Blue Valley has been having a very rough summer. The ISA was defeated, but most of the residents don’t really know that, or that the new JSA lives among them. Courtney was bored and really should have remembered the old saying about “Be careful what you wish for.” The great evil of Eclipso was released by Cindy Burman AKA Shiv, Stargirl’s nemesis, and the town has been paying for it, especially those nearest and dearest to Courtney. While the titular plotline has been pretty much dropped as part of the story, the evil of Eclipso continues in “Summer School, Chapter Eleven.”
Last episode ended with Eclipso capturing Courtney, but everyone very understandably thinks she’s dead. There’s a somber opening scene as Pat and Jennie return to the Dugan-Whitmore home with the staff but without Courtney, and Barbara, Mike, and Beth all grieve with the newly returned. We get a brief view of Courtney in the colorless Shadowlands, and then even the title card fades to black and white in a nice touch. Returning from that, we see Courtney wandering around a black and white version of Blue Valley. One nice touch was that the theater, usually a nice source of DC Easter eggs, has a sign up that it’s temporarily closed. Getting to the diner, she sees a family she has some history with, and things go from odd to tense to the stuff of nightmares. This triggers some flashbacks that tie to early season one scenes until she flees and somehow ends up in the high school. Here she also meets a few people that aren’t around any more and then has a violent reunion with Cindy/Shiv. Cindy is taken aback when she figures out Courtney is real and the two of them flee through another helpfully appearing portal as the Dragon King shows up and starts stalking towards them.
They end up in Cindy’s room, or an approximation of it at least, and a very confused Courtney wants some answers. Cindy has some questions of her own, and they exchange some information along with assorted barbs. Cindy shows us more of who she is, and, in my opinion, whatever her past is, she’s seriously well into supervillain territory here. Courtney decides she’s had enough and tries to get around on her own, ending up in a scene from the past that makes her feel terrible. Cindy pops up again and the two go back to arguing. Cindy shows the same self-serving, nothing is my fault kind of “logic” that I’ve seen myself in many real world criminals. Shiv shares her bizarre outlook on how to survive in the Shadowlands, complains about her past (and that is pretty horrific) before getting dragged to more nightmares. Courtney, not one to give up, even when she should, chases after her.
Our hero ends up in a familiar black and white blur before getting to the JSA garage we’ve seen Pat and Starman in several times. She meets up with Dr. Midnight, who gives her more reliable information about where they are. I’d certainly trust him over Cindy, both because he’s a hero and she’s a villain, and because he’s been there a lot longer. Midnight gives her a few important warnings and lessons, and he illustrates his point by briefly sharing his goggles with her. Wearing the other goggles, a morose Beth drifts through Courtney’s room, looking at her friend’s medals and trophies. Jennie joins her and blames herself for what happened earlier. This sad scene is interrupted when Beth gets a message and shares what she’s learned with everyone. They all put together a plan to try and bring the wayward hero home, although Mike seems hung up on something he lost a while ago still. Jennie tries to do her part, and gets coached by Pat, which I think is a nice ongoing touch. Finally, they get some answers but a bit of confusion in their results.
Courtney gets more history from Dr. Midnight and is surprised by what he tells her about one of the JSA’s old foes. The doctor also shares some of the tragedy that followed his daughter’s death. He gets an attempt at communication from Beth, but it’s just short of utterly incomprehensible. Launching into their plan, Pat and Barbara find the Shade in the town’s theater. He’s watching the Picture of Dorian Grey, which is an amusing choice. In the comics, Shade was a friend of Oscar Wilde, and his immortality inspired Wilde’s famous story. Shade explains his weakened state, but Barbara shows as much bravery and determination as any costumed hero, demanding he fix something he helped cause. With a sigh, the shadowy immortal begins trying. The two different groups manage to make contact, and Courtney shows some true heroism, taking a big risk for someone who absolutely wouldn’t do the same for her.
Unfortunately, this is when Eclipso raises his evil head and diverts Courtney so he can torture her with visions of Yolanda and Rick, reminding her what he’s done to her friends, her family, and her life in general. Cindy is being tortured by her own past as Eclipso torments Courtney, but finally the hero breaks free, saves her foe, and there’s a more or less happy ending. There is what appears to be a fatality, but I can come up with several ways around that. The episode ends with someone asking a question that says a lot about them.
What I liked: At least one dangling subplot was resolved here in a way that made sense. While I can’t stand people who think like Cindy does, they exist, and this was a very believable characterization. I am really enjoying the ongoing touch of Pat using his experience to coach the younger heroes. I’ve enjoyed Jonathan Cake as Shade and hope to see more of him in the role. Milo Stein was wonderfully creepy as young Bruce Gordon/Eclipso. Courtney is making a lot of progress on her path towards becoming a real hero. Mike bringing up what he lost made perfect sense and I could see that being hard for him.
What I didn’t: It seems like when they were searching for Shade, something odd got brought up and then never followed up on again. I’m very much hoping the apparent death was a fake out. While I get it was a heroic moment, I would have been ok with Cindy not coming back, especially if we could have swapped her death for a few other characters that I think have more potential.
I’m enjoying this season, series, and this episode was more good stuff. It was interesting none of the main cast appeared in costume this week. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.