Every time we think Stargirl can’t get any darker and twistier, it one-ups itself by leaning even more into the horror genre. Stargirl, “Summer School: Chapter Nine,” takes us to the past to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. That trip down memory lane is layered with discoveries and new mysteries, making the fight against Eclipso nowhere near over yet.
This episode brings back familiar faces from the Arrowverse, and they don’t take away from the overall plot. Instead, those characters spotlight what Stargirl could do better and, hopefully, will deliver on as the season progresses. By doing so, this show continues to prove itself to be one of DCTV’s strongest from its ability to harness character-driven moments and carefully intricate plot devices.
Eclipso Is Real Evil
There are no redeeming qualities about Eclipso, and it’s pleasant to have still no major players make that argument on Stargirl. The nuanced villains of this show are one of the many fantastic elements that make tuning in every week so exciting. Even someone like Icicle, who is also irredeemable, has more grey to his composition than Eclipso. The same could be argued (in the beginning) about Brainwave, and it’s because of the early introductions of their sons Cameron and Henry Jr.
The addition of their families and our sympathy for them makes rooting for them to turn it all around and make the right decision all the more complicated. It’s a test of our conscience as well as the other Blue Valley residents. But, of course, that twinkle of redemption for Icicle and Brainwave quickly dimmed and never found its spark again. Even the slightest potential of that does not exist with Eclipso. It would be wise for this show if it never does. There doesn’t need to be a reason to root for Eclipso after proving he is the worst of the worst. Let him be the real evil.
Give Us More Barbara Whitmore
Amy Smart is excellent in “Summer School: Chapter Nine.” Everyone is dealing with their own worst nightmares, so it’s not bizarre for no one to check in on Barbara throughout the episode. Still, the urgency of Barbara getting home to her family is palpable through Smart’s performance. As fun as it is to have Neil Jackson back as Icicle, it is disturbing because even a vision of Icicle tries to gaslight Barbara.
It’s their interactions (and the brief moment with The Shade) that makes me yearn for more of Barbara Whitmore on Stargirl. Her fears of inadequacy and incompetence are valid fears when standing alongside heroes and villains with unimaginable abilities. We see Mike grapple with that throughout this season and how that parallels his coming-of-age story. Barbara should get the same chance to explore those valid feelings since she is an integral part of this family and now team.
Pat Dugan Deserves Better
We know that Sylvester Pemberton (or at least his doppelganger) is out in the world, looking for Pat Dugan. Their eventual reunion used to be something I looked forward to because of how Pat talked about his friendship with Sly. However, because of the flashbacks in “Summer School: Chapter Nine,” the idea of a big reunion leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Pat deserves better than what the Class JSA and, more importantly, Sylvester Pemberton gave him.
It’s heartbreaking to see the JSA treat Pat as a prop to get them from one place to the next. The only person willing to value Pat’s voice is Jay Garrick, and we know that we won’t be able to keep him around forever. The death of Rebecca McNider and the then murder of Bruce Gordon are two events that changed the members of the JSA forever, but this episode suggests their disinterested perspective on Pat Dugan isn’t as new a phenomenon as we may want to believe.
Luke Wilson is always exceptional, but the notable differences in Wilson’s performances of Pat throughout the decades are incredible. It makes it hurt all the more to live in the present where that excitable and more innocent version of the character no longer exists. The past affected him in an unchangeable way, and it’s so intriguing to see that represented in Pat’s vocal tone and physicality. On the other side of that coin, it’s telling that Pat always makes sure every team member feels valued. It’s a critical way for Pat to make the new JSA a more welcoming place than before.
What about the New JSA?
Unfortunately, the flashbacks of the Classic JSA show how ineffective a similar ending would be for the new JSA as it stands currently. There is now far more known about the original JSA, their motivations, and their connections with each other than can be said for Courtney, Beth, Rick, and Yolanda. There is no precedent for a meaningful breakup between them since that essentially already exists. Plus, the JSA has already broken the preexisting code because Yolanda killed Brainwave.
If anything, this is proof that history can’t repeat itself because the present is already so different. Stargirl can still have the JSA split ways at the end of the season because of Eclipso, but it has a lot of work to do before making that payoff. First and foremost, the JSA needs to reunite again and strengthen their relationships as a team, if not as friends. We need to get to know them as well as the Classic JSA (Jay Garrick excluded because of his longevity in the Arrowverse).
The threat of Eclipso isn’t suddenly null and void, though. His ability to fracture the JSA is striking in the past and present. Seeing Bruce’s blood on Starman’s suit is an image that directly tampers with the reputation of that hero. Furthermore, despite Courtney saving her family, Eclipso still wins at the end of “Summer School: Chapter Nine” by causing a great rift between the Dugan/Whitmores. Those developments are concerning for the eventual reemergence of Sylvester and the fallout this will have on Courtney.
Dance with the Dark Side
It won’t be a Stargirl review without praising Hunter Sansone for his performance as Cameron Mahkent. His performance is easily one of the standouts of a packed episode — Sansone’s ability to walk the line between good and evil plays into the illusion so well. That tension makes it impossible not to root for a time in which Cameron becomes temporarily evil. Though we may be setting ourselves up for heartbreak with that wish, it may be worth it to see Sansone bring it again as he does during “Summer School: Chapter Nine.”
Sansone delivers each of his lines to Trae Romano with the kind of careful conviction that makes it inevitable to get swept up in the facade alongside Mike. It’s riveting to watch Cameron shift throughout the scenes with a tilt of the head or an infection of a word. Once again, the attention to vocal tone and physicality with this cast is outstanding. One of the best and devastating portions of this Dark!Cameron tease is his freeze breath we once saw Icicle wield. I need to see more of that!
Perhaps the eeriest part of this nightmare is that it could quickly become a reality. It’s more than unlikely that Brainwave, Henry Jr., Icicle, and Rebecca McNider will come back from the dead. Those nightmares are personal anxieties physically realized. Cameron Mahkent, from Mike’s perspective, is that, too. Additionally, he represents something else more concerning: the potential for history to repeat itself. This isn’t referencing the Classic JSA’s history that Pat tiptoes around, but the current JSA’s history — the one that still impacts Courtney, Beth, Rick, and Yolanda.
Out of everything in “Summer School: Chapter Nine,” Cameron’s journey to discover the truth about Courtney, the JSA, the ISA, and himself is the ghost that haunts me the most. He’s the wild card no one is giving the proper attention. That means Eclipso won’t even need to push that first domino for there to be cataclysmic effects. That’ll happen all on its own, and that’s terrifying.
Other Spark-tacular Moments:
- Pat geeking out at the sight of Jay Garrick is adorable and something I would do.
- Mike eavesdropping on Courtney and Beth’s call is such a little brother thing to do.
- I like that the mystery of Emily’s identity being a slow burn.
- Mike and Buddy being precious together makes my heart grow three sizes.
What did you think of Stargirl 2×09, “Summer School: Chapter Nine”? Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.