Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 1, 2021)
Aired on the CW Network, 2020’s Stargirl brings another series based on a DC Comics character. Here we focus on a teen character who discovers a superhero side.
This three-disc set includes all 13 episodes from the show’s first season. The plot synopses come from IMDB.
Pilot: “Courtney Whitmore's (Brec Bassinger) seemingly perfect life in Los Angeles gets upended with a move to Nebraska.”
A prologue reveals that Courtney’s stepdad Pat Moran (Luke Wilson) used to work as STRIPE, sidekick to Starman (Joel McHale), a superhero who died along with most of his Justice Society of America colleagues. Starman passes on his Cosmic Staff and entrusts STRIPE to find someone qualified to take over its power.
The transfer of these abilities to a high school girl seems to lean toward a teenybopper vibe that might not work for a guy in his 50s like me, but “Pilot” manages to launch matters in a reasonably lively manner. Nothing here screams to me that Stargirl will become a great series, but it gives me hope we’ll get a fun one.
STRIPE: “After Courtney has an unexpected run-in with a member of the Injustice Society of America, Pat reveals the truth to her about their history. Barbara (Amy Smart) is elated when she sees Courtney making an attempt to get along with Pat.”
So far Stargirl plays a lot like a Young Adult take on superheroes, but that doesn’t make it bad. “STRIPE” continues to same mix of teen angst, action and light comedy we got from the “Pilot”, so it becomes another fairly engaging show.
Icicle: “After a dangerous confrontation with a member of the Injustice Society of America, Pat warns Courtney to back down from her attempts to go after them. Barbara strides at work.”
Normally I would expect to enjoy the superhero aspects of a series more than the “real life” stuff, but so far that proves opposite for Stargirl, as the ordinary exploits of Courtney and company seem more interesting than the heroics. This becomes especially true when the episode takes an unnecessarily tragic turn.
That side of things makes this an inconsistent show, as the dramatic parts feel out of place more than emotional. At least the episode ends with a big narrative push that adds potential intrigue.
Wildcat: “Courtney sets out to recruit new members to the Justice Society of America. Pat's suspicion is piqued following a bizarre conversation with one of the town's residents.”
The end of “Icicle” pushed toward the reformation of the JSA, and “Wildcat” works in that direction. While not the most dynamic episode on its own, the plot elements make it reasonably effective.
Hourman and Doctor Mid-Nite: “Pat finds himself one step closer to learning which ISA members may be in Blue Valley. A search for Rick (Cameron Gellman) leads Courtney, Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) and Beth (Anjelika Washington) to Cindy Bauman's (Meg DeLacy) Halloween party.”
Though we’re five episodes into Stargirl, “Hourman” provides a largely expository show, and that’s fine. As we push toward a superhero team, it becomes a fairly efficient piece in terms of narrative movement.
The Justice Society: “Courtney makes a difficult decision after Pat confronts her about the potential consequences of recruiting new members to the JSA. Courtney, Yolanda, Beth and Rick prepare for their first major mission.”
About halfway into Season One, this episode provides some real action for the first time. Add a few narrative points and this becomes a lively show.
Shiv Part One: “As Pat teaches Courtney, Yolanda, Beth and Rick the importance of teamwork, the ISA converge to figure out who is trying to take them down.”
Whenever I look at two-part episodes, I wait for the finale to discuss my thoughts. So scan down!
Shiv Part Two: “After Courtney gets herself into some trouble following an unexpected confrontation, Pat decides they need to come clean to Barbara”
I’m not sure “Shiv” needed two episodes to cover the territory in question, but the pair of shows still add up to a pretty good adventure. Throw in some solid revelations about a few characters an we move matters along well.
Brainwave: “Tensions rise among the JSA members after Courtney suggests who she wants to recruit next to the team. Meanwhile, Barbara invites Jordan (Neil Jackson) and his family over for dinner, and Henry Jr. (Jake Austin Walker) makes a surprising discovery about his father.”
As implied by the title, “Brainwave” mainly looks at that character, with an emphasis on how Henry Sr. (Christopher James Baker) passed on his abilities to his son. This deepens the plot and allows the season’s themes to progress well.
Brainwave Jr.: “After Barbara discovers what Pat and Courtney have been hiding, the JSA go into the tunnels with Henry to find Brainwave before he is corrupted by the ISA.”
Because Henry Jr. offers a wildcard character who could easily go good or evil, the episode seems unusually fraught, as we don’t know what to expect. The show traces this journey well, and tosses in some good action to boot.
Shining Knight: “Courtney's life gets turned upside down when someone from her past arrives in Blue Valley. Meanwhile, Pat uncovers new information about the ISA's plan and Jordan makes a surprising discovery at work.”
With only a little time left in S1, “Knight” advances various notions, especially in regard to Justin (Mark Ashworth), the high school’s mysterious custodian. Throw in the apparent return of Courtney’s biological dad Sam (Geoff Stults) and this becomes a semi-melodramatic but still worthwhile show.
Stars and STRIPE Part One: “With the ISA on their trail, Courtney, Pat and the team regroup to figure out their next steps. Meanwhile, Rick makes a breakthrough, and the team prepares for a showdown with the ISA.”
My “wait until the finale” to discuss two-parters policy hasn’t changed.
Stars and STRIPE Part Two: “As the Injustice Society of America come one step closer to accomplishing their mission, Courtney and the JSA face-off with Icicle and the villains of the ISA.”
Should one expect a big action climax with “Stars”? Of course – a battle between the JSA and the ISA felt inevitable, though in a good way, as S1 should finish with that sort of fight.
And Stars develops this material well, even if the actual conflict shows some obvious influences from Captain America: Civil War. Still, nods toward the MCU aside – and some awful CG for a character - this turns into a satisfying end to S1, one that offers a nice nod toward S2 as well.