01st Jun2020

‘Stargirl 1×01: Pilot’ Review

by Jason Brigger

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

Stargirl is the most laid-back and unique superhero series to come along in sometime and while there are a few bumps in the road, it’s a fun show to watch.

What Happened This Week

The series starts ten years ago, it was the Golden Era of superheroes with the Justice Society, which includes Hourman, Starman, and Dr. Midnight, protecting the world from the evil villains led by Brainwave (Christopher Baker) and his own band of evil-doers, the Injustice Society of America (not very clever). An epic battle of good versus evil is raging as Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson), aka Starman’s sidekick Stripesy, arrives at a green glowing mansion and upon entering, finds the Justice Society being beaten handily by Brainwave and society of villains. Pat cannot save the rest of the Justice Society but is able to save Starman (Joel McHale) from the house of horrors, driving him to safety and barely escaping in his vintage car from the pursuing Solomon Grundy. If you put Grundy in any series, I’m going to enjoy it.

Once they are far from the threat of their arch-enemies, Starman dies in Pat’s arms but not before presenting him with the magical staff that gives Starman his powers. Starman tells Pat he must find someone worthy of the staff and the power to go with it, but it’s not Pat. It’s a funny scene that sets the tone for the series and Joel McHale plays it perfectly.

Fast-forward to the present day and Barbara Whitmore (Amy Smart) and her teenage daughter Courtney (Brec Bassinger) are moving to Blue Valley, Nebraska, a small town that Barbara grew up in. Courtney isn’t happy about moving away from her friends and it doesn’t help that her and her mom are moving in with Barbara’s boyfriend, Pat Dugan, and his son Mike Dugan (Trae Romano).

Blue Valley as a location is a mixed bag. It’s as if you took a stereotypical 1950s small town and just told the audience the year is 2020. The look of the town is very 1950s, the businesses seem to be old-school in nature, all the town residents are happy and smiling, and even Courtney’s school looks like a high school out of Riverdale. It’s a sharp contrast to the locations in the other CW superhero shows, Batwoman, Arrow, etc. and allows Stargirl to lean into a different look that we haven’t seen before.

While Mike is having no issues blending into and making friends at his new junior high, Courtney is relegated to the “losers” table at her high school, where she is bullied by the stereotypical high school jocks, led by Henry King, Jr (Jake Walker). After a rough first day at school, Courtney gets into an argument with her mother and Pat, leading her to run off to the detached garage. It’s here where she finds Starman’s magical Cosmic Staff and she realizes Pat is much more than her mother’s boyfriend.

The staff has a mind of its own and has its own personality. I’m not sure how I feel about a magical staff being a character in the series but it works for the cape in the Doctor Strange film, so we’ll see how it goes.

The staff bonds with Courtney and leads her to the local drive-in (again, hello 1950s) where the football players that bullied her are being typical annoying teenagers. Courtney covers her face with her hooded sweatshirt and gets a little revenge on the bullies, by accidently blowing up one of their cars, and beating up a few of the bullies.

Courtney returns to the garage where Pat is waiting for her. He explains the history of the Cosmic Staff, as the staff only works for Starman but it hasn’t worked in ten years ago on Christmas Eve night when the Justice Society was defeated by Brainwave. Courtney tells Pat she hasn’t seen her father since that same night and wonders if Starman was her father. Pat tells her that Starman wasn’t her father but like any superhero series, I’m sure there is more to the story here than what Pat is stating. Courtney isn’t convinced completely but he gives her enough information for her to move on from the subject.

Blue Valley isn’t the typical small town though as Henry returns home and tells his father that a girl with a golden staff destroyed his car. His father listens intently about this mysterious girl and after Henry leaves, it’s revealed his father is none other than Brainwave! While this was expected, the amount of coincident in this series is mind-boggling.

Courtney, against Pat’s wishes, takes the Cosmic Staff out again and we have our first montage of Courtney training to be a superhero. It’s not long before she is interrupted by Brainwave and after a short battle at a local tire factory, Courtney is able to escape. She tries to fly away but is stopped by a giant robot, ala Iron Giant, and it’s controlled by none other than Pat. The pilot ends with Pat telling Courtney they need to talk…I’m no soothsayer but I’m going to say Pat is going to be Yoda to Courtney’s Luke.

Easter Eggs:

  • There are several Easter Eggs in this first episode. Whether it’s the old-school Golden Era superhero costumes to the moving company called Action Movers, written in the same font as the Action Comics which showcased Superman’s first appearance, to Blue Valley substituting for Smallville, the series is going to be fantastic with hidden gems.

One Good Thing:

  • The Cast. The show may have it’s shortcomings and the quirkiness may grow old, but the cast is the key to holding everything together. From Luke Wilson, to the always funny Joel McHale, to even Amy Smart (where has she been!), the series is able to attract quality actors and each character fully embraces the old-school feel this show seem to present. Luke Wilson holds the first episode together but Brec Bassinger may be the key as Stargirl on whether this series will flourish or flounder. She is likeable and humorous, even calling out some of the absurdities in superheroe lore, and has the potential to be a breakout star.

Grade: C+ (Above Average)

Stargirl may not be for everyone but the lack of seriousness is a nice change of pace from the typical superhero series on television. As the series focuses on a teenager girl learning how to be a hero, it provides the opportunity to be one of the first “family-friendly” superhero series for audiences. The CGI is good quality and above what we normally see in CW superhero series, but that can be attested to the fact that this series was originally created for the DC streaming service. I’m not sure Stargirl can keep the quirkiness from becoming annoying but the pilot was something different from what we have seen and I’m interested to see what occurs in the next twelve episodes.

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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