Stargirl – Season 2 Episode 6
“Summer School: Chapter Six”
Stargirl takes a huge leap forwards as the current plotline comes to a head, revealing to the heroes what they’re up against, while every one of the new villains demonstrates exactly what they’re capable of.
There are places that it was inevitable that this season of Stargirl would get before its conclusion, and this episode seems determined to reach every one of them. Despite the swift intensity of the narrative, things are measured enough to never seem rushed, even if practically every scene can be ended with a gif of Ron Burgundy declaring “Well, that escalated quickly.”
The only comparatively calm moment was Cameron happening upon Courtney and Pat clearing up the mess of the previous night’s madness. He reveals the now-institutionalised art teacher as a friend, and through the frustration of tragedy befalling seemingly good people he is beginning to reveal a hitherto unseen anger that furthers the ambiguity over which path he’ll eventually choose. Still believing in his father’s benevolence, when he inevitably discovers Courtney’s role in the loss of both men from his life, however unwillingly or unintentionally, that may be enough to tip him towards villainy.
The scene also features a distinctively clear painting of Cindy holding the black diamond that’s totally not a rotoscope of the last shot of her final first season appearance. Given the maddened abstract of the other paintings, it’s pretty obvious it was included to inform them who currently has hold of the dark jewel since the writers couldn’t figure out a way of establishing this organically and so feels rather jarring, especially since later Rick correctly guesses who was behind the various attacks with about three seconds’ thought and Cindy plays her hand in the very next scene.
The most linear aspect of the plot has been Cindy’s mostly straightforward efforts to form Injustice Unlimited and aim it like guided missile at the Justice league. While there was never any doubt the two groups would ultimately clash, you’d have thought it would take another couple of episodes of build-up and tension before they actually came to blows. However, the antagonism kicks off swiftly, with Isaac being odiously creepy towards Yolanda in the diner as she attempts to adjust to working life, and Artemis ambushing Beth outside her father’s office with some judiciously aimed baseballs. The boldness in each of their encounters demonstrates their being uncaring of the risk of anyone seeing or overhearing what they were doing, thoughts of vengeance for what happened to their parents the only thoughts in their volatile minds. However, despite the viciousness of the encounters they were just the opening salvos and not intended to form any kind of decisive victory, only the first part of the engagement of the enemy.
The newly villainous pair next attack Pat in his garage, leaving him hospitalised and S.T.R.I.P.E. half-demolished, cementing the violent ruthlessness by which they’re now operating. With the mecha being the most physically powerful weapon the team has at their disposal, it makes sense to strike when and where it would be dormant and so neutralise a significant tactical advantage, while also preventing the coming fight from ending in the same way as that against Sportsmaster and Tigress in “The Justice Society.”
Then there’s the matter of Mike, ambushed in Zeke’s scrapyard by Cindy, who is, apparently for her own amusement, standing ominously and silently creeping around like a serial killer from an ‘80s slasher movie. Her mocking comment about the boy not being of any augmentative use to her might possibly be a reference to online speculation regarding the topic ever since she enigmatically pulled out his picture at the end of the opening episode, but if so, it’s a little disingenuous given that his part in proceedings was framed as being equally significant to Cindy as her new recruits. However, it does tie in with it becoming increasingly clear that Cindy doesn’t really have that much of a plan if Mike’s only part in it was to be kidnapped and act as bait, which as far as sophistication in villain plots goes is one step up from becoming a bank robber.
Anyway, it has the desired effect of drawing the team to their second school encounter in as many nights, and the fight sequence that follows is possibly the best put to screen so far, outshining the free-for-all final battle of the first season, and leaving behind even more of a mess than the demonic artwork of the last episode. The brawl is chaotic and inelegant, its compelling intensity fuelled by frantic energy, while perfectly timed match cuts snap us between the various duels, jolting the action through various fighting styles and amplifying the frenetic intensity of the clash.
Although this is episode six and the Justice Society have suited up several times previously, this is this is the first time this season we’ve actually seen them fight. Each of them has learned to hone their skills in wielding their respective abilities since the above-mentioned blowout, and have even learned a little in the way of combining them in the manner that would be done by an actual team rather than merely an assortment of individuals. While they’re yet to even approach the elegance of seasoned professionals, at least their progression is visible. As for Injustice Unlimited, the seething hatred each of them has for their opponents grants them an edge over their slightly better-practiced opponents, making the four-on-three altercation far more evenly matched than you might expect.
As Rick takes on Artemis, it utterly belies the visual incongruity of a girl almost as petite as Courtney being the team’s muscle, with the two engaging in a vicious bout where the nigh-indestructibility of each is demonstrated. The gruelling punch-out destroys furniture, fixtures, facilities and facades, each more than able to take what the other has to dish out.
Beth is still playing more of a support role than participating in any active fighting, but still provides a fantastic contribution of disorienting Artemis by using the goggles to summon images of her incarcerated parents. Beth probably didn’t need to specifically use something psychologically disarming, since a large projection field blocking an opponent’s vision would be more than a little inconveniencing on its own, but still, it’s a great use of an ability that wasn’t designed for combat, and reminds us of Beth’s capacity for lateral thinking that really should be utilised more often. Hopefully it’s something she’ll become adept at using, perhaps becoming something akin to an illusionist mage from a high fantasy tale.
Evan Isaac manages to look threatening, despite presumably having had no fight training and posessing an ability that restricts both his hands to a limited range of movement, even if it’s clear from his fingering that nobody bothered to teach Max Frantz the basics of how to look like you actually know how to play a violin. Anyway, that’s a minor gripe, and the powerful percussive blasts of sound he summons with the instrument soon reveal him to be a formidable opponent, and one that Yolanda has trouble getting anywhere near to deal with.
Cindy of course squares off with Courtney, still unable to see past her blind hatred for the girl onto whom she’s projected all her failures and needing to take her down to prove herself superior, her spite and vindictiveness largely undoing any kind of sympathy the audience might have managed to muster for her.
After the villains’ inevitable defeat the Shade then crops up, naturally waiting until the fighting is finished before making a grandstanding entrance and expecting his condescending commands to simply be obeyed. However the situation might have played out is rendered moot when Eclipso possesses Cindy, prompting Courtney to do what she usually does, sailing straight into a dangerous situation without a moment’s thought, the Cosmic Staff’s power being enough to inadvertently shatter Eclipso’s prison.
To be honest, the scarred and leathery ashen countenance of the evil force looks more like a half-finished LARPing mask than the hideous visage of a fallen being of divine vengeance, so hopefully he’ll grow increasingly intimidating the more of Blue Valley’s unsuspecting populace he corrupts and consumes over the coming weeks.
Fortunately, his actions speak far more efficiently of his deadly nature than his appearance, first tearing out one of Cindy’s wrist blades and absently tossing her away, swatting Rick aside like a buzzing fly, and devouring Isaac’s soul. Retrospectively, it was pretty clear that Fiddler Mk III was always destined to be an early casualty given that he was constantly treated like an afterthought, even in scenes that featured him and a couple of extra lines of dialogue to give him some presence wouldn’t have made much of a dent.
Cindy is a different matter. Despite being pulled into some pitch-black abyss by eldritch tentacles lashing onto her arms like chains from Hellraiser’s Cenobites, the vague attempts at growth she has received and the teases involving her lingering trauma surrounding her mother’s death suggest further plans for her later on. Regardless of Courtney’s assertion that she’s dead, since this isn’t Game of Thrones it’s highly unlikely for a character to be summarily dispatched in the middle of their development without any kind of resolution.
Although Artemis escaped, being the first to wisely think “Yeah, screw this!” at witnessing Isaac’s death, she now has no teammates remaining and despite her physical prowess can’t take on the whole Justice Society by herself. This leaves her with nowhere to turn and so will probably become a reluctant ally to the heroes later on to face the mutual danger Eclipso poses.
The line about the Shade’s powers coming from Eclipso’s home not only provides a reason for the most formidable character so far to be easily overpowered, but also links back to the realm of shadow in which Doctor Mid-Nite is imprisoned and the Shade has probably involuntarily retreated, as well as the pit of darkness where Cindy was banished. When some portal to the lost hero is established, it may well allow for the return of those others who have become trapped in the darkened void.
Once again, the Cosmic Staff is demonstrated to be far more powerful than its inauspicious use and vague provenance has thusfar established, its celestial radiance being able to force Eclipso to retreat, scurrying away like a feral vampire scorched by a ray of sunlight. However, unlike with the Shade or Paintball, the effort of wounding such an infinite depth of darkness takes it out of commission, and you can guarantee it’ll take longer than the start of the next episode for it to be back glowing and bobbing about. It also raises questions of why a weapon of light could break open a prison made to hold a creature of darkness, but that’s an issue for another day.
Things are ominously finished off by Eclipso taking on the disguise of “Bruce,” the small boy seen in the opening episode’s prologue and who there is precisely zero chance won’t turn out to be the childhood appearance of Bruce Gordon, the explorer who was identified in Chapter Four as rediscovering the mysterious and foreboding Diablo Island where the black diamond originated. Following the theme of nocturnal transformation both dictated and symbolised by lunar prominence, the imagery of this final scene mirrors that of werewolf movies, but one where its apparently innocent young human is ready to morph into something far more dangerous when the autumn moon is bright.
“Summer School: Chapter Six” features events it seems are happening too early, but makes them feel pivotal without rushing them. The core set-piece of the brawl between the Justice Society and Injustice Unlimited was fantastically choreographed and edited, and Eclipso’s emergence establishes just how formidable a force of evil he is about to become.
- the maintained ambiguity over Cameron’s future path
- the swift confluence of events
- the brutal energy of the superpowered teenage brawl
- the variation of the battle’s fighting
- the frantic editing of the fight
- Eclipso being effortlessly established as a major threat
- the foreboding of what’s to come
- the forced identification of Cindy having the black diamond
- Eclipso’s humanoid form not looking very intimidating
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