Stargirl Season 1 Episode 11, “Shining Knight,” is a reconstruction of Courtney’s superhero origin story. It’s perfectly framed by the backstory of Justin the Janitor and a visitor from out of town. “Shining Knight” takes a step back, slowing things down after last week’s explosive episode. It would be a major disservice to Henry to move on as if everything is fine. If Henry Jr.’s death is the major loss of Stargirl’s first season, then that explains this episode’s dedication to better understanding what it means to be a hero. After all, Henry Jr. chose the light in spite of everything.
Justin the Janitor aka ‘Shining Knight’
Though there could have been more time dedicated to Justin’s story, the episode isn’t disjointed as a result. Stargirl carefully weaves Justin’s story to Courtney’s so that nothing truly gets lost in translation. It also works due to Justin’s foggy memory, and Pat’s limited knowledge of Justin’s life and heroics. It would be more of an information overload to have Pat sit down and explain everything to Justin on camera. Plus, it wouldn’t make much sense for Justin to get all of his memories back in an episode that isn’t dedicated to that mission. Ultimately, the show is named Stargirl for a reason, so it makes sense that Justin’s story serves Courtney’s. Without Justin’s epic backstory, we wouldn’t get that breathtaking, Arthurian moment with Courtney at the end of the episode. The Cosmic Staff doesn’t mirror Excalibur in that moment for nothing! Justin sums it up by saying, “Our queen has risen.”
Justin reminds us why Pat is the best, too. He’s the glue; I’m fully convinced everything would crumble without Pat Dugan. Even Justin’s vision of Pat is proof of this. It’s also super cheesy in all the best ways. Anyway, Pat Dugan is not perfect by any means. While it’s hard to know whether there truly is any good left in someone like Jordan Mahkent, there is no wondering with Pat. Pat extends so much patience to Justin that it almost feels surreal. He doesn’t urge Justin to “man up” and pull himself together. Pat is more than willing to sit with Justin as he cries, laughs, and puts words to what he can remember of his long past. He even calls Justin “one of the strongest, bravest men I’ve ever known.” It is extremely relevant that Pat does and says all of these things in front of Rick. Maybe Rick will finally learn a thing or two about how he should treat people.
Beyond that, Pat welcomes Justin into his home, with Barbara’s permission too, and offers his old friend a place to stay instead of leaving Justin to fend for himself. All of these things can be seen as someone doing the bare minimum for an old friend. However, Stargirl makes it abundantly clear that there aren’t a lot of people like Pat Dugan in Blue Valley. There are more people like Henry Sr. and Jordan, which makes it difficult to believe there are still good people in such a small town. Sometimes all you need is someone to be there for you when you’re down and support you on the way back up, and Pat Dugan is that guy. Pat’s faith in Justin leads me to believe that Justin is one of the good guys, too.
All of this is to say that Justin the Janitor proves himself to be much more than a custodian with a knack for saving the day. It’s a reminder that heroes can come from anywhere. My fingers are crossed that Justin can fight alongside Pat again, like they used to when they were members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. We’re only two episodes away from what’s likely to be an explosive finale, so the JSA could use all the help it can get.
Family of Superheroes, Please
It isn’t shocking that Sam Kurtis isn’t a great guy or father, because he doesn’t really give us a reason to believe he is throughout his entire visit to Blue Valley. Never once does he try to get to know Courtney beyond what he can see. Everything is a guilt trip on his behalf so that he can pawn Courtney’s half of the locket. Let’s talk about the locket for a second. That blurry photo could be Joel McHale as Sylvester Pemberton/Starman OR Geoff Stults as Sam Kurtis. They look just enough alike that the confusion between the two works seamlessly. It’s actually uncanny.
Anyhow, Sam’s inability to make any real connection doesn’t lessen Courtney’s devastation. In fact, it makes it worse, because it’s evidence that Sam loves money more than he does Courtney. It’s unfortunate and sad and Courtney deserves better. Luckily, she has better in Pat and Barbara.
I could spend another millennium writing about my love for Pat Dugan. Instead, it’s time we give Barbara Whitmore the love and respect she deserves. Barbara is stuck in an impossible situation that many heroes find themselves in: To save one or to save many. Obviously Barbara wants to do everything she can to protect her daughter. She can’t do that in good conscience if it means leaving helpless families in Blue Valley to fend for themselves.
However satisfying it is to watch Courtney confide in Pat and Pat punch Sam, Barbara and Courtney’s scene in the basement is one of the most moving ones from “Shining Knight.” This is one of the first big moments Stargirl dedicates to just Barbara and Courtney. It’s so memorable because their roles shift. Barbara turns to Courtney for advice on how to save the most people, even if it means that Courtney could die. Amy Smart is superb in this scene. You can see how hard it is for Barbara to ask such a thing of her daughter.
Stargirl is doing such a great job at blending Barbara into this superhero world. That is why moments of uncertainty, like this one, are necessary. Barbara is quick on her feet, she’s smart, and brave. However, she’s also a mother who would do anything to protect her family. Heroes make sacrifices that are hard to deal with, and Barbara is finding herself in that position already. It would be overwhelming for anyone. It’s nice to see Barbara take a step back after last week’s events and process what all of this superhero stuff means. I’m not even sure if there is a right decision for Barbara to make at this point. Leaving Blue Valley means that she’ll have to live with the guilt of knowing she could’ve done more. Staying means that she’s risking everything she loves for the greater good. This is a classic superhero dilemma, and Stargirl looks at it through Barbara’s eyes. Do you know what this means? Maybe I’ll get my superhero Dugan-Whitmore family sooner than later! Come on, can you imagine their dog with a cape? I know I can!
The only downside, at the moment, to this superhero family theory is Mike. Stargirl brings Mike in enough to remind viewers, and Pat, that Mike is so far on the outside of everything. It’s unfortunate when you look at it from his perspective, because Mike thinks his family is falling apart because no one will let him know otherwise. They’d much rather him think that there are cracks in his world than super villains looming in the shadows. There has to be a happy medium that brings Mike into the loop more. Right now, Mike feels like an afterthought to the family and to Stargirl as a whole. I’m not entirely optimistic that’ll change any time soon since there are only two episodes left in the season.
The Chosen One
Most of all, “Shining Knight” is about Courtney’s journey back to Stargirl. Prior to this episode, I didn’t understand why Stargirl brought in Courtney’s father this early in the series. It all clicked as soon as Sam walked into her home. Courtney needs to move past this time of uncertainty in herself to realize her own worth. Up until now, Courtney’s identity as Stargirl was directly tied to being a legacy and honoring her father Starman. Courtney must reevaluate the way she looks at the world and her place in it. Stargirl supports Courtney on this journey by having Beth and Yolanda, two other non-legacy heroes, stand behind Courtney.
In one of the series most memorable moments yet, Courtney reclaims the staff and reestablishes her belief in herself with Barbara and Pat by her side. It’s such a powerful image of unconditional love and support. That’s just what Courtney needs after a tumultuous day with Sam. Courtney may have never freed herself from Sylvester’s shadow without Sam’s visit. Now she can be a hero in her own right. Sam’s visit is the aftershock of Henry’s death that reignites Courtney’s fight for herself and others. Now Courtney can step into her star-spangled super suit and live up to her own expectations.
Her identity is no longer tethered to a father figure she never knew. Courtney is more herself than she’s been in a while. That’s what makes the Cosmic Staff choose her. Courtney Whitmore is Stargirl. No one can take that away from her now.
Other Sparkling Moments:
- I find it hilarious that someone from King Arthur’s time is named Justin.
- Is anyone else concerned that Mike is letting strangers into the house?
- I cried when Pat looked to Barbara for permission to talk to Courtney. He’s not doing anything else without her!
- Pat telling Sam, “You’re lucky I’m busy,” is such a power move.
- Rick is about to crack that notebook, right? They wouldn’t be giving us weekly reminders otherwise.
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.