Stargirl: S.T.R.I.P.E. Review
*This Review Contains Spoilers for Episode 2*
\On this week’s episode of Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E., Courtney (Brec Bassinger) wants to take action against an evil force in Blue Valley, even if Pat (Luke Wilson) doesn’t feel that she’s ready, as Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) attempts to rally up members of the Injustice Society of America to find Starman’s staff and put an end to a new era of heroes.
Last week, we were left on a bit of cliffhanger with Courtney running into Pat in a giant robot – who’s CGI leaves you kind of mixed. Now, like I said in the last episode, it’s not uncommon to see a new show not given the full budget to have the best-looking effects. However, it’s hard to ignore how fake looking Pat’s robot suit is in certain shots – especially when there’s a lot of movement. To be honest though, this new robot suit is a great upgrade to Pat’s sidekick status and the training sequences he has in a random cornfield is pretty great. Hearing that this moment is the first time that Pat’s even used this robot in order to not get too much attention is also really interesting and it’ll be cool to see him come into his own as a sidekick with some new tech. The way his name is conceived is kind of dumb, but S.T.R.I.P.E. looks like he’s here to stay and it’s exciting to see what he’ll do next.
Frankly, this episode really shows how strong of a character Pat really is and his trepidations and worries about the past coming back are very relatable and understandable. Realizing that Brainwave and the rest of the Injustice League are alive and well, Pat has some hesitance and worry about his past coming back to haunt him. It’s interesting to hear him talk about following in Hourman’s footsteps to avenge the JSA and talk about the heroics of a different time. There’s this genuine respect he has for being a hero and a sense of importance for not just saving the common citizen but keeping those you love safe as well. Wilson really creates this internal conflict within Pat about wanting to keep his family safe, but not wanting Brainwave to have total dominance and becoming the hero that he’s admired for most of his life. It’s a great supporting performance and even seeing him fail to fully live up to heroic expectations gives him room to grow.
Courtney, on the other hand, is still getting on my nerves as her bratty attitude, inability to listen, and overall angst get pretty annoying here. For someone that constantly says she wants to understand things about Brainwave, her father, and the past with the JSA, Courtney really only hears what she wants and is constantly interrupting Pat or just doesn’t want to hear it. She’s actually very frustrating at times with how she disregards any consequences to her actions and while her cockiness and youthful arrogance is likely going to lead to a great arc for her, it’s hard to deny that it’s a frustrating first impression. Her high school stuff is also still leaving little to be desired as another awkward time at the loser’s table at lunch and a cliché costume creation scene. For most of the episode, there is just something that comes off as weak with Courtney as everyone else around her has a much stronger presence and leaves a greater impression.
However, all of this thankfully changes as Pat’s heroic sacrifice in taking on Brainwave alone and a conversation with her mom (Amy Smart) about her growing relationship with Pat lead her to suit up and take action as Stargirl. First of all, the suit looks great as it’s a more modernized look for the character with really radical red boots and she looks like a total bad ass wielding the staff and entering battle. Obviously with her being new to this, Brainwave ultimately gets the upper hand, but she puts up one hell of a fight and after Pat saves her, the image of Brainwave being taken down by the staff is truly mind-melting. There’s even a strong change in Courtney’s attitude and views of Pat she says she needs his help and feels kind of bad about putting Brainwave in a coma. It’s a strong step forward that her character needed and I’m hoping that this momentum can continue as they team-up to take down the Injustice Society of America.
This episode also continues the great momentum of the previous episode in making the villains of this series fascinating as we see how engrained they are in Blue Valley. It’s awesome to see how they’ve taken on positions of political and social power throughout Blue Valley with Brainwave being a top doctor, The Wizard (Joe Knezevich) is a top councilman, and Steven Sharpe (Eric Goins), aka The Gambler, is a prominent member of the town hall. Hell, it’s even funny to see Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) be the owner of gym and even start a family with Tigress (Paula Brooks). It’s even more interesting to see him become Pat’s trainer at the gym and the two not recognize each other as it shows how much time has passed. Brainwave is the real star of the show here as his mental dominance over those around him and his determination to take Stargirl out makes him one of the most interesting characters in the series thus far. It’s a bit of a bummer that he’s on the bench for now, but with the appearance of an ice-cold villain like Icicle (Neil Jackson), him saying hi to an old friend of his, Solomon Grundy, and making secret plans that are all scored through “The Man” by The Killers, this series just got the kind of compelling mob boss villain to make things really interesting.
The second episode of Stargirl finds some strong improvements for its titular heroine by letting her suit and take action and delves deeper into how the villains have maintained power and dominance in the series’ small Nebraska town. Now with Stargirl finally taking form and Icicle arriving in Blue Valley, things are about explore for the series in a way that could make it one of DC’s best.