Stargirl – Season 1 Episode 7
“Shiv (Part 1)”
Stargirl shifts its focus from young superheroes to their teenage criminal-in-waiting counterparts by spotlighting the first of several second-generation villains, someone who is already evil enough on her own.
Heroes and villains are more interesting when they function as a mirror of one another, or at least operate on a comparable level. While it’s an interesting dynamic to have young and inexperienced heroes facing off with older and far more proficient villains, it’s unsustainable in the long term as the only eventual results would be the former ending up dead or the latter decaying in competence, neither of which is a desirable outcome. As a result, brief moments are already setting up several of the teenage characters as replacement nemeses, and the first we get a proper look at is head bitch cheerleader Cindy, the villainess Shiv.
Personally, I’d have much preferred it if someone else had been looked at before a two-part tale of a narcissistic queen bee. The fact that it’s Cindy is being showcased is not a bad thing in and of itself, it’s more that I just have an intense dislike of characters who display an overwhelming sense of arrogance and entitlement that allows them to view themselves as superior to everyone else, as such people instil in me little more than abject contempt. It’s part of why I’ve never gone in for the popular go-to fantasy of cheerleaders.
The first major reveal is that her father is Dragon King, retrospectively giving context to his comment in “Wildcat” that made his daughter sound like one of his science experiments, and is doubled down upon when he explicitly states her to be such. Also, the photo of him in human form that was briefly seen in “Hourman and Dr Mid-Nite” suggests that his current reptilian state is a recent transformation, although whether or not it was an intentional one remains to be seen.
While it’s made clear that the other Injustice Society members are intentionally keeping their children away from the scheming and murder being undertaken apparently for their future benefit and safety, Cindy is well aware of the mad science atrocities her father is committing, evidently has been for some time, and wants in.
It’s a frequent occurrence for characters in TV series to begin as seemingly little more than basic archetypes and later become something more resembling rounded individuals as more of who they are is revealed and understood. While the episode’s events offer some perspective of why Cindy is such a hateful, spiteful and unhinged person, such as Dragon King almost certainly conditioning her to behave in such a way so he could keep her in reserve as an attack dog to the extent she is willing to kill people as an act of reactionary petulance, she still doesn’t come away instilling much empathy in the viewer.
After she is unable to command Henry to go to a dance with her, the boy ignorantly being more concerned about whether or not his father will ever wake up from a coma, the moment makes her take stock of her life, possibly due to it being the first time someone has not fallen over themselves to accede to her every whim. The conclusion she seems to come to is that people might fear and obey her, but there is nobody in the school who genuinely likes her. It taking this moment for her to realise how hollow is her life truly indicates how lacking in self-awareness she is, and this is not the end of the similarities that can be drawn between her and Courtney, both intentional and incidental.
Both of the girls are desperate to be a part of a something larger than themselves before they are truly ready to properly engage with it, a link spelled out by an intercut scene of each of them arguing their case to their father. The editing choice itself is a neat one, but the parallel is clear enough without needing to draw attention to it. Additionally, both young women are more than a little self-absorbed and have each been raised from a young age by a single parent, but the respective influences such an upbringing had on them is where they differ. If the comics are anything to go by the pair are destined to become mortal enemies, so even at the resolution of this story’s second half their animosity will only continue to grow.
After seeing Cindy alone in a chemistry class Courtney attempts to befriend her, which even taking into account her boundless deapths of compassion is an odd choice given the girl’s treatment of Yolanda, even without knowing her to be responsible for the public shaming. Cindy is shown to have more than a little understanding of the science, which is unsurprising given her father’s work, and in the future may well lead to her using such knowledge to create the likes of explosives or poisons.
She is seen to be silently thankful that someone is deigning to speak to her, but her sadness over her newfound isolation doesn’t quite mesh with her portrayal thusfar. She has no right to feel abandoned when all she does is belittle everything anyone does or says when she isn’t undertaking acts of wilful spite, so if she doesn’t care about other people’s opinions of her then why is she so troubled about their dismissal of her demands?
It’s heavily implied she is responsible for her mother’s death, which regardless of ingrained personality has got to mess someone up at least a little, although she seems more concerned about being absolved of responsibility for the act rather than expressing any kind remorse over her part in it. Her actions likely also resulted in the deaths of her previous stepmothers, whose departures are implied to be the result of her lethal tantrums, and explains why the current one lives in such terror of her.
Elsewhere, the new superteam don’t have much to do other than turn up for Pat’s incredibly shoddy first attempt at training with lo-fi Blue Peter representations of the Injustice League, which Courtney proceeds to obliterate because for some reason she believes that doing so proves her to not need any additional training, despite the previous episode’s events demonstrating little else. As well as disregarding that the session was intended for the whole team, she seems blind to the fact that there’s nothing very much impressive about destroying inanimate objects, regardless of in how histrionic a fashion you do it.
Emphasising the episode’s failed attempts at presenting young people’s emotional issues in any convincing way, Mike begins getting jealous about the amount of time Pat is spending with Courtney and tries to reclaim him. His declaration that Courtney doesn’t know what he and his father have been through regarding the presumable passing of his mother (so many dead parent references in this episode), which might be the case, but having an actual conversation relating the information instead of using it as an emotional trump card might allow her to. He also overlooks the fact that perhaps if he spent less time acting like such an obnoxious brat the prospect of being in his company might be less unappealing.
The climax is another example of Cindy inadvertently emulating Courtney, this time by taking it upon herself to prove herself worthy of engaging in a life of violent encounters. Upon overhearing that a certain Stargirl is causing the Injustice Society’s trouble, she decides to take out the blonde menace. Cindy’s fighting prowess, as well as her super-suit, regeneration abilities and flamethrower staff make her a formidable opponent, and this will be far from the only time that she and Courtney come to blows. It’s telling that the battle is more evenly matched than the various bouts against Sportsmaster and Tigress, and the mutual development of their skills should lead to them becoming more dramatic.
The climax also brings us to Justin, the school’s janitor. A pointed shot earlier in the episode raises and does not address the question of what exactly a high school custodian with apparent mental health problems is doing owning an ornate longsword, let alone keeping it at work, but to be honest it’s not much more demented than everything else going on in this series. Just in case his odd behaviour and penchant for cryptic speech and chivalric allusions didn’t alert you to there being something seriously off about him, he is also shown to know what he’s doing in wielding the archaic weapon, saving Courtney from Cindy’s claws in the process and soon after recognising Pat from his days as a superhero sidekick. It indicates just how much of the bearded enigma there is still to lean, queries how much of a connection he has to the previous Justice Society, and tacitly suggests the prospect of more of the team’s former members still being out there.
“Shiv (Part 1)” is a passable but overall sub-par follow-up to the stellar “The Justice Society.” It introduces its eponymous villain well and draws parallels between her and Courtney’s Stargirl, but fails to adequately elicit the intended empathy over the troubled life she has endured. If Cindy is intended to be around for the long run, she needs to become a better rounded character to remain in any way interesting, and hopefully the second half of the story will give her more to work with.
- Cindy being a convincing future nemesis for Courtney
- the parallels between Cindy and Courtney
- Cindy’s reaction to social isolation not tracking with her personality
- editing choices not being necessary to compare Cindy with Courtney
- Courtney tying to befriend Cindy despite her treatment of Yolanda
- unconvincing attempts to elicit empathy for Cindy
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( vote)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.