When season one of Stargirl first landed on the now-defunct DC Universe streaming service, it felt like a breath of fresh air among the other projects offered by DC. For years prior to the introduction to the DC Universe, the Arrowverse with shows like Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl had been bringing new stories with fan-favorite characters to families around the world. Though at times, some of the shows felt geared for older fans (teenagers and up) of the comics. They could be dark and gritty at multiple times through a single season, specifically Arrow and Black Lightning. Though compared to shows within the Arrowverse, those that debuted on the DC Universe were significantly more gritty and mature. Within the first year of the streaming service, patrons were presented with Titans, a show that was once pitched to TNT but instead aired exclusively on the streaming service, Doom Patrol, a quasi-spinoff of Titans, and animated series Harley Quinn. All of which were rated mature with a capital M.
However, when Stargirl premiered, something felt different. Initially, it seemed weird to have the show air on both the streaming service as well as The CW. Which some believed was due to the impending death of the DC Universe. Though to me it felt like a way to indicate to viewers that this show wasn’t necessarily like the others already housed on the streaming service. Stargirl was lighter, funnier, and felt aimed at families that contained both older and younger children. The show had standout performances from most of the cast, although, Brec Bassinger and Luke Wilson shined as Courtney Whitmore and Pat Dugan. A.K.A. Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. Their relationship as new step-father and step-daughter as well as budding crime fighters was one of the reasons I tuned in every week.
When season two was announced as coming exclusively to The CW, I wondered how the shift would change the structure of the show. In many ways, the show was about family and what that means to different people. And now with the first episode here, it’s nice to know that even when things change, the heart can always start the same.
Let’s talk about that Stargirl season 2 opener (spoilers below for the episode!)
What is it about children that makes them perfect for horror sequences? In a scene that feels like it was heavily inspired by horror movies such as It, we see what seems to be the death of Doctor Charles McNider decades earlier by the hands of a creepy child with a shiny black stone. McNider is a member of the old school Justice Society of America and the voice of Beth’s goggles in the present day. The shiny black gem is also something viewers have seen before, specifically in the season one finale. Cindy Burman, played by Meg DeLacy, finds the gem and refers to it as Eclipso. This scene feels like it’s telling viewers that the tone of the show is changing quite a bit. No longer is it just a carefree superhero show, but now something darker where the stakes just got higher. The scene initially shocked me, because I wasn’t expecting such a dark turn so early into the season (the creepy child’s glowing red eyes may haunt my dreams). However, the opening helped set the scene and the story of what’s to come for the rest of the season.
After the initial shock of the opening sequence, the show picks up some time after the events of season one with the members of the newly formed Justice Society of America (JSA) patrolling the streets of Blue Valley, Nebraska. It seems from early on in the episode that not much trouble seems to be happening in the small town anymore. Much to the dismay of Courtney, who seems to spend the entire episode looking for a fight. The other members (Wildcat played by Yvette Monreal, Hourman played by Cameron Gellman, and Anjelika Washington as Doctor Mid-Nite) point out that the Injustice Society of America (ISA) seems to be no more. Most of its members are destroyed, incarcerated, or have gone missing. Life in the sleepy town of Blue Valley seems to be returning to normal. Something that the other members suggest the JSA should do too.
However, Courtney being the stubborn teenager that she is finds hanging up the cape more difficult to do than the rest of her fellow members. Desperate to continue the group with her friends, Courtney attempts to find trouble by searching through old JSA files for a possible supervillain for the team to take down. Though after reassurance from good old stepfather Pat, and a name drop of a fan favorite speedster, she resigns in her mission and turns in for the night.
One of the charms of the show’s first season was the balance between the fun action sequences as superheroes and the everyday snapshots of the character’s lives outside of their costumes. Beth (Washington), who is the brains of the operations, is seen struggling to reconnect the Doctor Mid-Nite A.I. (who she affectionately refers to as ‘Chuck’) to her goggles. As well on the last day of school before summer, she also finds a divorce petition involving her parents. On both fronts, Beth attempts to fix the problems, though is met with disappointment. Making dinner for her parents as another attempt to bring them close again, neither parent shows, leaving her to eat all by herself. Which was followed quickly by a new Doctor Mid-nite A.I. being uploaded only to not recognize Beth and turn himself off. At times I felt the beginning of tears coming to my eyes, because my heart broke for the girl who just wanted family, but was shut out by all, leaving her scared and alone.
Rick Tyler (Gellman), who looks like he aged significantly within the few month’s time in the story compared to the rest of the cast, seems to be seeking something in the forest that has large feet and a large appetite. At first, it seems like he may be hunting the creature, but as the story unfolds we see Tyler leave three family-size buckets of chicken in the same forest. Is he helping the monster (Solomon Grundy) that he earlier promised he got rid of? I am sure the rest of the JSA will be disappointed learning that Grundy is not only still alive, but also living close by and being tended to by one of their own.
And finally, Yolanda (Monreal) exhibits immense guilt for her part in the death of Brainwave last season. Yolanda’s guilt seems to be a huge motivator for her to hang up her suit, but the energy seems to be in other’s minds as well. Where last season we would get small bits and pieces of our heroes lives, with the main focus being on Courtney and Pat’s journey, this episode makes the focus feel like it’s shifting to a bigger ensemble story, Where everyone is getting a piece of the larger picture and time spent exploring those threads.
As well, Pat decides that he and his family need a vacation, a two-week trip away from Blue Valley and the struggles that it presents to everyone. Though this choice is met with resistance from both Courtney and her step-brother Mike (Trae Romano) who want to stay behind to continue their superhero journeys. Or in Mike’s case, start his superhero journey. As a result of wanting to go on the family vacation, Pat brings on a “partner” to run his autobody shop while he’s gone. Zeek (King Orba), an older bumbling shop worker, quickly stumbles on the giant robot stored in the shop and agrees to help make some alterations. However, that glimpse of non-superpowered life is dashed quickly when Courtney fails her English and History classes and must make up the work in summer school. The family dynamics, specifically those of Courtney and Pat, are a driving force and huge selling point for the show. Beginning in season one with resistance from Courtney towards a unification of the blended family has eased into excellent chemistry that had me smiling every time the two shared a scene together.
There were a few loose threads with the ISA’s children, though none that led anywhere just yet. The Fiddler (Hina Khan), the high school principal from season one, presence was still felt, though through the appearance of her son Isaac (Max Frantz) who was shown skulking around the halls of Blue Valley High School. Honestly, who skulks anymore? As well, Cameron Mahkent (Hunter Sansone) was spotted painting a mural in his father’s honor, having shattered into thousands of pieces when he was completely Iced out. Audiences also saw Artemis Crock (Stella Smith), daughter to incarcerated Lawrence Crock (Neil Hopkins) and Paula Brooks (Joy Osmanski), Sportsmaster and Tigress respectively. Though with small reintroductions to this cast of minor characters, I’m sure there is more for them farther along in the season. The battle between their destiny as a villain and their ability to do good will be fascinating to see played out over the next thirteen episodes.
Early on in the episode, we get our first hint that a Green Lantern would be making their way into the show when original JSA member Alan Scott’s lantern beginning to flicker to life with a bright green glow as Courtney and Pat turn their backs. Later, Courtney hears a sound coming from downstairs in her home, leading to one of the most epic fights that Stargirl or any Arrowverse show has given us. Working her way through the dark house, Courtney comes upon a dark figure holding the glowing Green Lantern, who appears to be able to wield the power of the lantern in the ring on her hand. The fight gave me chills between the stellar acrobatic work from both girls as well as the amazing CGI of the staff and power from the ring. At its conclusion, Courtney asks who the girl is, to which the girl responds that she is Green Lantern’s daughter.
At the end of last season, Starman or otherwise known as Sylvester Pemberton, played by Joel McHale, or something that looks exactly like him, appears. He was looking for Pat, who used to be Starman’s sidekick back in the day, in California. That story is picked up as this character rolls up to a diner in a gorgeous shiny blue Pontiac GTO convertible. Vintage, like the cars Pat restores. The car matches descriptions and pictures I found dating its year as 1969. He appears in crisp clothing (are jean jackets coming back into style?) and a slick fresh Pompadour hairstyle. He speaks with a waitress named Maggie, asking about her ex-husband the striped hero himself, Pat Dugan. It’s unclear at this time why specifically he is looking for Pat, but between the look on Mchale’s face along with the slightly sinister music, it seems like it’s for more than dinner and catching up.
For most of the episode, Cindy Burman (Delacy) was absent but appears in the final moments in the old Injustice Society of America’s headquarters. She lays a few photos of the old member’s children upon the table with the cold smile she’s known for. Raising the black stone from the opening sequence to her eye, we hear a cold, deep voice tell Cindy that he is ready to serve. To which she responds that it’s time to recruit some new members.
Overall, I felt that it was a pretty good episode, with a mix of personal stories for each character and the beginning of a larger story starting to carry the season. At the end, it didn’t necessarily feel like a ton happened to move the story along, but more so introductions to every thread that is going to be weaved into the story as it progresses. The episode was also rather short on the action, though the scene between Courtney and the new Green Lantern was enough to make up for any perceived lack of it. I enjoyed that at the core of the episode it was still about family and that Pat is still the heart of the show. The reason I continue to tune in every week with my nephew. I will say that at times the episode felt bogged down by the moodier and darker tones that weren’t present in the first season, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to turn it off. In fact, I never only glanced at the clock or my watch, nor did I pick up my phone. I was almost disappointed when it was over because I wanted to see so much more.
My rating for the Stargirl season 2 premiere is:
★★★★½ / ♥♥♥♥♥
Stargirl airs Tuesday on the CW and the next day on the CW app. Season 2 will eventually be added to HBOMax, probably once the full second season has premiered on the CW.
* Rating scale is out of 5 stars (filmmaking/storytelling quality) and 5 hearts (entertainment quality)