STARGIRL 1×03 “Icicle” review

Stargirl (DC Universe/The CW)

Synopsis

After a dangerous run-in with a member of the Injustice Society of America, Pat warns Courtney to back down from her attempts to go after them.  But when she encounters what she believes to be a message from one of them, she urges Pat to help her.  Meanwhile, Barbara makes strides at work, which impresses her new boss Jordan Mahkent (series star NEIL JACKSON).

Review

After two episodes of fun and adventure, Stargirl is flexing its narrative muscles this week. “Icicle” marks a dramatic turn for the series as it delves further into the story of its villains as well as challenging audience perception.

For starters, “Icicle” really opens up the world of Blue Valley. Previous episodes (reviewed here and here) introduced the series’ supporting cast but kept focus on Courtney (Brec Bassinger) as the lead. It was a necessary step to introduce her character but it was time to begin fleshing out the other characters.

The episode opens on another flashback. This time in to what appears to be the history of Neil Jackson’s Icicle/Jordan Mahkent. We learn how his wife passed away and the origin of his mission. It’s the polar opposite to the opening flashback in the pilot in terms of scale. But in terms of emotion, these scenes really hit home hard.

Framing these scenes through the eyes of Jordan’s young son helps to up the emotional ante. It also helps set the audience up for when the rug is pulled out from underneath them later in the episode.

In the present day, “Icicle” starts by widening Courtney’s high school world via a talent competition. The halls of Blue Valley High have never looked this busy and it makes the show feel very much alive. Whilst Beth (Anjelika Washington), Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) and Cindy (Meg DeLacy) are all there, the scene focusses on magician Joey (Wil Deusner).

Joey is the son of Injustice League member The Wizard aka William Zarick (Joe Knezevich). Joey practices his magic on Courtney and in true goofy style, bombs the trick. But, in another moment of kindness, Courtney allows Joey to believe he pulled off the trick. It’s small moments of kindness like this which really shine through for Courtney and Brec’s portrayal.

Simply watching the series it isn’t hard to understand the importance this world has to executive producer Geoff Johns. The innocence of the high school characters, in particular Courtney and her friends, is really at the heart of the series. “Icicle” builds on those excellent foundations to push the narrative of the series forwards in fairly shocking ways.

The episode sets up a confrontation between Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E. and Icicle in a similar way to its approach with Brainwave (Christopher James Baker). Courtney wants to face the challenge head on, as she has done previously and heads in to battle with Pat (Luke Wilson) at her side.

As the two tussle, Icicle puts the school bus full of talent competition students in danger. S.T.R.I.P.E. is able to save the day and it seems that the good guys have the upper hand. But as we’ve learnt from the flashbacks, Icicle has stronger motivations for wanting to execute his plans.

With a nudge from his freeze powers, Icicle turns the episode and the series on its head. Killing off Joey is an incredibly powerful moment, one which I hadn’t expected so early in the season. Joey had great potential as a character but the ramifications of his death show that Stargirl is willing to push itself in to darker storytelling to drive home its message.

The death acts to galvanise Courtney in her mission. Whilst the scenes proceeding the death are, rightly, extremely somber it leads the series in to another hopeful conclusion.

This is where Stargirl continues to set itself apart from Titans, Doom Patrol and other DC Universe series.

Verdict

“Icicle” proves that Stargirl is a lot more than adventurous tone depicted in its first two episodes. “Icicle” is a breathtakingly nuanced progression for a series which should still be finding its feet.

9/10

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.

Stargirl debuts new, unedited episode on DC Universe on Monday’s. The series then airs episodes on The CW on Tuesday’s.


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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