Stargirl 2×10, “Summer School: Chapter Ten,” is about chosen families, complicated legacies, and how far people will go to protect both. If you take a second to look at this show as a whole, those themes run deep in every episode. So this episode takes an even closer look at why they are relevant to Stargirl‘s thesis. It does so in a way that tees up the remaining three episodes of the season as unbelievably unpredictable.
The twists and turns in “Summer School: Chapter Ten” are uniquely specific to certain characters, but Stargirl uses them to advance the plot. It’s refreshing to know that this show avoids a sophomore slump in this regard. The show refuses to let the story move the characters and instead allows its characters to guide the plot. As a result, it unfolds organically because of the richness of the characters’ pasts, presents, and futures.
Brotherhood Is Complicated
There is so much untapped potential still waiting to unfold in the final three episodes of the season (and next season. The expository work Stargirl does now through character-driven moments will make those punches hit harder. That technique is already at play between this episode and “Summer School: Chapter Nine.” The use of non-linear storytelling reinforces the complications of human relationships — especially those involving superheroes.
Sylvester and Pat are going to have highs and lows after decades of friendship, decades of brotherhood. The previous episode is hard to watch because we see Sly treat Pat terribly. This episode gives us context, and it’s wise Stargirl never uses that context as an excuse. Sylvester even holds himself accountable for going too far in the name of protecting Pat. Sly faces the consequences of his decision, as does Pat with Courtney. The parallels write themselves.
More generally, there is some terrific juxtaposition at play in this scene. This conversation is Sylvester at his most vulnerable out of all of his rare appearances on Stargirl yet. It’s meaningful that such a moment can still happen while he wears his Starman suit. He could’ve changed before speaking with Pat. The image of a superhero opening up about something tragic and owning up to his mistakes while wearing the suit that stands for something greater is fantastic.
It is an excellent decision to start “Summer School: Chapter Ten” with this scene because it sets the tone. It creates a foundation for a formative relationship on the show. Joel McHale and Luke Wilson are so great and present in it. But, more importantly, it sparks a fire that burns throughout the entire episode with the line “Family isn’t born; it’s chosen. You taught me that.”
Jennie Isn’t Alone Anymore
Bringing Ysa Penarejo‘s Jennie-Lynn Hayden back to Stargirl was inevitable, but the timing couldn’t have been better. This season needed a reminder that family is what you make it. Jennie’s unwavering conviction in finding her brother is direct evidence of that. Unfortunately, life and circumstances (and Mister Bones!!!) keep driving the pair apart, but Jennie never stops fighting. Her skills make her an asset to the JSA’s cause, but her heart and tenacity make her an obvious addition to the found family.
The primary way to know that Jennie is here for the long haul is the amount of Easter eggs hidden in her ongoing origin story. Stargirl did the very same thing with each of the new JSA members. Next season, the Helix Institute for Youth Rehabilitation, Mister Bones, and even Todd Rice could be key players. Adding them to the Eclipso/The Shade of it all this season could get a little convoluted. That’s a lot of weight to put on Jennie’s back, and whatever comes of it won’t feel earned unless Stargirl spends more time getting to know this character.
Penarejo brings such heart to the few scenes Jennie’s in that the desire to learn more about the character is indisputable. Despite it being the very thing her powers react to, Jennie wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s powerful to watch Pat and Courtney assure her that nothing is wrong with her rather than condemn her and her actions. She’s just a confused kid who needs someone to believe in her. Courtney Whitmore is the perfect candidate for that position, making Courtney’s absence more intriguing.
Dr. Mid-Nite to the Rescue
“Summer School: Chapter Ten” reveals The Shade to be unsurprisingly resourceful and selfish, but the way that Jonathan Cake plays this role creates uncertainty on whether those are The Shade’s dominant qualities. His interactions with Barbara always seem relatively innocent. They’re a lot less conniving than her run-ins with Icicle, but that puts the bar in hell (which Icicle most definitely froze over.) No matter where The Shade’s heart lies, it’s frustrating that is the second time a Big Bad has used her as a prop in their means to an end.
There has to be a way out of this cycle that lets Barbara have an arc of her own. Stargirl may be creating a pattern to acknowledge it as canon and then shatter it. That’s a welcomed shift that I would appreciate if it happened sooner rather than later. This team-up with Beth could have been more exciting had the show roped Barbara into the technical side of Dr. Mid-Nite’s work. There could have been scenes of Beth excitedly explaining her newfound skills to Mrs. Whitmore while The Shade slept in the background.
The exposition we get for The Shade is essential. Yet, it pales in comparison to the instant serotonin boost that comes with seeing Beth after stepping into her power during “Summer School: Chapter Eight.” Anjelika Washington holds Beth with much more confidence and joy now that she’s finding her place with her friends and as Dr. Mid-Nite. It’s riveting to watch her turn her parents’ mind games back on them. This new era for Beth is a long time in the making, and it’s setting her up to be maybe the only person who can save everyone from the Shadowland.
The Light Isn’t Gone Yet
This episode puts Pat and Courtney through the wringer — emotionally and physically. Everything in “Summer School: Chapter Ten” adds to the crucible between them, with the episode’s final minutes causing it to explode. It’s gut-wrenching to watch Pat cling to Courtney, but it’s devastating to watch the realization that Pat couldn’t save her after the fact. Luke Wilson is impeccable, always, but that final scene is one of the biggest tearjerkers of the season.
For all Pat (and Dr. McNider) knows, there is no way out of the Shadowland. That means that Pat is, once again, living with the survivor’s remorse that comes from believing he didn’t do enough to protect the family he chose. The richness and utter sadness laced in that story make Pat a pivotal player to keep an eye on during the final three episodes of the season. There will likely be plenty of more flashbacks to create even more opportunities to explore Pat’s dedication to his loved one.
Brec Bassinger brings her A-game once again by palpably expressing Courtney’s justified disappointment. Stargirl lets Courtney’s constant reminders of Courtney’s disapproval of Pat’s actions serve as a reminder that Courtney’s feelings are valid. The series never brushes off her emotions as that of teenage angst. Instead, it gives us all the evidence we need to know her anger is undoubtedly well-founded. Her friends’ — her family’s — lives were in danger, and Pat didn’t step up like she believed he would. As a result, Pat protecting his family jeopardized hers.
Now, the two are left on even rockier ground than they started the series. To add insult to injury, Blue Valley (and Earth-2) are down a hero — a hero who radiates light and hope when all is lost. Moreover, Rick is in jail, and Yolanda returned the cowl and her claws. The JSA is more fractured than ever before. Still, in one of the most devastating final scenes of the series so far, Stargirl leaves us with a glimmer of hope that shines green. Jennie is another hero-in-the-making who uses light.
Jennie only needs a few more training montages and a couple of heart-to-hearts with Beth Chapel to be inducted into what’s left of the JSA. Now that Beth has all the information about Eclipso at her fingertips, she and Jennie could be the unexpected duo that takes the villains off guard. Oh, and Mike. Mike is totally going to suit up in Stipe and help them however they can. See? All hope in the light isn’t lost yet.
Other Spark-tacular Moments:
- “I’ll admit it’s not my best entrance.” – The Shade
- Mike calling The Shade Benedict Cumberbatch
- Mike’s Buddy sticker on the back of his helmet
- Grundy giving Rick apples while he’s in jail
- The Thunderbolt’s return looming just around the corner
What did you think of Stargirl 2×10, “Summer School: Chapter Ten”? Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.