Stargirl: Brainwave Jr. Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of Stargirl, Brainwave Jr., Pat (Luke Wilson) and Courtney (Brec Bassinger) faces some backlash from Barbara (Amy Smart) after they tell her the truth and Henry (Jake Austin Walker) makes some horrifying discoveries about his father’s (Christopher James Baker) past that changes everything.
This episode’s opening not only gives us more fitting music, but also a glimpse into Pat and Barbara meeting each other for the first time and it’s a perfectly, syrupy sweet connection over a banana split that’s offset by the rocky present. Pat and Courtney’s attempt to talk about Courtney’s dad possibly being Starman and their latest superhero antics goes about how you would expect – Barbara’s furious at Pat, doesn’t believe what they’re saying, and wants to move away after feeling like her relationship with Pat is a lie. Frankly, Barbara just confused the hell out of me in this episode and the series continues to falter in telling us whether or not Starman is really Courtney’s father. One moment Barbara is furious with anger towards Courtney and Pat and then suddenly she believes them and is secretly recording Icicle’s (Neil Jackson) parents. Her emotions and actions are so all over the place and we’ve barely gotten anything from her character all season, so it just comes off strange. None these faults are from Smart’s performance though as she definitely holds it all together.
More importantly, this series still doesn’t give a definitive answer to the pivotal question of Starman being Courtney’s dad and continue to deliver shaky maybes. First of all, Barbara literally looks at multiple photos of Starman and can’t figure out if its her husband or not. I mean his costume isn’t all that concealing and, in some pictures, he’s not even wearing a mask, so it’s kind of unbelievable that Barbara can’t outright say if that’s Courtney’s dad or not. Even more unbelievable is that when Barbara does an internet search, she only finds blurry photos of him that aren’t even in color. It’s painfully obvious that the series is trying to keep answers in the dark, but I just wish that it would try to be more secretive about it in more believable ways. Even the, I guess, answer we get at the end of the episode in the form on an email response still isn’t conclusive or satisfying and I hope there’s a better answer down the line.
Honestly, the struggles in revealing answers and making Barbara a stronger character unfortunately keep this episode from being one of the best in the series because the rest of it is flawless and fantastic. Henry reuniting with his father carries all of the complexity and raw emotion that create an incredibly fascinating relationship that comes to a head here as Brainwave wakes up. Upon awaking from his coma, Brainwave is unable to remember anything from the last ten years – including his wife’s death. Henry tells him what he knows of what happened of his mother drowning in an accident, which is obviously a lie, and the two share a genuinely touching hug that’s very emotional because of how great Walker and Baker’s performances are. For the first time, Henry and his father have a strong connection, but it takes an unexpected turn when he hears his father mumbling about his mother’s death in his sleep.
Brainwave’s mumblings lead Henry to look for the “last” of his father’s tapes where he basically says that Icicle is responsible for her death and that his wife is the sister of Starman. It’s an interesting reveal, although I don’t buy that him and Courtney are actually cousins, and it drives him to finally work with Courtney and the rest of the new JSA. As expected, Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) isn’t excited about it and Rick (Cameron Gellman) is ready to fight him. However, after Henry hilariously throws a full lunch tray at Rick and Beth (Anjelika Washington) rallys the group together, they all head to the Dragon King’s (Nelson Lee) lair/basement to put a stop to his plans.
It’s also worth mentioning that Courtney has been without her staff for most of the episode since it went rouge trying to stop Icicle from taking Brainwave out of the hospital and ends up in the Dragon King’s lair. Eventually, the entire group, all costumed up except for Henry, heads down there and without the help of Chuck (voiced by Henry Thomas) and Stargirl’s staff, the group was at a bit of a disadvantage. Not to mention, they split up to cover more ground and before we get to a major fight that happens between Courtney, Yolanda, and Henry and the Dragon King’s lackies, we have to talk about Rick coming face to face with Solomon Grundy….in a cage. Yeah, the series continues to tease Grundy be freed from his chains and Rick riles him up by trying rip open the cage with his bare hands. It’s another showing of Rick’s rage blinding him and hopefully there’s a big slice of humble pie heading his way when he realizes that Grundy is no easy victory – even with the power of the hourglass.
We do get a great fight sequence though as Courtney utilizes a weapon on the wall to beat up Dragon King and his mindless henchmen while Yolanda shows her wall climbing skills and Henry uses his telepathy to take out some baddies. It’s honestly a lot of fun to watch and Courtney and Yolanda work well together as Henry also proves his worth. Not to mention, Courtney gets her staff back just in time to defend herself against the Dragon King and knock off his baghead to give us a surprise reveal of his face. It’s a totally surprising moment and the look of the Dragon King’s dragon face is quick, but super satisfying. It’s also kind of funny with how it scares Courtney and Yolanda and Courtney just blasts him out cold with the staff. Henry also tries to free his father from the confines of a machine Dragon King has strapped him to in order to get his memory – since he is a major part of the New America plan. However, his pleas don’t go as planned and we get one of the most tragic surprises of the series that changes everything.
Although Henry believes that there is some good left in his father, his father’s memory returning also returns him to his evil self and he reveals the devastating news to Henry that he actually killed his mother to prove himself to Icicle. It’s a blow to Henry’s love for his father that’s soul-crushing and Henry ultimately decides that he can’t let his father roam free and help the Injustice Society. At first, it seems like Henry is going to use his raw power to take out his father for good while everyone else escapes, but we get a much more devastating blow with Brainwave getting the upper hand and killing his son by crushing him with rubble. It’s a total shocker to see him go and the series has done an excellent job building up this moment and even offering him a moment of redemption by apologizing to Yolanda and telling the group to continue to believe in good – even in his father. Henry’s death is easily the most tragic moment of the series thus far and Walker’s performance makes it all the tougher that he’s gone.
This week, the plot thickens immensely as Henry’s struggles to cope with his father and his powers leads to some really fun fighting against the Dragon King as well as some tough love and an absolutely tragic death. Even for the series struggling to build Barbara’s story and give definitive answers to pertinent questions, this episode delivers some of the strongest storytelling of the series thus far and create lasting consequences that will change everything.