Stargirl: Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E (Part One) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On this week’s episode of Stargirl, Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part One, the Injustice Society’s plan for their “New America” begins to take action and Courtney (Brec Bassinger) and her team race against the clock to find a way to stop them.
With Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) revealing the superhero identities of Courtney and her family, he sends Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) and Tigress (Joy Osmanski) to take them all out for good. What we get is actually some of the most brutal and bloody fighting we get on the series as the fights between Sportsmaster and Pat (Luke Wilson) as well as Courtney and Tigress pull no punches. Tigress is ready with her bow, but obviously still a little rusty as Courtney kicks her ass all across their house and misses Barbara (Amy Smart) with all of her crossbow shots. The fight between Sportsmaster and Pat at the garage is even more brutal as Sportsmaster lands some heavy blows that show his violent nature being fully unleashed. He lands some harsh punches to Pat’s faces, uses the door to crush his ribs, and even the way he taunts Pat into fighting with fists shows how Sportmaster is consumed by the thrill of the hunt. Hell, even the way that Mike (Trae Romano) ends their fight by putting a drill in Sportsmaster’s back is surprisingly brutal.
Although these two fail at killing the Whitmore’s, they’re not down for the count just yet as they meet back up at the Whitmore home and give us some great vibes of their relationship that’s sort of reminiscent of Mickey and Mallory’s relationship in Natural Born Killers. Being in hibernation for so long, it’s hard not to feel this kind of release from them as they are letting loose for the first time in a while and their excitement for still being able to hunt the Whitmore’s down makes them so intriguing. However, they do make a decision that could cost them in the long run with Icicle (Neil Jackson) when Bowin (Hina X. Khan) shows up after giving her son a horrifying pep talk.
Her son is currently dealing with some pretty stereotypical band kid bullying and looking to her mother for motivation. So, she begins to tell him about his father, the original Fiddler, dealt with his bullies and it’s absolutely Bad Parenting 101 since he took the bow of his fiddle and shoved it through their eardrums. She also ends up looking like a hypocrite as she chastises Sportsmaster and Tigress for their violent behavior after she basically tells her son to kill his bullies with his tuba. Eventually, she takes her berating too far as her criticizing of their parenting earns her an arrow in her chest courtesy of Tigress’ rage. Personally, it’s a death that doesn’t come as too much of a shock since she hasn’t done a whole lot and could lead to something better as her son possibly could step into a greater role of villainy to avenge the death’s of the family.
Bowin’s death is also one of the big fractures in the Injustice Society we see this episode as we start to see Icicle even start to silently disapprove of his parents. While Brainwave and Icicle’s parents are focused on the plan ahead, with Brainwave even delivering a villain monologue at the start of the episode, Icicle is really stuck in his own head. Yes, he’s still thinking about Barbara and it kind of sucks that his great character is slowly being relegated to a romance. However, since it looks like Brainwave is stepping up as the season villain, it gives more time for Icicle’s feelings towards Barbara to develop and maybe it could make his story even better. Regardless, it’s interesting to see more rifts be caused in the Injustice Society as their plan is coming together and I’m keeping my hopes up that this supposed Icicle and Barbara connection could be better in the future.
The only two members really sticking to the plan is Brainwave and Dragon King (Nelson Lee) as they come together to show us how they are going to enact their plan. After we get a delightful sequence of Brainwave telling a still trapped Cindy that she’s basically just a failed experiment and a total pawn, Brainwave straps into a machine that basically looks like the one Professor X uses in the X-Men comics. Although Dragon King tells him that the effects of this all going wrong could have devastating results for Brainwave, he doesn’t care and it’s a great way of him showing how dedicated he’s become since he’s truly lost everything for this plan to work. It doesn’t matter anyway though since the machine works and we understand the gravity of the Injustice Society’s New America later on.
For now, we need to catch up with Courtney and the rest of the JSA as they head to a remote cabin to sort out their differences and Rick (Cameron Gellman) can uncover the secrets of his father’s journal. Overall, the cabin stuff was fine for the most part as Barbara and Pat work out their relationship woes, Courtney and Mike bond now that Mike knows everything, and CHUCK (voiced by Henry Thomas) gives us a pretty funny moment with him detecting a lie when Beth (Anjelika Washington) asks Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) if she’s still thinking about Henry. Even Janitor Justin (Mark Ashworth) has some pretty funny moments with him bringing some KFC to the party and giving off the impression that he’s going to help Rick crack the code only to say he’s going to clean the bathroom.
Really, the only weak part of all of this is Rick trying to uncover the code in his dad’s journal. Frankly, Rick’s whole arc this season has been tough to connect to because he’s been such a bull-headed jerk for most of it. While I get that that’s part of his character, it’s certainly hasn’t made him anymore likeable and the whole sequence of him figuring out the code after Pat makes him think about his prized 1966 Mustang is just super weak. The dialogue is super cliché and the problem is solved so quickly that the big moment of Rick finally solving his father’s algorithm carries no real weight to it and is honestly kind of dumb. Like, how did the Mustang never come across as a possible answer, the dude drives one himself because of his dad.
Regardless, the group finally has a plan to work with as Rick’s dad’s algorithm reveals coordinates to entrances to the Injustice League’s tunnels all across Blue Valley as well as where their big machine is. Thus, everyone splits up with each group having one adult lead the charge – which will become important in just a second. When Beth and Barbara initially go into the town hall office to hack their systems and come across the Injustice Society’s manifesto and see that they are planning things that are actually…good? Yeah, turns out they want to use their mind control plan to stop global warming, race discrimination, and other things that have plagued humanity for centuries – so what’s the catch?
Well, all of this comes at the cost of about 25 million adults, since the device only works on full developed minds willing to be coerced. It’s an interesting twist that touches the impacts of progress in a short amount of time and it’s made even better when The Gambler (Eric Goins) ends up hacking them and revealing that the thirty minutes they thought they had to stop Brainwave is actually how the long plan takes to complete. So, as the plan goes into motion the group loses the attention of Barbara, Janitor Justin, and Pat in an instant. It’s actually kind of great because Courtney and the rest of the young heroes are going to have to do things themselves and it looks like Courtney is going to have to start with fending off Pat – who is being controlled by Brainwave.
The first half of the season finale of Stargirl see the Injustice Society’s plan start to take motion as Courtney and the group get into a brutal brawl and end up facing a more daunting feat when they are forced to fight some of their own. Rick’s weak arc definitely fumbles some of the strong momentum this episode brings, especially at the end, but there’s no doubt that the upcoming finale is going to be the fight of their lives.