I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stargirl Season 1. It was cheesy, but it was also full of heart and had a great throughline of family that informed virtually every plotline and character, hero and villain alike, that helped strengthen everything else that was going on. Now we’re back for round two–this is the true test of a show airing on the CW. Does Stargirl have a second outing in it, or was that all it had to offer? Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 1, “Summer School: Chapter One.”
“Summer School: Chapter One”
In an interview ahead of Stargirl Season 2, producer Geoff Johns promised a jump-scare season opener. He kind of delivers. The show opens on a small girl in trouble for the standard stuff. She sits on her porch until a young boy named Bruce approaches her. He’s just a little too sweet, a little too nice–he looks like he might send you off to a cornfield if you don’t do as he says.
The little girl, however, follows along. The big jump scare comes when she’s almost run over by a garbage truck. Bruce talks her into stealing one of the neighbor kid’s presents, which turns out to be a ghastly-looking doll. A few minutes later, when the little girl’s mom comes over, Bruce is nowhere to be found and the mother screams. We don’t see what happened to the child.
This was decades ago. Flash forward to the current day. Courtney Whitmore is a little bit stuck. She’s heading into summer break and trying to keep up with school while she and the other JSA members–Hour Man, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Wildcat–patrol the city.
Only, just months ago they defeated all the city’s villains. There’s no one left to defeat, and all Courtney finds is a raccoon digging around in a trash can.
At school, she’s hyper-paranoid–considering that last season’s climax happened at school, and a few members of the ISA were either involved with the school or parents of students, she’s not totally wild here, but she ends up tripping someone with a hockey stick and then finds out she failed a test because she’s more focused on the history of the ISA than of the USA.
Everyone is all over the place
That all sets the stage for a weird, somewhat scattered beginning to Stargirl Season 2. The other JSA members aren’t as focused as Courtney; Rick is still looking for Solomon Grundy, Yolanda with the fact that she killed Brainwave, and Beth with the combined stress of Chuck–the voice in her glasses–being gone and discovering that her deeply uninterested parents are getting divorced.
So the team is separated and trying to deal with daily life. Pat continues to do extremely dad stuff, and Luke Wilson looks so at home as this character that I can’t help but enjoy it. He’s full of bad dad jokes, well-meaning but poorly-delivered life lessons for his kids, the whole nine yards.
And nothing connects.
There are a lot of pieces throughout the episode that will lead to things. Joel McHale makes a brief appearance as Starman/Sylvester Pemberton as he continues to try to track down Pat/Stripesy. Someone who calls herself the “daughter of the Green Lantern” breaks into Courtney’s house to steal the lantern, only for the two of them to wreck her house in a fight. Cindy Burman is still around and trying to resurrect the ISA with the children of the now-dead ISA members and, weirdly, Pat’s son, Mike. Cindy is already working with Eclipso, who was probably in that doll at the beginning.
But none of this–the flashback, Starman, Green Lantern, Cindy–connects to anything else or to any themes. It’s a preview for the rest of the season. It’s all foreshadowing without any actual shadowing. The hooks for the show are that I liked Stargirl Season 1 and want to see more with these characters–this episode just doesn’t have any hooks.
It’s not that it shouldn’t assume that we’ve seen the first season. It’s probably fair to assume that. But it still needs to give us reasons to crave the next episode and right now we just have a bunch of disparate puzzle pieces that don’t interlock. When I think about the superhero shows I enjoy most, like Doom Patrol and Watchmen, they give us something to hook us while also laying groundwork for future episodes. Right now, Stargirl is neglecting that. I hope that changes.