This Stargirl review contains spoilers.
Stargirl Episode 2
Following a sparkly, energetic pilot episode that introduced DC TV’s first teen superhero story, you might be forgiven for wondering if Stargirl could keep it up its initial level of quality and fun in its second hour.
After all, second episodes are notoriously tricky things – the excitement of introducing a shiny new world and its characters to an audience has passed, and you have to buckle down and start explaining things. What are the rules of your universe? Who are all these people? What will their stories be? And what are they fighting for, in the end?
Thankfully, Stargirl is the sort of series that already knows precisely the kind of show it wants to be, and tells its story accordingly. Everything that made its pilot installment so great is present in “S.T.R.I.P.E.”, as Courtney and Pat’s relationship solidifies further, she gets her official superhero costume, and the two face off with their first Big Bad: Injustice Society of America member Brainwave, whose car Courtney happened to destroy last week. (Whoops!)
Through it all, the story stays firmly grounded in the specifics of Courtney’s experience: Her delight at claiming this new identity, her fear at the threat Brainwave poses to her family, and her determination to stop him and do what’s right, no matter what.
The second episode of Stargirl does drag in a few places, most notably any time Brainwave is around to glower ominously. (One has to hope that his snotty son eventually becomes Brainwave, Jr. at some point, if only because the optics of this grown man’s obsession with a teen girl are just…not great.)
There’s a big information dump about the Injustice Society of America for those who don’t know names like Brainwave and Icicle, which will likely prove helpful down the road, but it doesn’t exactly all make for scintillating television at this particular moment.
But this is also an episode in which Luke Wilson and the giant robot he made out of spare car parts go through a training montage in a field set to a Johnny Cash song. So, you know, not everything is terrible.
Actually, there’s plenty to like about “S.T.R.I.P.E.” From its continued slow introduction of the other teens who will clearly play an important future role in the series, to Pat and Courtney’s deepening connection, and the first time Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E face a foe together, there’s an awful lot to get excited over.
For all that there are already a half dozen other heroes in the Arrowverse, Courtney is one of the first we’ve gotten to see really revel in the act of getting powers. Part of the reason that Stargirl is so much fun is that it really embraces the fantastic nature of, well, all this. For her, despite the very real threats lurking all around her, being Stargirl feels like a gift – something that’s exciting and joyful in its own right, beyond the ways it connects her to the man she assumes is her father.
The sequence in which Courtney makes over the Starman costume into a look that’s uniquely her own is perfect, and everything I want from a show like this. Functional and fashionable! When was the last time we saw a scene like this? (Maybe when Mia puts on her father’s Green Arrow suit on Arrow. But that was emotional for an entirely different reason, and in an entirely different way.)
The best part of the episode is hands down Courtney’s deepening relationship with her stepfather, as she and Pat officially join forces to protect their family and Blue Valley as a whole. (After much back and forth about whether or not Courtney should be “allowed” to pick up the staff that’s chosen her, because this is the second episode in a superhero series, and that’s where this conversation always goes.)
Luke Wilson is honestly this show’s stealth MVP, portraying the quiet steel that runs through Pat as easily as he plays his trips to the gym for laughs. Pat may not have superpowers, but he’s something even rarer – a good man. His quiet insistence that he face Brainwave alone, while Courtney does her best to keep the rest of their family proves him every inch a hero, and the argument that takes place between them in soft whispers is more affecting than if they’d been shouting.
Did I get emotional about Stargirl showing up to fight beside her sidekick in the episode’s final face off? Yes, yes I did. And that’s honestly something we need more of in this comics universe, much as I love it. The Arrowverse shows always take the time to let the dark, painful moments land. It needs to remember to give moments like this just as much emotional room to breathe.
Stargirl’s arrival just in time to save S.T.R.I.P.E? Her declaration of her identity? That’s what I watch shows like this for.
The episode ends with Brainwave in a convenient coma thanks to a face full of Cosmic Staff light and a growing crowd of Injustice Society of America members lurking on the fringes of the story ready to do standard bad guy things. But there’s a new dynamic duo ready to take them all on now in the name of justice and doing what’s right, and I honestly can’t wait to see where Stargirl goes next.