Stargirl: Shining Knight Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of Stargirl, Shining Knight, Pat (Luke Wilson) and Courtney (Brec Bassinger) are visited by people from their past as Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) gives Icicle (Neil Jackson) an ultimatum.
After we saw that Barbara’s (Amy Smart) email to Courtney’s supposed father got a reply last week, we finally get the conclusive answer we’ve been looking for – Courtney’s father is a man named Sam Kurtis (Geoff Stults) and not Starman. It’s something that’s been easily expected all season, literally since the first moment that Courtney thought Starman was her father, but the obviousness of it ends up being outweighed by the soul-crushing impact it has on Courtney. For most of the series, Courtney has come off like some bratty, always right teen who rarely learns anything from her mistakes and hasn’t given too much to be emotionally connected to her character – until now.
The second she sees her father for the first time in over a decade, the sense of devastation and resentment can be seen all over her face and she’s even in denial that Sam is her dad. However, with some stories about them building Styrofoam snowmen and carrying a pairing locket to Courtney’s, Sam is her definitive father and is initially looking to repair their relationship. Even though he seems genuine at first, there was just something super suspicious about him that made him seem like a subtle scumbag. He’s constantly trying to immediately repair their bond without really owning up to what he did or why he left, there’s a part of him that feels like he’s just trying to win back Courtney’s care and trust through physical things rather than actual love, and at times its almost like he’s guilting her into liking him again. Sam gives off some real scumbag vibes that turn into full scumbagery when his real intentions for returning become clear.
He’s really only back in order to gain Courtney’s trust so that he can convince her to give him her locket in order to finance him a better home. It’s a cruel twist that hurts but ends up being an incredibly strong moment for Pat to show Courtney how much she means to him. It’s kind of like a great moment within the MCU – when Yondu tells Peter that Ego “might’ve been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy” in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. It’s an opportunity for Pat to be the father figure that Courtney needs, and it’s capped off with an amazing moment of Pat knocking Sam on his ass and telling him never to come back again.
Courtney realizing that her father is just a piece of garbage doesn’t hurt just because she can’t have the true reunion she’s always wanted, it’s also because she’s left questioning whether she’s good enough to be Stargirl. She’s blaming the deaths of Henry and Joey on herself, feeling that she put everyone in danger because she’s simply wanted to be something that she’s not, and simply wanting to leave because she’s feels like she let everyone down. It’s a moment that feels reminiscent to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, when Peter loses his powers for a short time when he questions his role as a hero, and Kingdom Hearts, when Sora briefly is no longer able to wield the keyblade. There’s this sense of defeat that Bassinger evokes in her performance that gives Courtney the empathy that I’ve searching for all season. Even when Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) and Beth (Anjelika Washington) remind her that they aren’t related to the heroes they now represent and how they embody their legacy living on, it still doesn’t bring Courtney much hope.
Even the staff has gone quiet and it makes Courtney believes that the staff choosing her was a mistake. It’s a crushing blow that’s only made worse when Brainwave telepathically calls her out at Henry’s funeral at school and lets her know that he knows exactly who she is. Courtney ends up being full of frantic panic and yelling to Pat how much of what she’s done has either been for nothing or put everyone in danger. Obviously though, all of this doesn’t mean a whole lot on the surface as you never really buy that Courtney isn’t meant to be Stargirl or that the staff will never work for her again. Bassinger really makes you believe with her performance though and it’s easily her best of the entire series thus far. Eventually, with Barbara and Pat at her side, Courtney finds the strength to call on the power of her staff and make herself, as well as another major character this episode, believe that she has the power to change things.
Another major development this episode deals with someone who’s been teased in the last couple of weeks and is one of the only surviving members, outside of Pat, of the Seven Soldiers of Victory – Janitor Justin (Mark Ashworth) a.k.a the Shining Knight. After his encounter with the staff in a vision, we see that this interaction has started to jog Justin’s memory and he’s off in a search for clues of his former life as well as white steed with fire in its eyes and victory in its heart. While he’s labeled as crazy and weird by those around him, we know that he serves a greater purpose and so does Pat. The dreamlike vision that Justin has about Pat is a little dumb and too cheesy for my tastes, but their interactions with one another are great.
Pat sees him like an old friend in need and the way that he talks to Justin about how much he loves his stories comes off very sincere and heartfelt. It’s the perfect offset to Rick’s (Cameron Gellman) odd need to be an angsty asshole all the time and he’s in desperate needs of some instant humbleness that’ll likely come in the form of a swift ass kicking from Solomon Grundy. Regardless, after some visions of Pat and other being the Dragon King (Nelson Lee), Justin finds himself a place in the Whitmore household and is inspired to reclaim his heroic livelihood after seeing Courtney wield the staff. There’s definitely an awesome battle between Justin and the Dragon King in the horizon and I can’t wait to see Justin’s shiny return.
Lastly, there’s seems to be a turning of the tides in the Injustice Society as Brainwave’s return sparks a change in who seems to be calling the shots. With Icicle feeling bad about hurting/upsetting Barbara after Brainwave tells him that Courtney is Stargirl, Brainwave is noticing a soft spot in Icicle that he doesn’t like. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that there’s no romantic influence involved in Icicle feeling bad since that would be super lame, but Brainwave doesn’t care and tells him to get over his feeling like he’s done. By the end, Icicle seems fine to play ball with Brainwave, but I get the feeling that this moment is teasing Brainwave’s role as the head villain honcho in these final upcoming episodes. It makes sense granted that most of this season has surrounded him, especially in these late couple of episodes, and if it means that Icicle gets to stick around longer, I’m not going to complain.
As Janitor Justin’s heroic past starts to bleed into the present and the truth about Courtney’s father being revealed, Stargirl soars to new heights as it creates an incredible amount of empathy for our titular heroine, in major part to Bassinger’s season-best performance, and teases some major new developments in the form of a new hero and old villain on the rise.