evil of Eclipso, an immensely powerful being capable of a variety of impressive feats. This being is old and powerful and adept at its powers, which puts the novice heroes at a lot of disadvantages. Things continue to get worse for the team and just about all the members in “Summer School Chapter Eight.”
The episodes opens with a long drive through the woods, which is eventually revealed to be Miss Woods, the teacher that accused Rick of cheating back in the season premier. Now, she’s out to make amends and doing a special favor for Rick. Unfortunately, her kindness is matched by Rick’s uncle’s ugliness, and the man is rude to her and dismissive of Rick’s ambitions. Later, Rick seeks solace in the woods, drops off more food for Grundy, and gets a surprise visitor. At Courtney’s house, the young heroine is feeling guilty and sad about what Yolanda has been going through. Pat and Barbara give her some advice, Mike offers an opposing position, and then everyone gets interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Pat seems utterly unperturbed by this, which seems a bit odd to me. Everything that’s happening, and the most experienced hero around doesn’t find an unexpected visitor first thing in the morning worrisome? I’d be worried. As it turns out, it’s not an attacking foe, but it is a surprise delivery that deeply saddens Courtney.
At her home, Beth is still hard at work trying to repair the Dr. Midnight goggles. She isn’t making the progress she’d like to, but does have another eerie visitor. There’s an exchange of information, and a hint that she’s attracted some attention she’d be better off without. Rick has an interesting conversation about his past that sheds some light on who he is, and gets a surprising reaction. In the basement of her home, Courtney puts something away, goes to check on the Cosmic Staff, and has an interesting chat. Continuing the theme of surprise visits, Beth has an unexpected conversation with her parents that starts off well enough, but quickly takes a dark and disturbing turn.
Dark and disturbing is pretty much the running theme for the rest of the episode. Rick is about to head home when he hears something on the radio that bodes ill for one of his friends. At the Pit Stop, Pat is continuing his repairs on STRIPE, putting his combat robot back in fighting shape, when Courtney comes by. She has a lot of concerns about the staff, and has made at least one surprising decision which amuses her step-father. Pat gives her some advice that doesn’t make her feel any better, and they end up commiserating on a few points. Then, they get a call with a surprising plea that leaves them both puzzled. The two of them end up out in the woods with a lot of questions, no answers, and some understandable, if mistaken, assumptions.
Beth has a very difficult episode, and a lot of it starts at this point. She gets to Courtney’s house, looking for help, and instead finds a figure out of a horror movie, with a name comic book fans should recognize, especially in this context. The two of them have a very ugly conversation, Beth loses something precious to her, there’s a chase through the house, and we hear some very ugly things. Rick continues his own search, and has a run-in with some people that does nothing to reassure him, as tensions mount all over.
Beth’s bad day continues, as she ends up someplace impossible and has a meeting with some people we’ve seen before, but who couldn’t possibly be there, saying ugly things to her. She ends up once again chasing her primary tormentor for the episode. Courtney and Pat keep trying to find Rick, which isn’t going well for them. Rick makes a horrifying discovery and then takes off in pursuit of what he believes will be justice. You have to hand it to Eclipso; if nothing else, he’s doing a great job of keeping the team separated.
Pat and Courtney find something shocking, and then start to figure out what’s actually happening. Rick finds his quarry and triggers his hour of power, leading to a huge fight. As fireworks go off (it’s safe to say none of our heroes are enjoying their Fourth of July), Beth has another confrontation, and some realizations give her an upper hand. This is when things really kick into high gear, shifting back and forth between the scattered heroes.
Courtney and Pat catch up to Rick and make a desperate plea for him to stop what he’s doing. Rick is too far gone in rage to listen, and Courtney is forced to take some drastic action. When Rick realizes what’s actually happened, he does something rash that could very much affect the future of the team. Beth has a great scene where she puts some important pieces together, stands up to her tormentor, and reclaims her own. It’s probably Beth’s best scene in the series, and a big triumph for her. Anjelika Washington, who plays Beth, doesn’t have a writing credit for the show, but one of the actors claimed on Twitter she helped with the script.
Things end on a lot of bad notes, despite Beth’s triumph. The team is faced with a tragedy, which a lot of shows might have handled differently. This group does the right thing, despite the many complications it’s going to bring for them and one of their own. One of the witnesses hides from the police, and then says something surprising. Beth gets a better handle on what’s been going on with her throughout the night, makes contact with an ally, and finds out she might be their best weapon against Eclipso. She then has a great discussion with her parents, which is the first time those two have actually acted like parents. Barbara and Mike talk over the latest bad news, have a nice bonding moment, but then we see they might be having their own troubles they don’t even know about.
What I liked: Beth Chapel hasn’t really done much for me most of this series. This episode, she got some great shining moments, and I’m glad they did things that way. It was interesting seeing some of the characters who aren’t really a big part of the show turn up, even if it was in an unusual way. I really liked Barbara and Mike’s scene at the end. Rick had a few good scenes that gave us some insight into his character. It was an interesting choice that none of the main cast appeared in costume this episode.
What I didn’t: The package left on Courtney’s porch, and the way it was left, makes a few things look bad for the future. Rick’s actions at the very end of his own ugly scenes were ridiculous and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’m really starting to wonder how many of the villains they defeated last season are still around after all.
I thought this was one of their better episodes, despite the difficulties they’ve left the team with and the regrettable lack of Shade. I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5. I hope they keep at least this level of quality for the back half of the season.