Stargirl – Season 3 Episode 1

Sep 3, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“Chapter One – The Murder”

Stargirl kicks off its third season by bringing us up to speed with its plethora of characters and establishing what passes for normal in Blue Valley, while a mysterious death opens up a new mystery.

Stargirl might not have been around for very long, but one thing you can say about the series is its refusal to let itself stagnate. The first season was, naturally, a superhero origin tale standard but nevertheless compelling, while for the second, instead of recycling the same setup instead pivoted into a horror story with myriad influences from chilling movies from throughout the last century. In keeping with this, season three is going down another different route, that of a murder mystery. It even begins like some hardboiled ‘40s noir, introduced by an omniscient voiceover as highlighted gunsmoke stands stark against an inky backdrop. Additionally, the opening montage sees the cinema advertising a film about Nathaniel Dusk, an obscure DC character from the ‘80s who worked as a P.I.


A bright greeting

However, before we get to all that there’s a new status quo to establish, and given just how wide an ensemble the series is now attempting to juggle it takes pretty much the entire episode. It’s mostly linked by the theme of villains attempting to reform, but their intent is portrayed far too quickly and simply. A problem with any decision that villains would be more interesting if they were antiheroes, or at the least morally ambiguous rather than outright evil, is the complexity of portraying them as being worthy of such redemption in the first place. Too often all that’s presented is that simply not wantonly slaughtering anyone who mildly irritates them is somehow enough to redeem them, instead of actively working to make amends for the things they’ve done or the people they’ve killed.

The only time this is really brought up is in Yolanda’s attitude towards Cindy, who, quite understandably, has difficulty looking past the misery she was forced to endure at her hands, and believes that just because she’s decided she no longer wants to kill them all it doesn’t make up for all the hurt that her malice and spite have caused. Courtney, forever a beacon of unassailable optimism, sometimes forgets that her friends are not as quick to forgive transgressions as she is, and the discord between the team over whether or not to accept their former enemy into their ranks will doubtless cause some friction sooner rather than later, as well as Yolanda’s evident frustration in being unable to make her best friend understand her feelings. It also tacitly brings up the query of exactly what Cindy’s goals are in being a member of the group, as she does little more than complain about how boring team meetings are or how much Courtney’s garage offends her spoilt princess sensibilities. She’s seen earlier in the episode helping a disabled old lady carry her shopping, even if it’s pretty clear she’s only doing to because she feels as though she’s supposed to, almost physically recoiling at being in such close proximity to someone elderly.

The rest of the team have had a mixed time. Rick’s continual attempts to resurrect Solomon Grundy by burying him in various places symbolic of mystic power maintains his character growth, having fully accepted that the giant zombie was his friend. He’s managed to recreate the strength-giving sand and construct a rudimentary hourglass for it, but seeing as this happened off-screen without seeing what it took for him to do so, there needs to be some flaw or unpredictability with it else the ramifications of him smashing the original hourglass are all but meaningless. Beth has increasingly become a character the writers are unsure what to do with when she’s not directly involved in whatever is immediately happening, and her presence right now is represented by little more than her parents taking to her superhero exploits with a little too much enthusiasm and designing her a costume, which is actually a recreation of what the character’s comics outfit looked like (the hilariously terrible superhero name of Laser Lemon, not so much).


A tense meeting

Regarding the principal frenemies of the season subtitle, it’s entirely probable that Sportsmaster and Tigress genuinely do want to live normal lives (putting aside that their being convicted murderers and wanted fugitives should prove more than a hindrance to this than it seems to be), but their inability to not behave like unhinged psychopaths in even the most basic of human interactions makes everything they do and say seem like a threat. In particular is the amusingly awkward scene of Tigress talking to Barbara about trying to get Artemis into the JSA. It’s likely she intended for it to be merely a request from one mother of an obstinate teenage girl to another, but the conversation was so charged with menace that it’s difficult not to get certain connotations from it even when it was scored like a comedic interlude.

As for Artemis’ interest in becoming a fully-fledged hero, it’s an odd point to push since outwith her brief stint with Cindy’s Injustice Unlimited she hasn’t ever really been a proper villain. Her insistence at wanting to be a JSA member demonstrates her desire to do good, even if the best way she can think of doing so is by ambushing and beating up armed robbers with a somewhat concerning volume of vocal enthusiasm. She also seems to have been accepted back onto the school sports teams for reasons not established despite being kicked off them last season. It’s all perfectly serviceable in establishing where things currently stand with all the former villains and uneasy allies currently kicking about the town, but not really taking the time to properly relate how everything was able to come about seems like a shortcut.

We finally get some kind of answer about how Starman is alive, having him theorise that Courtney establishing her link with Cosmo the Cosmic Staff reawakened his own, although exactly how this then proceeded to reverse the decade’s worth of decay his corpse underwent doesn’t get mentioned. It’s pretty spurious and reinforces my suspicion that nobody bothered to outline the scenario beforehand, but is balanced out by Sylvester relating the horror of waking up in his own coffin, and then after escaping realising that even though he’s alive everything he was is effectively gone. It explains why he’s reluctant to fully relinquish his claim on Cosmo, the staff being the sole remaining link to the life he once had that can give his continued existence some meaning, thinking nothing of taking it to go for a flight with Pat in S.T.R.I.P.E. in spite of his statement it’s now bonded with Courtney.


Divided loyalties

There will hopefully be more to his presence than making Courtney uncomfortable and giving Cosmo loyalty issues, since someone doing nothing little more than hanging around and enduring the superhero equivalent of a midlife crisis would get tedious really quickly. Although he’ll spend some time training Courtney, there are likely more specific plans for him that may tie in to it taking him until now to appear. There also isn’t any acknowledgement of the issue he presumably takes with having to live in such close proximity to people who had a hand in killing his friends and teammates. Okay, a moment in the series trailer established that this exact conversation is going to come up, but you’d think it would be a rather pressing issue that would be raised fairly quickly.

Finally, there’s Gambler swaggering back into town, interestingly introduced by dropping rubbish in a bin, a callback the first season when the Crocks admonished him for casual littering. He proclaims his desire to reform as a result of discovering he has a daughter named Becky, who in the comics was the probability-manipulating villain Hazard, a version of whom you may recall as one of the dark matter metahumans from season four of The Flash. The sincerity of his claim is suggested later when he’s seen running database searches for her with nobody around to see him, and writing her a letter admitting his past and his desire to be a better person for her.

However, the episode title if nothing else tells us what we’re ultimately in for, and it will have come as a surprise to few that Gambler is the one on the chopping block, it being his narration that opened the episode like a riff on Sunset Boulevard. To be honest, he was always kind of annoying, preening like some evil Colonel Sanders while contributing little to the team he was ostensibly a part of, so for him to return merely to be promptly killed off is no great loss. Such is the way of things, it’s re-established that nobody actually likes or trusts him – the Shade even displays outright hostility – thus leaving us with a wide assortment of potential suspects.


One villain tries to reform, and suddenly they all do

Even though Cindy is found standing over his dead body with a literal smoking gun in her hand, her claims of innocence are almost certainly the truth. Not just due to the guilty party of a murder mystery never being the most obvious culprit except in the rarest circumstances, but also because if Cindy had decided someone deserved to die she wouldn’t be shy about declaring it. Also, the animalistic-like roar heard presumably moments before Gambler was killed suggests it was something other than human that took him out, and something superhumanly strong if the massive dent in the side of his trailer is anything to go by.

There’s also the issue of who planted all those cameras around town and why, and if they’re connected to the car that was heard speeding away from Gambler’s trailer and the shadowy figure seen skulking out of focus right afterwards. It’s possible that Gambler’s demise had nothing to do with what’s going on, and was simply marked for death when he accidentally discovered their illicit feeds. Alternatively, information on Becky could have been left for him to find to draw him out of hiding since someone wanted him removed from play for as-yet unclear reasons.

One of the things that makes stories like these such fun is being able to wildly speculate about all the possibilities and guessing what are vital details to take in if you want to be able to unravel the answer, and what are red herrings designed specifically to throw you off the scent. We’ve only just got started, and there are multiple ways this can and will go before anything resembling the truth is uncovered.


“This isn’t what it looks like”


A serviceable but indistinct kickoff for the season that establishes where things currently are so that they can now move forward. The large number of individuals whose situations require addressed stalls the true commencement of the plot, but the character work keeps things engaging until we get there.

  • 7/10
    The Murder - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • Rick’s dedication to resurrecting Solomon Grundy
  • Yolanda and Rick’s mistrust of Cindy
  • the Crocks being amusingly psychotic in their attempts to be normal
  • myriad suspects for the murder mystery
  • the use of Gambler as the murder victim


Rise Against…

  • the oversimplification of villains reforming
  • the weak explanation of Starman’s survival
  • very little time for the actual plot


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User Review
8/10 (1 vote)

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