Stargirl 1×02 “S.T.R.I.P.E.” feels like the beginning of a long love letter to chosen families. While it’s also a rewarding episode for comics fans, “S.T.R.I.P.E.” dives deeper into one of Stargirl’s core relationships — Pat and Courtney.
Brainwave’s generally lackluster presence as the initial big bad of Courtney’s life in Blue Valley can be easily overlooked when examining what his demise gives to Courtney and Pat. Not only does Barbara, Courtney’s mother, make it out of this episode alive, but Courtney’s team starts to form.
It only makes sense the eternal, enthusiastic sidekick Pat Dugan is the first person in Courtney’s corner. Of course it does take some time for Pat to adjust to the superhero life and seeing his stepdaughter suit up, and, to be honest, it still doesn’t look like he’s fully on board.
However, “S.T.R.I.P.E.” does such a great job at slowly pulling back the layers of Pat’s time with the JSA and the trauma he carries with him from watching his friends die that night all those years ago.
Pat’s past brings clarity to his hesitation to accept Courtney as Stargirl, beyond her being a minor actively putting herself into danger, and to his mission to get justice for his loved ones.
Their moment together after taking Brainwave to the hospital is unforgettable. There’s already enough to unpack about them taking a villain to a hospital rather than dumping him somewhere or leaving him there to die, but adding the emotional weight of Courtney choosing Pat as her right-hand man makes this scene truly great.
So much of Courtney’s life as Stargirl is already about her choices. Sure, the cosmic staff chooses her but it’s Courtney’s decision to pick up the staff and fight the good fight. Courtney chooses what her super suit looks like a pretty unprecedented montage where she makes her own suit. Courtney chooses Pat as her person throughout this journey.
All of these things might not seem like they add up to anything of real significance but they do. Courtney is a 15-year-old girl and it can be hard at that age, and any age really, to believe any part of your life is really in your hands.
Courtney takes control of her identity as Stargirl in “S.T.R.I.P.E.” Her suit is just right for her because she made it with her own hands. It literally suits her and her abilities, with or without the staff.
It’s also refreshing to see Courtney’s excitement and confidence in being Stargirl. Her belief in herself rarely falters, which only adds to the appeal others will see as they join her team.
All of this makes Brainwave and his mission for power via the cosmic staff more difficult to watch. His motives are still pretty uncertain as this is only episode two, but power is a pretty safe bet or at least a side effect of whatever his actual plan may be.
Anyway, Henry King is already unnerving enough on his own from the way he treats his son Henry Jr., but his almost eagerness to hurt another child and her family to get what he wants makes him a proper villain.
Stargirl does a great job of reminding Courtney of her age and gender, but she doesn’t let that inhibit her ability to save the day. This is why it’s difficult to believe Stargirl won’t address the age gap between the OG Injustice Society of America and Courtney.
It’s just a little too unsettling to see Henry King threaten a teenage girl in the hallways of a high school while other parents and students are just around the corner. Then again, maybe this is exactly what Stargirl wants viewers to feel. It’s still too early to tell with complete certainty.
This is not to say that the Injustice Society of America should cease to exist, because that’s obviously easier said than done. Instead, it could be more interesting to see the OGs pass down their powers to people who are younger.
As the teasers, posters, and episode descriptions reveal, Courtney’s team is going to be mostly made up of people her age. Henry Jr. may not have his father’s mindreading and telekinetic abilities right now, but he definitely doesn’t appear to be the good guy in this story.
Just as the Justice Society of America is adjusting to a new generation, it would be really compelling to see how the Injustice Society of America does the same.
Either way, Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. are a team to be reckoned with and the ISA should be ready. There may be a few more bumps in the road for the duo as they figure out this new dynamic on top of their familial one, but things are looking up at the end of this episode.
Other Sparkling Moments:
- I’m a really big Make It or Break It Fan so I geeked out a bit when I saw Neil Jackson again at the end of “S.T.R.I.P.E.”
- Did anyone else freak out when Pat mentioned Hawkman and Hawkgirl?
- Blue Valley is the cutest, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying it.
- Crusher is the perfect townie.
- Pat has to make that garage into a lair. It’s basically halfway there.
Stargirl is new Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.