Stargirl – Season 2 Episode 7
“Summer School: Chapter Seven”
Stargirl slows the pace of its development to allow its characters to take stock of their current situation, the breathing room not being as helpful to everyone as might have been hoped.
As I made clear in last week’s gushing review, “Chapter Six” was a truly spectacular episode of action and excitement, so attempting to immediately top it would most likely be an exercise in futility. Wisely, the show makes no attempt to do so, instead providing a character-driven instalment focusing on Yolanda and her lingering issues that have only been sporadically addressed throughout the season.
The headaches she has been enduring are now intensifying, and the mystery of their cause, as well as how she deals with them, comes to the fore. As I mentioned previously, her guilt over killing Brainwave has been amplified by her Catholic faith, and now that the fight against Eclipso is in a temporary lull, her need to believe herself right with God is now beginning to dominate her thoughts. Like in the season opener, she is at first unable to even verbalise what she had done during a church confession. Perhaps she feels that if she says it out loud it will become more real and force her to address the barrage of feelings that she has neither the experience nor the maturity to properly deal with, but even without stating the truth things escalate.
Guilt is a powerful emotion that’s much more than just a litany of self-recrimination that makes you relive your shame and wish with every fibre of your being that you could somehow go back and do things differently. No, it’s also an insidious force that compels you to second-guess your every decision that led to your moment of regret, sowing doubt in your capacity to make the right choices and making you question your very worth as a human being. Yolanda is now so consumed by her own self-loathing, spurred on more than a little by that which her religion teaches her to feel, it’s in danger of becoming all that she is. She has been forced back to exactly where she was at the beginning of the series, an existence of isolated misery where everything she is or ever could be has been overshadowed by a single action.
As was pretty much revealed by the opening credits listing the actors’ names (do you hate it as much as I do when TV shows do this?), Yolanda has now progressed to full-on hallucinations of Brainwave and Henry. The latter all but directly states that he’s burning in hell due to never having Yolanda’s forgiveness, even though his words don’t accurately reflect reality, specifically that it’s not the responsibility of the wronged to grant forgiveness to the dying. Anyway, to receive absolution you first have to ask for it, and it wasn’t until Henry was moments from death that it occurred to him to even apologise to Yolanda for all that he put her through, never mind seek to be spiritually pardoned for it. However, this isn’t actually important, since his words are a manifestation of Yolanda’s self-recrimination rather than intended as a true representation of how Christian scriptures teach the logistics of damnation, and reflect just how powerful is the internal torment to which she is subjecting herself.
The supervillain’s appearances are even more terrifying for her, stating that he implanted his consciousness in her mind as he lay dying and will soon take over, and although it wasn’t ever stated that Brainwave was capable of something like that, such were the powerful psionics of his abilities it’s certainly plausible that he could have. However, even if that were the case, the realisation that someone of his self-perceived intellect was unable to manipulate a teenage girl would have been enough of a shock to him that he may well not have had the presence of mind to actually do so at the same time his lifeblood bubbled from his severed jugular. Despite the Cosmic Staff not having recovered from being in contact with Eclipso it was still able to banish the hallucination, and this further reinforces the overdue necessity of some exploration into exactly how it was made and what quantifiable powers it possesses if we are to accept it at the metaphysical multitool it’s being increasingly utilised as.
The three-way possibility over the exact cause of her visions – Brainwave’s mental intrusion, Eclipso’s malign influence or merely her own gnawing guilt manifesting itself – is ambiguous enough that it’s not currently possible to make a decisive declaration over which it is, or that it’s not some combination of them or even all three amplifying each of the others in turn. It will likely be some time before the definitive truth can be ascertained.
This is exactly the kind of situation where the support of her friends would be what she needs most, so it’s more than a little disappointing that they’re unable to give it to her. Yolanda’s attempts to loop in Courtney to her suffering fall flat when she feels abandoned due to the bubbly blonde’s budding relationship with Cameron taking its first few tentative steps, meaning the one person she should feel like she can talk to about anything now has different priorities.
Trying to share her feelings with the rest of the team goes even worse. The shock statement that your friend killed someone is certainly a lot to take in and isn’t something that can be processed on the spot, but you would have hoped they could at least have offered her some words of comfort to let her know that she doesn’t have to deal with it alone.
It wasn’t established previously that the others didn’t know what Yolanda did, so the build up to the revelation or the admission itself each don’t have as much impact as they might have had she been more afraid of her secret somehow getting out. This also has the problem of seeming like her developmental arc wasn’t planned out, but decided on the fly. It’s also a little unreasonable to judge her when her actions were during a heated confrontation and the one whose throat was ripped open was also the one most sadistically on board with the random slaughter of 25 million people.
Her decision to quit the Justice Society was really the only way that things could ultimately go, since she needs time to process and continuing as an active member of the team would be detrimental to her being able to do so. Her blaming Courtney for recruiting her in the first place was a little unreasonable, particularly, if you recall, Courtney once attempted to take back the JSA artefacts and was met with vehement resistance.
However, the following scenes where Yolanda’s mother Maria (Kikéy Castillo) tells Courtney she doesn’t want anything to do with her and resigns from the diner for her are a little suspicious, it coming off like the girl has been hidden away from the world to prevent her from bringing further shame on the family by having the audacity to be alive. Maria’s faith may well be the kind of sanctimonious piety espoused by people whose lives are dominated by their religion, and it’s not impossible that Yolanda ghosting her friends and quitting her job was not entirely, or even slightly, her own choice. Parents are always so staunchly convinced that they know what’s best for their children it often doesn’t ever occur to them that they might be wrong. Her earlier reference to Yolanda’s “little problems” suggests she never had any interest in investigating the root of what was troubling her daughter, but rather wanting her to be an obedient little Catholic girl who doesn’t make any waves and just lives out the life that’s been planned for her.
Yolanda’s parents’ lack of interest is reinforced by her having been dumped in summer school despite her perfect academic record, but their having had no prior presence in the series save for first season episode “Wildcat” where it was revealed they blame their daughter for her privacy being violated rather than the scum actually responsible for it, means it’s difficult for us to accept them as fully rounded characters and not merely nebulous reactionaries there to advance a plot point.
While there’s no doubt Yolanda will eventually work through her problems, for now this is as far as things go, unusually leaving the episode with no real resolution to its events and its progression suspended in limbo with little indicator of how it can progress.
Elsewhere, Mike’s initial attempts to become a productive team member by learning to maintain S.T.R.I.P.E are interrupted by some other hallucinations, seeing the shards of the black diamond transform into leeches that cover his hands, arms and neck. Setting aside exactly why Pat left the slivers out on his workbench, it establishes that even in a dormant and fragmented state the dark jewel is still hazardous and not a danger to be taken lightly. Unlike everything Yolanda is currently enduring, there’s no indication that leeches are a phobia specific to Mike, but being covered in slimy annelids latching onto your skin and draining your blood isn’t something someone needs a personal experience with to be suitably freaked out by.
The situation also prompts a statement from Pat that the shattered gem is Eclipso’s one known weakness (aside from, evidently, the Cosmic Staff). There is no mention of exactly how Eclipso was imprisoned in the first place, possibly due to the knowledge relating to whatever it is that Pat doesn’t want the young heroes knowing, perhaps because it involves someone sacrificing their life to activate the jewel’s power to contain the dark force. If so, this may be setting up Pat to be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice and have Mike take over as the team mechanic and mecha pilot.
One further moment of Mike’s that’s worth mentioning is when the family are discussing Yolanda’s problems and he brings up that his killing of icicle was an accident. When he first mentioned this in “Chapter Three” it was due to Yolanda wrestling with her guilt and seeking someone who might understand what she was feeling, but for him to bring it up now, repeating the same point unprompted and the declaration not going anywhere, means the issue is bound to have some later significance, perhaps suggesting that Mike isn’t quite as nonchalant about what he did than he’s making out.
As for the main plot, Eclipso was evidently more weakened by the Cosmic Staff than was immediately apparent, seeing as he has gone from curb-stomping a roomful of superheroes and villains to being only capable of merely influencing a waitress to pour hot coffee on an abusive customer. He likely sees it as little more than the kind of game that one of his current childish form would enjoy, but it’s also the first step in re-establishing his strength, so the chaos he causes will only escalate. It’s one of only two appearances he has, minor ones at that, and establishing him as being in such a diminished state neatly justifies why he won’t bring about untold devastation until a far more dramatic point nearer the end of the season.
The question is also raised of why he remained in Blue Valley – as is evidenced to the heroes by the continuation of the freak weather – wherein reside the only people who know of his presence (and possibly existence) along with the one weapon seen to have harmed him and the remnants of the prison that held him for decades. However, seeing as Eclipso is an entity whose powers are unquantifiable and motives are inscrutable, this is an issue for later.
The final shot, showing him as having set his sights on Beth, was repulsively sinister and makes you wonder what he has planned for her. His entry point will likely be her fear of her parents’ impending separation, but exactly how this can be used to corrupt a girl who is quite possibly the most kindhearted person in the entire show remains to be seen.
“Summer School: Chapter Seven” is a much more subdued episode than previous instalments but no less compelling, granting Yolanda’s personal problems some overdue focus and forcing her to make a tough decision that will have ramifications for everyone. Even though Eclipso is established as being nowhere near as dangerous as his memorable introduction established him to be, the situation is only temporary and he’ll regain his strength before long.
- giving Yolanda’s problems some much-needed focus
- the escalating intensity of Yolanda’s hallucinations
- the ambiguity over the cause of the hallucinations
- establishing Eclipso’s temporarily reduced threat level
- not making it clear nobody knew Yolanda killed Brainwave
- no justification for the Cosmic Staff’s myriad abilities
- lack of characterisation for Yolanda’s mother
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