Stargirl 2×02 Review – Making Friends and Enemies

DC's Stargirl -- "Summer School: Chapter 2" -- Image Number: STG202fg_0001r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Yvette Monreal as Yolanda Montez, Anjelika Washington as Beth Chapel, Cameron Gellman as Rick Tyler and Luke Wilson as Pat Dugan -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Who would’ve guessed that the first live-action appearance of a Green Lantern since Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern movie would be in Stargirl of all places? Not me. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 2, “Summer School: Chapter Two.”

“Summer School: Chapter Two”

After a scattered premiere, Stargirl feels like its taking shape–kind of. There’s still a ton of place-setting going on, and we haven’t even formally met all the players. We pick up right where we left off, though, with Courtney fighting the Green Lantern’s daughter in her now-destroyed kitchen.

I kind of love this part of Stargirl. Most superhero shows are concerned primarily with the super-high stakes of their hero-villain clashes, but here a teenage girl, struggling with classes enough that she’s in summer school, just torched her parents’ kitchen and foyer. Courtney’s in trouble, y’all.

It’s a funny and relatable situation that’s incredibly low stakes compared to the life she’s been living and to what we know is coming. A superhero with a flying, beam-firing, intelligent staff is in trouble for messing up the house. It’s adorable.

Courtney ends up sleeping on the couch with her snoring dog while her future friend gets to sleep in Courtney’s bed.

Of course he named his kid Jade

It isn’t really until the morning that we formally meet Jade, the daughter of Green Lantern Alan Scott. We get a flashback to how she got there, though. Jade grew up without her parents in an orphanage and, being an adult, finds herself on her own. The woman who runs the orphanage isn’t mean, but she can’t keep her around. She sends her off with a gift–her father’s ring. The ring comes to life and puts itself on Jade’s finger. All she can do is follow it where it wants to go. The caregiver gives her just one piece of advice–you don’t have to be perfect.

We see what the woman means almost immediately as Courtney wakes up to the smell of pancakes being served at the table she and Jade busted last night. Jade woke up early, fixed the table (quietly, no less), and made apparently killer pancakes for the whole family. Courtney, for her part, is extremely suspicious of Jade, and that’s kind of the crux of this episode.

We as an audience know for near-certain that Jade’s one of the good ones, but Courtney’s in hyper-paranoid mode from the ISA and, in her defense, Jade did break into their house. Courtney talks about it with Yolanda at school the next day after discovering that they’re in summer school together. Interestingly, their teacher is played by Randy Havens, who played the science teacher in Stranger Things.

Courtney, meet Jade

Much of the episode is spent on Jade and Courtney. For Jade, it’s about figuring out what having the Green Lantern ring means. Her emotions and imagination control the ring’s power, and her tough upbringing and pressure to perform have made her feelings pretty volatile. For Courtney, it’s leaving behind her suspicion. Pat has to remind her that she came to Blue Valley and before she’d even settled in entirely, she assembled a superhero team made up of other outcasts.

While Jade is a newcomer, it’s easy to see how she fits in with the team. Courtney is part of a blended family. Rick is an orphan. Beth’s parents couldn’t be paid to care about her even as she tries desperately to care for them. Yolanda has a family, but they expect her to be something very particular and still hold a teenage mistake against her. As an orphan, the daughter of a superhero, much like Rick, she needs the same love that Courtney gave to her other friends.

The Baddies

Meanwhile, we get a bit of expansion on the show’s villains. A British gentleman shows up at Barbara’s office looking for the belongings of William Zarick, the ISA member known as the Wizard, who died early on in the previous season. This isn’t the Gentleman Ghost as I’d previously thought, but rather the Shade.

I also dig this part. As dumb as kids can be, they’re also perceptive and often times in both real life and shows parents don’t listen to the warnings and protests their kids throw up because they’re too busy being adults. Barbara immediately clocks this dude as being sketchy, and the episode isn’t even over before Pat is telling Courtney about it. As much as they want Courtney to be a normal kid, they’ve also accepted that she has a special power and duty to use that power to help and protect others. This is a CW show, so there will be plenty of melodrama, but I love stories where parents try to listen to their kids and communicate with them instead of just assuming they’re making things up.

The other villain moment puts us in close quarters with Eclipso. We return to Cindy Burman’s stepmother, Bobbie, who is enjoying her freedom and planning to escape the city in mere hours. Only, Cindy returns home. Eclipso feeds on wrath and anger, and has an easy target in the stepmom. Soon, Bobbie is attacking Cindy with a chef knife (what a waste of good kitchen gear), and Eclipso uses this as an excuse to take control of Cindy and consume Bobbie, leaving a Thanos-style pile of dust drifting to the ground.

Immortal Darkness(es)

These two villains make the ISA look like a bunch of goons. The Shade in the comics pulls his power from a place called the Shadowlands, a place where darkness is physical and connected to a godlike entity. Eclipso, meanwhile, is the physical manifestation of wrath and vengeance, and is theoretically immortal.

On the one hand, the increase in stakes is exciting–these two villains are far more dangerous than the half-dozen we met before. On the other hand, I still remember what happened when Oliver Queen had to fight an evil magician who was going to nuke the whole world, so it’ll take some deft work from the writers to ensure that they make the villains interesting characters that tie into the characters’ themes in useful ways rather than just being there to fuel more of the aforementioned melodrama.

Controlling Emotions

The seeds for this season are already planted; Eclipso feeds on dark emotions, and we have Beth’s parents’ divorce, Rick’s feelings of abandonment, Yolanda’s regret over murdering Brainwave, Jade’s anger issues, and Courtney’s jealousy. Resolving these feelings will be key to defeating Eclipso, more than likely.

Jade struggles with her feelings throughout the episode, with the climax taking place when she accidentally starts to overload the Lantern; this also becomes a point where Courtney is able to start supporting Jade rather than being jealous of some misconceptions she has.

As a side note, Jade reacts to Pat Dugan like a fangirl when she meets him, and the show finally acknowledges that this dopey step-dad is a genius-level mechanic and not just a guy who believes in a hard day’s work and building character.

This episode is overall much stronger than the last one, and suggests at the least that an interesting season is on the way that will hopefully take the characters new places without losing their core optimism and campiness.