Whenever someone’s writing a superhero show, I imagine there’s a big whiteboard in the writers’ room and they have ideas on the board. Things they want to do on the show, big themes, that kind of thing. And I imagine that the first thing every showrunner writes is the phrase “We’re not so different, you and I!” There’s always a hero, there’s always a villain, and somewhere, sometime, the villain will say it. It’s inevitable, like the heat death of the universe. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 1, Episode 8, “Shiv Part Two.”
“Shiv Part Two”
Last week left us on a heck of a cliffhanger. Courtney and Cindy fought in the darkened gym of their high school, and Cindy easily got the upper-hand on the inexperienced heroine. It was only the intervention of the mysterious, long sword-wielding Irishman that saved Courtney’s life. This week opens in the direct aftermath of that near-death experience.
We join Pat in media res, and it–intentionally, I’m pretty sure–mirrors the pilot episode. Pat is racing his Buick frantically while the camera watches from far overhead. We know that he’s driving fast because Courtney’s in trouble, just like Starman was 10 years earlier. Only this chase ends very differently from the last one as Pat crashes into a streetlight pole.
A few weeks ago, Pat would’ve tried to put an end to Courtney’s adventures with an injury like this, but now he seems to understand that the cat cannot be re-bagged, the worms re-canned. Instead, Pat wants to investigate the ISA to find out who Cindy’s father is. But he also wants Courtney to tell her mother about her night job. Courtney rightly concludes that her mother would put an immediate stop to that. Barbara’s opinion of Courtney’s birth father is quite low, and I’d be willing to bet that she knew he was Starman and mad that he put his superhero life ahead of his family.
Across the city, Cindy is talking to her father, Dr. Ito, also known as the Dragon King. I like how Cindy’s relationship to her father is a sort of flipped version of Courtney’s with hers. The idea that a genetic family isn’t necessarily a healthy family, and that found family can form a stronger bond than the bond of blood.
Cindy brags to her father about battling and defeating Stargirl. Her father not only knows, though, he’s disappointed. Cindy put on what her father calls her “graduation uniform” early and not only went against his wishes, but failed to kill Stargirl after she saw their underground base. Now, Ito explains, he has to explain to the rest of the ISA why they’ve been exposed. Ito tells his daughter that she’s “good at hurting things,” and she tells him not to bring up her mother so much. There’s an interesting dynamic here that I’m curious to see play out.
As a side note, I think it’s interesting that so many of the parents on this show are dead. Courtney’s father, Rick Tyler’s mother and father, Cindy’s mother, Cameron’s mother, and Henry’s mother are all out of the picture. That’s a lot of dead moms and three evil fathers. Again, family is a huge theme on this show, but I’m not sure yet how all of these missing parents tie together thematically.
What I do know is that Cindy’s dad is scary with this devoted cultists and the hints of lizard skin around his eyes. When Cindy is arguing with her father, he tells her, “don’t make me take off my mask,” and she’s shook. She doesn’t want that to happen. Damn. I can’t wait to see his face now.
Does she know?
Now, the show splits the JSA into two groups: the recovering Courtney and the frustrated Beth, Yolanda, and Rick. The three are furious that they can’t do anything about Courtney, and Rick is throwing a fit, pushing stuff off tables like the angry guy he is. The three hatch a plan to visit Cindy’s house to try to learn more about her. Meanwhile, Courtney is healing in bed. First, Mike comes to apologize to her in a pretty awkward scene that is meant to be endearing. I can’t tell if the kid just isn’t a great actor or what, but the whole scene just felt really strange to me.
But then, who shows up but Cindy? Cindy wants to apologize for her behavior at the homecoming game, and even has a box of chocolates as an apology gift. Cindy hangs out and they talk while Cindy tries and rejects every one of the chocolates. She says, we’re not so different, you and I, and poses the question of what Courtney would be like if she were more like Cindy. And Courtney flips it. On the way out, though, Cindy reveals to Courtney that she knows about Courtney’s cosplay hobby, but says she doesn’t plan to tell her father since that would interfere with her wish to prove herself to him.
Visiting the Enemy
Meanwhile, everyone in the JSA knows who Cindy is. Pat finds Yolanda and Rick waiting outside Cindy’s house just in time to spot Beth knocking on Cindy’s door. Cindy isn’t home, but her ‘mother’ is. She lets Pat and Beth in, and the two have an awkward conversation with her while Beth investigates the house with her goggles. The house has fake books on the shelves and it’s incredibly bare. As the two talk to Cindy’s ‘mother’ Bobbi, Bobbi tells Pat that she’s just a mother now but that she used to do ‘other things.’ Bobbi sounds terrified of her life in the Burman house, and the bareness of the house is as unnerving as Ito’s threat to take off his hood.
Beth once again proves herself the most questionable member of the JSA when she first wanders down into Ito’s underground tunnels without a mask on, where she hears Solomon Grundy roar. She then sneaks up into Cindy’s room even as her friends warn her that Cindy is walking in the front door. It’s not that she ignores her own safety to run toward danger like Courtney does and more like she bumbles into danger. The whole adventure serves to drive home what a screwed up life Cindy lives at home, though, and the JSA kids make it out just in time.
The climax of the episode comes after Cindy tells Courtney that she plans to kill the rest of the JSA and then Courtney herself. That night, Cindy is in her room when, in the reflection of her mirror, we see Courtney just a split second before she crashes through Cindy’s window. Cindy and Courtney fight in Cindy’s room, utterly destroying her bed, shelves, and walls before Courtney throws Cindy a good 100 feet out into the street. Cindy pulls a mirror shard out of her face and demonstrates superhuman healing ability. The two fight it out until Henry King shows up.
Also in this episode, Henry’s powers start to manifest in earnest, and he begins to take control of his telekinetic powers, allowing him to discover his father’s Brainwave costume and the letter from Ito about Cindy ‘watching’ Henry. Henry is in agony, and all of that only adds to his confusion.
Henry shows up to talk to Cindy just as the fight bursts out into the street, and his uncontrolled telekinetic blast separates the girls, letting Ito’s men kidnap Cindy and pull her underground while Courtney confronts Henry and the two have a telepathic conversation where he finds out that Stargirl and new girl are the same person. It seems inevitable that all of the ISA kids are going to break bad, but they each have me wondering. I’d love to see the ISA kids turn on their parents and join the JSA. But these characters, like Icicle Jr. and Shiv, have comic book counterparts that are in the ISA.
One thing I appreciate is that the show is going out of its way to make some members of the ISA sympathetic. Jordan Mahkent is clearly evil, but his mission is deeply sympathetic. He watched his wife die as a result of corporate greed and wants to fix it. He’s the hero in his story, and we can pretty easily understand why.
There’s a lot going on in this episode and a bunch of storylines move forward. I wish they’d taken a few minutes to tell us more about the mysterious Irishman and his ancient sword. I want to see more of him immediately. But that’s a pretty small complaint for an otherwise solid episode.