30th Aug2021

‘Stargirl 2×03: Summer School – Chapter Three’ Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Trae Romano, Christopher Baker | Created by Geoff Johns

What Happened This Week

The third episode of Stargirl switches out team members as Green Lantern is…somewhere, so Pat’s son, Mike, hast a tryout as a member of the Justice Society, thanks to a mystical genie. Mike is a vastly underutilized character in Stargirl so having an episode that provides more background into him as well as gives him a chance to shine is a welcomed surprise.

A Genie Named Thunderbolt

We start with a flashback to Christmas 2010, as originally shown in the pilot episode, but this time instead of showing the fight between the JSA and ISA, the flashback focuses on Johnny Thunder (Ethan Embry) and Pat in the garage of the JSA headquarters. While Johnny has control of Thunderbolt, an entity more powerful than most of the JSA, he still is backup to the rest of the JSA and as a result, bonds with Pat, another backup hero.

Johnny admits he feels alone and useless but before Pat can cheer him up, Wildcat arrives and asks for Johnny and Thunderbolt’s help as the ISA is more powerful than they feared. We all know this is the fateful night the JSA is killed by the ISA and seeing Johnny get on the elevator to leave makes it even more difficult to watch as we know their fate.

Fast-forward to present day and after teasing him a few times last season, we finally see what Thunderbolt looks like when Mike, while looking for an ink pen, unwittingly unleashes Justice Society’s residential genie. Thunderbolt, voiced by comedian Jim Gaffigan, allows his “partner” unlimited wishes but there are some limitations: 1) It must be a specific wish, so no ambiguity as Thunderbolt takes everything literally 2) You can only wish for something once and 3)You cannot wish for someone to die or come back from the dead.

Mike learns these rules after he sees the local bullies stealing cookies from a local Girl Scout and orders Thunderbolt to stop them. Going back to rule number one, Thunderbolt proceeds with dropping “stop” signs from the sky all around the bullies. It’s a humorous scene that not only establishes the rules for wishes but also shows the humor and goofiness with a genie superhero.

Courtney and Yolanda are walking home from summer school and upon seeing stop signs falling from the sky, begin to question how Mike is involved. Mike is not only excited to tell Courtney about his new friend, but it also allows an opportunity to join his dad and stepsister as a member of JSA. Back at the warehouse, Pat quickly dismisses Mike’s request to join the team as he states “He’s (Thunderbolt) not exactly a living monkey’s paw, but he’s close.” Pat has seen Thunderbolt in action and while he may be helpful at times, he usually does more harm than good. Think Loki the god of mischievous but trapped in a pen.

Pat tries to take the pen away from Mike but every time he grabs the pen, it flies back to Mike. Pat finally has a one-on-one meeting with the genie and Thunderbolt explains that he is attached to Mike because like him, Mike feels all alone. Pat now feels worse as he thinks he has failed as a parent so with the help of the JSA, he lets Mike sit in with the team to find a way to locate the Shade in Blue Valley.

The focus on Mike this episode is a nice change of pace for the series as Courtney and Pat have been the main focus this season. The character of Mike has only been a background character and used only for humor thus far, but this episode gives him a chance to shine and provide a good amount of character development. Hopefully this episode allows Pat to see how alone Mike feels in a family of superheroes and going forward, allows Mike to be more involved with the family business.

What Does the Shade Want?

The Shade is still in Blue Valley and plays an ultimate creeper when he shows up to scare Barbara as she is looking for William Zarick’s props in the basement storage room of city hall. Not only does he send creepy vibes to Barbara, he also is able to steal the box that housed the gem that Eclipso is being held in. We later learn the box contains Eclipso’s diamond but do not know what the Shade wants with it.

Back at the warehouse and after hours of planning, the JSA is able to find a way to correctly speak to Thunderbolt for him to grant the wish of finding the Shade. As they set off for the Shade at Zarick’s house, Pat warns the team that the Shade can control any shadow and can pull anyone into the darkness, much like he did with the original Dr. Mid-Nite. This revelation causes Beth to become more determined to stop the villain that killed her original namesake.
At Zarick’s house, the Shade is waiting patiently for the JSA to arrive, even going so far as to have a tea party set out for them. He assures our young team that he isn’t planning anything evil for Blue Valley, sure you aren’t, and as long as the JSA stays away from him, he’ll be leaving town soon. He states the less they know about his plans, the safer it is for them and the town.

The meeting between the Shade and the JSA is civil until Mike breaks through the door and wishes for Thunderbolt to shock the Shade. Unfortunately, the Shade is vastly stronger than the JSA and is able to easily defeat Thunderbolt and the rest of the JSA. After Stargirl’s staff starts to emit light, the Shade flees the house, leaving the JSA to lick their wounds.

After everyone is back to their civilian clothes and had time to decompress from the fight, Pat sits down with Mike and explains to him what he did wrong in that fight. It’s a touching moment between the family as Courtney tries to defend him, but Mike understands he may be out of his element and not able to control Thunderbolt as much as he thought.

Mike wishes for Thunderbolt to find someone else that is worthy of holding the pen and the pen flies off and ends up on the desk of teenage video gamer Jakeem. Much like Mike, Jakeem feels alone in the world as his sister continuously calls him a loser and his mom yells at him, which makes him the perfect partner for Thunderbolt.
The episode ends with the Shade looking down on the town from a clock tower, pleased with himself for stealing Eclipso’s diamond. When he opens the box though, the diamond is gone, meaning Eclipso already has the jewel and is now free from his imprisonment. The Shade realizes Eclipso will now be targeting the JSA, and the episode ends by implying the Shade may actually be on the JSA’s side after all.

Easter Eggs!

  • It looks like Jakeem will be the new partner wielding the power of Thunderbolt and if the story follows the comics, Jakeem will also be a new member of the Justice Society. Jakeem was originally known as J.J. Thunder in the comics and made his first appearance in the Flash comic in 1998. He was an orphan who grew up on the streets of Keystone City until Jay Garrick, the original Flash, gave him the pen housing Thunderbolt. Eventually Jakeem joins the JSA and helps them defeat other inter-dimensional genies and based on this episode of Stargirl, he’ll be doing the same in the television series.

Quote of the Week

Thunderbolt: So, there’s the new JSA now, huh?
 Pat: Yeah, but you know how dangerous life can be and even with power like yours, Johnny died.
 Thunderbolt: I remember his smile when he made that last wish, and then he was gone.
 Pat: So, what was his last wish? 
Thunderbolt: That I’d find a new friend.

Grade: B- (Good)

Stargirl continues their run of good episodes as we not only learn more about the Shade, but we also have the vastly underused Mike as the main star of the episode as he shows how easy it is for a member to feel left out of their family. In addition, Luke Wilson is the shining star of the series and continues to make the case for the best father on television.

In only two episodes, the actor Jonathan Cake has integrated himself flawlessly into an already strong cast, which is good news as the role of the Shade will only continue to have a bigger role this season. The introduction of Thunderbolt/Jakeem and how they join the JSA, along with a returning Green Lantern, seems to suggest Stargirl is not holding back on adding interesting heroes to an already stacked team. The difficulty for the writers will be to maintain strong storylines for everyone involved without overpopulating the series with more background characters.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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