Stargirl examines a list of suspects in the Gambler’s murder from multiple unreliable narrators’ perspectives on 3×02, “Frenemies – Chapter Two: The Suspects.” Despite the different points of view, the superhero series continues to struggle to find a balance with its ensemble of characters. Consequently, the mystery becomes muddier in more ways than one.
This episode is never coy that every character has ulterior motives — even Courtney, who is predominantly sympathetic to the Gambler’s intentions because of her (lack of) relationship with her father. To some degree, that understanding creates a fascinating standpoint to explore since the characters often use Courtney as a North Star.
Courtney’s inherent optimism, hope, and faith in the common good are best juxtaposed with Sylvester Pemberton’s character traits. The pushback within the JSA would be more intriguing if Stargirl spent more time building up the dynamics within the group. Instead, so far, this season finds its best angles through Courtney and Sylvester’s scenes.
This episode showcases how Courtney and Sylvester harness different energy to utilize the Cosmic Staff, and, rightfully so, Cosmo finds an issue with the latter’s approach. The narrative signals that Sylvester’s tactics changed when he led the JSA to kill Bruce Gordon to stop Eclipso. That traumatic event informs how Sylvester moves through Blue Valley.
It informs how Sylvester interacts with everyone — from former Injustice Society of America members to Pat and even himself. Sylvester, a man who originated the Shooting Star and led a team of heroes, is now encased in his anger, self-hatred, and survivor’s remorse. So, like the others, it’s comprehensible for Sylvester to turn to Courtney’s light.
Because of that deep-rooted characterization, Stargirl positions the viewers, alongside Courtney and often Pat, to sympathetically view Sylvester. There are points throughout “Frenemies – Chapter Two: The Suspects” when Sylvester warrants that perception, like when he finally opens up about his grief. But, he’s still a person of interest in the mystery.
Sylvester deems that all former ISA members are suspects because The Gambler only died upon returning to Blue Valley, yet Sylvester openly admits his despisal of the villains and arrives in town before the murder. The Crocks are also lovably suspicious. So, Stargirl repeatedly points out that no one is innocent in its engaging murder mystery.
For example, the Shade’s alibi isn’t ironclad, and “Frenemies – Chapter Two: The Suspects” prematurely clears him of wrongdoing. Of course, that swift execution could be because Richard Swift comes in and out of Blue Valley when the story needs him. His narrative obviously entails something larger that will resurface later, so he serves his purpose now.
The Shade twists the proverbial knife in Sylvester’s open wounds and almost too slightly nudges Rick in a new direction with Grundy. The latter doesn’t get as much screen time as the former, which is unfortunate considering how little Beth, Rick, and Yolanda are present in 3×01, “Frenemies – Chapter One: The Murder.”
Stargirl is visibly building to something with the malfunction of The Shade’s powers. The same is not true about whatever is happening with Rick and Grundy. It’s still unclear where Beth and Yolanda’s arcs are going this season. There are so few indications that the beginning of Cameron Mahkent’s narrative for Season 3 lands more smoothly.
It teases that Cameron could quickly enter his villain era, but his resistance to lean into his abilities suggests otherwise. This season does a great job of showcasing that internal conflict with characters. It’s also heartbreaking that Cameron can’t create art — one of his few positive outlets — without being in pain from the pressure of his emerging powers.
Stargirl‘s track record doesn’t instill much hope that this storyline will unfold evenly throughout the season, but maybe there’s more than one surprise hidden in the rest of Season 3. For the characters’ sake, hopefully, that is accurate. For instance, this episode increases the amount of Mike and Jakeem, which is a delight all around.
The duo infuses their scenes with curiosity and naivety that the JSA is missing more and more after everything with Eclipso last season. Plus, it’s exciting to properly hear Seth Green‘s take on The Thunderbolt after his brief introduction during the season premiere. The Thunderbolt’s antics never get old, even though one can assume they would.
After Stargirl Season 2’s unrelenting darkness, Season 3 does a fine job of striking a balance between drama and humor — this show’s sweet spot.
The season premiere contains heavier exposition to create the foundation for the murder mystery, and “Frenemies – Chapter Two: The Suspects” gives the characters and their narratives more wiggle room. Hopefully, as Stargirl dives deeper into this mystery and this season, it will find the same effective balance with its characters as it has its tone.
Other Sparktacular Moments:
- Everything with Pat and Sylvester in the booth is physical-comedy gold.
- The good cop/bad cop act they do in front of The Shade is also very good.
- Cindy sat down once Courtney convinced her it was the right thing to do without saying a word.
- Paula and Barbara may be my new favorite duo.
- All of Sylvester’s outdated pop-culture references
- Maria finally made a good cup of tea!
What did you think of Stargirl 3×02, “Frenemies – Chapter Two: The Suspects?” Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.