It’s always darkest before the dawn, right? Just when Courtney thinks she’s getting a handle on things, her parents lie to her, a villain shows up in her house, and she has to road trip with her stepdad to find a lost JSA member. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 10, “Summer School: Chapter Ten.”
“Summer School: Chapter Ten”
CHOSEN FAMILY — Courtney (Brec Bassinger) is left devastated after discovering a dark secret that Pat (Luke Wilson) has kept hidden from her. However, when they learn that Jennie (guest star Ysa Penarejo) may be able to help in their plan to stop Eclipso (Nick Tarabay), they’re forced to put their issues aside as they set out on a road trip to find her. Meanwhile, Beth (Anjelika Washington) makes a shocking discovery about The Shade (guest star Jonathan Cake). Amy Smart, Trae Romano and Cameron Gellman also star. Sheelin Choksey directed the episode written by Taylor Steitz (#210).
One of my favorite things about Stargirl is that they don’t bother with simple, two-dimensional villains. Eclipso is the exception, and he’s a being of literal pure evil, so we’re going to give him a pass. The other primary antagonists–Icicle, Brainwave, Sportsmaster, Tigress, and now the Shade all have more to them than simply hassling a teenager with a laser stick.
The Shade has been a consistently enjoyable part of this season. Like the illusions created by Eclipso, he’s unpredictable. Even when we know we shouldn’t trust him, it’s hard not to look at him favorably.
While the Whitmore-Dugan family is arguing about the damage caused by Pat and Barbara’s lies and half-truths, the Shade drops in on them quite literally, crashing through a table as he falls out of a cloud of darkness above them, leaking shadow from the chest wound Eclipso gave him and offering a way to beat the demonic force.
This splits the family into two groups, sending Pat and Courtney on a road trip to find the current Green Lantern, Jennie, while Barbara, Mike, and Beth babysit the ailing rogue.
For Pat and Courtney, the surprise road trip forces them to be alone together–they can’t run away from their feelings of anger and guilt, or get interrupted by any surprise visits. The show plays with it a little as the two fight over the radio, which keeps playing appropriate audio to their situation. I remember seeing that gag in Better Off Dead and I still get a kick out of it every time a show uses it.
Before that story starts, we get a short flashback of a conversation between Pat and Starman set after their Eclipso battle, where they talk about their relationship and the idea of chosen family. This idea is crucial to the entire structure of Stargirl. The JSA itself is, of course, a chosen family, but so is Courtney’s. She’s her mom’s daughter no matter what, but had to choose to be Pat’s daughter and Mike’s sister. Her being in the car with Pat is her choosing her family.
Beth and the Shade
While this is happening, Barbara listens to the Shade talk about his sister in his weakened, delirious state while Beth searches for a way to help the Shade and, she hopes, the trapped Dr. McNider in the process. With Rick in jail for beating his adoptive (and abusive) father and Yolanda out of the picture entirely for the moment, Beth is the only other active JSA member, and she gets to shine a bit in this episode.
In a conversation with her parents, who are very concerned that the daughter they’ve ignored for literally years is now wearing goggles, Beth asserts herself, demanding the same respect and privacy they expected. And also, if Blue Valley High is anything like my high school experience, there are kids doing way weirder things than wearing steampunk goggles. Later, she’s the one to learn that the Shade is, in fact, not trustworthy as a result of her persistence, skill with technology, and deep curiosity. She’s not really much in a fight, but she’s showing how she can do things the rest of the team can’t.
Mike gets some of the same treatment as he sneaks off to Pat’s garage to work on S.T.R.I.P.E., managing to get it running before a radio broadcast (the radio is a big deal in Blue Valley) interrupts with news of a pink bolt streaking across the sky. Mike and Beth have been two of the most under-used characters, and it seems like Rick and Yolanda’s absence is giving them a bit of room to grow.
Green Lantern is Green
Meanwhile, Pat and Courtney find Jennie, who is still searching for her brother. Despite barely knowing her, they volunteer to help look once they’ve defeated Eclipso, again going back to that idea of chosen family.
Unfortunately, thanks to Shade’s lie, Eclipso appears before the three and handily bats away Pat before pulling Courtney into the same void that he trapped Cindy Burman in when he first appeared. If there’s any question whether Cindy is still alive, that should be answer enough.
Despite how much Courtney figures into this episode, she doesn’t actually get that much development. She’s mostly just processing her feelings. The focus is on Beth, the Shade, and on Jennie’s return. With Courtney trapped in the Shadowlands, Jennie is likely to become a much bigger part of the show–we’ll get to know her much better before we head into the finale in a few weeks.