03rd Sep2021

‘Stargirl 2×04: Summer School – Chapter Four’ 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

Stargirl takes a step back this week from their light-hearted storylines to focus on this season’s villains. It’s a nice change of pace episode as this is the first time all season the series doesn’t focus on the JSA and Courtney, allowing the strong cast an opportunity to shine.

Who is Eclipso?

Courtney, after overhearing her mother and Pat talking about Eclipso possibly being in Blue Valley, offers to charge headfirst into a fight with the villain. Pat warns her that Eclipso is not a typical villain and is nothing less than the “devil in the shadows.” Eclipso’s power isn’t physical, it’s psychological as he can manipulate people into doing his evil deeds. Eclipso basically feeds his victims’ minds with bad ideas and convinces them to accomplish them. Not completely original but I like that he isn’t a typical “physical threat” to our heroes. There’s more to Eclipso that what they are telling Courtney as after she leaves, Barbara and Pat promise each other to not reveal the whole truth between the JSA and Eclipso.

Meanwhile, our favorite demon is convincing Cindy that killing her stepmom was the right thing to do and she must not dwell on her actions as she needs to start forming a new ISA. Cindy starts by meeting with the Fiddler’s son, Isaac, and despite his genius persona, he feels isolated amongst his peers until Cindy informs him of his father’s past. Isaac is intrigued by the opportunity to be accepted and after being shown his father’s fiddle, he becomes the first recruit of the new ISA. Cindy isn’t seen again until the end of the episode when she disrupts Artemis’ tryout, but the seeds are being planted for a new generation of the ISA.

Even More Villains!

Stargirl packs in even more villains this episode as the husband/wife duo of Sportsmaster (still an awful name) and Tigress escape prison and head straight to Blue Valley. Unfortunately, they are still villains and instead of just visiting their daughter, they take Pat’s son hostage. Mike calls his father and tells him that our villains want to meet with Pat at his body shop as they have an opportunity for him.

Crusher (Sportsmaster) and Paula (Tigress) confront Pat and explain they didn’t break out of prison to get revenge on Pat’s “Scooby Gang” but to offer friendship. Artemis, their daughter, is trying out for a college football scout and they just want an opportunity to see her “crush the tryout”. To do this, they need help from Pat to sneak them into the tryout and then they will go back into prison without issue. The parents promise no harm will come to anyone as long as they can see their daughter at the tryout.

Crusher and Paula have always been a little comical, starting with their names, and this “softened” attitude by asking for help from Pat, and later Barbara, is a nice change. It’s also a necessary change as it was reported that Crusher and Paula are joining our heroes next year as full-time characters on Stargirl.

While waiting for Artemis’ tryout, our reformed (?) villains attempt to bond with Pat and Barbara with predictable, comical results. In another world (or timeline), Crusher and Pat actually seem like they would be good friends as they bond a bit over working out and their dislike for members of the ISA. While Crusher and his wife were members of the ISA, outside of Jordan, they did not care for anyone in the organization, especially the Shade.

In the kitchen, Barbara and Paula, after a frosty and uncomfortable start to their conversation, begin to bond over raising strong, determined teenagers. It’s a sweet moment between two mothers and while Barbara has not been given too much to do this season, adding Paula to the series might allow more storylines to grow between these two and allow more screen time for the underused Barbara.

Pat holds up his end of the bargain and is able to sneak Artemis’ parents into the tryout at the high school. Artemis struggles in the tryout out at first but once she sees her parents in the crowd, she takes over the team and impresses at quarterback. It’s a small victory for Artemis as we found out earlier in the episode things are not going well since her parent’s arrest as she is now in foster care.

Of course, Cindy cannot let Artemis have her moment in the spotlight and uses the power of Eclipso to change reality for her and ruin her chance at a scholarship. Eclipso causes Artemis to see a fellow football player and Courtney, who arrived to tell her dad about the Shade’s intentions, as SWAT officers tracking down her parents. After tackling both people and threatening them, Artemis snaps out of her vision and realizes she actually tackled Courtney.

After the tryout, Artemis’ parents meet with their daughter and admit they are not innocent, and they deserve to be in jail. Artemis, who has been fighting for her parents’ freedom, is surprised to hear her parents’ confession but is even more surprised when her parents tell her they cannot see her again because they do not want to ruin her chances at a scholarship. As noted above, Crusher and Paula will be back as full-time characters next season, so their goodbyes are not final. Artemis is going to need her parents back soon as Cindy, after the college scout refuses to offer a scholarship to Artemis due to her anger issues, offers a chance on the ISA team and it looks like Artemis might just accept.

Shade’s True Intentions

The Shade continues to be one of my favorite characters this season and his mysterious motives for returning to Blue Valley are finally revealed to Courtney. After finding the Shade at the back of a bookshop, Courtney confronts him about killing Dr. Mid-Nite but to her surprise, the Shade reveals Dr. Mid-Nite is not dead but “somewhere else”. At the end of the episode, we learn the Shade is telling the truth as Dr. Mid-Nite is trapped in the Shadow World and can only contact the outside world through his goggles that are in Beth’s possession.

In addition to the news about Dr. Mid-Nite still being alive, the Shade announces to Courtney that he is not in town to join Eclipso but rather, defeat him. Many years ago, Eclipso murdered Dr. Mid-Nite’s 10-year-old daughter and after living for many centuries, the Shade has finally decided to stop Eclipso merely for the fact that he is “bored” with his life. The Shade may still be a “bad guy” but as he tells Courtney, there is a difference between being “bad and being evil”.

While the Shade will never truly be a “good guy”, the fact that he returned to Blue Valley to stop Eclipso shows he has some sense of morals. The Shade, despite having limited screen time, has been a highlight this season on Stargirl and while he will never be a member of the JSA, I’m hoping he has a recurring role for several seasons.

Quote of the Week

Courtney: What is Eclipso?
 Pat: He’s the devil in the shadows. Evil, pure evil.

Grade: B (Good)

Stargirl continues to improve each week since the season premiere and with the focus on villains this week, it was a nice “change of pace” and more serious episode. It looks like the series will continue with a more serious approach next week as Eclipso’s true form is revealed in a fight with the Justice Society!

Stargirl continues to thrive by adding in bits of humor, this week in the form of Crusher and Paula, as they both deliver standout performances. It also helps that the overall look of the show is brighter than most superhero shows. This allows the series to convey a less serious tone and in a world of “angsty” superhero films, it allows Stargirl to stand out from the crowd and create its own niche in the superhero realm.

The only downside to this season is the lack of storylines for anyone in the Justice Society not related to Courtney. The strength of the first season was the friendship between Courtney and the rest of the new Justice Society and this season, there just isn’t much for the remaining heroes to do. This will change soon as Beth/Dr. Mid-Nite’s storyline will lead to bigger revelations as well as the Shade eventually teaming up with the JSA, but it seems to be taking longer than expected. Overall, the episode was the best of the season and next week’s episode looks even better.

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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