Is the child of a hero destined to become a hero themselves? What about the child of a villain? Legacy crops up all over the place in Stargirl. Superheroes have items bound to their DNA, and supervillains pass their powers down. The children feel the effects of their parents’ pasts even when they don’t realize it, whether it’s Henry King enjoying success and popularity in school or Courtney feeling the pull of the hero’s life. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 1, Episode 7, “Shiv Part One.”
“Shiv Part One”
After their humiliating defeat at the hands of Tigress and Sportsmaster last week, the teenage members of the new Justice Society are ready to accept that they’re not, well, ready. The ISA, meanwhile, is now fully aware that someone is wearing the JSA suits and has access to their powers. The kids’ hasty mission not only failed, but gave the ISA an advantage.
This episode shifts focus on a character we’ve seen at the edges of the show so far, who has already established herself as someone not to be trifled with: Cindy Burman, the ‘mean girl’ of Blue Valley High. The most popular and most powerful. This week we get a closer look at her and she becomes a sort of mirror for Courtney.
Both girls are daughters of super fathers–Courtney of Starman, Cindy of the Dragon King. But while Courtney is the ultimate outsider (despite being an attractive, blonde, blue-eyed girl in an American high school), Cindy is the ultimate insider. And just as Courtney begins to find her friends, Cindy is losing hers.
Courtney walks into school and one by one, Yolanda, Rick, and Beth join her as a cool soundtrack plays behind them because they’re the justice squad. Beth ruins it with her excitement and lack of inside voice, of course.
Meanwhile, Cindy goes to Henry, the guy she stole from Yolanda and, of course, son of psychic villain Brainwave. Cindy wants to talk about planning for the homecoming dance, the most important event of a young woman’s high school career. Except Henry’s dad is comatose and Henry’s latent psychic abilities are beginning to manifest in strange ways. Homecoming is the furthest thing from his mind. Then she gets into a fight with her “friend,” a girl who has begged for attention from Cindy each time she’s on-screen. The girl stands up for herself and Cindy goes nuclear.
Then, the chemistry class. It’s partner day, and everyone in school knows two things: stay away from Courtney because she’s weird and stay away from Cindy because she’s terrifying. The two work together and Courtney finds out that Cindy is a science whiz who can do chemistry experiments in her sleep. And being that Courtney is an outsider, Cindy sees a kindred spirit in her, at least for a bit, and the two make plans to hang out on Saturday night.
It’s cute to see Courtney’s big heart being warm enough to melt Cindy’s cold demeanor, if only for a little bit. This scene is that much more tragic just a little bit later when Cameron, Icicle Jr., asks Courtney to the dance and Courtney asks Cindy if she can put off their hang so that she can go do the thing Cindy can’t. We know things about Cindy that tell us she was long past teetering on the edge of evil by this point–more on that later–but it still feels like there was this last chance to save Cindy that Courtney unwittingly missed out on because of a cute artist boy (who will probably become a villain later).
In between the chemistry class and the homecoming game, Cindy stops at home. Cindy terrifies her (step?)mothers, to the point where she’ll give her daughter–ostensibly a teenage girl–her wine stash, rather than risk her wrath. Cindy forces her way into her father’s lab and we learn just how similar to Courtney she really is. She’s as eager to be a villain as Courtney is to be a hero. She kills one of her father’s assistants with an Assassin’s Creed-style wrist-mounted blade that apparently she was wearing to school. But just the same way that Courtney is begging her stepdad to help her become a heroine posthaste, Cindy wants to join her father in the Injustice Society as soon as possible. There’s even a costume ready for her, which I’m willing to bet belonged to her mother.
Not so much, no
So you have a hero and a villain, two young women of the same age. An outsider being pulled in, and an insider feeling left out.
I actually really dig this. It’s a great setup for some heartbreaking conflict. And indeed, when Cindy shows up in her Shiv costume, Courtney recognizes her immediately. If not due to a lack of a mask, then Cindy’s unique hair dye situation should be pretty telling. Cindy, though, doesn’t seem to recognize Courtney. She just sees Stargirl, the ISA’s target, and they fight. This is a two-parter, so the fight ends about as well as you can imagine.
Elsewhere in the episode, there’s other interesting stuff going on. Despite Courtney’s tough failure last week, she’s still cocky about her skill as a superhero. She’s athletic and acrobatic, and can do cool moves with the Cosmic Staff, of that there’s no doubt. But when pat shows the kids his practice room, Courtney just destroys all the practice dummies and says she’s ready to be a hero. The other JSA members aren’t shy about telling her that she looks like a pompous ass–something that goes without being said all too often on superhero shows (and teen dramas, I suppose).
Who is this guy?
In the background of all the villainy going on is the guy that I’m thinking used to be the Fiddler. Pat describes the fiddler as being an Irish guy, and we learned a few weeks back that the janitor is indeed Irish. But this episode sets him up as more than an ex-villain. He seems to be some sort of Highlander-type immortal who might be regretting his past as a villain, and that’s the kind of story I absolutely devour. I want more of this character immediately.
Also, Mike, Courtney’s little brother, confronts her about all the time she’s been spending with his dad. As the child of divorce, it makes sense that he’s had a lot of hurt, and he kind of lets Courtney have it for what he sees as trying to steal his dad. If the show goes out of its way to show all his ridiculous jokes from before as him acting out, I’ll forgive them, but right now he still has five episodes of looking like a 90s sitcom character and two episodes where he resembles a human, so I’m getting excited about his potential just yet.
Finally, more than any other show on the CW, Stargirl‘s handling of secret identities is farcical. When Courtney does end up losing to Cindy, Pat finds her and runs in yelling her given name instead of her superhero name. Cindy isn’t even out of the room. As an experienced sidekick, he should be well versed in name discipline.
Even with those gripes, though, I’m really enjoying the Cindy-Courtney story and I’m eager to see more of it next week.