This STARGIRL review contains spoilers.
Stargirl Episode 4
Part of the reason that Stargirl feels like such a breath of fresh air in the DC television universe is that it’s telling stories we haven’t seen in this space before. Courtney Whitmore isn’t just a character who stumbles into having superpowers, she’s also a teen girl. She’s trying to navigate school, make friends and maybe flirt with that cute boy in her class (who… also happens to be the son of a supervillain, but that’s a problem for another day).
As Courtney starts building her own youth-oriented version of the Justice Society of America, her story expands to include other teens at Blue Valley High, and the show is all the better for it.“Wildcat” isn’t just the best installment of Stargirl to date, it’s a great example of the kinds of stories that this show is uniquely primed to tell.
After several episodes’ worth of vague hints, the show finally shows us the truth about Yolanda Montez and the girl she used to be, even as it introduces us to the hero she’ll eventually become.
The difference between the Yolanda we’ve met onscreen thus far and this flashback version is striking. Once, she was a confident, popular girl with lots of friends and a supportive family. She was running for student body president and dating Henry King, Jr, a football star. The scenes she’s in are glowing and bright, with a peppy pop music soundtrack. Yolanda was once a model student living her teen dream. Now…not so much.
In case we didn’t already realize that the younger Henry King was a dirtbag thanks to his bossy, entitled attitude, a penchant for thievery, and his literally monstrous father, he’s also a guy who asks his girlfriend for topless selfies and then shares them with his friends. He sucks, is what I’m saying.
It’s easy to hope that both Henry and chief mean girl Cindy wind up being officially connected to the Injustice Society in some way, just so that Courtney has an excuse to take them down (or at least punch one or both of them in the face). But it’s probably more important that they aren’t. Instead, they’re just cruel teens who hurt others out of selfishness and spite, and great examples of how characters in this universe don’t have to be supervillains in order to be the kind of evil that’s worth fighting.
Yolanda has been through a lot, and in recognizing her pain and giving her the Wildcat suit, Courtney offers her what feels like a clear way out of it. The montage in which the girls attempt to figure out what exactly Wildcat’s powers are by using a combination of Google and trial and error is another fantastic example of how Stargirl embraces the joy of superhero stories in a way that other Arrowverse series rarely even try to do. Yes, yes, Oliver Queen, we know that supersuits are a burden and a responsibility – but they’re also really rather a lot of fun.
But the most important thing Courtney offers her new partner in crime-fighting isn’t the chance to be a superhero – though that’s clearly a cool benefit of the whole thing. She gives her unconditional friendship. And considering that Yolanda doesn’t exactly have a lot of people in her life who have her back at the moment, that must feel like a tremendous gift.
One of the episode’s best moments occurs when Yolanda quietly laments “I never should have sent him those,” referring to her nude photos. Courtney’s response is immediate and fierce: “He never should have shared them.” Yolanda’s expression certainly seems to hint that this is maybe the first time anyone has bothered to tell her that. And it’s possible that it is, given the way her family treats her as something shameful to be hidden away in the house at all times. But Yolanda’s a victim here – yes, she trusted someone she shouldn’t have, but she doesn’t deserve to be punished for that. Particularly not when dirtbag Henry seems to have suffered zero consequences for betraying that trust in the first place. (Unless you consider being stuck with Cindy romantically as a cosmic punishment, which sort of feels about right, honestly.)
By making her Wildcat, Courtney helps Yolanda find herself again and take back some control over her life. (Which she certainly no longer has at school or even in her own home.) This episode marks the first time we’ve seen the girl say more than a dozen words, or smile, or exhibit anything resembling a personality. Now, she’s someone I can’t wait to really get to know. Brec Bassinger and Yvette Monreal have wonderful chemistry with one another, and their girl-talk style banter while they’re breaking into the town hospital is a pitch-perfect mix of teen drama and superhero danger.
There’s only one thing from keeping this episode from being truly great – and that’s that it barely seems to acknowledge poor Joey’s gruesome death from last week. Sure, Pat’s entire subplot is about trying to help Joey’s mom, who’s spiraling in the uniquely hellish grief that can only come from losing your entire family all at once. But Courtney herself – and the rest of Blue Valley High for that matter – seem to have picked up and moved on entirely too quickly. Particularly given that a significant portion of the student body actually witnessed the poor kiddie. Shouldn’t there at least be, like, a cheesy assembly speech? A flower memorial at his locker? Something?
Alas poor Joey, we hardly knew ye. But at least your dad’s body is going to be used for some nefarious purpose by a creepy guy in a dragon mask?