May 21, 2020

“DC’s Stargirl” (Episode One) Review: A Welcome Bit of Hope

Brec Bassinger’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“I wonder, how many coming-of-age clichés can one jam into a teen superhero series?” That must’ve been said by someone at least once at a Stargirl production meeting, because there’s no way it didn’t come up at least once.

Granted, Stargirl isn’t consumed by clichés, but the brand-new superhero series certainly doesn’t have a shortage. Single parent? Check. New stepparent? Check. A difficult relationship between the protagonist and their new stepparent that is eventually ameliorated over time as they bond over some sort of discovery? Check and check.
Stargirl follows Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), a teenager with a bad attitude (what else?) whose mother (Amy Smart) and Courtney’s new stepfather Pat (Luke Wilson) move the family from California to Nebraska. There, Courtney discovers that Pat used to be a sidekick to Starman (Joel McHale), one of the leading heroes of the Justice Society of America, a superhero organization which had since been wiped out by their polar opposites, the Injustice Society.

Courtney soon discovers that she can use Starman’s mystical staff, and with that revelation comes a whole host of new questions. Why does Starman bear a striking resemblance to Courtney’s father, who disappeared the night that Starman died? What exactly is the staff and why can Courtney use it? How can the staff simultaneously be super loud and noticeably quiet, depending on the needs of the plot? I’m sure most (if not all) of these questions will be answered throughout the season.

It’s not completely fresh, though. Along with some Stephen King-level bullies (“I’m going to kill you!”) and some overbearing teachers, the plot just feels contrived. However, throughout the episode, you can see that the series is trying to shift away from those tropes, and they mainly served to assist the story’s set-up. And for what they had to work with, it was a pretty successful introduction, hitting all the right story beats and introducing all the necessary characters, along with evoking some key, undoubtedly arc-based questions.

In the grand scheme of superhero shows, Stargirl is nothing special, but if you’re looking for a feel-good, hopeful series that can bring both a smile and a frown to your face, Stargirl is your best bet. [Grade: A]

Director: Glen Winter
Writer: Geoff Johns
Starring: Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker
Rated: TV-PG
Available: HBO Max
Fun Fact: Brec Bassinger is the first American actress to portray Stargirl. Her predecessors, Britt Irvin from Smallville and Sarah Grey from Legends of Tomorrow, are Canadian.

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