Stargirl – S.T.R.I.P.E. review S1 E2
We’re only two episodes in, but Stargirl has already rekindled a lot of my waning interest in the DC TV Universe. S.T.R.I.P.E. was a strong follow-up to the winning series premiere and there’s plenty of reason for optimism that the best is yet to come this season.
DC Comics fans have known this for awhile, but given free reign to make a series in his own image writer Geoff Johns will create a hit every time. He’s been a producer on the DC Extended Universe and the DC Universe shows, but Stargirl feels like the least Johns diluted product we’ve seen on the big or small screen. That’s a big win for DC fans as it’s becoming clearer that the reason so many DC projects haven’t been as warmly received as the Marvel counterparts is because too many cooks wanted their say and ingredients in every stew.
With Stargirl, Johns is able to bring a sense of fun, heroism and charming moments to the DC TV Universe, which seemed to revel and function in bleak gloominess.
In S.T.R.I.P.E., Johns finishes crafting in essence Stargirl’s origin story while giving her a clear agenda, a mission with personal stakes that avoids making Courtney’s task completely selfish and credible villains lining up to get knocked out. And for kicks, this episode gives Courtney her own sidekick. Granted, Johns has a personal connection to this character on a level he likely feels a greater obligation to getting right than any other, but this is a formula that should work for every hero. It’s just done extremely well with Stargirl.
Both Stargirl and Brainwave are looking for each other after Pat takes her away in his gigantic robot suit in their first encounter. Pat explains Hourman survived the Injustice Society’s attack on the Justice Society and reached out for help. Hourman trailed them to Blue Valley, but died in an car accident before Pat arrived. This will likely be my last time griping about this, but I wish two or three of the old guard JSA survived this attack to help Pat train the next generation.
With at least one member of the Injustice Society operating in Blue Valley, Pat realizes he needs to get ready for a showdown provided he can get his mech battle ready. This leads to a pretty funny montage of Pat trying to work the kinks out. The fist to the face was so obvious, but I legit laughed out loud over it. Courtney meanwhile manages to break the school’s home ec department by crafting her costume.
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Costumer Laura Jean Shannon did an outstanding job translating Stargirl’s comic book outfit to the small screen at a big screen level quality. Not shockingly, Shannon did the superhero costumes for Titans, which also featured incredibly high quality movie worthy outfits.
Johns didn’t wait too long in revealing other Injustice Society members operating in Blue Valley from Abra Kadabra (Joe Knezevich) posing as councilman William Zarick and businessman Steven Sharpe is actually The Gambler (Eric Goins). That was a smart move if for nothing else to avoid spoilers. It seems like the Injustice Society all have children whom they may have tried to pass on their powers and abilities. Brainwave’s disappointment that his son, Henry Jr. (Jake Austin Walker) seems to support that theory.
Brainwave gets first crack and he quickly tracks Courtney down at a parent’s night at the school. Christopher James Baker has been excellent as the creepy and unnerving villain who actually comes off like a menace. I appreciated Pat’s exchange with Courtney as she realized he was willing to die for her and the rest of the family.
This was the point where Courtney became a real hero as she wouldn’t stay on the sidelines, not for payback on the people who killed her father, but to save her stepfather. Brec Bassinger’s scene with Amy Smart was surprisingly heartfelt as Courtney and Barbara had a nice exchange about Courtney making an effort with Pat. That worked on multiple levels.
Pat’s fight with Brainwave was impressive from an effects standpoint as well as execution. Stargirl’s arrival was even better and again the show avoids portraying Courtney as some master level hero right off the bat. The Cosmic Staff helped her stave off Brainwave’s attacks along with her gymnastic prowess, but she still needed a distraction from Pat to beat him. Pat didn’t save the day, but this validated his importance to Stargirl as she learns the superhero ropes.
The partnership worked out as Stargirl put Brainwave in a catatonic state. This doesn’t sit well with Henry Jr., but will that prove enough of a trigger to unlock his potential powers? Pat feels a little useless after not being of much help to Courtney, but she convinces him that they need each other to take down the Injustice Society. And she helps him come up with a cooler nickname than Stripesy — S.T.R.I.P.E.
If that wasn’t enough, Icicle (Neil Jackson) returns and assures The Gambler he’s perfectly capable of killing another Starman.
Stargirl is already proving to have a winning formula and with this cast, effects budget and strong writing, it looks poised to be one of the best DC TV shows so far.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: The CW