When it comes time to throw fists, Stargirl has always been a cut above. While the costumes are intentionally pretty cheesy, Stargirl‘s VFX and fight choreography have always been central to the show. Even people who don’t watch the show but catch gifs on social media come away impressed with what the show does with fight sequences. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 3, Episode 9, “Frenemies: Chapter Nine: The Monsters.”
After a recent experience renews Courtney’s (Brec Bassinger) confidence, she sets out to make amends with those around her. Jakeem (Alkoya Brunson) puts his foot down after Mike (Trae Romano) shares his latest plan. Finally, Beth (Anjelika Washington) makes a major discovery that leads to a terrifying battle no one saw coming.
While this episode is largely about apologizing and trying to make amends, it’s also a big release of built-up tension as lots of things come out in a very short time.
Adults need friends, too
Some of the nicest moments, though, happen between the adult characters. Barbara and Pat talk about what he saw in the Shadow Lands, and it feels like a real couple having a real conversation about feelings, even if it’s about that time he went to a magical dark place made of sad illusions. While he didn’t give in to the Shadow Lands’ tempting urge to have it out with his dad, the place did still leave a mark on him, leaving him worried he was damaging his son, Mike.
He considers seeking out Mike’s mother to give Mike the chance to talk to her, and ends up talking it out with Crusher Crock of all people. The guy who was once a homicidal athlete in a hockey mask has slowly become a confidant for Pat. Redemption in real life doesn’t work quite like that, but in superhero shows, that kind of stuff can work really well, and the writers have done wonders slowly shifting the Crock family.
That’s reinforced when Paula tries to teach Barbara how to throw a punch. Barbara has every reason to want to learn to do that, but she’s the show’s ultimate pacifist. She says to Paula that she’s a good friend for trying to teach her, and Paula stops and just stares at her, and then says that no one has ever called her a friend before. Two seasons ago , this would’ve been inconceivable for this character, but instead it’s become a touching moment between two parents with extraordinary children, looking for people they can trust.
Stargirl has its share of drama, but they generally save it for the dramatic types on the show–the teenagers. Having been shaken out of their old habits, Paula and Crusher (or Larry, if you prefer) have totally dropped their old habits, it seems, and are focused on giving their daughter Artemis a real life. This comes back around later in the episode in an important way that I have high hopes for.
Apology accepted, kind of
Courtney and Yolanda make up, finally, and Courtney apologizes to Beth and Rick. Rick fidgets with his hourglass; he’s been experiencing headaches. When Courtney tells them that she wants to tell Cameron everything, Rick ultimately tells her that he has her back even though he disagrees, and begins to tear up as he tells them that they’re his only family. It’s true, but it feels like a strange emotional moment.
That brings us to the huge climax of the show. Courtney goes to tell Cameron about everything, passing by the walking stick belonging to Cameron’s now-dead art teacher, and they begin to talk. All at once, before Courtney can say anything, they’re interrupted by Cameron’s grandmother Lily and by Rick in his full Hourman regalia as he kicks down the front door to the Mahkent mansion.
Knock-down, drag-out fight
Having discovered that the cameras lead back to the Mahkent house, Beth told Rick and Yolanda, and they took matters into their own hands. Only the un-metered hourglass is now affecting Rick’s judgment, so things go sideways immediately. In a flash, the super-strong teenager is throwing punches at an elderly woman. Then Cameron takes over for her, and she ends up fighting Yolanda. Beth, meanwhile, discovers from her father of all people that her suit has a combat mode.
Beth’s scenes are some of the most fun in the episode, and I couldn’t help but think of the scenes in Spider-Man: Homecoming when Spidey is messing with his Stark Industries suit’s settings. She ends up fighting Cameron’s grandfather, Solus, who has ice powers as well, and gets in a few good swings on the old man–again, these are elderly people who walk around hunched over from age–before his ice powers win out. And then, Artemis Crock jumps through the window and clocks him.
An ally appears!
I don’t know how she knows they’re there–I feel like they might explain that in the denouement of this all next week. But one of the things that always gets me in superhero stories is the surprise moment when the cavalry arrives, whether it’s that big moment in Avengers Endgame or this little one in Stargirl. There’s something about the notion that there’s someone out there who has your back and is going to show up right when you need it makes moments like these work so well.
The whole fight is at once absurd and awesome. Somehow, Cameron has now mastered his powers, and he does a wall flip to attack Rick while also shielding himself and Courtney with an ice blast. Yolanda is in full combat mode with Lily, doing a judo flip and then kicking her–again, an elderly woman–so hard that she flies at least a good 10 or 15 feet before she hits a wall. The fight looks great, and it has a ton of meaning–all of these secrets are coming out at once, destroying relationships, saying the previously unsaid, and creating new alliances.
The fight comes to an end thanks to Solus and Beth; the grandfather is, as we’d begun to expect, not so keen on his wife’s militantly homicidal approach to morality. He tries to put a stop to the fighting, only to fall to a heart attack. Beth, meanwhile, is able to make good on the Doctor part of Doctor Mid-Nite and use her suit to shock him back to life. One of the biggest themes of Stargirl is that people aren’t just one thing. We do and think too many things to be just one person. Even someone like Cameron’s father was doing his best to be a good father and son while also participating in a scheme to mind control a large portion of the country. And he was doing that to try to bring about peace and tranquility.
And then Mike and Jakeem, while trying to find Cindy on an abandoned farm lot, come face to face with a sasquatch-looking thing and run from it screaming.
I love this show, and the knowledge that it has been canceled as I watch these episodes makes them all the more heartbreaking.