The idea of a dimension of pure hallucination and sadness is so comic book-y, and calling it the Shadowlands even moreso. And that’s what makes it rad. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Epiosde 11, “Summer School: Chapter Eleven.”
“Summer School: Chapter Eleven”
FACING THE DARKNESS — After a frightening encounter leaves Courtney’s (Brec Bassinger) life hanging in the balance, the team band together to determine their next steps.
When the show’s main character gets sucked into an inky black puddle by a living god of wrath, the stakes are a little different from just about any other character. We know she’s going to be back–she has a whole third season to film. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have some fun with it.
Courtney ends up in the Shadowlands, the dark place where Eclipso sends his victims when he wants to get more out of them than just their death. It’s not long before Courtney runs into Cindy, and before the cut of a razor-sharp blade on Courtney’s arm tells Cindy that Courtney is, in fact, real.
Those pushed into the Shadowlands will see anything that will elicit a negative emotion from them. Anything they feel guilt over, anyone they hate, any regrets they have, the Shadowlands will surface every bit of it and make throw it in your face over and over.
This lets the show wade back through some of Courtney and Cindy’s experiences; Eclipso taunts Courtney with visions of Rick and Yolanda drowning in misery. She also finds Joey Zarick, the son of ISA member William Zarick, two of the very first casualties of the ISA’s attack on Blue Valley in Stargirl Season 1.
Cindy, meanwhile, remembers her birth mother and the way she was seemingly coerced by her father into killing her, and the way her father tested and experimented on her, trying to turn her into a living weapon for his own purposes.
Along the way, though, they meet the original Dr. Mid-Nite, the one Beth has been communicating with through the goggles for weeks now. He’s been living there for years, but tells Courtney that time passes differently in this dimension, and that keeping the goggles on for all that time has kept him safe from the terrors of the dimension.
Outside, Beth, Jennie, and Courtney’s family work hard to find her a way out, tracking down the Shade, who is convalescing in a movie theater. The Shade is able to open a portal to the Shadowlands, and all three–Courtney, Cindy, and Charles McNider–make it out by the end of the episode. The Shade, however, seemingly dies in the process.
Life comes at you fast
It’s a quick resolution that feels a little too easy for the show, but it’s hard not to think about how The Flash would’ve spent a whole story arc on it. I’ll take a fast but functional resolution over dragging things out for the sake of melodrama any day.
This is a visually unique episode, too; the entirety of the Shadowlands segments are in black and white, but it doesn’t feel like they just drained the color; the shadows are deeper, the whites more washed out. It feels otherworldly even putting aside the swirling shadows and teleporting doors. On the outside, Jennie uses the Lantern ring to pick up the Shade’s “scent,” resulting in a neon-green, three-dimensional map of Blue Valley appearing before her and the others, and it looks really cool; this is the kind of visual effect that feels like a good fit for a CW-grade show because it’s harder to make it look like some weird uncanny valley stuff.
This is a good setup for the last two episodes, bringing Cindy–even if temporarily–into an alliance with Courtney and Beth. The show has all kinds of hanging threads to play with now, and two short episodes in which to tie them all up with. Rick and Yolanda are still isolated, Artemis (the daughter of Sportsmaster and Tigress) is off hiding somewhere, and Starman has slowly been making his way toward Blue Valley. Now, Dr. McNider is back to give guidance to Beth and the team (I hope). The Shade is seemingly dead, but the team spotted two instances of him, and a guy who can literally go up in smoke is pretty hard to kill permanently. He’s been one of my favorite characters, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him again. If the writers can bring all of this together, it should make for a solid ending.