Stargirl – Season 2 Episode 12
“Summer School: Chapter Twelve”
Stargirl finishes assembling its main players for the finale, drafting in new allies and bringing back those temporarily exiled, and putting in place the last remaining pieces of story to kick everything off.
As well as the varying levels of fear and darkness the series has made its characters endure, a primary theme of this season of Stargirl has been what actually makes a team beyond their being merely a loose collection of individuals sharing a common goal. Since Eclipso’s escape he has systematically been eroding each Justice Society member’s faith in themselves and each other, so before things can come to a final head everyone needs to reunite so they can face him together. Sadly, this being the episode’s focus is also its principal weakness; its events are in service to what the season finale requires of them rather than having anything specific to say in isolation.
First, there’s the matter of Beth and Jennie’s investigation at the school, an educational institution seemingly soon to rival Sunnydale High as both a nexus of supernatural chaos and a grim litany of violent mortality, happening at the same time as Pat and Barbara found the Shade last week. The duplicate dark energy was a residue from the portal Eclipso opened to drop Cindy into at the climax of Chapter Six, and it’s a little convenient to bring up such a previously unalluded-to possibility, especially when its only purpose is to provide a way for Jennie to become infected by the nightmare juice, which I’ll get back to later. It also tacitly raises the question of whether or not there’s another blob of semi-sentient black goo on the floor of Pat’s garage under the old JSA headquarters ready to pounce on whatever luckless urban explorer happens across it.
Of the new arrivals, the most significant is that of Jakeem Williams (Alkoya Brunson), seen briefly at the end of Chapter Three as the new holder of the Thunderbolt and who Mike finds after following a (sadly largely unseen) trail of giant food that looks like CGI tests for a live action version of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. He’s a departure from the comics version of the character, who lived a tough life beset by tragedy that left him with a crude and defensive personality, whereas this Jakeem is simply nerdy and introverted. While the only family dynamic we see is some sibling ridicule from his older sister Jenny (Ashley Winfrey, who you may dimly recall from the first season as one of Cindy’s cheerleader minions), that he has a full family in the first place would suggest he’s had a loved life, if an evidently lonely one.
There have previously been a couple of throwaway references to he and Mike being friends, though you might not remember them seeing as each time it was just a random name mentioned without any indication of the boy it belonged to. Anyway, their interactions convince as two teenage boys already familiar with each other, and with their complementary levels of dorkiness it’s easy to see why they would have instinctively gravitated towards each other.
Mike is still evidently lamenting having accidentally wished away the Thunderbolt, being yet to shake the yearning to be a true participant in the heroics going on around him, his lack of abilities or equipment instead forcing him to watch from the sidelines. Although he eventually comes to accept that the mischievous pink djinn now has a new master, it’ll likely be a while before he manages to completely let go of his regret.
Although you’d already know if you’re familiar with the comics, this is the first time the show has made it clear that McNider is actually blind without his goggles. He must have had his sight temporarily restored by some magical means in the shadowlands to better torture him, else there would have been no need for him to keep his eyes screwed shut when he handed Courtney his goggles to reveal the darkened quiddity stretching before them.
His behaviour is slightly different from when he was on the other side of the veil, now asking direct questions that would lead someone to understanding the Justice Society’s capabilities, making him sound a little suspicious. This, along with a more calculating tone of voice could be foreshadowing he’s not quite as benevolent as was initially presented. If he isn’t real, or if he was somehow corrupted during his years trapped in the Shadowlands, it would be an incredibly long game Eclipso was playing just to pull a surprise during the final confrontation. Equally, he could merely want to ascertain what his new allies can do, and I’m just overthinking things.
Along with the new members of the team, there’s also the matter of getting the old ones back. Despite Yolanda’s notable absence for the last few episodes, it seems there was nothing more sinister to her abandonment of her life than her mother’s overbearing zealotry, and retrospectively that means that she could have been brought back into things long before now, and in a manner just as straightforward.
She still harbours some resentment for the part Courtney played in bringing about her current torment, and Courtney’s attempt to bring her back around predictably backfires. She can’t seem to grasp that the issue is what Yolanda is feeling rather than what Courtney needs from her, and her inability to truly see things from other people’s perspective threatens to put Yolanda off from ever actually returning. Contrary to how you might have expected things to go, it turns out to be Cindy who convinces her to return, playing up to exactly what Yolanda expects of her, and making her decide that she needs to return to keep Courtney safe from Cindy’s sudden yet inevitable betrayal. The reverse psychology is pretty basic and painfully transparent, but with the emotional turmoil Yolanda is suffering you can forgive her for falling for it.
Cindy’s exit is a little more annoying. Yes, it’s a staple of slasher movies for a threatening presence to vanish without a trace the moment they’re out of someone’s line of sight like they just slipped on the One Ring, but there needs to be somewhere they could have plausibly disappeared to. Since Cindy would have had to either re-enter the shot to leap out of it Yolanda’s bedroom window or bolt down the stairs and out her house without being seen by her entire family, it makes the stylistic choice come off as a horror trope being invoked without properly understanding it.
That only leaves Rick to bring back into the fold, whose seemingly more permanent departure is reversed by Pat. For all an interesting character that Pat is, we don’t actually know much about his personal history beyond his days as Stripsey and his time as Courtney’s father. The mention of a previous life in the army gives him a little expansion, and, while also justifying why a rich couple would hire him as their teenage son’s bodyguard, has also evidently instilled in him a seething contempt for bullies that likely stemmed from the thuggish ignorance that any number of scenarios in such a career would have exposed him to.
If there’s any one main overarching theme of this season, it’s that everyone has a dark side, the only variance being how much control they can or choose to have over it. Pat is someone old enough to have already faced his inner demons and wrangled them to submission, but also has enough control to let them out at will on those who deserve it, which in this case most definitely includes Matt.
Rick’s foster father might be crippled, bedridden and helpless, but that doesn’t mean he’s deserving of anything less than abject contempt. Pat looks like he’s truly wrestling with the darkness that wants to come out, but with every word it sounds like he’s slipping more comfortably into the guise of someone he doesn’t want to be. As Matt is evidently a person capable only of communicating in threats, he can certainly recognise when someone is genuine in making them, leading to his charges against Rick being dropped.
Despite the briefly lost half of the Justice Society’s founding members returning, it’s clear that neither have processed – or even addressed – the issues that led to their departure. Rick’s suspicions of how Pat might have engineered his release are apparent, possibly even believing that he deserves to remain in prison because of what he did (and by extension what he is) in penance for his self-perceived crimes. However, he doesn’t question it and instead gets to trying to recreate his father’s work in the strength-enhancing sand. Hopefully it won’t be too easy a fix, else the personal gesture Rick made to himself by destroying the hourglass would be essentially meaningless. Also, despite the small smile of genuine happiness that flits across Yolanda’s face when she again holds up her mask, that she had to be coerced into even considering doing so means that her return might not be as permanent as Courtney hopes or likely assumes.
Amidst the prosaic reintroductions, a stand-out scene sees Courtney telling Barbara about what the purgatory doppelganger said to her. It reinforces her fear that she ruined her mother’s life by simply being born, but Barbara naturally alleviates her concern. While she might not be in as successful or affluent a position as her education might have taken her, her belief that Courtney enriched her life by virtue of existing hopefully puts paid to Courtney’s deep-seated insecurity on the subject.
One of the two remaining loose ends is Cindy’s call for reinforcements. The initial logical assumption is that it’s Artemis on the other end of the phone, being the only ally she seemingly has left and who hasn’t been seen since she bolted after Eclipso killed Isaac. However, her referral to her summons in the plural would mean there’s more than one of them, suggesting she made some new friends in her unseen months away. Also, that they need to “come back” suggests they’re natives of the Nebraska town, but since everyone else we’ve already seen with whom Cindy might have conceivably had supervillain dealings is either dead or incarcerated, who they might be remains a mystery. Also unclear is whether or not they will be there to offer unconditional help or will turn on the team the moment it benefits Cindy, but we’ll soon find out.
The other is, of course, our starring blonde, seen in Jennie’s purgatorial monochrome nightmare having become Eclipso’s host and so fully surrendered that both her eyes are red, unlike the single scarlet iris seen in everyone else he’s so far taken over. Courtney is apparently such a shining beacon of purity that corrupting her would allow Eclipso to ascend to godhood, meaning her brief moment last week of giving into her hate could have greater repercussions than she could have ever thought possible.
“Summer School: Chapter Twelve” is an overall serviceable episode that puts all the pieces together to leap straight into a doubtlessly intense finale, but its adherence to what comes next only serves to rob it of standing on its own and having much to say about the development of current events.
- Mike and Jakeem convincing as existing friends
- the brief glimpse into Pat’s character
- the touching scene between Courtney and Barbara
- the episode serving to only set up the finale
- the team being reassembled too quickly
- Yolanda and Rick’s issues not being dealt with
- Cindy’s impossible vanishing act
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