Stargirl 2×04 “Summer School: Chapter Four” is an absolute thrill of an episode. It doesn’t have any massive action sequences or sets that make your jaw drop, and it doesn’t need to because the character dynamics at play are more than enough. Stargirl does a fantastic job of threading the needle with its villains. There are no better examples of villains being so bad they’re good than Sportsmaster and Tigress.
Adding the iconic couple back to the mix is a perfect way to instill a false sense of security despite all the darkness we know lurks around the corner. This duo shakes up everything we think we know, including the fact that Courtney is willing to go to the library to learn more about The Shade. “Summer School: Chapter Four” is an episode that wades through the shadows to find the heart of the show in potentially the least expected people and places. It’s excellent!
Cindy and the Consequences of Magic
It would be remiss of anyone not to note the brilliant work Meg DeLacy continues to do as Cindy Burman. The truth about Cindy’s mother’s death and her involvement in it remains a mystery, and Stargirl does a great job in ensuring we remain interested. It’s virtually impossible not to get drawn into Eclipso’s illusion alongside Cindy because the fear and grief are written all over her face.
Eclipso is terrifying because he can use the characters’ worst fears (reality or otherwise) against them to align with his narrative. Cindy’s willingness to use his powers against others, despite knowing what he can make her see and feel, is proof that she’ll do whatever it takes to see her version of the ISA realized. That’s terrifying within itself, but it’s not only that due to what DeLacy brings to the role.
When Cindy uses the black diamond against Artemis, there are tears in her eyes. There’s a smile on Cindy’s face, but there are also tears in her eyes. This power of Eclipso’s feels like the beginning of a grocery list of abilities, yet it’s already taking a toll on so many Blue Valley residents. Pat himself shares that Eclipso can make people do terrible things to themselves, too. Cindy does this during 2×03, “Summer School: Chapter Three,” when Eclipso gaslights her into believing her stepmother must die.
Magic has consequences, and Cindy is already seeing those consequences realized in her own life. DeLacy’s decision to allow Cindy’s vulnerability to rise to the surface is a reminder that she’s just a kid looking to regain some control of her life. Yes, she’s a supervillain in the making, but Cindy Burman is a person underneath her grand mission to reinstate the ISA. Eclipso plans to use that, her very human heart, against her more than he already has.
Shiv is far from a redemption arc just yet, but hopefully, someone can help Cindy realize that her heart shouldn’t be someone else’s weapon
The Shade and the Difference between Bad and Evil
Whereas Cindy is more of a prime example of the difference between bad and evil, The Shade goes out of his way to make himself the lead contender. He posies himself as the voice of reason amongst all the heroes and villains, including Pat Dugan. Jonathan Cake is so great in this role because his line delivery makes you want to believe The Shade. The moment that The Shade calls Courtney “a child” is so expertly performed because it’s meant to be a dig at Courtney, but its effects end up stinging him more than the former.
It’s still to be determined how much of The Shade’s story about Dr. Mid-Nite’s daughter is true, but his passion in delivering it instills a belief that a child did die at the “hands” of Eclipso. The Shade appears to have a desire to ensure that never happens again, and his accidental reminder to himself that Courtney is a child makes The Shade so intriguing. His allegiances aren’t clear, but his intention to keep children out of whatever is coming is obvious.
The Shade’s attempts to play off his endgame as one driven by boredom is laughable. Stargirl stands in direct opposition to the one-note villains that The Shade tries to poise himself in at that moment. Plus, Cake’s performance stands in direct opposition to that level of simplicity. There is more to The Shade than meets the eye. There is more truth to be discovered, more secrets to be revealed, and I’m eager to see how it all plays out.
Sportsmaster, Tigress, and the Power of Love
Stargirl’s decision to bring back Sportsmaster and Tigress is incredible, but to bring the couple back like this is epic. They come back not as their Injustice Society of America aliases but as Larry Crock and Paula Brooks, Artemis Crock’s parents. The fact that the couple breaks out of prison just to watch Artemis’ football tryouts, only to promise to break themselves back into prison afterward, is nothing short of legendary.
Neil Hopkins and Joy Osmanski are so delicious in these roles that it’s a joy to know they will be series regulars next season. Their chemistry is somehow electric and unnerving. They’re overwhelmingly supportive of each other and their daughter that you almost forget that they’re supervillains. That’s why it’s so funny to pair them up with Pat and Barbara who are all too aware of Larry and Paula’s transgressions.
It’s for that same reason that it’s riveting to watch Pat and Barbara find the common ground between the two couples: parenthood. That common ground is forced by a handful of threats, but it exists nonetheless. Stargirl is smart to hinge Larry and Paula’s appearance around the changes happening with Artemis. Her powers are manifesting faster than anyone likely anticipated, and it’s happening during one of the most stressful periods of her life.
It’s heartbreaking to watch Artemis fight to protect her family from a non-existent threat, but not only because of Cindy’s role in all of it. It’s heartbreaking because it’s a manifestation of Artemis’ greatest fear: losing her family. Her parents’ love for her transcends their prison sentence. It transcends their roles as supervillains. It’s that same love that leads them to make the most difficult decision that lets her nightmare become a reality.
It’s obvious this is far from the last time we’ll see Larry and Paula, even without the casting news. They are too great on-screen to let slip away into jail cells. But, Stargirl uses their return as a means to tee up Artemis as one of the most powerful characters on the show. Larry and Paula’s love for Artemis transcends everything, and so does Artemis’ love for her parents. Love makes anyone stronger, even those who align themselves with the bad guys. Love may be the difference between bad and evil, after all.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but it’s also going to piss Artemis off, as it should. Cindy Burman may have met her match with Artemis Crock.
Pat, Barbara, and the Responsibility of Parenthood
Stargirl’s decision to let the tension build about Dr. Mid-Nite’s daughter is so well done. At first, it appears as though The Shade’s attempt to divide and conquer by monopolizing on the secrets in Courtney’s family falls apart at the seams faster than he anticipates. Since this is only the fourth episode of the season, of course, it isn’t that simple. It’s actually far more intricate due to the vastly different dynamics between Courtney/Pat and Stargirl/S.T.R.I.P.E.
Pat owes Courtney a certain level of transparency when they’re on a mission because that’s how partners operate. Outside of all of that, Pat and Barbara are her family who must make a different set of decisions to protect her. That line is incredibly blurry, which is why it’s so interesting to watch Stargirl parallel their experience with that of The Shade.
The Shade faults Pat in front of Courtney for withholding information from her when, according to Pat, there is more truth to the story. It isn’t shocking for someone named The Shade to tell a certain version of the truth to present himself in a more agreeable light. It’s because of the blurriness between Courtney’s dynamics with her family as herself and as Stargirl that it stings to know that Pat and Barbara are keeping information from her.
It’s a testament to Amy Smart and Luke Wilson’s performances that their decision doesn’t come across as sinister but the exact opposite. There is some level of treachery hidden in The Shade’s words, but that isn’t the case with Pat and Barb. They’re only trying to protect Courtney like any parent would, like Larry and Paula decide to do. This tension isn’t something that will easily resolve this season or maybe ever, but that’s what makes it all the more compelling to watch unfold.
How much can we do for the ones we love to protect them from the things that go bump in the shadows?
Other Spark-tacular Moments:
- Dr. Mid-Nite is ALIVE? Love that twist!
- Paula judging everything in the Whitmore-Dugan house is so funny.
- It’s as great as Larry and Paula pretending to play baseball with their belongings in the background of Pat and Barb’s conversation.
- Where is Cameron Mahkent?
- How much longer is Rick going to be able to sell this dog lie? Also, how can afford all that food?
- The Shade made fun of Sportsmaster’s cleats, and Larry never let it go.
- Like Artemis says, “We Crocks don’t forgive. And we don’t forget.”
- Beth and Rick drinking the wrong milkshakes so Yolanda doesn’t get in trouble is so sweet.
What did you think of Stargirl 2×04 “Summer School: Chapter Four”? Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.