August 17, 2021

Review: “Stargirl” Season Two is Off to a Rocky Start

After a successful and impactful first season, the CW’s Stargirl had nowhere to go but up. Its leads are captivating, the villains are creatively brought to life, and there's enough to satisfy comic book fans and casual viewers alike.

The second season premiere, the first in a “Summer School” arc, sees Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) obsessed with maintaining peace in Stargirl, even after the defeat of the Injustice Society of America. Courtney’s friends, though, are slightly burnt out after numerous night patrols and useless defending from an enemy that isn’t even there. I feel like this is a common trope in superhero shows and movies — the protagonist is obsessed with being a hero, and needs time off. Courtney’s “time off” comes in the form of summer school, which she is being forced to attend because of a sharp drop in academic quality.

Before all that, though, the episode starts off with a creepy, slightly anachronistic cold open set sometime in the mid-20th century. Aside from an easily missable name reference, the contents of the intro have no application in the episode, so I’m interested to see how (and when) it gets incorporated into the actual story.

What the Season 2 premiere definitely does is set up the arcs of each character that will undoubtedly be explored throughout the season — some with more vague introductions than others. Yolanda, aka Wildcat (Yvette Monreal), suffers from PTSD, incurred by her witnessing the death of ISA leader Brainwave during the conclusion of Season 1. Rick Tyler, aka Hourman (Cameron Gellman), looks to be searching for any ISA members that may have escaped. Beth Chapel, aka Dr. Mid-Nite (Anjelika Washington), seems to be struggling with loneliness as she has those cliché “business parents” who are never home. Courtney, of course, is still, well…obsessed with her obsession.

While this “Summer School” arc begins like any typical end-of-school story, with final exams happening, and our main characters having varying degrees of success, the superhero element of the story brings in a fantastical element that could prove interesting if it didn’t delve into yet another cliché: a superhero’s vigilante life interfering with their personal life, something we’ve seen many times before. When I reviewed the series premiere of this show, I discussed how it felt like a mix of every conceivable teen and superhero origin trope, but it had just enough heart to get by. That same heart that made the opening of Season 1 so engaging is absent here, and it comes off as a slog, feeling obligated to show us all the main characters, and their states of mind, at least once, however superfluous it may feel.

It isn’t all bad, of course. Luke Wilson has clearly settled into his role as Pat Dugan, Courtney’s stepfather, and is at the top of his game here; hopefully he gets more time to shine this season. The mystery of the still-living Starman (Joel McHale) gets slightly more screen time, proving it wasn’t just a tease at the end of the first season. The story is actually going somewhere.

There are too many problems here that could be solved with simple communication, but the episode does end with a solid reveal that could open many new avenues and possibilities. Season premieres are always difficult, so I’m still hopeful about Stargirl’s future. [Grade: C+]

Director: Andi Armaganian
Writer: Geoff Johns
Starring: Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker
Rated: TV-PG
Available: The CW (free)
Fun Fact: In the episode, Courtney makes reference to Per Degaton, a comics villain who has appeared in Legends of Tomorrow.

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