A hyped-up villain being easily dispatched is often disappointing; why spend all the time establishing how dangerous that villain is only to have them get dropped like a sack of potatoes? Stargirl does that this week, only instead of being disappointing it’s actually kind of terrifying. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 6, “Summer School: Chapter Six.”
“Summer School: Chapter Six”
Early in the episode, it seems as if Cindy’s plans are coming to fruition. Yolanda, struggling with her new job as a server at the town diner, has a frightening interaction with Isaac, the son of the Fiddler(s). After a disappointing conversation with her disinterested father, Beth finds herself at the receiving end of Artemis’ rage. Pat and Courtney find out from Cameron that Courtney is not only back in town but behaving suspiciously.
Soon, Mike is kidnapped and the terrible twosome of Artemis and Isaac have torn S.T.R.I.P.E. to pieces and put Pat in the hospital, leaving Courtney with an ultimatum for the JSA to show up at school that evening. Courtney’s mother, Barbara, tells her daughter in no uncertain terms to leave mercy at the door when she encounters Cindy, and then contacts the Shade to let him know about the location of the Black Diamond.
Round One: Fight
This all sets up a setpiece battle that pits Cindy, Isaac, and Artemis against Courtney, Beth, Rick, and Yolanda. The ISA kids have made the jump in villainy rather quickly, with Artemis in full Sportsmaster gear. The battle is intense, and one of the better Arrowverse-adjacent battles in recent memory. Yolanda faces off against Isaac and his fiddle, Rick against Artemis, and Courtney against Cindy. Beth, being unpowered, acts more as support.
The fight is filled with fun choreography and VFX, and the action direction has that heightened floatiness that I usually associate with Sam Raimi. Character flips and jumps are a little too high, a little too slow, making them feel a bit disconnected from reality, while the action itself is brutal–these kids are beating the absolute snot out of each other. All seven of these superpowered teenagers were unquestionably in danger from each other; I was consistently impressed with how high the stakes felt throughout the fight, and that was before things really broke bad.
The Shade has been a sort of neutral character throughout the season, taking the stance of “don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with you” with the JSA. He’s made it clear in no uncertain terms that the goals of the ISA are not relevant to him, and it seems like his goal really has been to obtain the Black Diamond in hopes of getting rid of it. He’s not a good guy, but he seems intent on doing the right thing. Just as the JSA is getting what seems like an upper hand, Cindy takes out her favorite shiny rock just in time for the Shade to show up.
The Shade appears between the two groups, and looks downright heroic as he stands facing the ISA. He and Cindy–powered by the Black Diamond–face off. Courtney tries to help, using the Cosmic Staff to pierce the gem, shattering it. Instead of depowering Cindy, though, it actually unleashes Eclipso.
We’ve previously gotten a look at Eclipso through officially-released character posters, but this is our first look at the character in action, and I’m a little torn. On the one hand, he’s creepy as hell, and I never would’ve expected to see Eclispo of all the villains in the DC universe portrayed in live-action, but also he kind of looks like a Power Rangers villain. His look reminds me of Ronen (Guardians of the Galaxy) or Apocalypse (X-Men: Apocalypse); the live-action look is rough, but it’s as much a result of the character design as it is the costume makers and actor. He’s creepy enough, though, that it’s pretty easy to overlook.
The cost of Courtney’s well-intentioned move is severe. Eclipso spots Isaac and does the same thing he did to Cindy’s step-mom, Bobbie, essentially inhaling him. Moments later, Cindy is being pulled, quicksand-style, into an oil puddle while Courtney tries desperately to pull her out. Eclipso handily defeats the Shade, reminding the centenarian Brit that his powers come from Eclipso’s home dimension, and then de-powers Courtney’s cosmic staff.
There’s no other word for it–Eclipso utterly defeats the ISA, JSA, and the Shade before running off like a frightened animal–it’s unclear why. We spot him next limping through the shadows before transforming into his evil child form, Bruce. Can Eclipso only hold his full form for a short time before transforming into Bruce? What’s his weakness?
The new ISA’s defeat happened even more quickly than its assembly, but it’s a good demonstration of Eclipso’s terrifying power. They gave the much more experienced JSA a run for their money and then he took both teams on without breaking a sweat. They f***ed around, and they found out.
This episode marks roughly the halfway point for the season, and it’s an exciting way to kick the back half into gear. Isaac is almost certainly dead. Cindy is likely trapped in the shadow realm like Dr. Mid-Nite, though I hope she’ll remember how hard Courtney tried to save her in those final moments.
I didn’t expect to like this show, but even into Season 2, it keeps finding ways to endear me.