LEA THOMPSON (“BACK TO THE FUTURE”) DIRECTS THE EPISODE — As Pat (Luke Wilson) teaches Courtney (Brec Bassinger), Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), Beth (Anjelika Washington) and Rick (Cameron Gellman) the importance of teamwork, the ISA converge to figure out who is trying to take them down. Elsewhere, as the school prepares for homecoming, Cindy (Meg DeLacy) lashes out against her father’s strict rules, while Barbara (Amy Smart) accepts an offer from Jordan (Neil Jackson). Trae Romano, Christopher James Baker, Jake Austin Walker and Hunter Sansone also star.Lea Thompson directed the episode written by Evan Ball (#107). Original airdate 6/30/2020.
If I’m being entirely honest, I was a little disappointed in some of the characterisations in last week’s episode of Stargirl (reviewed here). Both Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins) and Tigress (Joy Osmanski) were portrayed out of costume in a manner which felt very two-dimensional and not in keeping with some of the series’ other characters.
Going in to “Shiv, Part One” I had similar concerns about Cindy Burman Meg DeLacy) due to her relatively small screen time prior to this episode.
But my concerns were misplaced. “Shiv, Part One” brilliants expands Cindy’s world, writing in familial relationships and allowing her to breathe more as a character before ultimately flipping her into a true villain.
The episode, like most others, opens on a hopeful note. Each of the young JSA members is having a good day and relishing their new found sense of purpose. Most notably we’re able to see that Rick (Cameron Gellman) is taking control of his own story for the first time which feels like a big step forward in his characterisation.
I’m still a little concerned that Beth (Anjelika Washington) is a caricature of the character she could be. Whilst the first scene demonstrates that she is no longer relying on the relationship with her parents, it really only enhances the notion that she has transferred that bond on to Charles McNider (Henry Thomas).
Washington has shown us that she is capable of more dramatic range and it would be nice to see the series offer her a little more in that respect. Once again there are flashes of it in this episode, the scene where Pat (Luke Wilson) attempts to school the young heroes immediately jumps to mind. More of this please.
Elsewhere, Stargirl is testing plenty of familial relationships this week. The dynamic in the Whitemore-Dugan household continues to be an interesting plot point for development. Last episode we saw only Barbara (Amy Smart) supporting Mike (Trey Romano) at his school science fair and that tension bubbles over in this “Shiv, Part One” as Mike confronts Courtney (Brec Bassinger) over her relationship with Pat.
Whilst the series is far from making Mike or Barbara a villain, it’s far more original for Stargirl to represent the step-family dynamic in this way. I can’t think of another superhero show which has this setup which, whilst fantastical thanks to the super heroism, is still reflecting what will be all too real for some audience members. Kudos to director Lea Thompson and writer Evan Ball for handling it with an appropriate level of sensitivity.
Given that we’ve only seen comedic moments from Mike so far, it’s nice to see that Trey Romano isn’t just being used as a comedic foil for the season.
The concept of splitting “Shiv” in to a two-part origin story really enables the events to play out in a comfortable but not overly slow pace. Viewers are able to appreciate that there’s far more to Cindy than we’ve come to understand and it makes her transition to villainess feel less rushed but also, to a degree, more tragic.
We first find Cindy visiting Henry (Jake Austin Walker) at his father’s bedside. With Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) still unconscious Stargirl is doing a brilliant job of slowly bubbling along Henry’s development of similar powers.
Cindy’s visit is the kind of awkward, self-righteous show we’ve come to expect from her. She arrives under the auspices of checking in on Henry but really only wants to arrange their date for the Homecoming dance. when Henry rebuffs her it leads to a heated confrontation at school with BFF Jenny (Ashley Winfrey) and Janitor Justin (Mark Ashworth) who, consequently has his own big reveal this week.
But just when it seems like this is another typical day for Cindy she winds up paired with Courtney in chemistry class. Having learned from Beth that Cindy’s mother died when she was younger, Courtney is all able to find common ground over the loss of a parent.
It opens up a new dynamic between the pair as Cindy chooses to share a glimpse in to her childhood and identify with Courtney. When the two decide to skip Homecoming and hang out on Saturday it seems like Cindy might be turning a corner.
That is under Cindy returns home from school and confront her poor stepmother (Lesa Wilson). The dialogue between the two is disturbing to say the least, Cindy is nothing but vile to the woman who does nothing but try to placate the teenagers anger.
It’s clear from watching the scene that there’s more going on than meets the eye which is only confirmed when Cindy uses a keypad to enter a locked security door to their basement. It’s not long before we realise that the house is connected to the ISA underground lair and that, of course, he father is the Dragon King.
In rapid succession we learn of her true parentage, her connection to the ISA and that she already has powers of her own. There’s a lot of exposition thrown at the audience within the space of only a few short minutes as we also see what will be her costume for the first time and also see her jump in to action.
Despite suddenly moving at breakneck speed it all feels correct for the tone of the episode and ramps up the stakes heading in to the final act of part one.
It’s the night of the big pre-Homecoming football match and most of our main cast is present. Perfect setup for some action which would befit any high school drama series in any genre. Cameron (Hunter Sansone), son of Neil Jackson’s Jordan/Icicle, asks Courtney to Homecoming and suddenly we’re faced with a dilemma. The son of our big bad has a crush on our heroic lead. This cannot end well Super Friends!
So far Stargirl has setup two potential characters to be caught in the grey area between hero and villain: Henry aka Brainwave Jnr and now Cameron aka Icicle Jnr. It will be good to see if allegiances are tested in the run up to the season finale as there could be some genuinely hurtful plot twists in the making.
Courtney cancels her social plans with Cindy and it’s the final straw, Shiv has been born.
As Courtney heads in to the school to investigate what the principal is really up to, it leads to a huge standoff between Stargirl and Shiv. The fight itself has the right levels of high-stakes wire work to feel like a 00’s superhero movie. It’s great how the show is embracing the comic book action rather than trying its best to remain entirely grounded.
I question how Cindy (as Shiv) is unable to recognise Courtney given the blonde curly hair and her voice. But this is superhero show and Lois never recognised Clark with glasses on so I’ll let it slide.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger which is dramatic but unlikely to convince the audience of any serious consequences. The takeaway is clearly meant to focus on Courtney has her ass seriously kicked rather than any potential danger to her life. But it works well in the context of the episode and will be great jumping off point for part two next week.
“Shiv, Part One” is the beginning of a perfect origin story for Shiv. A brilliant mix of teen drama and comic book action and another solid entry in the show’s first season.
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.