If we plug our ears and ignore everything else about this year, TV looks weird. Shows are ending early, ending mid-fight, losing stars, and more. It’s hard to blame these shows, but the fact of the matter is, TV isn’t the escape I wish it was. Except in the case of Stargirl, a show I went into unsure and left impressed and excited. Stargirl offers not just one of the few endings of the year, but one of the few genuinely satisfying ones, too. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 1, Episode 13, “Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two.”
“Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two”
The finale picks up just before the end of part one, but from a different perspective. The ISA’s monstrous Synaptic Amplifier, it turns out, was hidden below the football field of Blue Valley High School. The kids are running off the field as it opens up and the massive device rises and activates. Just before this, the son of the late Anaya Bowin was doing just like his mother taught him, clubbing his bully over the head with his giant, unwieldy tuba.
We’ll get back to that, though.
An Actually Climactic Battle
Overall, this finale is very, very good. The kids of the ISA battle their way through the Green Dragon’s lair, fighting Green Dragon, Icicle, Brainwave, Sportsmaster, and Tigress.
One of the biggest disappointments, though, is that the episode quickly dashes the Ozymandias moment from last week. While all of the adults in the central United States are frozen in place, it does little with either aspect of this that excited me.
In public, the affected adults are simply frozen in place, looking at the sky. Cars slowed to a stop. While the signal will apparently kill 25% of adults–and we do see one drop dead–there’s no visible horror to this. It’s just mildly spooky and tame.
Too Soon, You Guys
Then there’s the other problem, and this one is much bigger. The signal freezes not only adults we don’t know, but the ones we do know. That, in theory, should leave the kids to fend for themselves. And it does… for about ten minutes. We’re barely 10 minutes into the episode before Pat and Justin are back to full cognitive function.
The way it actually happens is pretty fun. Beth and Chuck (her goggles) are in a hacking battle with the Gambler, and the Gambler proves to be a better hacker than Beth’s AI buddy. So instead of hacking him, they hack something he loves–his money. Soon his bank accounts are draining, distracting him. The Gambler is the least-fleshed-out of the villains, so I’m glad to see him get any personality besides being a vaguely-menacing Colonel Sanders.
While he’s distracted, they activate the signal blockers that were breaking Beth’s communication with Chuck, which interrupts Brainwave’s signal.
Gang’s All Here
So then, we have Stargirl, Hourman, Wildcat, Shining Knight, and STRIPE all fighting beneath Blue Valley. I’m still surprised to say that the fights in Stargirl have continually been a bright spot for the show. It’s apparent nowhere more than in this episode when the two teams clash in full form. The heroes look great, the villains look great, and the action is awesome. Courtney’s gymnastics take center stage, of course, but everyone gets a moment to shine.
Robot vs Zombie
One highlight has STRIPE and Hourman finally battling Solomon Grundy (born on a Monday). There’s so much CG going on here, but it’s a lot of fun. The battle between STRIPE and Grundy has me curious as to whether Pat had built STRIPE specifically to fight Grundy. The two are matched in strength and size to the point where the battle is almost 1:1 until Grundy realizes that metal doesn’t bounce back from damage as well as flesh and starts pulling arms and legs off.
The fight skates around a lot of obvious pairings, too. I think the most likely scenario would’ve had each hero facing off against their counterpart: Wildcat vs. Tigress, Stargirl vs. Icicle, Hourman vs. Solomon Grundy.
Instead, we get much more interesting pairings. For example, Justin’s entire raison d’etre was to “slay the dragon,” meaning to kill the Green Dragon. Instead, though, he ends up dead on the wrist blade belonging to his own daughter, Cindy. Her building resentment came to a head when she got out, and she stabs her own father through the chest.
By the end of the season finale, most of the ISA, incredibly, appears to be irreversibly dead. Stargirl has her big coming-out party as she flies up into the air, firing powerful beams out of the Cosmic Staff, dismantling the Synaptic Amplifier.
After the Fight
When the team comes out of the battle, though, the place each member is in is interesting. Yolanda was forced to kill Brainwave. Icicle destroyed Beth’s goggles, leaving her without a connection to Chuck. Rick chose not to kill Solomon Grundy; he beat the giant within an inch of his life and Grundy cowered in fear.
Yolanda and Beth are dejected as they cope with the loss of security and innocence that come with what each went through. Rick, meanwhile, seems unburdened. The surly boy seems lighter having defeated his literal monsters and having shown them mercy. I want to see what happens to each of these characters next year. This episode provided crucial development for Rick that he didn’t get earlier in the season, and I now think he could be an interesting member of the team, rather than just an angry pair of fists.
I also like that Grundy ended up afraid and running for his life. There’s a reason he was locked up and not treated as a member of the ISA. He’s not much more than an animal and behaves like it.
The other ending I enjoyed was that of Icicle. Jordan Mahkent believed absolutely that he was right throughout the series, and his conviction lasts right up until Mike Dugan slams into the frozen man with a pick-up truck, shattering him.
The villains got an unusual amount of screentime, and it’s almost disappointing to see so many die. I’m not totally sure that Icicle is dead; I’m not sure how a shattered ice villain dies. Does a pick-up truck really do him in?
Injustice League Babies
Regardless, I think this finale not only takes care of the ISA as we know it, but sets up the next generation. Cameron, Jordan’s son, has been absent since the spooky dinner. And then there’s Anaya’s son. She was the Fiddler. Will he become… the Tubaist? I sure hope so. The actor definitely has the unhinged look down just right. Cindy, meanwhile, is in her late father’s warehouse, digging up a gem that contains, apparently, the entity known as Eclipso, while an incorporeal man that I think might be the Gentleman Ghost admonishes the ISA for its poor planning.
The finale does so much–it develops each of the members of the JSA, gives interesting conclusions for many members of the ISA, puts on a great show of VFX, and closes out in a way that both leaves me excited for a second season but also satisfied with the current one. The ending is filled with questions instead of cliffhangers. Oh, and it actually has an ending unlike so many other shows this year.
I didn’t expect to even like Stargirl, but I ended up loving it.