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TV Review: Stargirl E113 Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two

Stargirl

The first season of Stargirl wraps up in “Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.” part two that has the Justice Society taking on the Injustice Society in hopes of thwarting their plan. The opening of the episode is pretty solid with some nice sci-fi aspects as the plan is put into motion and we see its impact on the people around town. We also get some fun teasers for comic fans in the form of movie posters around the theater.

From there, the episode shifts into battle mode. It’s a knock out drag out fight that has the two teams battle. And it’s a hell of a battle with some solid action and the reveal of Solomon Grundy. There’s also some shocking twists that keeps viewers on their toes. There’s some truly unexpected moments which is impressive for a show like this.

And surprises, there’s a lot of them. There’s surprises including who lives and who dies and who does the killing. There’s some moral debate in the episode which makes certain moments quite shocking.

But the episode’s most interesting aspect is how it makes the villains somewhat sympathetic. Grundy is treated more like an animal unleashed. Icicle’s motives make sense and he there’s a case to be made about his actions and reasoning.

But what’s fascinating about the episode is… the body count of the series. Bad guys. Students. The series has quite a number of dead. But there’s always an explanation. And the finale kind of winks and nods at the silliness of such a major event just being explained away by the rest of the country.

It’s a cute finale with a final five minutes that’ll put a smile on your face in a Disney-ish sort of way. The finale also sets up a very intriguing second season.

And that kicker!

Stargirl’s first season finale is exactly what one would expect. It’s full of sacharine moments and a sweet innocence that has filled up and been a hallmark of the series. It’s one that, despite the body count, is full of positive energy and a demeanor that makes it a live action superhero series that can be enjoy by the whole family.

We’re already counting down for the second season of Stargirl and hopefully, it delivers the positive entertaining hour the first season pumped out with every episode. A fantastic finale for a hell of a debut season. A crown jewel in DC’s live-action offerings.

Overall Rating: 8.5

TV Review: Stargirl E112 Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part One

Stargirl

Stargirl‘s first season begins to wrap up in the first of a two-part season finale. The Injustice Society is on the trail of 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.

The episode opens up with a bit more as to the plan of the ISA. It not only involves taking over the mind of a large chunk of the country but also build a country of their own. The picture is much clearer as the plan had been mentioned a lot but never what the real goal was. We knew the ISA wanted to make these folks see their views but for what purpose? It makes much more sense now until later in the episode.

The episode has the family scrambling as to what to do about the ISA hunting them and sort of addresses the fact that Pat’s son Mike doesn’t know what’s going on.

But, the action picks up quickly as Sportsmaster and Tigress are on the hunt to take out Pat, Courtney, and the family. It’s interesting and a bit mixed as far as a story goes. There’s some solid humor between Pat and Sportsmaster but why send only one villain to take them on? There’s a whole ISA to choose from and they don’t commit the resources they have. It’s a little frustrating but we get to see when the backup ISA is called in to help Tigress and Sportsmaster. Maybe that’s why they seem to go solo so often?

But, what the sequence really does is give a chance for Barbara to see Courtney in action and Mike to find out the truth about his father. It’s a nice natural way for both things to happen and gives that “wow” discovery aspect to both. It reminds us the viewer as to how special and awesome they are.

But all of that really is to get to that predictable moment of the story when both sides rally their sides and prepare for a final battle.

But, what’s really interesting is the last 5 or so minutes when exactly what the ISA wants to do with their nation is revealed. And… it might be good? Renewable energy. Universal healthcare. Eliminating racism and discrimination. But, there’s a catch, of course, there’s going to be a lot of dead bodies lying in the wake of the plan. It’s an interesting twist as to what the evil folks want and makes them not totally bad? The ISA wants to create paradise it sounds like but doing so in a beyond evil way.

Will they succeed? We’ll have to find out as Stargirl has just one more episode to go before the first season wraps up!

Overall Rating: 8.15

TV Review: Stargirl E111 Shining Knight

Stargirl

Who is Justin, the mysterious janitor? Stargirl dives into that with an opening dedicated to the character. For fans of the comic series, you know where things are going but the television show has done a solid job of keeping things up in the air.

That’s not the only mystery of the episode as Courtney’s real father arrives. It’s all a little dramatic and feels a little out of nowhere but it flows nicely and leads to some solid family dynamics.

The segment is good as it finally answers the question as to who Courtney’s real father is. It closes that plot point but it also puts the family back in the center of the episode. The moments involving Courtney, Pat, Barbara, and Mike are really important and is a reminder that at the center of the show is this family. It focuses on their relationships and ties nicely into recent issues with all of them. It also throws into question Courtney’s role as Stargirl, shifting from legacy to something better.

The episode really gets interesting when Brainwave and Icicle discuss what to do about Stargirl. Icicle actually shows some hesitation in just killing Courtney, and keep in mind this is a series that has been at ease killing kids. It adds a bit to Icicle beyond the cold killer and makes Brainwave a bit colder as well (though, he did kill his own kid).

There is a little silliness in the episode. How Henry’s death is handled by the school feels… off. Then again, this is the third kid who’s died in the school and no one seems to be questioning that at all.

As Stargirl heads to the end of the first season, the episode is solid as it refocuses the series a bit. Each episode up to this point has felt like it revolved around some action sequence or fight. This episode instead gets it back to basics of the family at the heart of the show. It also makes Courtney an even better character by making it really about her as Stargirl not her legacy as Starman’s daughter. Just like she realizes, she’s was chosen for more reasons than who she thought her father was. She has qualities to be a hero, more than her enthusiasm. This is the episode that puts that front and center.

Overall Rating: 8.15

TV Review: Stargirl E110 Brainwave Jr.

Stargirl

The opening of Stargirl might as well be called “How Pat met Barbara.” We get to see how the two met, a mystery of the show so far. It’s a cute story playing off of the saccharine nature of the show so far. It’s also somewhat important with Pat’s history with Courtney’s possible father, the previous Starman. There have been some things hovering that are a little creepy when you think about it.

We saw the end of the previous episode where Barbara came upon Pat and Courtney and the staff, stumbling upon the truth. The beginning of the episode focuses on that and does so in a solid way. The unexpected story twist allows Amy Smart to be in the spotlight. She’s been one of the actors who’s been in the background a bit and now we get to see her do a bit more in the series with this direction and reveal.

And the show from there shifts things with Brainwave and Brainwave Jr. picking up on the previous episode’s other surprise twist. The series does a solid job of highlighting similar trauma and experiences in characters and how impacts them. In this case, even though they’re evil, the moment with the Brainwave’s is touching. We learn why they moved to this town. It’s actually an interesting moment and with what’s revealed there, a fascinating direction for the series, sadly it doesn’t go too far but it plays very nicely into the episode’s final moments.

The episode really focuses on family in different ways and part of that is Courtney and the new JSA. Courtney embraces Henry’s new found goodness and you can imagine how well that goes over with the rest of the team. It creates some nice friction as well that really comes together at the end like much of the episode’s moments. Courtney is focused on what she needs to do and that means getting her staff back and freeing Brainwave from the Injustice Society. All of that leads to a showdown and battle that’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Generally, the series has had some decent battles and action but there’s something a bit “Disney” about this particular sequence. The fighting feels a bit held back and there are some moments that feel like they’d fit perfectly in a Disney family-horror film mixed with a bit of The Goonies. It’s not bad and the tone is consistent and works for the intended audience of tweens.

And that interesting tone and direction really comes together in the episode’s final moments. While it’s predictable, with a bit too much Star Wars thrown in, it’s a solid and fascinating episode.

Stargirl is a series that does some predictable things but also just does things really well. It hits the schmaltz when it needs to. It delivers the moments we expect but it still resonates. “Brainwave Jr.” continues a series that knows what it is and what it wants to be. This is an episode whose various moments come together in the end really well. While much of it is predictable it’s a nice example of seeding things along for an emotional finale that really creates an impact.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Stargirl E109 Brainwave

Stargirl

Stargirl has been doing a solid job of balancing the backstory of the villains while also keeping things in the present as the new JSA forms. “Brainwave” opens up, not surprisingly, with Brainwave and his origin. But more importantly, his son Henry discovering the truth of it all.

What’s really interesting is where the episode immediately pivots and that’s Courtney not just feeling sorry for Henry but wanting to recruit him to help with the JSA. But, we also get some awesome history about Pat and the Seven Soldiers of Victory, a team before the JSA. And we also find out they’re still alive, maybe, Pat lost touch with them.

The series really does a fantastic job fleshing out the various characters giving us a lot of insight into both the good and the bad. Cindy is “off studying” but really locked up in a dungeon. The situation is beyond messed up and we’re reminded how evil Cindy really is. Time’s also spent watching Henry training and learning how to use his power. But what’s nice is we see Henry’s growth and why he goes in the direction he does.

Stargirl “Brainwave” is full of really good moments like Yolanda confronting Henry, a dinner at Courtney’s, and what’s discovered through it. But it’s the last few minutes of the series that makes the episode and really shakes things up.

“Brainwave” is an interesting episode in that it features some really solid moments but nothing standing out. It’s still a really entertaining episode and comes together nicely at the end of the hour with some twists and turns. It plays with expectations, as the series has, and is able to deliver things that are unexpected. It’s not an “oh my god episode,” it’s just a very good episode of a very good series.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Stargirl E108 Shiv Part Two

Stargirl

Courtney is injured after her encounter with Cindy, aka Shiv. So what’s a father to do? Lie through his teeth to keep her identity a secret. It’s a loving moment, if not a bit twisted, and really shows that Pat and Courtney’s relationship has come a long way. It has him not just lying to authorities but also to his wife, Courtney’s mother. It’s a hell of a start to Stargirl‘s eighth episode, “Shiv, Part Two.”

Further scenes are really interesting concerning Pat and his relationship with Stargirl/Courtney. There’s a really touching scene as he talks to the staff laying out where he stands with things and where his head’s at. It’s a dual role in many ways not just a sidekick/mentor watching out for his ward but that of a father watching out for his daughter.

Cindy also now knows the identity of Stargirl, upping the danger for her and her family. It also leaves her dad pissed because she didn’t finish the job and Stargirl is still alive. That’s a factor and direction I didn’t expect the series to go in this year and I thought it’d be something we’d see in a second season.

The episode is an interesting one with Pat teaming up with Beth to try to find out more about Cindy and a completely unexpected confrontation between Cindy and Courtney. The latter half of the episode is where things really pick up adding some interesting and delivering action. It’s an episode that’s hard to describe without spoiling it. What happens feels like something we shouldn’t be seeing yet and the reveals and twists and turns are the things of really solid cliffhangers.

Stargirl continues to be a series that mixes humor, action, heart, and drama. It also defies expectations each and every episode. This is a show that feels like it’s breaking the established rules of superhero television and it’s a series that’s a must-watch each and every week.

Overall Rating: 8.15

TV Review: Stargirl E107 Shiv Part One

Stargirl

The episode kicks off with hints as to what being the JSA means to its members. You can see the changes in each person as they begin to fall into their new life.

What immediately stands out is Beth not making her parents lunch and being distracted by her now powers and role. Her parents seem lost due to it. Out of all of the characters so far, Beth seems to be the one that really has changed the most as opposed to their powers just enhancing who they are.

The episode is an interesting one revolving more around the high school and not just the new JSA but their future rivals. The children of the villains take the spotlight such as Cindy and Henry.

We get a bit more about Cindy as Courtney parnters up with her for chemistry class and a school dance looms. Cindy is an interesting character as she begins to have a rough go of school. Her Queen Bee routine begins to falter as she’s rejected by those around her. We also get to see more of her home life and some of what her growing up was like.

Cindy when she gets home, the relationship between her and her stepmother is one that’s beyond abusive and shows a home that’s broken. Any ounce of sympathy for Cindy should quickly go away after the segment with her mother.

But, what’s interesting is that out of all of the future villains, Cindy is the one that’s aware of her father’s role. She goes into his lair in defiance of her stepmother and when confronted by… something (Grundy?) it doesn’t phase her at all. What we learn is very intriguing not just with her mother but her in general. She’s very different from the rest of the future villains as she’s fully in on the situation and wants to join the Injustice Society. It’s a bit different than where I was expecting the show to go.

While the villains get organized, the Justice Society of America needs to get organized as well. We get something of a training montage as Pat runs down the villains we’ve met so far. The team isn’t one quite yet and the series gives us some interesting interactions. Courtney, who is a vet compared to the rest, is a bit headstrong.

But the point of it is to compare Courtney and Cindy. Their pairing during chemistry is for a reason. How Pat treats Courtney is being mirrored by that of Dragon King and Cindy.

There’s a bit of some eye-rolling in the episode. While a lot of it feels fresh and interesting some of it to is predictable like the “future villain” liking the person he doesn’t know is a hero. Cameron asks Courtney to the dance and it feels a bit cliche but even with that, the episode still surprises.

It ends with a fight between Stargirl and… we’ll leave that one to the viewers. It’s a bit surprising as it’s something that’s expected but it’s something that’s expected for a future season, not the first. The show does a solid job of keeping viewers on their toes, just like it does with Janitor Justin who fans of the comic will know about. The episode delivers just enough excitement as far as this mysterious character to get viewers excited to come back for more.

Another solid episode that plays with tropes and expectations and delivers a hell of a lot of fun.

Overall Rating: 8.15

TV Review: Stargirl E106 The Justice Society

Stargirl

Again, Stargirl kicks off an episode delving into more of the history of the characters and world. In this case it’s Artemis, who was mentioned as a potential member of the new Justice Society in the previous episode. It’s an interesting opening as it’s clear where her parents stand but not so much with her (there’s a lot of kids who are clearly going to take over as villains though the comics give a hint). The opening also keeps up the show’s willingness to keep things adult at times with yet another death. Seriously, how many people have died on this show?

This episode is pretty key as there wasn’t a screener available which usually is a sign that there’s big moments they don’t want to come out. That seems to be hinted really early as Pat and Courtney debate the need for a new Justice Society and who Courtney has recruited.

It’s an interesting discussion between the two as you can see where each are coming from in their arguments. Pat is haunted by the death of the previous team. He’s afraid history will repeat itself with a bunch of kids dying instead. It’s understandable the motivations. Then there’s Courtney who is finding purpose and in some ways closure of her past by channeling her idealism through this route. It too gives us character motivations that make sense and are clear.

The episode definitely delivers heart as Courtney sees Beth and Yolanda with their new powers/abilities and we can see how important it is for them in such a short period of time. This is more than just stopping evil to them but it’s an opportunity to redefine who they are, take back their control, and even just find friendship.

The episode also gives some solid time between Barbara Whitmore, played by Amy Smart, and Trae Romano‘s Mike Dugan, her step-son. The two characters haven’t had the screen time that Courtney or Pat’s relationship has and thought it’s maybe a few minutes, it adds a lot to the two’s relationship.

Continuing the series’ pattern, the team gets to fight yet another villain, this time the Gambler as he continues the Injustice Society’s plan, whatever that might be. Enough has been teased about their plot to keep viewers guessing and makes the show a bit more entertaining. What’s going on is both clear and not and allows the viewer to run with their imagination. But one confrontation leads to another. We also get Sportsmasters and Tigress as the Justice Society features their first battle as a team. It goes about as well as you’d expect with not so much teamwork as individual battles. We get to see powers used and some entertaining moments for the team. They’re definitely green and don’t automatically gain lots of experience with their powers. You can see them learn, and fail, as the battle goes on. They make mistakes and fail hard at times but they also progress.

The episode is another solid win for the series expanding on characters, the mythology, and adding some solid depth to some of the secondary characters. You also can’t help but enjoy those final minutes as the team comes together. It’s the “hell yeah” moment we’ve expected and brings the team together. It’s that moment where the series begins to get really rolling from the setup and heads into the direction we’ve been expecting. This is a pretty key episode in that it takes everything that’s been building and sets the series up for the rest of the season and the eventual clash between the JSA and Injustice Society.

Overall Rating: 8.5

TV Review: Stargirl E105 Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite

Stargirl

Again, Stargirl kicks off an episode delving into more of the history of the characters and world. In this case, it’s the history of Hourman, and his son Rick Harris. The details are danced around teasing what’s to come and a new character we know will be key down the road.

In “Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite,” we get dual origins as a new Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite are the focus. The episode does a great job in balancing the seriousness of the show and the humor. What it does really well is bringing these two new heroes together and does it in an intelligent way.

The show has done an excellent job of bringing together varied personalities and the actors really play off of each other well. Beth, Yolanda, and Courtney all are very unique in character and background. Each bring something different and interesting to the show and add things in their own way.

And we get a double dose in the episode with Rick. He’s the least like the rest without the enthusiasm and want to do what’s right. You get extremes in the episode with Beth’s positive enthusiasim to the point of anoyance and Rick’s less than altruistic viewpoint. Either could easily have been the focus of their own episode but the two together creates an interestying dynamic and juxtaposition.

And what it does really well is giving us more about the two. Though Rick and Beth are different, they both have issues regarding their parents and are abandoned in their own way. One whose parents have died and the other whose parents are too busy. Their motivations are both understandable and relatable to different viewers in different ways.

The episode also keeps hinting at things to come with another kid of a villain, connecting the dots. If there’s a second season, there’s absolutely going to be a clash of generations. That’s pretty clear and the the show doesn’t do a good job at hiding this direction but that’s not a bad thing at all. It works and works well. Predictable but also done in a way that feels natural.

Where the show really shines is being able to take the viewer deep into DC Comic history but educate. It’s not a name drop where the viewers in the know can be excited, things are explained and play into the plot of the show. Here we get one name drop which isn’t explained, and harkens back to the first episode, but beyond that we get deep explanations of Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite in natural ways that keep the flow of the show.

It’s an interesting episode as it focuses more on the heroes as opposed to balancing things. We get a little bit of whatever the Injustice Society is up to but that’s just a few scenes in the episode. Instead it really sets up the dynamic of our new heroic team and the good and bad that brings.

It’s not the best episode of the series but it’s the most intriguing so far in what it sets up and who it introduces.

Overall Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Stargirl E104 Wildcat

Stargirl

The fourth episode of Stargirl delivers more in the first four minutes of the episode than many series do the entire season. In the episode, 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.

Stargirl‘s first three episodes have really focused on setting up the world and characters. Courtney, played by Brec Bassinger, has been the clear focus with her gaining her new role and her relationship with her stepfather Pat played by Luke Wilson. The series has teased other characters in Courtney’s life with a table of misfits. We’ve gotten hints about them but not much as far as details.

That changes this episode. The opening focuses on Yolanda Montez played by Yvette Monreal. We know very little about her beyond some of how she’s gotten bullied, we don’t know the “why.” Now we do as we get a runup to school President election and a revealing picture. It’s a real-world issue that many kids will face and shows the series willingness to deliver some reality to its fantastical elements.

And the episode has no problem diving into those fantastical elements like the hints we get about the items Courtney grabbed from the Justice Society of America’s base. But, there’s also Dragon King played by Nelson Lee who makes an intimidating appearance. The way that introduction ends… well, it’s pretty dark for this show.

But, the episode really comes down to its heart and how grounded it is. A scene between Courtney and Yolanda is heartbreaking. It draws a line in the sand with Courtney making a hell of a definitive statement and showing she’s clearly on the sign of right. It also delivers some solid emotion and Yvette’s acting is fantastic. The scene is something that should really connect with teens watching the series and hopefully will get parents to rethink their position on what happens in the episode.

The interaction between Courtney and Yolanda is great as the episode continues and Courtney reveals her secret identity and attempts to recruit Yolanda. The interaction is great and where the two go from there is fantastic. It’s a great segment of learning powers in the modern age that feels like it was inspired by the film Shazam!. The humor is great and in the end there’s a solid lesson in the episode.

Yolanda gets the spotlight and a voice discovering herself in a way and standing up. The episode is full of moments of strength and one that kids will see differently from their parents. Hopefully, parents may see things differently by the end as well.

And then there’s that ending. It’s rather messed up and leaves a lot to the imagination which is often more scary and twisted than anything that can be written. It’s a great ending and one that’s again unexpected showing Stargirl is willing to go that extra step and deliver moments that it’s generally happy exterior hides. The series continues to impress with an episode that expands the cast, delivers some solid emotion, and builds upon the mystery.

Overall Rating: 8.25

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