Stargirl 2×07, “Summer School: Chapter Seven,” is a tour de force for Yvette Monreal as Yolanda Montez. It’s an intense hour that digs deep into the depths of her faith, her grief, and her mental health. This episode could have easily moved the microscope out, looking at the events from a larger perspective. It could have been Eclipso all along, and that could have been the pull.
But Stargirl never does that; it stays with Yolanda. The events of this episode don’t have to be about Eclipso to matter, because Yolanda matters. We stick with her through some of the most challenging moments yet, and those scenes are where Yvette Monreal shines. “Summer School: Chapter Seven” reminds us that even when the heroes aren’t fighting against the villains, they are still battling their demons.
Brainwave and Henry Jr. Return
This episode does accomplish that goal of immense focus with the support of two notable guest stars. The keyword there is “support” because Christopher James Baker and Jake Austin Walker bring their A games as they return as Brainwave and Henry Jr., but it’s all to support Yolanda’s journey. Baker and Walker are two of the standout performers from Stargirl‘s premiere season, so even though it’s only temporary, it’s a joy to have them back.
Their return does make one thing inherently obvious. Brainwave will never be known as Henry Sr. again, not to anyone who knows him as Brainwave. His actions under that alias are irredeemable, and he will always be that supervillain. He can never be looked at as a father, a doctor, or simply a man anymore. The same is true for Jordan Mahkent and Icicle. The people who infantilize Jordan don’t know about his insidious double life.
Henry Jr., on the other hand, was just a kid when he passed. He was still figuring out his way. Henry Jr. royally messed up by not taking any accountability in the release of Yolanda’s photos, but he was on the way to being a better person, a better hero, by learning from his mistakes. He was starting to do the work to atone for his actions. Henry Jr. never went by an alias. He never had the chance. That’s part of the reason why I kept hoping for some magical loophole for Henry Jr. to be alive.
Henry Jr. never had a real chance to prove that having an alias that emanates real power doesn’t have to be the calling card of a villain. Instead, he could’ve established that there’s an opportunity to choose to do the right thing and be the right person despite making mistakes and growing up in the wrong circumstances. That pattern emerges, again, with Cameron Mahkent. Hopefully, Cam’s opportunity to make that decision for himself isn’t taken from him too.
The JSA Reveals the Truth
Each of the JSA members deals with the legacies of their mantles in different ways. For someone like Rick, it’s unavoidably personal. There is no separation of Rick’s past and his present as Hourman. It’s not equally personal for the girls, but it’s still about maintaining a legacy. So it’s heartbreaking to hear Yolanda call herself the “JSA member who kills” because she’s already counting herself out as someone who could ever be as good as the original Wildcat, Ted Grant.
This scene with the JSA could have, once again, been overwhelmingly optimistic to align with Courtney and the show’s general themes, but it doesn’t go there. Courtney, Rick, and Beth show up for Yolanda, but she’s right in that they can’t understand why she did what she did. That decision is hers. It’s also refreshing to watch this group of people support each other but still call each other out on things. Plus, this scene is so wonderfully in character.
It’s pretty bold of Rick to say that he would’ve killed Brainwave if he had the chance, knowing he spared Grundy, who supposedly killed his parents. But, of course, Rick will always present a front in which he doesn’t let his vulnerability show. As for Beth, her reaction is perfect for someone who has to think through everything. Beth isn’t going to make a rash comment to make Yolanda feel better or worse, at least not on purpose, because she has to process all of the information.
Of course, Courtney Whitmore would sit beside her best friend and tell her that she didn’t have to face this alone. Of course, Courtney does everything she can to remind Yolanda of the best parts of herself. That’s what Courtney Whitmore does as Stargirl but also herself. This scene is well done because, despite moments like this being few and far between this season, Yolanda can see all of that. She can see her friends for who they are. It’s sad but she knows they can’t help her find the answer she needs to move through this trauma.
It’s meaningful scenes like this one that prove how impactful it can be to the overall story to get Courtney, Yolanda, Beth, and Rick in the same room. This has to happen more on Stargirl more often than when they’re fighting a villain or figuring out how to fight one.
Yolanda Makes a Choice
Yvette Monreal is genuinely outstanding throughout “Summer School: Chapter Seven.” The horror themes of this season are no better than when played through by Monreal. Her fear is palpable through the way her voice and hands shake. Monreal’s performance draws us into the events of this episode in a way that makes the commercial breaks feel like brief moments to catch our breath before the next big swing.
Even the elements outside the school hallways are enough to add to the anxiety-inducing hour, like when Yolanda gives Eclipso a sucker to make him feel better after seeing something quite scary. It’s a testament to her heart that she wants to make a child feel better after something like that. But, it’s also a stark reminder that Yolanda, too, is only a teenager who has seen tremendous loss and pain.
Stargirl places this episode perfectly in its run so that our stress levels are just as high as Yolanda’s. Alongside her, we try to discover whether visions and headaches are a product of her mind, Brainwave’s influence, or Eclipso pulling the strings. The chance of any of them is possible, adding to the creepy undertones of this episode and the season.
This season is diving into the topic of body horror more explicitly than I assumed a show on The CW would. Stargirl never shows us the extremities of the experimentation Cindy’s father does to her, but the effects are felt through Meg DeLacy‘s performance. It’s felt through the way that Cindy carries herself and demands autonomy from beings like Eclispo, who uses her form as a means to get what he wants.
Body horror continues to make itself known on Stargirl through Yolanda’s mind. It’s still unknown whether or not Brainwave’s threats about living in Yolanda’s mind are genuine, but that chance is too high not to take seriously. It’s horrific to imagine his toxicity living on, let alone in the body of a young woman whom he taunts and abuses. Of course, this threat could be one that her mind creates as a means to hold her accountable, to make her sit in her guilt, for killing Brainwave. But even that isn’t a far reach for someone like Yolanda.
Before the events of Stargirl, Yolanda’s body was ridiculed and shamed. A celebration of her physical form (that was only meant to be shared with someone she trusted) transformed into a way to make her an outcast. Through Wildcat, she found a second chance to believe in herself, just like Ted Grant found in Wildcat. All of this compounded into a decision that doesn’t seem permanent for the series, but it is monumental. Yolanda’s decision to set down the cowl and the claws is her decision.
This decision allows her the time and space to reclaim what is hers — her body and her mind. This move enables Stargirl to dig even deeper into the role Yolanda’s family and her faith play in the burdens she carries, well beyond the murder of Brainwave. All of this opens up an opportunity to have a healthy discussion about how it’s not always best to suit up when you’re not doing the best mentally or physically. There is no shame in taking a beat to breathe, and Yolanda needs to catch her breath. Not for the JSA, for herself.
Other Spark-tacular Moments:
- Every single moment of Pat and Mike working together is like a breath of fresh air.
- I love that we never got. an answer about who posed STRIPE’s hand that way.
- The staff being in a crate, essentially sick, makes me so sad. Who would’ve known I would care so much about an inanimate object.
- The Shade is mysteriously bleeding around Blue Valley, and Barbara is the only one to notice?
- Cameron has the biggest crush on Courtney. It’s actually the cutest thing EVER.
- I don’t like that the broken pieces of the black diamond are just on a random desk in The Pit Stop. Anyone can grab that, Pat!
- The Whitemore-Dugan family unpacking their day together is very important to me.
What did you think of Stargirl 2×07 “Summer School: Chapter Seven”? Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.