STARGIRL 1×02 “S.T.R.I.P.E.” review

Stargirl (DC Universe/The CW)

Stargirl debuts new episodes Monday’s on DC Universe on Monday’s before airing on The CW on Tuesdays.

Synopsis

After Courtney has an unexpected run-in with a member of the Injustice Society of America, Pat reveals the truth to her about their history.  Meanwhile, Barbara is elated when she sees Courtney making an attempt to get along with Pat, not knowing the secret they’ve been keeping.  Finally, things take a dangerous turn at Blue Valley High’s open house night when Courtney becomes the target of a dangerous foe.

Review

After an exciting and hopeful pilot episode (reviewed here), I was interested to see where DC’s Stargirl would go next. I was curious as to whether the series would maintain its wholesome, adventurous edge or whether it would veer towards the darker edge that other series from the DC Universe have featured.

To my delight, Stargirl maintains all of the qualities which made the pilot episode so successful. It also builds on them smartly to really strike a unique tone within all the current live-action DCTV series.

“S.T.R.I.P.E.” really acts as a part-two/direct follow-up to the pilot, picking up right where the first episode left off. With Courtney (Brec Bassinger) on the ropes from her fight with Brainwave (Christopher James Baker), she’s recused by Pat (Luke Wilson) and his S.T.R.I.P.E. robot.

The scenes give Stargirl its first opportunity to show just how far the producers have been able to spread the budget. There’s the CGI robot which appears in action sequences, it’s well integrated to the environments and is slickly rendered for a TV series of this level of production. There’s also a practical version of S.T.R.I.P.E. for more static scenes which is equally impressive.

There’s a practical cockpit set which allows Luke Wilson to feel more heavily involved in the action sequences despite not being physically involved in the fights themselves. But it also bring some great levity to the episode.

As the title suggests, “S.T.R.I.P.E.” focusses a little more on Pat as he shares more details on his past with Courtney. There’s no more epic flashbacks but we do get some tantalising details on both the Justice Society of America and the Injustice Society. The series is clearly building up to the creation of Courtney’s own Justice Society but Pat makes it clear that not all the members of Starman’s team are dead.

Wilson and Bassinger continue to have great chemistry which is really at the heart of the episode. We’re already seeing development between the two of them as Courtney comes to understand more about Pat’s past. They’re quickly able to step beyond the fractious relationship of the pilot to find more common ground. The emotional changes in their relationship are handled well by both and feel organic to the narrative.

This episode takes some great steps towards developing the Whitmore/Dugan family unit as a whole. We spend time with Barbara at work at The American Dream, however it’s a location within the Stargirl landscape that I’ve yet to figure out. Whilst it’s clearly a front for more villainous activity, its not yet clear what the front company is trying to do other than run the town. Given this is only episode two I wouldn’t expect the series to completely lay out their motivations, but something about it feels a little off at this point.

The story of “S.T.R.I.P.E.” progresses perfectly and really balances the comedic and dramatic elements of the series well. As Brainwave confront his son about his run-in with Courtney the scene plays some real camp-ish melodrama but when he threatens Courtney’s life at the high school the stakes feel incredibly real.

Scenes of Courtney modifying the Starman costume to craft some of her own feel perfectly catered towards a younger audience and help the character a “home made” feel. Though in practical terms it’s probably stretching the imagination it fits the tone of the series and really strives to push the character towards iconic hero status.

I can feel Geoff Johns and his team really making the effort to make Courtney a contemporary hero for a young female audience and so far it seems to be working.

Once again the episode builds to a dramatic conclusion and we’re left with the realisation that, although it’s dual screening on DC Universe and The CW, Stargirl will really lean in to serialised storytelling rather than becoming more episodic.

Verdict

“S.T.R.I.P.E.” proves that Stargirl means business and is here to stay. It’s exciting and adventurous but also hilarious and heartfelt. This truly is the show we need right now.

8/10

The show stars Brec Bassinger in the title role. Luke Wilson is playing S.T.R.I.P.E., alongside Joel McHale (Starman), Lou Ferrigno Jr. (Hourman), Henry Thomas (Dr. Mid-Nite), and Brian Stapf (Wildcat). Neil Hopkins (Sportsmaster), Joy Osmanski (Tigress), and Nelson Lee (Dragon King) will portray members of the Injustice Society.


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By Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & TV and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG