'Stargirl' Episode 12: Courtney's family comes under fire in a tense but brilliant episode
Spoilers for 'Stargirl' Season 1 Episode 12 'Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part 1'
In lieu of the upbeat nostalgic song that opens the episode as the DC Universe title sequence plays, there is simply the beep of the Injustice Society's countdown to their grand, world-changing scheme. A countdown has always been used as a device to ramp up the tension and it is definitely effective here, as a season's worth of set-up pays off in Part 1 of this two-part finale.
As the ISA's plan starts coming into effect, Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) and Tigress (Joy Osmanski) are sent to Courtney Whitmore's (Brec Bassinger) home to eliminate the family. Narrowly escaping death, the family retreats to one of Pat Dugan's (Luke Wilson) cabins with the rest of the Justice Society and Justin (Mark Ashworth), the brainwashed Shining Knight. They have a breakthrough in figuring out the ISA's plans and they go to confront them, only to discover that they are too late and that the ISA's brainwashing of America's adults has already begun. Pat Dugan, from within his STRIPE armor, is the first to come under their thrall.
This episode makes all of the origin stories crammed into the season pay off. It feels like the start of a crossover that the regular Arrowverse took several seasons to build up. In addition, it is shot beautifully and brilliantly scored, and it feels like a proper climax to a superhero story. A large part of that comes down to the way things are shot — the night setting in a quiet American home, invaded by sadistic supervillains. Tigress and Sportsmaster may not have the deadliest of powers but they come off as a terrifying threat in their bloodlust.
All of the episodes' villains give a great performance this episode, highlighting Golden Age villainy at its best — though with Golden Age villainy does come a certain amount of unintentional hilarity in moments with Icicle's (Neil Jackson) unabashedly evil parents when Isaac Bowin (Max Frantz) looks at his tuba as if considering its capabilities as a murder weapon, or in the fact that the ISA's big weapon looks distractingly like the X-Men's Cerebro. Accidental humor aside, there are moments of grandiose villainy, best exemplified by Brainwave's (Christopher James Baker) performance — Baker monologues with the best of them.
The clarity of the show's action scenes is part of what makes them so good. There are no rushed clips from one punch to another, the camera is pulled back to give a clear view of just how the action unfolds, and it is always quick and cleverly done, and a thrill to behold. The family that fights together survives the night together and after the threat of Sportsmaster and Tigress has been dealth with, the show gives way to some strong character moments before the end. Rick Tyler (Cameron Gellman) finally gets a moment to be something other than angry. The joy he finds in finally deciphering his father's journal is a rare emotional beat for the character. Mike (Trae Romano) shares a moment with his sister, processing the fact that she and his dad are superheroes and teases a possible superheroic future for himself in the next season as well.
For all its setup and backstory reveals, the series still manages to provide one last major twist — that the ISA's big plan is to forcibly implement an end to global warming, social prejudice and provide universal healthcare. It comes at the cost of 25M lives, but the twist still works — it makes the ISA more than just villains. It makes them a group of people who truly believe in their cause and will stop at nothing to achieve it.
With the cliffhanger of Pat's mind being taken over and the heart of America already under Brainwave's control, the stakes are about as high as they can get for Stargirl and the JSA. 'Stargirl' has saved the best for last, Part 1 of this 2-part finale feels like the first half of a classic superhero film. There is no understating the quality that 'Stargirl' brings to the small screen, and if the show sticks the landing with next week's finale, it might just become one of the all time greats in terms of live-action superhero adaptations.
The next episode of 'Stargirl' airs on August 10 on DC Universe and on August 11 on The CW.