DC's Stargirl -- "Summer School: Chapter Five" -- Image Number: STG205a_0040r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Brec Bassinger as Courtney Whitmore / Stargirl and Cameron Gellman as Rick Tyler / Hourman -- Photo: Eliza Morse/The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Things have been ramping up in Blue Valley, Nebraska for the last few weeks, but we know little about Eclipso aside from the potential threat he poses. It’s time for that to change. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 5, “Summer School: Chapter Five.”

“Summer School: Chapter Five”

After a frustrating beginning to her summer, Courtney Whitmore is finding her groove again as Stargirl. She and her JSA friends are getting closer to figuring out just what’s going on in town, but that means that all three of the villains are beginning to take notice. The Shade is already quite aware of what the kids are up to and has politely asked that they stay away. Above Blue Valley–and Blue Valley only–the weather has darkened in response to Eclipso’s growing power.

An Artiste

The centerpiece of the episode happens when Cindy lets Eclipso influence Courtney and Yolanda’s summer school teacher, Paul Deisinger. This character is based on a DC villain too obscure even for the Suicide Squad, Paintball. He’s significantly different from his counterpart, though. Instead of being a villain himself, Eclipso turns the seemingly gentle teacher by making him look at his waning art career. He is a teacher, but he was once an artist who felt the warmth of inspiration. Now, though, that’s all in his past, and Eclipso zeroes in on Paul’s regrets.

We get into some pretty creepy body horror stuff here as Paul starts to spit up yellow and purple paint (Twin Peaks fans who happen to watch Stargirl will think of Garmonbozia here, all two of us). By the time the kids arrive, the whole art room is covered in paint. The whole room seems infused with dark energy, and it’s not long before the kids start seeing their own fears reflected in the paintings.

A grisly, chaotic painting of the black diamond stretches out from the wall in a silhouette of a face. Yolanda sees the face of Brainwave and his son in paintings plastered all over; Brainwave killed his own son, and Yolanda killed Brainwave. Rick sees Solomon Grundy, with whom his relationship has gone from adversarial to deeply complicated. Beth, meanwhile, sees a painting of her parents tearing itself apart.

When Courtney finds her teacher, he’s covered in bubbling, seething globules of paint. It’s awesome.

Corruption Begins

Without even manifesting, Eclipso corrupts a man so completely that he becomes a lethal danger, and sends three of the four full-time JSA members into hallucinations they can’t break out of. The light of the Cosmic Staff seems to be the only real defense against his darkness.

Along with Eclipso, another thread is rising–Cindy Burman and her new ISA composed of the Fiddler’s son, the daughter of Sportsmaster and Tigress, and herself. She’s still targeting Courtney’s brother Mike for whatever reason but first sets her sights on Cameron Mahkent, the son of Jordan–Icicle from Season 1. I’m interested to see what happens with both Cameron and Mike. When Cindy approaches Cameron, he immediately calls out what a hypocrite she is, offering him false sympathy over his dead parent. She doesn’t even get to finish her presentation. Later, Courtney approaches Cameron and the two almost kiss before Courtney cuts and runs again. And then there’s Cameron’s grandparents.

Cameron is neutral right now, but he has all these parties fighting over his soul. He hasn’t had much to do in the show so far other than give and receive Lingering Looks with Courtney, so hopefully he’ll get more agency from here on.

Mike, meanwhile, is struggling with the fact that everyone around him is either a superhero or an adult working with superheroes. It makes him a ripe target for Cindy–she can promise him power, responsibility, and inclusion. Pat throws him a bone, though, and Mike latches on. If I had to guess, I’d bet he’ll turn for part of an episode or maybe two, but won’t last.

Stargirl has me curious about the futures of a handful of characters and interested in seeing what Eclipso can do. The VFX for Paintball was pretty cool; it’s hard to say they were still on that DC Universe/HBO Max budget, but that would certainly go a long way toward balancing the show’s corniness. Because as cool as Courtney looks in her Stargirl gear, Yolanda, Beth, and Rick all look like dorks. They need the help of the VFX.