Stargirl – Season 3 Episode 10
“Chapter Ten – The Killer”
Stargirl deals with the aftermath of last week’s confrontation and where everyone stands after its revelations, and finally addresses who has been responsible for everything that’s been going on.
So, we finally come to the crux of any murder mystery, the identity of the culprit and the one presumably responsible for the network of spy cameras and the subsequent atmosphere of mistrust that has fallen over the central ensemble. However, in keeping with the periodic episode structure of this season, it’s some time before we actually come to the titular aspect of its events, and instead first focus on more pressing issues.
The majority of the episode addresses everyone’s feelings after the mass altercation last week, with a lot of time being spent in the Mahkents’ library, which is fast seeming like the only room in the gigantic house we ever actually see. First, we get Pat and Sylvester meeting Sofus to establish whether he and his wife know where Mike and Jakeem are and attempting to put an end to hostilities. It’s been established that the old man is far more open to ending the fighting than his wife is, but at the same time, there’s no way he’d go against someone with whom he’s been united in life for so long. Also, it’s all well and good that he partially justifies their reticence on the issue by relating their family’s history of being hunted by people who don’t understand them, but juxtaposed with their complicity in a plot that would have resulted in the deaths of 25 million people their belief in being blameless really doesn’t balance out. As history has often shown, if those who were once oppressed aren’t careful they can become the oppressors without realising it.
Then we have Sportsmaster and Tigress appearing on the Whitmore/Dugan family’s behalf to end the feud, their pasts giving them the perspective of knowing how little back-and-forth violence actually achieves in the long run. It acknowledges that while we as humans might possess a primal need to take revenge on those who wrong us, the cycle is by its very nature self-destructive, and only when refusing to perpetuate it can anyone involved truly be free. It’s left ambiguous whether their words get through to Lily, but if nothing else, they come closer than anyone to doing so.
Lily also turns up to threaten Barbara but is stopped by Tigress, leading to the decision to teach her how to use a crossbow. This, along with last week where Barbara was being taught the basics of hand-to-hand combat, likely means the plan is for her to undergo enough off-screen practice to become at least vaguely competent and give her something to do during the finale battle other than stand on the sidelines. It’s also another facet of this episode’s pointed focus on the Crocks and the ultimately positive impact their lives have had on those around them since they gave up supervillainy.
The main interaction, of course, is the one between Courtney and Cameron. The boy is naturally angry about everything that happened and came out as a result, and it’s important to remember that he technically hasn’t actually done anything wrong. From his perspective he was protecting his girlfriend and grandparents from a rampaging maniac, and now he discovers that the person he thought he could trust the most was keeping something important from him, even now knowing the kind of person his father was. When he demands to know who was the one to kill Icicle, Courtney of course takes the blame on herself, protecting Mike from any reprisals even though she knows it’ll make Cameron hate her.
Elsewhere, Mike and Jakeem have managed to escape from the Ultra-Humanite, but are completely flummoxed by how to call for help with the payphone summoned by the Thunderbolt, sparking with colourful metaphysical static not entirely unlike the phone booth from Bill & Ted. They come across Cindy after they’re caught by her net trap set to catch the albino gorilla, but she still rejects any help, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see what actual role she’ll have to play in the story’s resolution. There’s a radom reference to a former master of the Thunderbolt being Pliny the Elder, a Roman author and scientist believed to have died during a rescue mission in Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. There’s little narrative parallel, but the anecdote demonstrates just how long the Thunderbolt has been around, and also that since electric pink click-top pens certainly weren’t around in the 1st century AD, it’s evidently possible for the mischievous djinn to be transferred between containers. It’s unlikely anything will actually come of this, but it’s an interesting detail nonetheless.
The boys’ return leads to an expository infodump detailing the Ultra-Humanite’s origin, which is intended to cast him as a nigh-unstoppable villain that Courtney declares will require another union of both sides of the moral divide to defeat. The problem is, this is literally the first time his existence has even been brought up, so it’s a pretty tall order to expect the audience to accept a body-hopping mad scientist as being equally as formidable a threat as the soul-devouring nightmare demon taken on last season. The scene serves to tell us everything we need to know about him and remove the need for any further development, presumably because the episode’s end reveal calls into question exactly how significant he’ll actually be.
The final scene begins with Sportsmaster and Tigress receiving a call from Artemis about being accepted into a college football team, the moment augmenting the episode’s opening sequence that shows how settled and content their lives have become. As anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with the clichés of action or horror movies knows, sudden references to personal connections or happiness usually means the characters they apply to are not long for this world, since steadily developed characterisation developed at an organic rate that makes us empathise with particular individuals without resorting transparent emotional manipulation is clearly too complicated to bother with.
They notice a trail of flyers for the gym leading to an open manhole cover and, returning briefly to the subject of characters being blithely ignorant of traps that could have come out of 1940s Looney Tunes, they dutifully follow it like they’re blundering towards a juicy steak under a heavy box propped up with a stick on a string. While the psychotic spouses are certainly characters often defined by being impulsive and overconfident, it’s almost physically painful to watch the preposterously cartoonish setup play out and be expected to take it seriously. Heading into the sewers with little idea of where they’re going, they eventually wander into the dead end of the Watcher’s lair, who finally unmasks himself now the narrative deems it necessary, revealing himself to be Icicle inexplicably alive and promptly kills his two former cohorts, presumably for the unforgivable trespass of no longer being violent criminals.
The reveal is likely intended to be a shocking one, and it is, but for the wrong reasons. The best kind of twists are ones that can be predicted from the clues judiciously dropped at subtle junctures that if picked up upon allow you to piece together a solution. What they certainly are not, are nonsensical revelations that run counter to the rules and lore that a series has thus far presented that make accepting it without further justification impossible. Put simply, there is nothing clever about withholding information. Exactly how Icicle has returned to life from being shattered into a thousand frozen shards will doubtless get detailed next week, but the very fact that such an explanation is necessary in the first place is a stark indicator of just how disconnected from the narrative this reveal is. The only good thing you can say about it was the episode not spoiling the revelation by shoving Neil Jackson’s name in the opening credits.
“The Killer” features some good character moments realistically portraying how they’d each react to the current situation that are augmented by thoughts on the nature of cyclical violence, but is let down by clunky exposition and clumsy foreshadowing that acts against the otherwise serious tone of events.
- discussions of balancing the need for vengeance with its self-destructive nature
- acknowledging Cameron’s complicated feelings towards his father
- the Ultra-Humanite being presented as a dangerous villain with little justification
- Sportsmater and Tigress acting like utter morons
- the pointed happiness of the Crock family being an obvious signpost of their deaths
- the lack of clues or foreshadowing of Icicle’s return
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