A note about this and future recaps of Stargirl: because the series airs on both DC Universe and The CW, some footage is cut from the DC Universe episodes to fit the shorter runtime on The CW. We will be recapping The CW’s version, so there may be some differences if you watched the DC Universe episode instead.
We could all use a little light right now, and the DC Universe/The CW co-production Stargirl certainly provides it. From its spunky, sparkling leading lady Brec Bassinger to its well written and engaging origin story, it’s clear Stargirl will be the latest DC Comics hit for The CW. The episode features some truly incredible action sequences alongside humor and heart from the cast, especially Bassinger and Luke Wilson. I, for one, am excited to see how the show progresses over the course of its first season after a strong pilot episode. Read on to find out what happened in the series premiere of Stargirl…
The series opens with a title scroll that reads, “A Golden Age of Heroes protected the world for decades. Ten years ago, that Golden Age ended … ” We flash to that time to see Pat, played perfectly by Luke Wilson, rushing down the Christmas-decorated streets in his car as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” plays (perfect music cue, as an aside.) He’s desperately trying to reach Starman on his radio. Starman urges Pat to stay away, reminding him that he’s not in the JSA (Justice Society of America) and is just his sidekick, but Pat keeps going anyway. Starman screams and is cut off as Pat arrives at the scene of a massive battle. Green light shoots out of a mansion on the edge of town. Pat watches as a fatally injured Wildcat is thrown out the window, and he leaves him to rush inside to save Starman. As each Justice Society hero dies in front of Pat at the hands of the Injustice Society, he continues his search to find Starman, even as several of the heroes urge him to run. One villain turns his attention to Pat, but then Starman arrives. It seems like all will be well now, and catching sight of Pat. He growls, “I told you to wait in the car!” But then Brainwave shows up, and Starman is stabbed by Icicle. This battle sequence is well choreographed and has great effects, especially for a TV show. But the best part about it is how clearly it set up the emotional stakes for Pat in the episode.
Pat drags Starman to the car and floors it away from the mansion as the remaining villains look on. One chases their car, but they are able to get to the woods before they crash. It’s clear Starman is dying. He tells Pat that the Justice Society must live on. Pat thinks Starman is talking about him, but then Starman says, “not you. Someone with grace, and heroism. Someone out there will. But it’s definitely not you” (Joel McHale as Starman is both funny and heartbreaking in this scene.) Starman dies, telling Pat he was a good friend. The light in the staff goes out, and we flash to Los Angeles, where a young Courtney sits at home waiting for her father to come home for Christmas Eve. Her mother Barbara laments that he’s two hours late and goes to take her shift at the diner while a friend watches Courtney. Courtney sadly looks out the window as we move to the present day.
The family is moving from Los Angeles, with Courtney packing her room (one of her photos features the real-life inspiration for Stargirl, Courtney Johns, who died in 1996 and is the sister of series creator Geoff Johns.) Pat and his son Mike arrive, and Courtney refers to him as her new stepfather. They’re moving to Blue Valley, Nebraska, a far cry from the city, and Mike and Courtney are not pleased. Pat tries to help her with a box, and she just ignores him. Barbara tells her to be mad at her if she’s going to be mad at anyone, since she’s the one who took a new job in Blue Valley, but Courtney just walks away. They arrive in Nebraska, and as the movers unpack, they drop a box. Pat reacts strangely, and Courtney notices. They go out for what’s meant to be a family bonding dinner, but only Mike seems to be adjusting to their new lives. Barbara and Pat reminisce outside the diner where the met, and Courtney just rolls her eyes. That night as she unpacks, she stares sadly at the stars as one constellation mysteriously lights up.
Courtney heads to her new school, with Pat trying to psych her up by saying “have a super great day!” as she gets out of the car. Courtney gives him a look that could kill before walking inside. She finds out there’s no gymnastics team at the school, making her mood even worse. Pat heads to work at the local garage, meeting Crusher there. He runs the local gym and is a stereotypical gym guy. He offers Pat discounted classes before leaving. Barbara also starts her new job and seems excited by it all. Courtney finds herself alone at lunch and sits with Beth at the singles table (or, as Beth calls the group, “the losers.”) Beth is the only one friendly to her as the rest all sit in frosty silence. A group of bullies call one of the girls a “slut” and steal Courtney’s phone when she tries to defend her. Courtney pushes one bully right into the lunch lady, and Courtney’s the one who gets taken to the principal’s office.
At dinner that night, everyone talks about their exciting days but Courtney. Pat enthusiastically tries to suggest things for them to do together, but Courtney just says “stop pretending to be my dad” before storming off. Pat tells Barbara it’s his fault, that he knows he’s trying too hard. Courtney goes to the basement to be alone, and she finds Pat’s JSA memorabilia. There are pictures and newspaper clippings of Starman and the other heroes. She’s confused, but then the box the movers dropped earlier starts to glow and shake. She opens it to find Starman’s staff, which glows and lights up when she touches it.
In a beautiful sequence, the staff gets to know a confused Courtney by pulling her to a local park. She does gymnastics moves with it, and the staff even flies her around town. It seems to have been waiting for her and is alive, communicating with overjoyed music-like sounds. Courtney is genuinely happy. She and the staff crash-land near a drive in theater, where she sees the jock from before, Henry, bullying another kid. Sensing a chance for some revenge, she covers her face and uses the staff to slash his tires. When Henry notices her and goes to attack her, the staff defends her and blows up Henry’s car. Courtney adorably yells “bad stick, bad!” before flying away. When Pat goes downstairs, he realizes the staff is missing and panics. But then Courtney arrives home, and Pat sees her with the staff.
He asks for it back, but Courtney refuses. She says it spoke to her, and she wants to know what’s going on. Pat asks if anyone was hurt, and Courtney says that a car lost its resale value. She blames the staff, which lights up in agreement. Pat touches the staff, and it loses its glow. He’s surprised at this, but then recovers, going to put it back. He says it’s not supposed to work for anyone but Starman. He gives her a brief history of the JSA, including their demise ten years ago.
As he talks, Courtney sees Starman’s picture, which looks eerily like the one of her father in her locket. She asks if Barbara knows any of this, and Pat says she doesn’t. Courtney is especially intrigued by the fact that Starman died on Christmas Eve ten years ago … the same day her father failed to make it to LA and disappeared from her life. She excitedly says that Starman must be her father: it explains why the staff responded to her. Pat dismisses this, but Courtney believes it. Pat tells her, her father and Starman have different human names, but Courtney says he could have been using an alias. She storms upstairs to ask Barbara about her father. Barbara says Courtney’s father wasn’t the hero she thinks he was. He only showed up once a year before he disappeared, and Pat is the only one who’s been there for them. She tells Courtney she owes Pat an apology. Courtney doesn’t have the heart to keep going with the discussion and doesn’t directly ask her mother about Starman.
Henry is at home, explaining what happened to his father. He’s worried about the car, but his father is only concerned about the staff. He goes to a secret closet, where a supervillain suit is revealed. It’s Brainwave, and he wants to find the staff. Pat goes to Courtney and explains that he was Starman’s sidekick, Stripesy. It was the honor of his life, and he asks Courtney to keep his secret. Courtney agrees, knowing how much Barbara loves Pat. But the staff has other plans, finding Courtney in her room and waking her up. Barbara hears the commotion and runs in, but the staff hides. After a brief heart to heart about giving Pat a chance, Barbara leaves, and the staff drags Courtney across town. At first, it’s fun as the staff shows her some cool tricks. But then they crash land into an abandoned warehouse.
Brainwave is waiting, and he wants to know who she is and how she got the staff. He tries to pry the information out of her by reading her mind. The staff tries to defend her, but she’s outmatched by Brainwave since she’s been with the staff for all of one hour and has no battle training. But she manages to get away, only to run into a giant robot. The robot speaks: it’s Pat, aka Stripesy. The episode ends with Courtney looking up at Pat, amazed at his transformation.
Stargirl is available on DC Universe on Mondays and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.