With the danger of Eclipso looming, Courtney is doing everything she can to ensure that she and her friends can defeat him–including making an uneasy alliance with Cindy Burman–who has tried to kill her multiple times. But that also means trying to get back the JSA members who have gone astray, and that might be the harder of the two tasks. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 2, Episode 12, “Summer School: Chapter Twelve.”
“Summer School: Chapter Twelve”
THE GREATER GOOD — With the looming threat of Eclipso (Nick Tarabay) hanging over them, Courtney (Brec Bassinger) seeks help from the unlikeliest of places. Meanwhile, Mike’s (Trae Romano) search to find Thunderbolt leads him straight to his friend Jakeem (guest star Alkoya Brunson), and Pat (Luke Wilson) goes to extreme lengths to protect Rick (Cameron Gellman).
It’s always darkest before the dawn, and as we head into the season finale of Stargirl, things are pretty dark. While Eclipso himself is pretty light this week, the other characters have their share of moments charged with negative emotions. Everyone is trying to get the team back together, but it’s not easy.
Courtney approaches Yolanda one last time to try to get her to come back to the JSA; she misses not just her ally, but her friend. I like how the show handles this. When Courtney goes to Yolanda, she doesn’t budge. She’s hurting and angry that she was forced to kill someone. I wish the show would discuss how she saved potentially millions of lives by taking the life of one very bad person, but superhero shows never do that. Yolanda brushes Courtney off. Even the knowledge that another JSA member has had to kill doesn’t help. Instead, it just convinces Yolanda that she’s the latest in a line of killers.
However, Cindy is watching from afar as this interaction occurs. Instead of her face twisting into a devious smile, she almost looks sympathetic. I have to give it to Meg DeLacy here–she’s done an amazing job of making Cindy bad without sapping her of her humanity, and the subtle facial acting she does here works really well. Cindy shows up in Yolanda’s room, and the young villainess does what she does best: manipulate Yolanda. But instead of trying to hurt her, she’s just saying “look how dangerous I am, and how close to your friend I am. Oh man. Bet you’re worried about Courtney.”
It’s actually really sweet. Cindy knows what it’s like to feel alone, to need friends, and she knows how to use her talents to help someone in need even if it’s not her first or second instinct. She knew that Yolanda’s desire to protect Courtney would overwhelm her negative emotions regarding murdering Brainwave, and used that to bring the two together. It’s smart writing that understands the characters and uses that instead of melodrama to make things happen.
Meanwhile, Pat takes on the task of getting Rick Tyler out of jail. He goes to Rick’s guardian in the hospital, still in traction after Rick beat him up (while hallucinating), and asks him in typical polite Pat fashion to drop the charges. Rick’s guardian, who is kind of a piece of crap, tells him to go to hell.
Pat then starts this scary speech, as he locks the door and closes the blinds to the hospital room, about how he’s encountered bad guys like him before, who take advantage of people, and then, just before he closes the blinds, he says that he, Pat, has a little bad in him, too. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the wildest twist in this show so far. Not the wrath god living in a diamond, not the magical shadow man, the Glowing Staff with Attitude, or the fluorescent space genie. No, it’s Step-Dad Of The Decade, Pat Dugan, being the low-key scariest character on the show.
It makes me wonder what else is in there. This dude plays the part of Step-Dad and loves it–he cares about his family and will do anything to take care of them. But while he’s mild-mannered to a fault in everyday life, he’s also a genius engineer who can build a functioning mech suit, and he’s not above intimidating a (genuinely terrible) guy stuck in multiple casts. I hope we never find out what happened–the mystery is probably better than the reality.
And then there’s Pat’s son Mike. While Pat is the very definition of a mild-mannered suburban father, Mike began his life on Stargirl as a walking ’90s sitcom joke. Throughout this season, he’s started to grow in meaningful ways, expressing confusion over the way he killed Icicle, frustration at being the only person left out of the JSA action, and going through the elation and disappointment of finding and losing Thunderbolt. Instead of dreading his time on-screen, I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.
This week, he’s continuing to hunt down Thunderbolt, and finds the pen in the hands of his friend Jakeem, we met very, very briefly when Mike accidentally wished the pen away.
Mike approaches Jakeem about getting the pen back, but quickly shifts gears, and despite Trae Romano not being genetically related to Luke Wilson, begins to look and sound exactly like him. Mike asks Jakeem to–if he’s going to keep the pen–be responsible with it, respect it. Mike asks Jakeem to help him save the world with him. It’s good growth for the character and great acting by Romano.
Courtney and Beth
There are other great, smaller moments in the episode. Courtney talks with her mom about what the illusory version of her said in the Shadowlands, and Courtney talks about how even if she knows it was an illusion, she can’t unhear it. It’s a touching scene with great acting. Similarly enjoyable was Beth meeting Charles McNider–Dr. Mid-Nite–for the first time. Anjelika Washington does a great job of conveying Beth’s giddiness, and it brightens up an otherwise downer episode.
Finally, there’s Bruce, the child form that Eclipso uses to mess with people. Bruce appears before Chuck and Beth, and they can see through the goggles that it is, in fact, Eclipso. Bruce is played by actor Milo Stein who is maybe ten years old at the most. And not since Bill Mumy is The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life,” the one where the little kid wishes people out to “the corn field,” has a young actor been so very good at playing creepy. Eclipso’s time is nearly done, and this is one element of his stay on the show that I’m going to genuinely miss. Milo Stein is awesome.
Despite the fact that not much actually happened in this episode, it was packed with these moments that showed off both the writing and acting that has made this show, which I expected to fall off of immediately, one of my favorite superhero shows.