'Stargirl': In a series centered around family values, villains are defined by their evil parenting skills
Spoilers for 'Stargirl' Season 1 Episode 2 S.T.R.I.P.E.
'Stargirl' has, right from the start, been billed as a show about family and it has so far delivered. While its two leads - Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) and Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) don't yet have the strongest of familial bonds, the villains of the show - and its eventual heroes - all have themes of family and legacy tied deep into their stories. It's fitting then, that what seems to be the best way to tell how evil a villain is has nothing to do with their big evil plan or the heinous crimes they commit, but how bad they are at parenting.
It speaks to the nature of the show that, once the Injustice Society ended the JSA, they didn't take over the world. Instead, whatever else their plans might be with the "American Dream," they all settled down to start a family. Even someone as cold-hearted as Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) left his legacy, although Brainwave seems to have taken the idea of legacy a little too seriously.
His son, Henry King Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), isn't the only child of a villain we've seen appear on the show; fans of the comics will immediately recognize Cindy Burman (Meg DeLacy) and her distinctive streak of white hair. Cindy is the daughter of the Dragon King (Nelson Lee), who later becomes a villain named Shiv, following in her father's villainous footsteps. We also see that William Zarick/The Wizard (Joe Knezevich) has a family of his own and we're only in the second episode. Familial connections seem to be rampant in Blue Valley and our glimpses into the show's villains all seem to tie into those very connections.
Brainwave's arrogant and cruel and nowhere is that more apparent than in the ways he treats his own son. He intimidates Henry Jr., belittles him and seeks to prove his own dominance over his boy while at the same time putting enormous pressure on Henry Jr. to become just like him. Brainwave named his son after himself and constantly tests him for known psychic abilities, obviously in the belief that mental superiority is the only thing worth being respected for.
The only real insight we see into the Wizard's character is in the way he deals with his wife. Before that, he is just another supervillain discussing vague plans but the moment his wife comes in, we see that he is used to ordering her about and demanding to have his way. As a man who wields magic, it's easy to see how important control is to him and his family because knowing his secrets threatens to take that control away from him - something he refuses to let happen.
There are many ways to portray a villain's drive, their personality and their flaws. On this show, to understand the villains, it's apparently important to look closely at how they treat their own family. 'Stargirl' reinforces its familial themes by showing us that the worst villainy in the world isn't about robbing banks or global domination - it's in the mistreatment of one's own family.
The next episode of 'Stargirl' airs June 1 on DC Universe and June 2 on the CW.