Stargirl – Season 3 Episode 8

Oct 30, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“Chapter Eight – Infinity Inc (Part Two)” 

Stargirl continues its investigation into the sinister Helix Institute while making meaningful observations about the importance of family. 

If there was one episode we’d been eagerly awaiting this season, it’s this one. We only briefly saw the inside of Helix last time when Jennie was searching for her brother, and the insidious nature of the place, as well as the reference to Todd’s presence, meant we were always going to be coming back sooner rather than later.


A bolt from the grey

Picking up where last week ended in the explosion of green light and black shadow caused by Jennie and Todd touching, we see some of the other residents of the Institute. Specifically, a couple of photogenic twentysomethings in rooms where names on the doors helpfully identify them as Penny Dreadful (able to shoot blasts of electricity) and Tao Jones (who can levitate and use a force field to redirect energy), the latter also housing Kritter (here apparently an actual dog rather than a genius human with the appearance of one). There’s also a room for giant shark/human hybrid Carcharo, unseen to presumably save on the CGI budget and possibly also to avoid any distracting comparisons to King Shark, and who I initially suspected of being the unseen monster who destroyed Gambler’s trailer. Sadly, nothing actually comes of the cameos and references, which I’ll come back to later.

Back in Todd’s room, his shadows form an image of his foster father, revealing him to have been a spiteful and abusive homophobe. This strongly suggests that the hard and possibly homeless life Todd had been living with Danny was due to him running away from the group home, and given the man’s disgust at Todd’s very existence he likely didn’t do much to try to find him.

Jennie making a second fearful attempt to temper Todd’s instability results in another explosion of light, the aftermath seeing Courtney locked in Nurse Love’s office and subjected to the usual kind of patronising condescension about how the foolish child doesn’t understand what she’s doing. However, her conversations with Love and Mister Bones gradually reveal that Helix is not as malevolent as has previously been implied and that Bones’ professed desire to help troubled young metahumans was actually genuine, wanting to prevent them from experiencing the same fear and rejection he endured due to his nightmarish appearance and deadly touch and to keep the general populace safe from their unchecked abilities. There’s a little of Xavier’s School for the Gifted about the scenario if Professor X was a walking poison factory rather than an Omega Level telepath. That said, the setup of the place still has problems, specifically with the young people living there. It’s all well and good to say they’re free to leave at any time, but when you’ve already convinced troubled and scared teenagers that their very existence is a danger to the world it doesn’t take locked doors and barred windows to keep them contained, even if each resident’s room is outfitted with an electronic lock only accessible from the outside.


Back from the shadows

Once again, Courtney proves that compassion is the best course of action, convincing the two authority figures to try re-reuniting Jennie and Tood to harmonise their powers rather than forcing them to remain apart and potentially compound upon the emotional trauma that a decade of separation after being orphaned has already inflicted on them. The duality of a pair of heroes having their abilities balanced and augmented by their unity isn’t anything new, having been previously seen with the likes of the titular Ty and Tandy from Cloak & Dagger or the Fenris powers of Lauren and Andy in The Gifted, but this interpretation makes it the focal point of their stolen relationship. Each twin lost a part of themselves with the other’s absence, and now that they’re permanently back together after a metaphysical rewriting of when they were forcibly separated as children, Jennie will be able to keep Todd’s darkness at bay while Todd can rein in Jennie’s accidental pyromania.

The parallel plotline sees Pat and the Shade navigating the Shadowlands echo of Blue Valley and searching for a way out before they are consumed by the spreading blaze of Jennie’s green fire. Despite them both being grown adults with a presumably greater handle on their past shames the purgatorial realm still succeeds in screwing with them just as much as it did Courtney and Cindy last season. Given the Shade’s confidence of being above such internal torments, it of course hits him fast and hard, almost as though in punishment for his hubris.

They first encounter a spectre of Gambler in the diner, and although the Shade’s interaction with him prior to his murder made it clear he never liked him – which makes the accusation of refusing to forgive him seem to ring hollow – it’s soon revealed the significance comes from the notion of not making peace with someone right before their untimely passing. To build on this, we’re also taken to the deathbed of his long-departed sister Emily, who was referenced in a couple of episodes last season, and his refusal to be there when she died seems to be one of his few genuine regrets. Even immortal wielders of primordial darkness have family issues, and the scene demonstrates that as much as he might like to pretend otherwise, deep down he’s still human, and as such susceptible to the guilt that comes with it.


A face from the past

Pat’s visions, on the other hand, see him hallucinate his father, a judgmental army mechanic who apparently spent the entirety of Pat’s childhood making him feel as though nothing he did was ever good enough, including being born. His criticism of Pat never being a leader tacitly invokes Sylvester’s attempts to re-establish his role of sidekick earlier in the season, and although it’s not brought up knowing now what he endured as a child grants some insight of what Pat was likely feeling every time Sylvester attempted to invoke the hierarchy. Despite Pat being one of the show’s central characters, there hasn’t been much discussion of his backstory or exactly what it is that drives him beyond the generic desire to protect that should be standard for any parent. His acceptance of the early antagonism Courtney displayed towards him may have been less about simply remaining pleasant to the daughter of his new wife, but rather attempting to prevent himself from becoming everything about his father he hated by not demanding the kids in his charge comport themselves to some nebulous and unattainable standard.

The strength of Pat’s character is further demonstrated after the Shade is set to give up after being weakened by passing through the portals of verdant flame, and it’s only at Pat’s insistence that he even makes the attempt a final time to escape the collapsing pocket reality. Even though Pat may have never been fully on board with trusting the villains’ variably convincing desires to reform, he still isn’t the kind of man to just leave someone to die, however much he may think they deserve it.

The wrap-up sees the Shade agreeing to help Todd to control and harness his abilities and in so doing work towards attaining true redemption by looking out for the children of the man who, as much as he professes otherwise, he helped to kill, extending the notion with the three of them heading off to New York to track down Sandy Hawkins, the nephew of Wesley Dodds the Sandman (not that one). As satisfying a resolution as this is, it also highlights the only real issue with the episode. Tao and Penny were afforded the distinctive appearances of significant characters rather than featured extras, and for nothing to come of their introduction makes it seem like their inclusion was part of setting up a potential spinoff series, ultimately feeling less like an important chapter in the current story and more a backdoor pilot for new ones, wherein Sandy’s inheritance of his uncle’s prophetic dreams of people needing help would make a handy plot generator.


A long-awaited reuniting

The journey home sees Courtney returning to her upbeat self, the experience making her truly appreciate that she still has value absent the Cosmic Staff or the identity of Stargirl. Unfortunately, Pat’s time in the Shadowlands had the opposite effect, his spectral father’s declaration of Mike’s parental issues and Barbara having never truly taken the place of the woman who abandoned him hitting him harder than he could have expected. Yes, the nature of the greyscale world is to mess with your head, but the very fact that the manifestations verbalised such thoughts means they must exist within him, even if buried deep within his subconscious, meaning he has to deal with them sooner or later. Of course, to the viewer, they’ve already been countered by Barbara’s unequivocal statement that Mike is her son in everything except blood, but if that’s an issue Pat is genuinely concerned about then an actual adult conversation on the topic is required, something the pair have previously demonstrated they are more than capable of.

Unusually, we don’t see anything of the rest of the regular cast this time, which works in the episode’s favour. That’s not to say that the absence of Beth, Yolanda and Rick and no real presence for Mike and Barbara are good things, far from it, but as I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion this season’s inability to properly wrangle its expanded assortment of characters has been one of its major detractions. However, since we’ll be back in Blue Valley next week they’ll have parts to play again, and the emphatic confirmation that the figure in the underground tunnels is not anyone connected with Helix means that although we’re once again back to square one regarding their identity it will be re-established as a pertinent point that most if not all will have a part to play in.

Speaking of The Figure, we also briefly check back in with them, seeing them pointedly punch out a monitor frozen with Rick’s face right as he destroyed the final functioning camera, suggesting a particular anger towards the teenage Hourman. It might merely be due to his face being the only one the Watcher saw and could link to those who took out the surveillance, but it seems too specific an inclusion to not have it end up being far more significant than that. Whatever the truth, it seems as though we’ll finally have some idea of what is actually going on.


Interrupted transmissions


“Infinity Inc (Part Two)” ends a narratively tangential pair of episodes, but efficiently encapsulates the themes of the importance of family that have always been one of Stargirl’s main strengths. The surprise revelation of Helix being misguided rather than malevolent takes the story in an unexpected but interesting direction, and allows rational conversations about its efficacy rather than the moral high ground belonging to whoever comes out on top in a fight. Although it ultimately appears to be a backdoor pilot, the emotional journey undertaken getting through it more than makes up for it.

  • 9/10
    Infinity Inc (Part Two) - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • acknowledging the homophobia Todd endured
  • the moral ambiguity of the Helix Institute
  • Courtney’s compassion winning out
  • the Shade’s guilt and backstory
  • Pat receiving further characterisation
  • Courtney realising her own worth


Rise Against…

  • Nothing coming of introducing the new Helix characters


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