Stargirl 1X09 “Brainwave” brings the show back to Earth after a stellar two-parter. In doing so, Stargirl begins to give more depth to Henry Jr., and it continues to throw shocking twists at us. Some of these twists hide in moments when our perceptions of a character shift. This is due to the way Stargirl blurs the lines between what we thought we knew, and a character’s true complexity.
Light Side of Dark Side
Henry Jr. hasn’t been much of a major player on Stargirl until this point. He’s mostly caused a lot of unnecessary drama and subsequent damage to people’s lives from the sidelines, but now Henry has powers. That pulls Henry right into the center of all things superhero and supervillain. This presents one of the ways Stargirl blurs the lines between good and bad during “Brainwave.” So far, you’re either with the JSA or the ISA, and Henry is no different now.
Henry joining the JSA is the furthest thing from a good idea at the moment. Even by the end of this episode, Henry has yet to prove himself as someone who could be somewhat heroic. Despite Courtney’s good nature and giant heart, her mission for justice is stronger than her loyalty to her new friends and team. Courtney even states that she doesn’t excuse what Henry did to Yolanda, but that doesn’t stop her from asking Henry to join the JSA. Yolanda found a safe space in the Wildcat suit and with the JSA, and Courtney is willing to jeopardize that without asking Yolanda’s opinion.
Yolanda has every right to be upset and feel betrayed by Courtney, which makes her confrontation with Henry more powerful and frightening. Yolanda presents herself to Henry as Wildcat in the first confrontation since he played an active role in releasing her private photos to the entire school. Her Wildcat suit serves as some extra armor in that moment. However, that heroic image juxtaposes her deadly threat. Stargirl never leads you to believe Yolanda’s threat is warranted or justified, which is another moment in which the show twists an idea of character on its head.
Henry’s way of looking at the world is very black and white, which isn’t very different from the way Rick sees things. However, Henry’s anger, at least recently with several overwhelming changes in his life, is somewhat understandable. Stargirl has yet to dive into Rick’s personal life for his anger to be understandable. He continues to call other people out, like Cindy and Henry Jr. on the way they take their personal issues out on other people, yet Rick continues to do so. Just as Courtney extends her niceties to people who don’t deserve them, Rick does the same with his sour attitude. It’s just as unwarranted as Cindy and Henry Jr., and it’s becoming quite tiresome to watch Stargirl continue to ignore that.
Presumably, Courtney is more empathetic to Henry because she could feel everything he did the night he found out about her secret identity. Also, Henry never brings this up on “Brainwave,” and that bomb has to drop eventually. Courtney’s plea for Henry to join the light side doesn’t feel hokey because of the way Courtney’s heart shines through nearly every minute of Stargirl. Of course she would try to pull Henry into the JSA by reminding him of his desire to love and be loved!
Courtney’s big hero speech may be for nothing, though, because Henry seems to have made up his mind. He justifies his father’s actions after having his powers for one day. It sucks that the powers are inflicted on Henry without his consent, but that doesn’t mean that he has to follow in his father’s footsteps and deem humanity impossible to save. It’s not shocking that Henry kills the man pretending to be the King’s family lawyer, because much of “Brainwave” is spent talking about inflicting harm as the only way to relieve the pain that comes with Brainwave’s powers.
The ISA will likely cover up the murder as a stroke, and Henry will have to live with the consequences. The ISA will probably recruit Henry Jr. in exchange for their silence about the accidental murder. Their master plan of controlling as many brains in the Midwest as possible could use all the brain power it can get, even with Henry Sr. waking up from his coma. This will make matters even more unfortunate if Henry does want to join the JSA, and this will add extra tension to his character. We’re finally getting more from Henry after weeks of demanding more than him being the stereotypical jock.
Dinner of the Century
Though “Brainwave” is the title of the episode, much of its tension revolves around a very crowded dinner table. This dinner does a whole lot of good for the Stargirl’s larger story and my fangirl heart. I’m a massive Make It or Break It fan, and I totally lost it when Jordan (Neil Jackson) asked Courtney about her gymnastics. For those who aren’t aware, Jackson played beloved gymnastics coach Sasha Belov on the ABC Family series. Seriously, I had a moment.
Anyway, this dinner gives us a glimpse into Pat and Barbara’s dynamic: Pat’s the cook, but he’ll always swoop in when Barb needs him. You know, because Pat’s the best. His persistence in wanting to tell Barb the truth is further evidence of this, however, his reluctance to do so because his teenage stepdaughter doesn’t want him to doesn’t bode well for him.
Beyond that, Pat unknowingly sits directly across Icicle at the dinner table. That brings the tensions to all-time high before anyone can say anything to make matters better or worse. In another twist, Courtney discovers that Jordan is Icicle at this dinner. This could have been a mystery that spanned the course of the season, if not longer, and Stargirl brings Courtney and Pat in on his identity this early on instead. It’s pretty awful that Cameron is so out of the loop, because he’s really precious and deserves better.
Speaking of ways Stargirl turns common superhero tropes on its head, Barbara finally knows more! She sees the staff, and that’s honestly a bigger cliffhanger than Henry Jr. killing someone and Henry Sr. waking up. Just like Courtney discovering Jordan is Icicle, the series could have dragged this out for ages. This opens the door for so many possibilities for Barbara! Amy Smart is too good to be pushed aside, and hopefully this massive shift brings her into focus.
Jordan seems genuine in his pursuit of friends, and Barbara is the only candidate at the moment. Courtney gets her big heart from her mother, and Stargirl shouldn’t use that against Barbara. Hopefully Barbara learning the truth but not from her loved ones won’t push her towards Jordan. If anything, Barbara would be better to have on the side of the JSA than Henry Jr. Where Henry Jr. hasn’t given the JSA any reason to trust him, Barbara has a million. She knows Blue Valley like the back of her hand, probably even those secret tunnels. She has Jordan’s ear. Barbara would be a great, super-secret spy. Can you imagine seeing her and Pat team up in the field? I could not be more here for all of that. Unfortunately, all of this can only happen if she forgives Pat and Courtney for their secrecy and wants to join the JSA. My fingers are crossed.
Other Sparkling Moments:
- I geeked out over the mention of the 7 Soldiers of Victory. It’s a perfect reminder of how much DC lore Stargirl can use.
- What’s going on with the janitor? We need to know more!
- They casually throw in how Cindy is trapped in the tunnels and that she killed her mother.
- Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” playing while Henry Jr. experiments with his powers is GENIUS.
- “It’s a classic, anti-Pat plan.” That’s a good line. I’ll give Rick that.
- Of course Pat gave Beth and Rick homework.
- Did anyone else notice Courtney pout when Pat mentioned telling Barbara the truth?
What did you think of this week’s episode of Stargirl? Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl is new Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.