Something pop culture often struggles with is calling out a problem and then actually criticizing it. Stargirl is just a teenager and she’s making rookie mistakes, but it feels like the writers are making the mistakes at least as often–if not moreso–than Stargirl herself. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 1, Episode 5, “Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite.”
“Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite”
As with the last few episodes, this episode starts with a quick flashback. Unlike Titans, though, it doesn’t take an entire episode. This time, we’re seeing the last moments of one of the only members of the Justice Society not at the mansion, Rex Tyler. Poor Rex also got a special death scene in Legends of Tomorrow season 2, when Reverse-Flash killed him after he warned the Legends about their impending demise. Here, it’s not Reverse-Flash, but Solomon Grundy.
Rex and his wife leave their kid with the wife’s brother and escape in hopes of saving the son. They don’t even make it all the way out of the driveway before the Hulk-like villain catches and kills the two.
In present day, Rex’s kid is working on a car and living with his uncle, who is living as his father. They don’t like each other–the uncle blames Rick for ruining his life and keeping him from his imagined success. Rick is a surly kid with a lot of anger in his heart, and he stops on his walk to school to punch the tree where his parents supposedly had an accident.
The Halloween episode
While he’s burying bark in his knuckles, Courtney is waking up to her terrible brother scaring her with a Frankenstein mask (It’s Halloween). We get a classic teen-hero-hides-costume moment where we find out the first of Courtney’s mistakes this week. She’s keeping all of the costumes she stole from the JSA headquarters in a duffle in her closet, with her unwashed costume on top.
A lot of the episode revolves around the idea of being heard and feeling listened to, with Courtney unthinkingly doing exactly what she’s so annoyed by her stepdad, Pat, for doing. Before school, Pat talks to Courtney about what he saw last week–the wrecked car belonging to Denise, the wife of William “The Wizard” Zarick. Courtney says that she witnessed her principal, Ms. Bowin–Bowin–playing violin for the comatose Brainwave in what she describes as an evil way. Pat discards the notion because the Fiddler was an Irish guy back in his day, not even taking into account the absurdity of a woman coming into a man’s hospital room late at night to play violin and then leave.
At school, Courtney and Yolanda talk, where Courtney reiterates again that they cannot trust adults. Beth Temple, who heard Courtney call Yolanda by her name instead of her superhero monicker, follows them and listens in and eventually makes her way to Courtney’s house, where she finds the goggles created by Dr. Charles McNider, or Dr. Mid-Nite of the JSA, and puts them on. The goggles light up and start feeding the super-smart chatterbox with information.
Courtney finds Beth in her room wearing the goggles and realizes that the cat is out of the bag and can’t be put back in, but tries hard to discourage Beth from joining her despite Beth clearly being interested and willing to keep the secret. Beth follows Courtney and Yolanda into a party, and over and over, Beth refers to the group as us, we, let’s–only for Courtney to sigh in frustration. as she totally ignores Beth. It’s hard to tell why–Beth is a good-hearted outsider just like she is, but Courtney can’t seem to grasp that Beth is interested.
Meanwhile, she pursues Rick, who has no interest and clearly isn’t in a good mental place to join them, right-out giving him his father’s Hourman amulet before she has any inkling that she can’t trust him and no reason to believe she actually can. It’s only when Beth shows up with new information brought to light by her goggles–that Rick’s parents were murdered–that he agrees to be part of the group, and even then only for revenge.
So the other element of this episode, after Courtney’s unwillingness to listen, is the rushed way in which the show is assembling the team. I realize that shows like Arrow and Flash had more time to assemble their groups, but it feels like the show is in a rush to get it done.
When Beth puts on Dr. Mid-Nite’s goggles, the goggles tell her that calling a superhero by their given name is a “rookie superhero mistake,” and one that Courtney herself made the night before. The show is intentionally making fun of the way superhero shows will ostensibly be about comics but then will do call the character Barry or Kate or whatever and to get them out of their masks.
I can’t tell, then, whether the whole Rick debacle is Courtney’s mistake or the writers’. Or if it’s the writers concocting a contrived mistake to rush the plot forward. Teenagers are reckless, but Courtney might as well be putting up flyers on the school corkboard for people with dramatic backstories to join her no-adults superhero team.
Courtney trusting the badboy with an anger problem–the first thing he does with his power is punch his uncle’s truck–seems like a weird personality flip. It seems like the move of the more popular girl she looks like, not the outsider she’s supposed to be. With Yolanda, she offered a touching moment of support that inspired Yolanda to trust her, and it felt like a more organic origin story for her even if it, too, felt a bit rushed.
Rick seems like he should be setting off alarm bells for Courtney. Meanwhile, she continues to mistreat Beth for reasons I can’t quite pin down, and it again feels out of character. She’s not mean, she’s just incredibly dismissive, but it’s still a knock against her character, and one that I hope they deal with appropriately.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on in this episode. The Fiddler reveals herself while the Gambler shows off his cool gadgets. Pat investigates Rick’s relation to Rex and finds out about Courtney’s little superhero team plan.
I can see pretty clearly where things are going with both Beth and Rick. Beth talks in the episode about how her parents are her only friends, and previously we’ve seen her parents talk to her about how she needs to have other friends. Dr. Mid-Nite will help her grow up and separate from them. Meanwhile, Courtney’s golden heart will heal Rick’s wounded soul and he’ll learn to be a true hero instead of an angry revenge boy.
I’m invested in the show enough at this point to give it some benefit of the doubt, but the rushed feeling makes it less “Avengers Assemble” and more “hey everyone get in here quick.” The show is going to need to have some major hurdles for the heroes for me to believe that they’re actually a team. If things are too easy, then this is going to end up feeling as artificial as it looks right now.