This STARGIRL review contains spoilers.
Stargirl Episode 5
Whereas last week’s Stargirl officially brought Yolanda Montez into the fold of the new Justice Society of America as Wildcat, this installment taps two more members: Rick Harris (formerly Tyler) and Beth Chapel as the new Hourman and Dr. Mid-nite, respectively.
On the plus side, it’s great to see Courtney get more kids her own age to interact with and the prospect of this particular group of teens forming bonds and friendships among themselves is intriguing. But after an episode focused exclusively on Yolanda, the decision to cram two separate origin stories into this hour feels more than a bit rushed.
True, Beth has existed on the periphery of Courtney’s story since the Stargirl pilot, so at least it doesn’t feel as though her becoming the new Dr. Mid-nite comes completely out of nowhere. Though, to be fair, pretty much the only thing we know about her is that she is aggressively obsessed with her parents, a tic that’s been fairly grating and pathetic by turns thus far this season.
Perhaps becoming Dr. Mid-nite will at least provide Beth with the chance to become a real, three-dimensional person, and should at least give her know-it-all attitude some purpose beyond simply being annoying. (And let’s be real: When do we get to see her with the owl? Because that’s what we all really want.)
However, we know very little about Rick Harris, other than he’s the school delinquent with an anger problem and a chip the size of a boulder on his shoulder at all times. Turns out he’s really Stargirl’s Rick Tyler, son of original JSA member Hourman, and when his parents were forced to flee for their lives, he was left behind and grew up with his resentful, borderline abusive uncle instead. It’s an interesting nod to the idea that becoming a superhero isn’t without significant cost and that, for some people, their lives would have been a great deal better if they were normal.
Like Courtney’s Cosmic Staff, the Hourman hourglass lights up in his presence, but unlike his new superhero friends, Rick isn’t all that interested in justice. He’s ready to use his newfound abilities to get some revenge. He only agrees to join the fledging group after Beth reports that his parents were killed by the Injustice Society’s Solomon Grundy, and certainly doesn’t seem terribly interested in making friends or fighting for what’s right.
Maybe that’s a good thing. There’s something to be said, narratively speaking, for having some rough edges present in this group. After all, there wouldn’t be much story if everyone in the new JSA bonded as quickly as Courtney and Yolanda have. They’re kids, after all, a group of misfits who are all social outcasts for various and very different reasons. (Beth’s “So this is a party!” upon entering Cindy’s Halloween bash speaks volumes.) It’s unlikely that they’d know how to relate to one another in the best of circumstances, and without superhero gear involved.
That said, the group has an intriguing chemistry. Yolanda certainly isn’t a big fan of Beth, though whether that’s because of any specific reason other than the girl is very weird is unclear. And Rick and Courtney certainly seem destined to bump heads frequently as they battle over what the purpose of the new JSA is now, and should be going forward. Her determination to not leave the hourglass in Rick’s possession if he won’t vow to use it for good is both brave and commendable, and an indication that Courtney will certainly be the kind of leader who isn’t afraid to stand up to her friends if she needs to.
Rick’s acknowledgment of his churning inner anger is both admirable and vaguely concerning. His near-constant rage certainly makes sense: His parents were killed by supervillains and his life has turned out to be a wreck as a result. His uncle is a complete jerk who resents his very existence and takes that anger on him regularly. He doesn’t appear to have friends or any sort of dreams for the future, and his lone hobby appears to be fixing up a classic car that mirrors the toy version his father left him.
But the fact that Rick can barely control his anger is worrisome enough on its own, and that’s before he’s given control of an item that gives him enough strength to crush a truck for an hour every day. And, personally, I don’t know that another story of white male rage is something I super need to see in today’s television environment, though Stargirl does seem self-aware enough to subvert that story in the end. So we’ll see.
In the midst of all this superhero business, Stargirl still makes the effort to let our leads be teens at the same time. Courtney’s struggle to hide her JSA-recruiting efforts is laughably terrible, from her ludicrously large “gym bag” that looks as though it could conceal a small car, to her insistence that she has to hide things like the green lantern in her locker because her mom’s been poking around her bedroom.
It’s the sort of refreshingly youthful silliness this show’s so good at, even down to the stereotypical teen Halloween bash that sees Cindy belittling her BFF for coping her sexy vampire ensemble even as her dirtbag boyfriend appears to maybe be developing telepathic powers at the same time. (But we all saw that coming eventually, right?)
The most unfortunate element of “Hourman and Dr. Mid-night” is that it’s another episode in which Pat and Courtney barely interact. And, unfortunately, much of Pat’s story appears to be investigating whether other ISA members are skulking around Blue Valley and wondering what his step-daughter’s doing with all the superhero tech she stole. These are things that we, as viewers, already know the answers to, which leads to Pat’s scenes feeling like unnecessary retreads rather than something that’s legitimately pushing the narrative forward.
Admittedly, it’s important for Courtney to build relationships with her new teammates and to have a life outside of her stepdad. I get that. But S.T.R.I.P.E. is meant to be Stargirl’s sidekick, which means he needs to at least have a real role to play in her story.