Stargirl – Season 1 Episode 6
“The Justice Society”
Stargirl reaches its midway point and sees the teenage superteam assemble for their inaugural mission, learning for the first time what they’re capable of.
The premise of Stargirl has so far been Courtney’s decision to recruit for a new generation of the Justice Society, but rather than make that the end goal of the season we have instead reached it halfway along, and now we get to see how Courtney’s plan – or rather complete and utter lack thereof – will play out in real life instead of her unshakeably idealistic mind.
Before that, we get the unmasking, so to speak, of the last two Injustice Society members to be officially identified, Sportsmaster and Tigress. In case anyone hadn’t figured it out yet, they are revealed as overbearing gym owner Larry Crock and PE teacher Paula Brooks (Joy Osmanski), when they beat the school coach to death for having the audacity to disregard their over-competitive and violent daughter Artemis (Stella Smith). After the Injustice Society are inevitably defeated, a new generation of villains will likely rise, and from her few brief appearances it seems that she is being set up as one of them.
They also have an amusing later interaction with Artemis, where normal parental encouragement for a child left home alone, such as finishing her homework or not trashing the house, is instead replaced by a surreal moment where they instead impress upon her the importance of an exercise regime. It tacitly suggests that adequate parenting is not something they have much competence at, to the extent that having a daughter might even have been a part of their cover of civilian life.
Another sports scene later on has the spouses encounter Gambler being his typical smug and irritating self, and highlights that even though the Injustice Society might be teammates working towards a common objective, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they particularly like each other. The notion was also brought up in “Wildcat” with Dragon King’s attitude towards Icicle killing Wizard, and it may eventually prove to be the villainous superteam’s undoing.
The end of the last episode saw Pat discovering that Courtney stole the Justice Society memorabilia, and here she’s called on it. Her looking shamed by his accusations is a strong indicator that however frequently she might ignore his advice, she genuinely cares about his opinion of her and wants him to think well of her decisions and actions. It’s a stark contrast to the pilot episode where she could barely contain her indifferent contempt every time he attempted to even verbally acknowledge her existence, and shows how far they’ve come in a short space of time. Courtney looking cowed and practically pouting with deference reminds us that for all her enthusiasm, she’s still just a kid who hasn’t thought through what she’s trying to do. It also marks the first time that she doesn’t have a snarky rejoinder at the ready, indicating how strongly his words hit home.
Her attempts to get the superhero equipment back from her new friends doesn’t go well, since the promise of something beyond their empty and lonely lives has re-energised them, and it’s refreshing to see them disagree over the right thing to do, partially driven by the fact that they don’t actually know each other very well.
After his digital fingerprints are identified they decide to go after Gambler, whose purpose is somewhat belatedly observed to be his being a hacker and strategist. As someone overweight, unfit and devoid of fighting prowess or metahuman abilities he is something of a soft target, although this being explicitly pointed out in dialogue means there is no way their plan will play out the way they expect it to.
The suited-up infiltration instead ends up seeing them facing off with the gym rat maniacs, since Gambler was hacking a communications satellite from his home rather than on site, which even someone with barely the first clue about how hacking operates would be aware of. Prior to this, the team encountering the fresh corpse of a dead security guard hammers home to them that this isn’t a game, but that they’re going up against dangerous people with no compunctions about killing people.
Inevitably, the team barely survives the encounter, partly from being utterly outclassed and partly from their inability to function as a team, Rick’s impulsive anger already becoming an issue and Courtney’s lack of leadership skills scattering them as things have barely begun. The fight choreography is varied and engaging, showcasing the abilities of everyone involved, and demonstrating that the teenagers are largely yet to figure out how to adapt them for combat.
Yolanda and Rick soon discover that being souped-up with augmented physical capabilities doesn’t mean much when you don’t know how to use them, and are soon overpowered. While Courtney manages to hold her own a little better, it’s not made entirely clear how much of her fighting is the result of her own practice and how much is the staff’s sentience and flight allowing it to move itself, but it’s probably not much of a presumption to guess that she was given a great deal of assistance by the golden rod that allowed her to look more competent than she actually is.
The villains, meanwhile, display accomplished capabilities, both individually and together, with Sportsmaster in particular being a compelling interpretation. The thematic nature of his villainy is very easy to do very badly, and without care taken there’s the danger of him coming across like little more than an evil version of Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, much like Arrow turned Oliver Queen’s archaic weaponry choice into something engagingly badass, so baseball bats, hockey sticks and trick sports paraphernalia are transformed into an arsenal of deadly armaments.
Like the fight with Brainwave in “S.T.R.I.P.E.,” there isn’t any way the battle could conclude with the villains victorious as it would result in a summary death for the would-be heroes, and ending it with Pat descending from the sky in a Big Damn Heroes moment is a fantastic visual. While he might have had issues battling someone with psychokinetic powers that can effortlessly throw all manner of heavy objects at him, the S.T.R.I.P.E. armour is more than a match for a couple of posturing psychopaths.
Elsewhere, an isolated scene has Icicle and Cameron celebrating the deceased Christine’s birthday, presumably in a further attempt to impart some humanity to the villainous leader, although my comments on the issue in his own featured episode that more than this is required to invoke much empathy still stand.
On the subject of family, a scene between Barbara and Mike sees the latter create a science project of chocolate volcano out of his leftover Halloween haul. It doesn’t have much to do with anything else going on and seems to be there to provide an excuse to include the pair and give them something to do.
It’s also revealed that the villains’ endgame requires Brainwave to bring about, all but confirming he will awaken from his coma before the season’s end, and his part will probably be something to do with his psionic powers being amplified in a scheme of mass mind control that will affect all people over a certain age or level of maturity, leaving the nation to be begun anew by the younger generation. Just as a guess.
Although the main point of this episode is to bring the new team together, it also strongly emphasises that you can have all the good intentions in the world, but that doesn’t make up for not having the slightest idea what you’re doing if you’ve been winging it every step of the way. It takes more than costumes and powers to be heroes and the group will need much more practice and training with their abilities and how to function as a team if they hope to survive successive encounters with remorseless killers who have been operating for well over a decade.
“The Justice Society” is another strong episode that develops the titular team’s dynamic and teaches them how far they still have to go if they want to face their enemies and live. The Injustice Society now having each been officially identified should lead to increased interaction between them and greater explanation of what they’re up to, especially now they also know that they’re being plotted against.
- Pat getting to act as team dad
- Sportsmaster and Tigress’ amusing scene with Artemis
- Sportsmaster and Tigress being more than competent fighters
- the nascent heroes really not knowing what they’re doing
- the compelling climactic fight sequence
- Pat’s heroic entry
- nobody realising Gambler wouldn’t be hacking on-site
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