I said in my review of Stargirl episode 2 that family is a huge part of this show, and this week only serves to hammer that home as we’re introduced to the families of two villains while our hero’s family tries to have family dinner night. Spoilers follow for Stargirl season 1, episode 3, “Icicle.”
One of my favorite trends in recent superhero stories is the increasing frequency with which they look into the lives of their villains. Classic comic book villains live on 24-hour machination cycles, where all they do is invent and plan, plan and invent. They never sleep, they don’t exist in the real world, unless it’s so that Doctor Octopus can marry Aunt May or something.
But with both Harley Quinn and Stargirl, we’re getting a different side. We’re seeing other sides of characters like Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and of course Harley herself on the former. Meanwhile, the idea of family is woven so completely into Stargirl that, including this week, we’ll have met the families of all three formally-introduced villains so far.
This episode kicks off eight years earlier. Jordan/Icicle is saying goodbye to his wife as cancer takes her. Her last words are to tell Jordan to continue his mission and that “if anyone tries to stop you… destroy them.” In other words, she’s in on whatever he’s up to. After she passes, Jordan steps outside into his massive yard and screams as the garden around him turns to ice, his son watching from far away through the gate.
Back in the present day, Pat is listening to an oldies station in his kitchen while his son, Mike, complains. Pat’s radio, blender, and fridge are all retro 50s style, like those SMEG fridges that cost roughly five times their non-stylish equivalent. The rest of the room around him, though, looks basically like any modern suburban home of relatively affluent people, suggesting that the retro thing going on in the town is just an artificial put-on that somehow everyone in town has agreed to adhere to. Maybe that’s part of the plot the villains have been working on to fix the town and fix America. Everyone has to act like it’s the 50s, right down to their appliances!
Courtney and Pat talk about what to do next after that, and Pat is starting to cave; he says they need a plan. Courtney says that being Stargirl is the first time she’s felt herself. Finding a place to fit in is going to be another big theme with this show considering that it’s about a bunch of teen heroes in high school. Pat reminds his kids that tonight is family dinner night.
Meanwhile, Brainwave is comatose and in the hospital. Jordan goes to see him. Brainwave’s son is standing vigil, and has fallen asleep in the hospital room when a coffee cup shifts next to him. Is it Brainwave or his son doing it?
Across town, we meet William Zarick, a powerful politician who lives in Blue Valley and happens to be the Injustice Society member known as The Magician, who is ignoring a call from Jordan. Instead, he puts his focus on his son, Joey, a dorky and enthusiastic kid who has picked up his dad’s penchant for magic and shows him the card trick he’s going to do at this school’s talent show. They look like a happy family, and it seems like William wants to move away from his time as a villain and focus on his job and his family.
At school, Joey shows Courtney one of his magic tricks. It’s talent show day, so everyone is in goofy costumes that they’re apparently going to wear all day until the talent show? Joey messes up the trick, but Courtney is meant to have an incorruptible heart of gold, so instead of being critical or humiliating Joey, she tells him the trick worked. Only one person in the crowd seems to be all the wiser and she exchanges glances with him. Courtney also tries to talk to Yolanda, the girl being bullied and slut-shamed by other girls in school, though Yolanda rebuffs her.
Meanwhile, Pat is trying to gather information about the ISA and he goes to the hospital where Brainwave is laying. The thing that stands out the most about this is just how dimly-lit the hospital is. It’s lit like a shot from Riverdale, where mood trumps reality ten times out of ten. Even though it’s daytime outside, it looks like late night inside, which is relevant only because the show is so brightly-lit elsewhere, so it really stands out.
Because this episode is about Icicle, though, we soon return to William’s house, where Jordan is waiting for him. Jordan reminds William that he stumbled into his powers, and that makes his interest in getting away from his villainous past; he’s not cut out for it the same way the others are. The two agree that nothing is more important than family, though Jordan says it with a lot more venom than William.
The American Dream
Jordan’s job in town is running the organization known as the American Dream that has the former ISA members trying to rejuvenate Blue Valley. That’s also where Courtney’s mother, Barbara, is working. Jordan gives a speech about bringing the city back to life that has what feels like some “Make America Great Again” undertones to it. Barbara gives her two cents about the plans for the city. Steven Sharpe, the guy who looks like Evil Colonel Sanders, is about to silence her again when Jordan acknowledges her ideas and invites her to work with the board on them. In this context, he seems like one of the good guys, someone who wants to help his city anyway he can.
There’s an interesting question here: Why did the Injustice Society stop Injusticing? They defeated the JSA. Why are they hanging out in Blue Valley of all places? My worry is that they’re working on some secret dastardly plan that involves digging a very deep hole (as we’ve seen in Daredevil, Arrow, and Runaways). My hope is that they’ve simply figured out the plothole present in so many superhero stories. Our heroes could do more good with their money than their powers, people often point out. And the villains could repaint America in their image much more effectively if people see them as regular people that they happen to agree with. We’ll see how it pans out, though. There is a superhero show to film here, after all.
It’s a trap
Back at school, Courtney talks to the guy she exchanged glances with. We find out his name is Cameron. He’s an artist, and the one who repainted Yolanda’s locker with flowery art over the slut-shaming vandalism previously painted there; like Courtney, he’s chaotic good, this seems to suggest. A rebel and a good guy all at once.
After school, Courtney finds a huge star painted in Blue Valley Park in ice. She runs off to tell Pat, who says it’s a trap. They go to look at it anyway, kicking off a fight with Icicle that puts Courtney in a position that TV show heroes rarely have to deal with.
The trio fights, and Icicle tries to push a bus off of a bridge. Pat stops him in time with S.T.R.I.P.E., but Icicle then engineers a situation that has Joey, William’s son, struck and killed by a pickup truck. In other words, Stargirl has failed to save someone and had to watch them die.
A hero’s first failure
When we see Courtney next, she’s crying over the loss. Pat takes her to see the JSA headquarters. He seems to take every defeat as a reason to stop being a hero, and wants to show Courtney how many heroes the ISA defeated. The hall is decorated with the cowls of the fallen heroes.
What I’m unclear on, though, is where the building is located. The JSA was fighting the ISA in Los Angeles before. Is the hall in Los Angeles? Or is it in Blue Valley? That would seem really contrived and convenient. But the other option is that Courtney hopped on S.T.R.I.P.E.’s back and he casually flew her on what would be a three-hour flight for a commercial airliner. What the heck is S.T.R.I.P.E. using for fuel?
At the hall, though, Courtney is inspired by the heroes and wants to pass their cowls onto other heroes the same way that Starman passed his Cosmic Staff to her. Unlike Pat, she sees each setback–even this huge loss–as a reason to push back and fight harder and to gather other heroes.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Meanwhile, William comes home to his wife, and they cry, but he quickly leaves her to get his wand. He knows Icicle killed his son, though it seems like William’s wife isn’t aware of his past in the same way that Jordan’s was. He shows up at Jordan’s house where Jordan easily takes him down, freezing William solid. His elderly parents come in to take the body away. Like his wife, they’re apparently in on his villainy. Afterward, Cameron walks in–he’s Jordan’s son, we now know. We know that knows about his dad’s ice powers, and in the comics he becomes Icicle Junior. It’s hard to say right now if he’s going to break bad or not.
The Whitmore-Dugan family ultimately doesn’t have its family dinner, as Barbara instead goes to the American Dream meeting. So we have some interesting family dynamics. The only family all together at the end is the villain’s family, in which there seemingly are no secrets. The Magician’s family was destroyed by his secret and his former alliances, while Courtney’s family is fragmented by her secret identity.
Additionally, all three of the villains’ children we’ve met so far–and Courtney herself–are following in their parents’ footsteps. At the very least, Brainwave’s kid is cruel and selfish if not an outright villain. Icicle’s kid seems to know what’s going on and not mind it. The Magician’s son was taking up his love of magic but in a much more wholesome way. Courtney, meanwhile, is running headlong into heroism without a second thought for her own safety. I’m really eager to see where all of this goes.