20th Jul2020

‘Stargirl 1×09: Brainwave’ 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

After two solid episodes, Stargirl continues the streak this week with another strong episode as they assemble everyone in place for the season finale.

Decades ago, a young Henry King Sr. is off of work at his lab and walking to his car in the dark parking lot when he is mugged. The unknown criminal puts a gun to his head and King Sr. starts to read the criminal’s thoughts; the first time King realizes he has this power. The criminal picked the wrong person to rob, which he realizes when his gun goes flying out of his hands and he starts to seizure due to King’s mind control. From that point on, King realizes that he must learn what his power can do.

Fast forward to the present day and Henry Jr. finds VHS tapes (YES!) of his dad and the tests he did to himself. Henry Jr. decides the best way for him to master his telekinetic skills is by following in his father’s footsteps and completing the same tests as his father. Though conflicted, Henry Jr. finds out that Henry Sr.’s justification for murdering people is due to the belief that humans are basically monsters and once you start hearing everyone’s inner thoughts, that idea is just reinforced.

Meanwhile Courtney makes an argument to Beth, Rick, and Yolanda that Henry Jr. is just lost and with their help, he could be a valuable member of the Justice Society of America (“JSA”). Courtney agrees that while Cindy is a lost soul and cannot be redeemed, Henry Jr., is someone that needs guidance and if he joined the JSA, he could change the outcome of their upcoming fight against the Injustice Society of America (“ISA”). Beth agrees there could be good in Henry Jr., but Rick and Yolanda don’t see it, especially after Henry Jr. released the scandalous photos of Yolanda, wrecking her “normal” life.

It only takes the majority of the season, but we finally find out the master plan that is being concocted by the ISA! Dragon King, with the use of satellites, needs Brainwave’s ability to read and install thoughts into people’s minds in order to enslave them for his own bidding. Originally, Dragon King needed Brainwave but now that his daughter Cindy found out Henry Jr. can read minds, Dragon King can recruit him to finish his plan.

Cindy, who we have seen a lot of in the last two episodes, is now locked up in a cell, much like Solomon Grundy, at the ISA’s underground headquarters. Her father has had enough of her lately and since she won’t stop yelling from the cell, Dragon King releases some gas into the chamber to knock her out, like he did when she was a child. Such a sweet father. After two great episodes delving into the character of Cindy, I feel shortchanged in this episode of not getting more scenes between Cindy and her father.

Courtney confronts Henry Jr. at the hospital where he is visiting his still comatose father. Courtney makes her case for him to join her team, but Henry Jr. declines the invite. He states that Yolanda may see him as the villain, but once you start hearing the thoughts of everyone, he’s nothing compared to others. Henry Jr. threatens Courtney into leaving but before she does, she tells Henry Jr. that at the end of the day, she knows he will do the right thing. Courtney seeing the good in everyone, except Cindy, is one of the highlights of the series and I’m guessing Henry Jr. will change his ways before the end.

After Courtney leaves, Wildcat attacks Henry Jr. and warns him to leave Courtney alone. Using his new abilities, Henry Jr. reveals that he knows Yolanda is Wildcat, which surprises her. Yolanda/Henry’s relationship is a storyline that started off strong and interesting but in recent episodes, has been put to the backburner. Hopefully, this is corrected in the remaining episodes as it has a lot of potential.

Still in the hospital, the attorney for the King family arrives to advise Henry Jr. that it is time to pull the plug on his father as the doctors seem to think there is no chance for recovery. The attorney is lying, which is never a good thing to do around a mind reader, and Henry Jr. calls him out on it. The attorney is only there for Henry Jr. to sign paperwork and allow the attorney to take his cut of the family fortune. Henry Jr. unleashes his anger and causes the attorney to have a seizure and die, much like Henry Sr. did to the parking lot mugger many years ago. Upon the attorney’s death, Henry Sr. wakes up from his coma, asking Henry Jr. what he has done.

Back in suburbia, Barbara checks in on Jordan and apologizes for leaving their business trip early. Jordan seems melancholy and he admits to Barbara that he has worked on a project for years (the ISA’s master plan) and now that it is almost completed, he doesn’t feel a sense of accomplishment. Upon hearing that his deceased wife used to make a big family dinner when he used to finish projects, Barbara invites Jordan and his family over to her house to celebrate.

Pat and Courtney have no idea that Jordan is Icicle so they, and Mike, greet Jordan and his family with open arms. After a creepy prayer, said in Jordan’s homeland language, everyone seems to be getting along well until Mike takes the last of the chicken dumplings. Courtney burns her hand while getting the second serving out of the oven but when she brings it out to Jordan, he easily handles the hot casserole dish, setting off alarm bells for Courtney.
The night ends with Jordan and his family leaving nicely after dinner but all is not as it seems. Jordan’s parents don’t trust Courtney, Pat and Courtney realize who Jordan really is, and Jordan teases Courtney that he may know she is Stargirl. At this point, everyone’s secret identities may be out in the open in this town!

Easter Eggs:

  • Seven Soldiers of Victory. Pat explains to Courtney that the JSA wasn’t the only superhero team he joined. Pat also was on the Seven Soldiers of Victory, a team consisting of Green Arrow (known only as Arrow in this episode), Speedy, Vigilante, Shining Knight, Crimson Avenger, Wing, Star-Spangled Kid, and Stripesy. The Seven Soldiers, yes there are eight of them, is a reference to the team that debuted in the 1941’s Leading Comics #1. Just like the majority of the callbacks to the Golden Age of comics, I am now interested in a Seven Soldiers of Victory spinoff series!

One Good Thing:

  • Blue Valley. Not only does this episode explain the origin of Brainwave, but it explains why Blue Valley has the most super-powered people in a given town. Beth uncovers, with the help of Chuck, that Blue Valley was originally settled by Freemasons calling themselves the Other Founding Fathers. This group built a plethora of underground tunnels to help navigate secretly from the world above them as they wanted a town free of interference from the outside world. I’m glad they finally gave us a reason for the appeal of Blue Valley for heroes and villains alike and while it’s not much of a reason, it’s at least addressed.

Grade: B- (Good)

Three straight weeks of solid episodes has moved Stargirl from an “average” series to a “good” series. The show still has some flaws including not doing much with Barbara and Mike, and relegating Yolanda/Henry Jr.’s relationship to the back, but overall, the series is finding its footing. It continues to blend the old-school comics with a sense of current events masterfully and I’m going to be saddened once the first season ends. Luckily, the CW has already renewed Stargirl for a second season.

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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