In this episode of Stargirl, Courtney gets a surprise visit that changes everything, Pat meets a familiar old friend, and Jordan makes a surprise discovery.
After traversing through some seriously messed up parenting issues in the last four episodes of Stargirl, first with Shiv and Ito, then with Brainwave Sr. and Junior, it was very relaxing to finally get an episode not focused on messed up dads for change…
This episode, in a record-breaking 2-minutes of runtime (Yes, I counted how long it took to get there), quickly addresses Courtney’s own parental issues. Her obsession with Starman whom she believes is her dad, along with her own superhero persona, with both Pat and Beth. The issue is raised to even greater stakes at home, as a visitor comes knocking on the door, revealing a revelation that messed up Courtney. Thus, essentially, showcasing her time in the spotlight of the usual Stargirl go-around. The incessant plot theme on repeat:
“Why do I bother with daddy’s approval? Oh wait, I have superpowers.”
Why do they repeatedly do this on the show? I don’t know. Maybe, because every hero and villain in has messed up parents. At this point, the best parent on the show is the defacto JSA parent, Pat, who in this episode finally shines as the best self: the wise and experienced Beta-Dad. Which I know, sounds like an insult, but sometimes, characters just need support rather than commands, and Pat’s the dad that doesn’t dictate. The person there out of good-heartedness who’ll let you punch him in the face, if necessary.
Full review below. Warning: There will be spoilers.
Heroes Can Come From Anywhere
This episode very much focuses on the small-town hero. Particularly, The Shining Knight, whom I think just about everyone and their fathers has figured out by now, is revealed to be Justin the janitor. Partially, because the show’s hinted at it, but also because Geoff Johns has admitted that it’s unafraid of using Easter Eggs to potentially open new stories.
Apparently, Justin has had amnesia for years, likely triggered by Dr. Ito (given his traumatic aversion to him) or possibly caused by Brainwave (he can make people forget after all). The Shining Knight thus far has saved Courtney in a pinch in Shiv Part One, but was also revealed as of recently: to be the former leader of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, of which both Star-Spangled kid and Stripesy were a part.
In this episode, we see the poor old sport struggle to remember who he is, though for some reason, sees a lot of hallucinations related to Dr. Ito. The evil ‘dragon’ of whom he was desperately trying to stop, prior to his period of amnesia and work as a janitor. Although, I do wonder why the ISA let him stay there, given their knowledge of who he is. It’s also strange to me that they let him keep the Excalibur sword, as it’s definitely got some special abilities of sorts but more importantly, given that it’s King Arthur’s blade, it probably sells for a good fortune.
Still, Justin has it and, with the help of Pat, starts to remember bits and pieces of his old life. It’s also funny seeing Pat astounded by the revelation of his old friend whom he remembers as Justin, given that Justin’s name is on his uniform. A clearly visible mark for the audience, but also very blatantly Pat, to see. And though Rick and Beth have their hesitation, it’s pretty obvious to everyone that having Shining Knight on their side will be a major help for the battles to come. If not for his abilities (which seem limited and aged at the moment), than for his motivational pep talks, as Justin adorable reiterates a big theme in superhero comics this episode:
“That Heroes can Come from Anywhere”
So, the title of this episode is sort of a double-entendre. It’s definitely about the ‘Shining Knight,’ but it also has to do with everyday heroes. The people that show up to be the person we need at the hour we need most. In this case: it’s very much about Pat.
Because, in this episode, we finally get to meet Courtney’s father, and, unsurprisingly to me and many others, he isn’t Starman. Instead, it’s revealed that her dad is nothing but a deadbeat pretty boy named Sam, who arrives after an ominous e-mail from her mother, Barbara. Sam rides the bus over, wanting to meet Courtney using farce and false promises, revealing that he’s struggling to survive in LA. Sam is a douchebag by all means. A man whose interest in his daughter comes strictly out of financial reasons, wanting to take the locket he gave her to pawn it and the one he owns, as the pair sell for a high price.
Picking up the pieces and briefly kicking Sam’s ass is, of course, Pat. “Shining Knight” is what’s essentially Luke Wilson’s biggest episode of the character. Pat teaches Sam a lesson in the art of a well-placed knuckle sandwich, but more importantly, acts as a good mentor to the JSA kiddos, selflessly helps his old friend Shining Knight, and most importantly: proceeds to be there for Courtney in her time of sadness and need, something which Barbara definitely takes to heart.
Now if only Pat could parent Mike, his own son, he’d be solid. Though at the least he told him he loved him in the last episode. Something I wish more fathers would say to their children.
The Bad Guys Close-In
There’s this moment I learned back in screenwriting. They call it ‘The Bad Guys Close-In.’ It’s the moment where everything seems to be coming at you. The impossible odds stacked up against the character.
In this episode of Stargirl, we see this happen with both Icicle and Brainwave. The latter of whom admits to taking no pleasure in killing his wife and son. Still, Brainwave admits there’s a duty to perform. A job to do in order to fix the world through mind control.
Jordan, having second thoughts because of his new feelings for Barbara (Whom he knows is married. That villain!), is shocked when he learns from the newly mentally fixed Brainwave, the secret that he’s known since the beginning: that Courtney Whitmore is Stargirl. That Pat is S.T.R.I.P.E. That both are leading the JSA. With this, Jordan is reminded that he likewise has to make the coldhearted call, which he does. Afterall: he’s Icicle. The coldhearted leader of the ISA (and lets not forget possible ice troll. I’ll never stop mentioning that).
Oddly enough, the stinger of this episode ends with a ticking clock. The great plan (which I don’t think is all too great of a plan personally) of brainwashing almost the entire country is underway and will execute in less than 14 hours. To add to raising the stakes, apparently, Brainwave inherited his son’s power, effectively doubling his effectiveness and likely his own abilities. Meaning it’s no longer just local states they’ll be mind controlling but most of the country.
Still, there’s a lot of flaws in this plan to me. Mostly, that it relies on a single person and the goodwill of this villain not to mess with everyone’s head.
I will admit though that slapping on a timer to get the adrenaline pumping is a good age-old trope. It’s also the biggest plot device to the Fox series: 24. Proving that it works, but it’s also, slightly overdone.
I’m surprised how great Stargirl is getting in these final episodes. As the series, it feels a lot more focused and grounded than when we started. I’m starting to see even Barbara start to contribute to the team (or at least, they’ve done the SMART move in giving Amy Smart more scenes). Though I am glad that, despite all of this, Mike Dugan is still thrown-in as a minimal side character. I hope he forever keeps that paper route which has him away for almost every episode.
As for the story, the plot does seem to drag, as there’s a lot of back-stepping and second-guessing masked as teenage angst and uncertainty. It all plays off a lot of tropes we have seen in comic adaptions before. Still, the point of this series has never been about its meandering plot; It’s always been in its characters. The revelations we find out about along their journey. The different ways their actions get us to root and cheer.
By the end of this episode I found myself wishing the best for Stargirl. Found myself celebrating that she’s re-found not only her ability to be a hero despite losing what she saw was ‘special’ in her. Learning that age old adage: that the ability was within all along. Now, back to her old form and more prepared than ever, she’s ready to responsibly take on the mantle having known loss and what’s a stake now… which is good.
Because the JSA is now officially running out of time. And the clock, quite literally, is ticking.