With just this and one more episode of Stargirl left before the show’s untimely cancelation, it’s tough to watch knowing how little show there is left, when it’s been such a highlight throughout its three-season run. This show has served up some fun, interesting twists and turns, and it’s not done yet. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 3, Episode 12, “Frenemies: Chapter Twelve: The Last Will and Testament of Sylvester Pemberton.”
“The Last Will and Testament of Sylvester Pemberton”
As the team devise a plan to deal with their latest threat, Sylvester (Joel McHale) takes matters into his own hands and leaves Courtney (Brec Bassinger), Pat (Luke Wilson) and the JSA fearing for what comes next.
I’ve gone back and forth this season about whether the resurrected Sylvester Pemberton, once called Starman, is good or evil, and whether Joel McHale is doing a good job as the actor–or not. We have our answer this week, and it’s the mother of all spoilers.
In retrospect, it should’ve been obvious as soon as they told us about the Ultra Humanite’s history of brain-swapping, including an award-winning performance while he occupied the body of an actress. After watching Sylvester berate and misdirect the kids, we cut to Cindy, Mike, and Jakeem in the bowels of one of the Dragon King’s labs, where they find none other than the Dragon King himself–or at least his body–with the crown of his skull and his brain both missing. His brain is in the albino ape that Ultra Humanite occupied for decades, so where is the Ultra Humanite? Oh no.
For a show about teens reviving a Silver Age comics team, complete with cheesy costumes, Stargirl has never shied from doing some pretty dark stuff, as the deaths of Paula and Larry Crock demonstrated. The Ultra Humanite has been occupying Sylvester’s body since sometime before his cameo at the very end of Season 2, which means that every scene with him, apart from that opening scene where the JSA killed him, has actually been this villain.
Is he really bad, or really good?
And so that means that all of the fluctuations in Sylvester’s character have been canonical. They’re not a matter of McHale not quite getting the right tone for the scene, they’re cracks showing in the facade the Ultra Humanite has erected. It makes sense that the kids and even Patrick didn’t see through them–a resurrected friend was already weird, so it would make sense that he’d act a bit unstable at times. This was a smart way to bring in McHale’s Starman without having to inexplicably resurrect him. Or rather, they used the inexplicable resurrection–something that would absolutely happen on a show like this–as a smoke screen for the reality of the situation.
And so I have to give kudos to both the writers and to McHale. I’ve been suspicious of him literally all season, and that was clearly intentional, and it was well executed in my opinion. It also helps justify all the time spent with Courtney separated from the Cosmic Staff in a way that makes sense for the story, though that means that things have been somewhat disappointing on the Stargirl fight front. There have been great fights, but very few of them have involved Courtney, and the characters have spent barely any time in costume–something that had previously been a strength of the show.
I’m less certain, though, of how well the show handled Cindy’s storyline for this season. Her storyline should ostensibly be pretty big, but she’s been offscreen almost all season, so it feels like things came together for her story very suddenly. With one episode left and the team having yet to face the possessed Sylvester, it feels like we’re really sliding into home base at the last second–there’s very little time to get Cindy back into the team and bring the team back together.
Stargirl has been a joy to watch from the very beginning–something very different from the other DC TV fare, and I’m glad it outlived its parent service the same way that Doom Patrol and Titans have. With just one episode left, it feels like the show is ending much too soon.