Stargirl – Season 1 Episode 8
“Shiv (Part 2)”
Stargirl continues spending too much time looking at Cindy, the psychotic assassin Shiv.
The last episode was something of a disappointment, mainly on account of the attempts to make us empathise with her and put an alternative spin on her hateful personality falling flat. This follow up puts things slightly back on track, playing with audience expectations for some tense sequences.
This time events largely revolve around the aftermath of the altercation between the two teenage girls that formed the climax of the first part. Courtney is in hospital and Pat crashes his beloved classic car to provide a plausible reason for her injuries, not only voluntarily demolishing his most prized possession, but right afterwards deciding that he can’t keep lying to Barbara about everything going on. Despite being constantly disregarded and ignored by those around him, he uncomplainingly carries on doing everything he can to keep them safe, never expecting acknowledgement or praise.
Cindy presumption that finding and facing Stargirl will earn her grudging appreciation from Dragon King goes the same way every other time the show’s teenage characters have taken it upon themselves to defy instructions, the praise she expects backfiring when her father points out she didn’t actually solve the problem while also revealing herself in the process. Her disregard for the attempted warning off is inevitable.
Fortunately for the heroes, Cindy’s attack gives the Justice Society a starting point to figure out who in the town is a member of the ISA. Predictably, Rick’s anger is immediately an issue as he evidently still hasn’t learned from the fight with Sportsmaster and Tigress that launching off half-cocked is a good way to put himself and other people in danger. Surprisingly, it’s Beth who reigns him in, swiftly deconstructing his rage issues and in a few short sentences displays more and greater leadership than Courtney has managed over the course of multiple episodes.
She even stops to think things through a little, reusing the strategy she utilised in “Hourman and Dr Mid-Nite” of bluffing her way into the home of the person she’s investigating, because if there’s one thing that parents in Blue Valley are evidently clueless about, it’s who their children have actually been hanging out with. Granted, as plans go it’s still kind of rubbish, but at least she went to the bother of trying to make one before rushing off into a potentially dangerous situation.
Some attempt at comedy is made with Pat and Beth trying to talk their way past Cindy’s stepmother Bobbie (Lesa Wilson), but it’s another example of the show needing more variation in humour than two people simultaneously coming up with unconvincing and contradictory lies, especially when utilised n the same scene. While it’s the kind of cringe humour that many people find highly amusing, something a little different is needed if any kind of light-hearted undertone is planned to continue.
Beth discovering the entrance to the ISA’s network of tunnels and heading off to explore them is another example of her initiative, and it’s a plausible and relatable moment when she hears Solomon Grundy growling in his cell, realises she is in over her head and just quietly nopes the hell out of there.
In the meantime, Courtney stays in bed recuperating, and has a surprising interaction with Mike, who apologises for his outburst in the previous episode. It’s questionable how compelled he would have felt to do so were it not for Courtney’s brush with death soon after, but it’s still as tolerable and dimly recognisable as a functioning human being as he has been all season.
Unfortunately, the team being otherwise occupied also leads to nobody being around when Cindy has the same idea as Beth, coming upon Courtney wiling away her bedroom boredom by texting people, which might well be the most teenage thing the show has yet had her do. Side note: do teenagers still use text messaging, or is that another thing they perceive as belonging to geriatrics and other people over 30? Also, the phone’s screen shows it to be guilty of the relevant communications clearly being the start of any interaction between Courtney and Yolanda, suggesting they have never previously messaged each other, a pitfall as common as it is easily avoided.
Anyway, Cindy turns up under the guise of attempting to apologise for flying off at her when Courtney ditched her to go out with Cameron, leaving Courtney apprehensive about whether or not her identity has been blown. It’s a wonderfully tense scene, with Cindy’s attempts to be friendly falling flat since she can’t keep her snide and judgemental remarks to herself in between pointing out the similarities between them that were tacitly suggested in the previous episode.
Of course, it’s all a ruse by Cindy to amuse herself, proving that she and her future nemesis are also alike in their refusal to pay any heed to reasonable instructions. While it was entirely unnecessary for her to go through the whole charade of pretending that Courtney had avoided being recognised, it’s entirely in keeping with the cheerleader’s vindictive nature to do so just to heighten the emotional impact of the reveal and leave a parting promise to kill everyone Courtney loves.
Cindy pointing out she was able to see through the thin Stargirl disguise is a whole separate issue. Part of the suspension of disbelief of superheroes is the conceit of meagre masks completely concealing someone’s identity. Yes, anybody should easily be able to recognise Courtney despite being unable to see her eyebrows and forehead, but buying into the likes of this concealing who she is an unspoken contract between creative and fan. If you start voluntarily poking holes in a concept’s inherent lack of plausibility, you may not like where you end up.
It’s also not justified why Yolanda wouldn’t have bothered to let Courtney know that everyone is safe after they had infiltrated the home of a violent psychopath and right after Courtney told her that said nutter knows who she is, but had she done so there wouldn’t have been case to initiate a second round of girlfighting by Courtney coming crashing through Cindy’s bedroom window to save the friends she has no idea are out of danger.
When Henry comes across the girls’ rematch after it spills out into the street, his inadvertent explosion of psionic energy throws the combatants apart with Cindy subsequently being removed by Dragon King’s minions. This is probably the last time the series can get away with Courtney escaping a fight due to somebody else’s intervention before it begins to look like a cop out. Hopefully, this sixth altercation with a murderous maniac in the space of about a month and the closest yet she has come to being killed will convince her that she should actually listen to people – specifically Pat – who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to picking your battles.
Henry is continuing to swiftly and painfully inherit his father’s abilities, with it being intriguing that they are only manifesting now that Brainwave is comatose, as though the psychic power exists independently of its wielder and now that one has been incapacitated it has found itself an alternative host. He learns that Cindy was assigned to watch him, retrospectively affording additional context to her leaking of Yolanda’s topless photo to stimulate their breakup, but the spitefully vindictive manner she engaged in her assigned task is all her. He clearly has no idea what’s happening to him, and while he might be an obnoxious bully and an utterly trash excuse for person, the fear and uncertainly his powers are causing him might prevent him from turning to full-on supervillainy.
A lingering issue is the lack of any kind of mention of Justin and his blade-brandishing exploits. It’s conceivable that Courtney either didn’t see who saved her from Cindy’s wrist razors or the memory of it faded soon after she passed out, but there’s no reason that Cindy wouldn’t have at least mentioned it to her father, at the very least complaining that her absolute victory was stolen from her when she was unable to wield supreme teenage power after a bearded pleb swung a sword at her, and that paraphrasing is as close to a recognisable Monty Python quotation as I could get.
Although “Shiv (Part 2)” still falls short of what we previously came to expect of the series, it’s still an improvement over the story’s less than engaging first half. Cindy proves herself to be just as stubborn as Courtney, and although gone for now it’s unlikely to be long before she resurfaces. Henry’s significance is now coming to the fore, and he will be the next one to make a choice over who he wants to be.
- Beth stepping into the readership role
- Pat continuing to act as stealth MVP
- the tense first scene of Courtney facing Cindy
- Mike being less annoying than usual
- repetitive attempts at humour
- Cindy seeing through Courtney’s disguise countering suspension of disbelief
- no motion of Justin swinging a sword around
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