Stargirl 1×06 Review – Yep, his name is Sportsmaster

Stargirl -- "The Justice Society" -- Image Number: STG106c_0074r2.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Neil Hopkins as Sportsmaster and Joy Osmanski as Tigress -- Photo: Jace Downs/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Helicopter parents can be deeply damaging for a child to grow up with. What about when your helicopter parent is a villain willing to literally kill to make sure you get what they think you’re entitled to? We meet two more of the Injustice Society’s semi-retired members this week as the new Justice Society of America assembles for the first time. Spoilers follow for Stargirl season 1, episode 6, “Justice Society of America.”

“Justice Society of America”

Brec Bassinger as Courtney Whitmore / Stargirl

Superhero comic books are a Venn diagram of cool, silly, and genuine. They’re in a constant battle to balance all of these ideas as they try to make characters like Reverse-Flash seem scary; to build emotional stories around people who go by Robotman and Negative Man; to let a monster like The Batman Who Laughs exist in the same line-up as the self-insert fantasy character Shazam; and countless more examples.

Stargirl is no exception to this. The JSA is the very definition of silver/golden-age silliness. It’s relentless optimism and genuine joy layered over the seriousness of the modern world and the weight of live-action actors. Legends of Tomorrow works in that space by embracing it and getting silly. Doom Patrol wades into the weird eagerly and applies great acting, writing, and special effects. Stargirl, though, is still figuring out what to do.

There are definitely things I like about this episode. The story begins with Pat confronting Courtney about her theft, though I feel like a stepdad waiting in his teenaged daughter’s bedroom in the dark maybe wasn’t the best way to go about that. While Courtney knows that the Injustice Society killed her potential father and all his compatriots, Pat watched it happen. Her optimism runs up against his very real experience.

Give the cool toys back

Yolanda Montez and Beth Chapel in Stargirl

Courtney tries to talk to the other members of the Society to get their gear back. For both Yolanda and Beth, though, Wildcat and Dr. Mid-Nite are quite literally new lives. Yolanda found her family and school lives both destroyed when a guy broke her trust and someone used it to turn her world upside down. Wildcat is a person that can be every bit as determined, accomplished, and powerful as Yolanda wants to be but can’t as a trapped teenager.

Beth, meanwhile, has struggled with finding a social outlet that can handle her endless curiosity and desire to communicate until she put on the AI-powered goggles previously worn by Dr. Mid-Nite. Rick Tyler, Hourman, is a somewhat different story since he has an axe to grind with the Injustice Society and the physical power to keep anyone from stopping him.

Instead of taking the gear back, Courtney ends up accompanying the other members of the team to attack the Gambler, the Colonel Sanders-looking dude we’ve seen throughout the season and who ended last week’s episode with a bang.

The best-laid plans of teenage superheroes

Stargirl, Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Wildcat

The four young heroes end up in a losing battle against two other members of the IJA, Tigress and Sportsmaster. Yes, Sportsmaster. He’s kind of like Casey Jones from the Ninja Turtles, but meaner (and came along way earlier!) Where Brainwave was a powerful psychic and Icicle a master of, well, ice, these two are down for fisticuffs. While the heroes go in with a plan, they quickly find themselves outclassed. The two melee fighters only run once the Gambler’s finished his mission–just in time for Pat to show up in STRIPE. They’d gone in with a plan, but Rick immediately tried to punch everything and the four heroes ran off in two different directions despite Courtney’s best efforts.

Pat’s garage is going to become the team’s de facto base, it seems. The new kids marvel at Pat’s mech. They’d mistaken him as a hapless stepdad before, which might make Pat the best actor of any secret identity-holding superhero ever. Upon the catwalk, though, Pat and Courtney have a conversation I love. Pat has Courtney talk through how frustrating it was to have these new heroes not listening to her, running off on their own, talking about how it made her feel. Then Courtney realized it: she’s the stepdad for the JSA kids.

Blue Valley parents have it rough

Luke Wilson as Pat Dugan

I like these little moments of growth that Courtney and Pat get to have. She pushes him to embrace his heroic side while he slowly helps her grow into a wiser hero, one mistake at a time. This could feel really hamfisted, but it all works when it comes out of Pat’s mouth. Luke Wilson makes a great stepdad, y’all.

This episode also gives us another take on everyday villains. Icicle and Brainwave are both obscenely wealthy and powerful, but Tigress and Sportsmaster, while successful, are closer to the ground, as befitting their melee-focused abilities. The two are a married couple, and are the aforementioned helicopter parents of Artemis Crock, one of the people Courtney briefly considered for the JSA. The pair attends not only Artemis’ games, but her practices as well, and when the coach calls her out for punching another student (the student was definitely provoking her, admittedly), the two parents corner him in the parking lot and in the very next scene they’re burying his body.

Amy Smart as Barbara Whitmore

They’re overbearing, but Artemis doesn’t seem phased by this. This is one thing I’m curious about. We’ve met at least four of the ISA’s progeny; two of them have exhibited supernatural abilities. I keep wondering if the sons and daughters of the ISA will support their parents or turn on them. Icicle Jr. is a DC comics character; will this be a Don’t Talk to Me or My Son Ever Again situation? Or will Courtney’s golden heart sway the kids to turn on their parents? This is the plot point I’m most curious about since so much of what else has gone on has been quite telegraphed. It’s also interesting that at least two of the villain kids have inherent powers while all four JSA members have special items.

Am I hooked yet?

I don’t know that I’m hooked on Stargirl the way I am on say, Supergirl or The Flash, but there’s a lot here that I’m interested in, and it’s enough to keep me watching and writing so far.

Trae Romano as Mike Dugan

As an aside, Courtney’s little brother Mike gets his very first scene where he vaguely resembles a human being instead of a 90s sitcom character raised on Rodney Dangerfield albums. He’s building a project for the science fair–a model volcano made out of leftover Halloween candy. He tells his parents he doesn’t want them to come to the fair, but then at the fair, he’s the only one without a parent there. When Barbara shows up, he lights up. The fact that he was building a volcano out of candy and chocolate sauce is still something right out of a 90s sitcom, but at least he got to have a real, believable response to something instead of a sarcastic quip. It was nice.

Stargirl is airing on The CW and DC Universe.