So far, all episodes of Stargirl have a few things in common. Themes of family and loss connect the storylines, the visual effects are great, and I hate Courtney’s stepbrother in every scene he’s in with a wild, burning passion. In that way, the latest episode is no different. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 1, episode 4, “Wildcat.”
Our previous episode was about the ISA’s leader, Icicle, and it dove into his past to help us try to understand why he’s a villain in Courtney’s modern day. But now it’s time for Courtney to kickstart her Justice Society, and her first pick is Yolanda, the Latinx girl we’ve seen repeatedly bullied and slut-shamed. We start a few months back to better understand how things got to where they are. Yolanda is on fire as she runs for school president and dates Henry King Jr., the popular jock. One night, though, Henry goads Yolanda into sending him a racy picture, and that mean girl, Cindy, sets up a plan to send it out to the whole school during her campaign speech.
A few months later, in present-day, Courtney is inspecting her pilfered superhero gear before breakfast. Everyone in this show wakes up so early. Courtney and Pat talk about their failure to save Joey, while Courtney continues to insist that they need to rebuild the JSA. Pat is hesitant to involve anyone else in their risky mission, and says that when they find the villains, he’ll alert the authorities. Courtney offers a reply that seems especially apt this week: “What if they are the authorities?” she asks.
I just met you, and this is crazy
At school, Courtney has another run-in with Cindy as Cindy bullies Yolanda, only for Yolanda to run from Courtney. Courtney continues to persistently approach Yolanda throughout the episode. That morning, Courtney’s step-brother Mike–still annoying–quipped that Courtney had no friends, and she took it personally. Her dogged pursuit of Yolanda feels weirdly creepy and desperate with that in mind. Courtney throws caution to the wind when she finds out Yolanda is a boxer, though, and straight-up asks the girl to help her fight the weird things happening in Blue Valley.
Courtney invites Yolanda over, and we get another look at Yolanda’s family. The earlier scene had been a brightly-colored scene with all of her family members happily congratulating her on her way to school, but that’s replaced by a dimly-lit scene of her family coldly staring her down. We find out that Yolanda is grounded indefinitely for her mistake.
What finally breaks Yolanda isn’t Courtney offering to show her how she blew up Henry’s car, but rather Courtney telling her (correctly) that it was Henry who is at fault for sharing the pics rather than her for having trusted him with them in the first place. Yolanda cries and tells Courtney about how the incident destroyed her life and soon the pair is back at Courtney’s place where she shows Yolanda the staff.
She manages to talk Yolanda into reluctantly trying on Wildcat’s gear, and like Spider-Man’s Tony Stark-built suit in the MCU, the suit shapes to her body with a cool-looking special effect. A montage quickly shows off some of Yolanda’s new powers, one of which has them, for some reason, trying her claws out on the toaster in Courtney’s kitchen rather than, you know, some scrap wood. Or a tree. No, they need a pseudo-retro kitchen appliance. Also, in a touch I love, they end up looking up Wildcat’s powers on Wikipedia, and I have no doubt that they used the actual Wildcat character’s profile on the site.
The pair have their mission together shortly after that, and it’s filled with tense close calls as Yolanda experiments with her suit and gets used to it. She narrowly avoids being found out a few times, and ends up clicking proficiently to the ceiling.
When all is said and done, though, she tells Courtney that she needs to reclaim her own life before she puts on a costume. It sounds like the kind of morality lesson that comes at the end of a superhero episode. When Yolanda stands before her family and tells them she’s done accepting punishment and being sorry for her mistake, though, they respond by telling her she’s shamed them and that things can’t be the way they were before–ultimately pushing her back toward Courtney and superheroics.
Injustice Society, Assemble
While Stargirl is rebuilding the Justice Society, the Injustice Society is getting back together, too. We learn the high school principal is somehow related to the society, and Jordan Mahkent/Icicle meets with someone he calls Dr. Ito, who swears his loyalty to the ISA and says he’s working on his daughter. Icicle tells Ito he’s accelerating his plan to remake America and asks him to build something. Again, I really hope it doesn’t involve drilling a hole in the ground.
Across town, The Magician’s wife, Denise, is leaving town now that her husband and son are dead. She’d stopped at Pat’s garage for help with her car, and tells him she’s leaving because something is wrong with Blue Valley. Later, Pat finds her car totaled in a junkyard, with only Joey’s hat and the cat he’d seen in her car wandering around nearby.
Masks and Authority
I like the way the show flips the idea of using a mask to hide yourself on its head. Arrowverse shows love unmasking their characters so much–and I’m sure we’ll see mask use decrease throughout the season like we so often do on these shows–but Yolanda finds herself picking up the Wildcat mantle because her family has locked her in an emotional cage, putting her life on hold to punish her. As a teenage character, she’s under a different set of circumstances from our usual heroes, and so her options for self-expression are limited. Wildcat is a way for Yolanda to find a new identity when neither her family nor her schoolmates will let her reclaim her old one.
Another moment I especially enjoyed came early in the episode, when Courtney posited that the authorities might be the enemy. As I noted earlier, this feels especially poignant in our current climate, and I hope the show runs with it and asks the new Justice Society to truly reconsider ideas of power and authority. I don’t know that it will, but I can always hope.