Pilot -| Review Score – 3.5/5
S.T.R.I.P.E. -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Icicle -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Wildcat -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite -| Review Score – 3.5/5
The Justice Society -| Review Score – 4/5
Shiv Part One -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Shiv Part Two -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Brainwave -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Brainwave Jr. -| Review Score – 4/5
Shining Knight -| Review Score – 4/5
Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part One -| Review Score – 4.5/5
Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. Part Two -| Review Score – 4.5/5
On the surface, Stargirl looks like a typical superhero melodrama. The teen-orientated cast, simple story and early-season cheesiness are all here in abundance. However, Stargirl manages to step out from the crowd with a well written story and some lovely action dotted throughout the show.
With plenty of characterisation for the villains and a well-paced threat that grows into suitable end-of-the-world territory at the end, Stargirl bows out its first season as a real bright spark.
The story here revolves around teenager Courtney Whitmore. When her Father leaves her as a child on the eve of Christmas, she remains hopeful that he’ll return. Meanwhile, a coincidental incident nearby involving a group of superheroes seems to hint that her Father is the legendary Starman. With sidekick Pat by Starman’s side, they drive up to a mansion where a brawl between the JSA (Justice Society of America) and the ISA (Injustice Society of America) ends with the bad guys winning. Even worse, Starman is killed.
After this dizzying prologue, we then cut forward to follow Courtney as a teenager as she arrives in the town of Blue Valley. Her Father never returned and Pat is now romantically involved with her Mother, Barbara. As Court starts high school and tackles all the issues that go with that, back home trouble brews.
It turns out the ISA are hiding out in this very same town, led by Henry Sr and Jordan (Brainwave and Icicle respectively). When Courtney finds Starman’s cosmic staff in their basement, tucked away by Pat himself, she immediately realizes she has powers. Even more telling, Starman may be her Father.
With Pat by her side as the sidekick Stripsey, the first half of the series sees Courtney recruiting a number of students to become the new JSA and helping them hone their skills. Along the way are various skirmishes with different villains but this is mainly sidelined for the drama. It’s not until late on in the game where everything starts to crescendo into some beautifully choreographed fighting.
The final two-parter is a fantastic way to finish things off too and without spoiling anything, it actually does a decent job rounding out many of the character arcs. In particular, Rick, Yolanda and Beth are all given enough closure to keep things interesting for season 2.
Ultimately it’s this characterisation and robust writing that makes Stargirl such an engaging watch. There’s an equal emphasis on the villains here and this only helps make Stargirl feel like a more multifaceted series. Across the season we understand what happened to Brainwave and why he’s been twisted and distorted to bitterness. We also find out why Jordan wants to change the world. The only villain really that doesn’t have that much of an arc is The Gambler but it’s a minor point for a character who keeps to the shadows most of the time.
Stylistically, Stargirl pulls out all the stops to help set it apart from the wave of other superhero shows out there. This is definitely closer to Titans in terms of gritty action and choreography, while keeping the conventional fun and cheesiness emanating from classic CW superhero shows. The result is something that feels a hybrid of the two in the best possible way.
There’s some lovely slow-mo segments, one-shot takes and even creative rotating cameras that help elevate each of the different fights. The decision to showcase the brawl inside the mansion early on is a really smart move too that immediately establishes this as a big player in the superhero world.
The concerns I have going into the second season however, stem from CW’s acquisition of this show. With DC Universe turning away and the CW grabbing it for broadcast rights, there’s definitely a danger of the special effects and fighting taking a nose-dive in quality. That’s to say nothing of the ability to now throw this into the CW universe and make it a must-watch next to The Flash, Supergirl etc.
Remaining optimistic though, this could also mean the seasons are given a longer run-time. Furthermore, the ending certainly teases some intriguing villains going forward. If the characterisation is as strong there as it is here, it should be another sure-fire winner.
Overall though, Stargirl is a really nice surprise and definitely worth sticking with for the long haul. Yes it does have the usual teen vibes you’d expect but they’re backed up by some solid writing and careful character work.
The villains are fleshed out, the personalities are interesting and the balance between humour and drama is perfectly poised through much of the 13 episodes. It’s unlikely to be regarded as the best superhero show of the year but it’s definitely one of the stronger ones, making it a bright star in an otherwise gloomy night sky.
Verdict - 8/10