Stargirl – Season 3 Episode 13

Dec 12, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“Chapter Thirteen – The Reckoning” 

Stargirl brings its story to a close with a fast-moving finale that efficiently wraps up its lingering plotlines.

Stargirl hasn’t been around for very long but has quickly made a name for itself, and as we’ve now reached not only the end of the third season but also the final series conclusion, people’s takeaways of both will be largely shaped by their reaction to this episode. It’s a fortunate thing, then, that “The Reckoning” is genuinely one of the best instalments of the entire series. It’s always been its height when it was a balanced mix of superhero action and emotionally charged character development, and here such strengths come to the fore and remind us of exactly what it is that’s made the show so special.


Justice assembled

Before all that we get a largely unnecessary but nevertheless arresting opening that sees Sylvester – the real Sylvester, for the first time since the series prologue – strapped to a lab table and about to have his brain removed as Icicle monologues about his new plan. It’s much the same as the old one, that of reforging the entirety of US to his vision, only this time instead of mass mental manipulation he intends to appropriate a superhero’s image to be his mouthpiece. It’s a slightly odd concept to take in since the general public’s perception of superheroes on this Earth isn’t something that’s ever really come up, so the notion of the public willingly following along with the words of one doesn’t compute naturally. Also, while it’s tempting to ascribe some real-world reference to the suggestion that people would vote for someone evil who smiles and says the right thing, charismatic oratory has been a cornerstone of politics for centuries and says more about the human condition than anything specific in our recent past. That we already know how the encounter is going to go makes it all the more tragic, although that Sylvester’s final thoughts were of Pat suggests the disrespect the Ultra-Humanite has been levelling at him were not as representative of him as might have been previously suggested.

Speaking of he in the striped shirt, we return to him having been buried alive with seemingly no chance of escape, but despite this, moments later bursts from the ground like some undead revenant. Although he later explains it was from Sylvester previously teaching him a technique of escaping restraints, that doesn’t quite justify how he also survived the suffocation of being smothered with dirt, nor was able to gain enough purchase to actually claw his way back to the surface.

Back in town, the heroes realise something is up with Sylvester but not exactly what, but a call from Cameron sends them to an abandoned junkyard, leading to the team facing the entire Mahkent family, along with the Ultra-Humanite in Starman’s body and still lying to them. It’s only when Pat descends in S.T.R.I.P.E. in another Big Damn Heroes moment the truth comes out and battle begins. Even though four of the five enemies facing the team all possess the same abilities the action is never repetitive, being equally focused on the characters involved.


Courtney reclaims Stargirl

It previously seemed like Lily was swaying towards Sofus’ desire to let the past go and forego her vengeance on the “wicked children,” but with the return of their son, it seems like she’s back on board with violent megalomania. Unfortunately for her, she ends up crushed by a falling car inadvertently loosed by an icicle shot at Yolanda. The girl is quick to declare she wasn’t responsible, likely due to the lingering trauma of what killing Brainwave ended up doing to her, and unable to deal with another death on her already overloaded conscience.

Even though Pat initially takes on Sylvester, it’s of course Courtney who disarms him, reclaiming the Cosmic Staff after realising that her own sense of self-worth is what bonds her to the weapon. Yes, it’s not much more than a variation on “the power was inside me all along,” but to be honest it’s handled so majestically and with such sincerity it’s impossible to hold that against it.

She also faces off with Icicle and Cameron, and you have to sympathise with the latter, since throughout the entire series people have lied to him and manipulated his reasoning, and even now he’s only opposing the heroes because he’s standing with his family. It’s only after learning exactly what kind of man his father is that he turns against him, protecting Courtney in the process and for the first time being able to truly make a decision for himself, pushing the villain to retreat. Even when the fighting’s over, he clearly has things to work through, but later accepting Courtney’s offer of help promises he’ll eventually be able to figure them out.

At the same time, Mike, Jakeem and Cindy are being hunted by Dragon King in the Ultra-Humanite’s simian body, the confrontation coming to an end by Jakeem using the Thunderbolt. His words might have still been open to interpretation, but after finally realising that it’s not a contract-like lack of ambiguity that realises his wishes but rather his own will dictating the true meaning of his words, for the first time he fully takes command of the power at his disposal. Granted, it’s somewhat incongruous that he’s doing so via a declaration of Cindy being “the most beautiful woman in the world,” but it’s evidently something he feels strongly enough about to be able to make the assertion so forcefully, while transforming the rampaging beast into a stuffed animal is almost like an inversion of the truly bonkers climax of season 3 of Legends of Tomorrow where the titular team unite into a giant battle-ready Beebo. With the main story resolved and barely halfway through the episode, the rest of the time is spent tying up loose ends.


Gorilla warfare

Yolanda calling her mother and promising to tell her everything continues her arc of how her time as Wildcat has been putting a strain on her family life. While parental issues are hardly unheard of in a nascent hero’s development, the promise of the resolution between mother and daughter needed to happen if we were to have any hope for her happiness. Relatedly, even after being pushed away Beth’s parents are fully on board with being their daughter’s sidekicks, although her dad giving himself the codename Night Light, unfortunately, comes not that long after such a moniker’s use in Ms Marvel where it was routinely and rightly derided for being utterly terrible. The mommy issues also extend to Mike, reuniting with his birth mother and gaining some closure from her abandonment of him. When afterwards he calls Barbara “Mom” for the first time, only the hardest of hearts won’t get at least as choked up as she does.

It turns out that Sylvester is only mostly dead, as a shot sees his brain in jar in a steampunk science lab hidden on a remote mountain, his consciousness locked in a ten-second loop of his own personal hell, although for whose benefit the audio expression of his suffering was being played we can only guess at. The final improbable return comes from Solomon Grundy, his hand bursting from his grave like Carrie White and fulfilling the Shade’s declaration that the giant zombie can never truly be destroyed.

Courtney manages to track down Gambler’s daughter Becky, letting her know that she was loved and cared for even by someone absent, and afterwards it’s quite telling that she instinctively reaches for the locket that’s no longer there. For so long it was her talisman allowing her to believe in a nebulous father figure and the absence of which is now partially a reminder of the emotional pain she carries, but also that she will always do all she can to stop that same hurt from being inflicted on others.

It was disappointing that Artemis wasn’t around for the final battle, especially after making the point that she has a habit of turning up where she needs to be, but it turns out that her appearance was being saved for a coda. Three months later she tracks Icicle down like the hunter goddess after whom she was named and immolates him with her father’s incendiary gel, avenging her parents’ murders by watching him burn with grim and malevolent satisfaction in the knowledge he won’t be returning again. She’s a character whose presence has most often been dictated by others, so it was satisfying to see her final act be one taken for herself.


Father and daughter affirming their bond

A final epilogue takes us ten years into the future at a JSA museum with a tour group being led around by the Shade, telling of the team as it ultimately came together. Some characters adopted their hitherto unmentioned comics codenames or grew into new ones, most of which are clear who they relate to. A couple of extras are Sand, the superhero moniker of Wesley Dodds’ nephew Sandy Hawkins who was brought up at the end of “Infinity Inc (Part Two)” as the first person Jennie and Todd wanted  to track down, and Damage, the son of the Atom who was briefly mentioned last episode as existing. We also discover that Beth and Rick are soon to be married, which plays on the periodic moments of closeness the two have shared throughout the series, and also acknowledging the legion of fans who have been shipping them since practically day one.

Visually it echoes the Hall of Justice seen back in season 1, but countering that place’s shadowy dust-shrouded monument to the fallen is a bright display celebrating heroism in the face of evil and injustice, showing us just how revered and inspirational the team has become. Much like the show itself always strived to do, it celebrates the past while also looking to the future, and doing both by suggesting a now forever unseen adventure where the team take on Nebula Man to rescue the Seven Soldiers of Victory, calling back to Pat’s brief comment in season 1 that he had lost touch with his former teammates, and Justin leaving in a search for their whereabouts.

It was reported that Stargirl’s producers had enough time to plan ahead for the series’ cancellation but there isn’t any true sense of finality, and to be perfectly honest, for once that’s a good thing. These past three seasons only showed us the new generation of the JSA coming into their own, and to suggest that this would be all that there ever would be to their exploits does them a disservice. This is perfectly exemplified by the closing appearance of the still-alive Flash summoning the Shade to the team, and is capped off by the final card proclaiming “Never the End,” which is really the only way that any story can truthfully conclude.


Future frenemies


“The Reckoning” is, as I said above, quite simply one of the best episodes Stargirl has had to offer in its brief but largely spectacular run. With exciting action, character-driven story and emotional payoffs, it perfectly encapsulates the show at its best, and while it leaves a bittersweet taste knowing there will be no more of it, at least we’re left with the satisfaction of knowing it went out on its own terms and in the best way possible. 

Overall, this season began strong but began to waver under the weight of a litany of unlikely twists as it tried to force too much story into too little time, but just as swiftly redeemed itself to finally pull back into a reminder of everything that made watching it such a joy. I can’t say I’ve been entirely enthralled by or sold on every step of the way of how we got here, but such missteps have ultimately allowed the story to conclude in a definite and satisfying manner that leaves us with that same sense of dauntless optimism that even in its darkest moments Stargirl always did its best to convey.

  • 9.5/10
    The Reckoning - 9.5/10


Kneel Before… 

  • Courtney reclaiming the Cosmic Staff
  • Cameron being able to make his own choices
  • Jakeem imposing his will on the Thunderbolt
  • Mike acknowledging Barbara is his real mother
  • the acknowledgment of Courtney’s pain over her birth father’s betrayal and how it made her an even more compassionate person
  • Artemis finally allowed to make a decision for herself
  • the satisfactory conclusions of lingering subplots


Rise Against…

  • Pat’s dubious escape from being buried alive


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User Review
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