Stargirl – Season 1 Episode 4
Stargirl begins Courtney’s recruitment drive for a new generation of the Justice Society, learns that people have issues to get over before becoming as enthusiastic as her, and the brief backstory of an important supporting character is revealed.
The episode begins with a three-months-past flashback relating what happened to Yolanda to turn her into the sullen, withdrawn, social outcast who Courtney met in episode one. It was previously established that she briefly dated Henry, much to the consternation of Cindy, who as a cheerleader believes that everything she wants is her right to have. After some racy photos end up sent to everyone by the malicious cheerleader, she withdraws into herself. The fallout is depressingly familiar to anyone who has endured such an invasion of privacy, with Yolanda being the one expected to deal with the shame of everyone seeing her so compromised, while the fact that someone sent them in the first place is a non-issue not even considered worth mentioning.
The fact that the whole sequence is performed without words is telling of how typical are such tales, but it still manages to invoke the same contempt and disgust for the hypocrisy involved. It’s things like this, being reminded of all the extra potential for abuse an online presence brings to people in general and teenagers in particular, that make me so glad I finished high school a few years before social media became a thing and that there is no permanent digital evidence of the stupid things I did and said.
Back in the present, after Courtney’s plundering of historical hero relics and magical artefacts of varying strength, her next decision is who she intends to recruit in her mission to put a stop to the villainy hidden in Blue Valley, unfazed by the death of an innocent boy but also not forgetful of him. The Thunderbolt is left in a pen pot, where it will likely stay until a seventh son of a seventh son (or daughter, presumably) comes into proximity to it.
Her quest begins a little more low-key, first standing up for Yolanda against more of Cindy’s harassment, and then after discovering the girl is a boxer, immediately decides this would make her prefect to be the new Wildcat. Despite Courtney’s often successful tactic of wearing people down with her overwhelming sense of enthusiastic optimism, it’s good that the episode had some restraint and didn’t have the two become instant friends, as Courtney’s sunshine disposition has to have some limitations else it would be a whole extra superpower.
She first gets Yolanda onside by admitting to blowing up Henry’s car, because if there’s one thing that teenage girls can always bond over, it’s how much they hate a particular boy. It also raises the question of why Henry is thought to be the culprit when it’s made clear Cindy is to blame for the pictures being spread. Perhaps he knew he wouldn’t be believed, or because Cindy has him so thoroughly controlled he felt unable to, or since the pictures one way or another originated with him, he is ultimately responsible however you choose to look at it. Whatever the case, it certainly puts his sleazy request to Yolanda for more pictures of herself in the pilot episode in a repellent new context.
After Courtney offers Yolanda the Wildcat suit, a number of elaborate sequences see the two girls out at night together, exploring the capabilities of the suit that evidently does much more than just conceal its wearer’s identity. Yolanda’s confidence can be seen growing in each scene, the evening of escape letting her feel that there is more to her life than what people have decided is all that there is to know about her. A particular moment when Courtney tells her Henry’s dad is a supervillain, an amusing moment comes from her few moments’ consideration before deadpanning “Actually, that makes sense.”
A wall-crawling sequence lifted straight from Spider-Man and some low-stakes shenanigans in the hospital where they investigate who has been visiting the comatose Brainwave leads to an odd scene where the school’s principal Anaya Bowin (Hina X Khan) plays some music on a violin to him, the tacit implication being that she has some connection to supervillain the Fiddler. Ordinarily, I’d just assume she was the villain, as gender flipped characters are nothing new and used for a multitude of reasons – hell, The Flash has already had a female version of the character – but the portrait in the villain’s bunker shows the character as a man (he’s the one on the far right), so it’s possible that he was Anaya’s husband. The character himself is unlikely to appear, as his civilian name of Issac Bowin has been given to Anaya’s son, raising the question of what happened to the man himself. Additionally, in the comics there exists a minor villain named Virtuoso, an otherwise unnamed Indian woman who came into possession of Fiddler’s violin and similarly wields music as a weapon, so Anaya may have taken her husband’s position in the team after his departure/death. Their son being referred to a musical prodigy likely means that in future he will develop abilities similar to those of his parents, but for good or ill remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, a tense scene sees the introduction of another Injustice Society member Dragon King (Nelson Lee), paying a visit to Icicle in the villain lair. Absent from the fight that opened the series presumably due to a lack of combat abilities, his commanding presence and sibilant voice give the impression of something otherworldly, even without faint slivers of his reptilian features being visible through the eye slits of his mask. Such is the ominous ensemble, it’s a testament to the brief characterisation that the faithful recreation of his comics costume looks sinister rather than laughable. An especially creepy moment sees him mention “Working on” his daughter as though she’s some kind of experiment, although given the character’s background as a war criminal scientist that may not be far off the mark.
Another sliver of the Injustice Society’s great plan is alluded to, it involving some kind of machine the mad scientist is to construct that will involve their generation making the “ultimate sacrifice,” for the safety of the new one, although it must be noted that in situations where when people talk about necessary sacrifices, more often than not they are never the ones called on to actually make them. The exchange also strongly suggests that while Icicle may be the one nominally in charge, Dragon King is still someone who scares him.
There is also mention of a former Society member the Shade, who apparently betrayed Icicle, or perhaps the team in general, and whose presence was suggested in the pilot episode in the form of the giant, shadow-like hand seen dragging Doctor Mid-Nite away. The character is an immortal Victorian with darkness-manipulating powers who turned to villainy because he was bored, but later reformed and even became a mentor to Jack Knight, one of the latter iterations of Starman. That this episode’s writer James Dale Robinson is also one of the series’ producers as well as being Jack’s co-creator is unlikely to be a coincidence, so we can expect the dark villain to crop up sooner or later.
A little time is spent dealing with family, although Courtney’s own home life is put on the temporary backburner, and its starting to become questionable how much presence they have been planned to have. Barbara is only there to remind viewers she still exists, and Mike, has taken only a few episodes to go from a slightly generic if not entirely unpleasant teenage boy to an obnoxious entitled brat whose very existence is swiftly getting difficult to tolerate.
As for Pat, his purpose seems to be for Courtney to regularly get one up on him, this time by making a valid – and rather timely – comment that going to the authorities might not be a possible course of action if the villains are a part of them. Most of the CW’s comic book shows have an older male character played by an established actor to function as a voice of wisdom when the younger heroes are getting ahead of themselves or are unsure what course of action is the best way to go. In contrast, Pat increasingly just exists to not think issues through and have it pointed out to him. It’s most likely due to the series being intended to attract a younger target demographic, and kids enjoy feeling like they know more than their parents. It creates a dynamic different from the other Arrowverse shows, but also prevents Pat from having a proper role in proceedings. Prior, of course, to the inevitable and dramatic unveiling of S.T.R.I.P.E. Mk II that he’s somehow managing to construct out of literal junk.
A more dispiriting portrayal of family comes from Yolanda’s perspective. Hers is evidently ashamed of her for what she went through, unconscious of their complicity in victim blaming and leaving her feeling even more alone, as the people who are supposed to support her unconditionally have turned their backs on her, with the exception of her younger brother, the generational divide unlikely to be coincidental.
A late scene where she pleads for their forgiveness is heartbreaking, especially when they continue to reject her. While that moment spurs her decision to continue donning the cowl and costume, it also suggests that she is doing so as an escape since who she is has become so irrevocably tainted she feels her worth as a human being is somehow diminished. It does seem a little rushed to have her reject and accept Courtney’s offer twice each in the space of a single episode, but the motivation for each decision is clear, and it achieves the required outcome of Courtney bringing her first teammate on board.
“Wildcat” is a well-balanced mix of superhero antics and all-too real-life teenage issues, juxtaposing youthful mischief with topics like shame and abuse, keeping the series grounded in a reality its young viewers can relate to. It progresses the narrative arc a little quickly but not without plausibility, and suggests that there is enough to uncover that even people with prior knowledge of the comics will be surprised.
- Courtney and Yolanda’s friendship not developing instantly
- Yolanda getting some much-needed characterisation
- Yolanda’s hesitation at abandoning herself to a secret identity
- the emotional scenes of Yolanda’s family rejecting her
- there being more to the story than comics fans can guess
- Pat’s presence having diminishing purpose
- Mike being little other than annoying
- Courtney’s family in general having little to do
- Yolanda’s decisions being made too quickly
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