Stargirl – Season 1 Episode 5
“Hourman and Dr Mid-Nite”
Stargirl continues the rolling out of teenage superheroes with a double dose of introductions, completing, for now, the new generation of the Justice Society.
Much of the focus of Stargirl so far has been the motivations of why its growing ensemble of characters turned to either heroism or villainy, with each episode giving the spotlight to a particular individual that explores what drives them outwith Courtney’s brief experiences of who they are. Despite this episode’s title suggesting it will somehow pull double duty in that regard, the focus is very much on the former.
The now regular flashback openings of key moments in the relevant subject’s life take us back nine years to when Rick Tyler (Cameron Gellman) was a young boy and his parents, the original Hourman (Lou Ferrigno Jr) and his wife Wendi (Kristin Brock), depart Blue Valley in a terrified rush and leave him with Wendi’s brother Matt (possibly a reference to Matthew Tyler, an android Hourman analogue from the 853rd Century). Exactly what spooked them is unspecified, but what with Hourman being the only survivor of the original team (Pat, as a non-powered sidekick, evidently didn’t rate consideration), it seems to be their being located by the Injustice Society, evidenced by Solomon Grundy making another dimly-lit CGI appearance to smash their car off the road and into a tree, which seems suspiciously similar to what probably happened to Denise off-screen some time after her departure in the last episode, and because few classic superhero origins don’t involve dead parents one way or another.
It’s made clear how much Matt resents having been left to raise his nephew, using the decade-long obligation as an excuse to justify his own failure to achieve the success he foresaw for himself but would have probably failed at anyway. The older man has let himself become a cliché of an embittered porch-dwelling drunk and waitresses-harassing diner sleaze, and Rick, seeing him as emblematic of everything wrong with his life, understandably wants as little to do with him as possible.
Rick’s upbringing was clearly a miserable and probably abusive one, contributing to the sullen misery that outstrips even Yolanda’s emotional armour after being made a social pariah. His is the life that a young person counting the days until they can leave it behind and never look back. Such is his disinterest of in engaging with his peers, even the notion of becoming a superhero holds little appeal for him, just seeing it as more meaningless nonsense this worthless town is throwing at him to tolerate. Only after learning the death of his parents wasn’t an accident does he show even the slightest interest, and even then nothing noble like justice or righteousness, but pure old fashioned vengeance. It marks him as someone whose actions will require watching, since someone with powers but no sense of obligation to use them responsibly has a non-zero chance of turning to the dark side.
His main reveal comes late on when he talks about how his parents’ death affected him. One of the worst things about losing loved ones in tragic circumstances is having nobody to blame. The anger builds up inside you with nowhere to go without something material to take it out on, as we are beings of corporeality so function best when the concepts we address are tangible rather than abstract, and Rick has nothing but the tree against which his parents’ car was smashed.
It’s a dangerous feeling, the frustration and anger that comes with losing someone, knowing that it’s eroding you from the inside out but at the same time being unable to prevent the unfocused contempt at the world around you from destroying any semblance of peace you might ever have or chance aof developing into a reasonable and rational human being. In a way Rick is like Yolanda, chained to a perception of who and what he is and feels unable to do anything other than accept the disregard until such time when he can leave this life behind and begin a new one where he gets to choose who he is.
His rage will likely be one of the weak links in the team, making him unpredictable and at times possibly unreliable, so his developing a way to keep it under control will be necessary if he hopes to become a regularly called on ally, which at the moment is something he might not ultimately be interested in. The superhuman strength the hourglass gives him is certainly impressive, but it’s too early to tell whether or not it’s enough to let him take on Solomon Grundy in the inevitable grudge match in the season finale.
In direct contrast to all of this, Beth (Anjelika Washington) radiates friendly and somewhat pushy enthusiasm to an extent that eclipses even that of Courtney, for once putting the bubbly blonde on the receiving end of a refusal to be dissuaded by disinterest. In someone more self-aware this might make them take stock of their own actions, but the parallel seems to have passed her by.
Although the few moments we have thus far seen of Beth have characterised her as being a typical high school outsider in having no real friends, it’s a refreshing change that she seems utterly unfazed by this. Yes, it’s because she feels close enough to her parents for them to prevent that from becoming a void in her life, but she is also unthinking of such a limited scope of interpersonal relationships being ultimately unsustainable, while also being ignorant (or wilfully blind) to how frustrated they are at her inability to connect with her peers.
It’s also seen that everybody’s disregard for her effectively renders her invisible, as when you’re seen as not worthy of attention by people, you can move among them unnoticed, and as it’s something she seems aware of it’ll be interesting to see if this is not the only time she does it.
Unlike Rick and Yolanda, her gravitation into Courtney’s superpowered orbit comes from her own curiosity over what her two suspicious classmates are up to, which gives things some welcome variation, as it would have been a little repetitive to have each recruitment follow the same pattern of being stalked by Courtney, initially refusing, only to be won over by her refusal to take no for an answer.
She gets a little short shrift in having her introduction into the nascent team be during a story focused on someone else, but her previous brief appearances have emphasised the isolation of the character, while her general appearance silently screams the nerdiness that is her dominant personality trait. It’s suggested this is how she’s always been rather than an inciting incident turning her into such a person so perhaps that’s why she’s not getting her own focal episode, but it does also come with the unfortunate implication that this is all there is to her. Given the level of forward planning that has clearly gone into character choice and their usage this is unlikely to be the case, but the perception is for now a temporary by-product of the episodes’ formulaic structure.
As the most geeky of the group, it’s a reasonable extension that Beth’s power comes from information, but this gives rise to one of the few detracting aspects of the episode. Having access to multiple databases is one thing, but the level of information Dr Mid-Nite’s goggles provide to her is indicative of virtual omniscience, and if not used judiciously they can easily become a lazy fallback for the team to uncover pieces of information they would otherwise have no way of accessing.
The behaviour of this episode’s artefacts, Hourman’s hourglass and Dr Mid-Nite’s goggles, brings up a possible theme in the behaviour of superpowered items, specifically their conscious selection of who can use them. It’s been established that the Cosmic Staff chose Courtney as its wielder for a reason that will inevitably become a major plot point later, and the Thunderbolt impishly sniggering to itself in the previous episode suggests it’s aware of its surroundings. Now we have the hourglass not working for anyone except Rick, and there’s no way that Courtney didn’t previously try on the goggles, but was evidently unaware of their capabilities, meaning they didn’t work for her. Building on this, there appears to be a tacit suggestion that superpowers aren’t just arbitrarily assigned abilities granted to whoever inadvertently or otherwise fulfils the requisite requirements, but only end up in the hands of those who will use them best, for good or ill.
Further flashes of detail suggest plans made to expand the world after the new superteam establishes itself. Some will be in the imminent future as is suggested by the titles of upcoming episodes, others by specific visual and dialogue cues that go unremarked upon but can be picked up on with enough prior knowledge. I know I’m being irritatingly vague, but I just want to acknowledge how much everything has clearly been thought through without spoiling reveals for viewers with less background knowledge.
The villain side of things once again takes a back seat, until a closing scene confirming that Anaya is the new Fiddler, and is earlier made clear that the original one was someone else for anybody who might have missed or not understood the brief visual cue suggesting it. It’s an interesting choice, as either having Anaya as the original villain or the school principal being a pretentious Irishman would have made little difference to proceedings as they currently stand, so the choice must have been a deliberate one, and it’ll be interesting to see the reasoning behind it. Their brief heist was something to do with moving a step further in their nebulous plan, and now that the teenage superteam is fully together, we will soon see how up to derailing it they truly are.
“Hourman and Dr Mid-Nite” is a stronger episode that briefly looks into the aftermath of loss and how it affects those left behind. The recruitment of two teammates at once is handled deftly and efficiently without seeming rushed, although Beth needs further focus down the line to allow viewers to better understand who she is as a person.
- The explanation of Rick’s anger
- Beth being unfazed by her social isolation
- Beth’s coming to the team differently
- Beth eclipsing Courtney’s over-enthusiasm
- The suggestion of magical artefacts choosing who uses them
- Dr Mid-Nite’s goggles being practically omnipotent
- Beth still needing a proper introduction
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Ratings” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.