Innocence, Charm Create Stellar Superhero Debut for Stargirl

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Stargirl Pilot

DC Comics debuts a new superhero to its ever-widening stable of page-to-screen transitions, and it couldn't be a more welcome one. With the bulk of CW shows floundering with the handling of their title characters, the introduction of STARGIRL comes with a refreshing charm and innocence that makes the show not only a pleasure to watch for fans of the character, but also makes it attractive to new viewers.

The pilot episode wastes no time in setting the stage. The viewers arrive at the destruction of the Justice Society of America, including Wildcat, Hourman, and Starman (Joel McHale) at the hands of a group of villains led by the Icicle (Neil Jackson) and including Brain Wave (Christopher James Baker) and a CGI-rendered Solomon Grundy. An injured Starman is pulled away from the destruction by his sidekick, Stripesy, aka Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson), only to die from his injuries after passing on the Cosmic Staff to him for safekeeping, charging him to keep the legacy of the JSA alive.

Meanwhile we meet young Courtney Whitmore, a young girl waiting for her father to make his annual Christmas visit -- a visit that never comes.

We jump forward ten years to a sixteen-year-old Courtney (Brec Bassinger) , packing her room morosely in preparation for a move with her mother (Amy Smart) to go live with her mom's new husband -- Pat Dugan -- in rural small-town Blue Valley, Nebraska. (DC fans will recognize the name of the town as the home of The Flash's former sidekick, Kid Flash.) While Pat's son, Mike (Trae Romano) is surprised by the opportunities he finds in their new town, Courtney is a fish out of water, instantly a target of high school bullying and relegated to the "Losers' Table" where she meets the three kids who will later in the series become the legacy versions of Hourman, Wildcat, and Doctor Mid-Nite.

When Courtney returns home that night, she makes a discovery in the basement -- a glow emanating from within a crate; and inside that crate, the Cosmic Staff, that has come back to life in Courtney's presence. The staff is more than just a tool and weapon in STARGIRL -- it's a character with personality and communicates in a sort of "R2-D2 meets Ozobot" language. This element allows Courtney to begin using the staff rather quickly, combining its abilities with her already-developed gymnastics prowess. She's no expert at it by any means, but she gets better with practice.

On an outing that takes her to the local drive-in theater, she finds a group of bullies causing trouble for other kids, and decides to use the staff to deflate their tires. The staff decides on a more... fiery... method of retribution, panicking Courtney -- and introducing us to one of the bullies as Henry King, Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), the son of Brain Wave! In fact, the entire cadre of the former JSA villains seem to have chose Blue Valley to settle in, including Sportsmaster, Lawrence "Crusher" Crock (Neil Hopkins) who owns the local gym, and Huntress, Paula Brooks (Joy Osmanski) who is also the principal at Courtney's high school.

When Henry Jr. tells his father what happened to the car, the senior King instantly recognizes the description of the Cosmic Staff and sets his sights on obtaining it, leading to a run-in with Courtney from which she barely escapes -- only to run into her new sidekick: S.T.R.I.P.E.

It's clear we're going to see a reformation of the Justice Society reborn from the teens of Blue Valley, who will do battle regularly against the villains who also live in the small town. How this will play out overall than would the setting of a teeming metropolis is going to be a trick for the showrunners; it's easier for a super character of any persuasion to get lost in the masses of a large city, and easy for small town rumors to begin about how the super-fights started happening after the new girl came to town. But STARGIRL's overall energy and optimism, combined with the audience draw of family favorites like Luke Wilson and Amy Smart, are signs that make us think this show is destined to rise above its peers.

STARGIRL officially first appeared in a closing sequence from the CW supehero crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," with the caption placing her adventures on Earth-2. Earth-2 was also the designation in the Arrowverse for where Harrison Wells and Jesse Quick lived. Since the flashbacks to the JSA moments show us that Jay Garrick was, in fact, a part of this new Earth-2's timeline, it is unclear -- and perhaps even unlikely -- that we will be seeing resurrected versions of these characters.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0