Stargirl 3×03, “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail,” gets closer to finding balance with its ensemble as the characters search for a balance of their own. Along the way, secrets strengthen bonds and weaken others, sending the show’s heroes and villains in an exciting direction. This episode follows through and levels up expectations for Season 3.
Because Stargirl examines the macro in the first two episodes of Season 3, “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail” succeeds by zooming in on the micro. This episode’s appeal hinges on how it uses Blue Valley’s charm as a backdrop for mundane stories that springboard antics from superheroes, supervillains, and all those who exist in between.
The more frequent visits to Blue Valley High would be monotonous if they only served the purpose of the JSA talking shop. Furthermore, it would underscore the disconnect within the JSA because their group scenes would only exist to further the murder mystery instead of the characters within the group. This episode avoids that — slightly.
For the most part, most of the JSA’s scenes still orbit around the murder mystery instead of them being people who like to spend time together. However, “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail” posits that it’s because even the JSA struggles to find a balance between their superhero lives and their everyday lives.
That acknowledgment doesn’t erase the frustration regarding the lack of exploration of the JSA’s different dynamics. Instead, it instills hope that Stargirl is aware of the awkward tension and plans to evaluate it. For example, including a short and initially low-stakes Beth and Rick scene works wonders in granting their dynamic more dimension.
Its casual nature suggests Rick driving Beth to school isn’t unusual, meaning this team is made up of friends who spend time together — Stargirl just doesn’t show it as often as it should. Moreover, Rick opening up to Beth about how he’s alone since Matt left shouldn’t be understated. Rick’s vulnerability in sharing something so personal with Beth is huge.
Rick’s admission exemplifies his growth because, in Season 1, Rick would have bottled up that fact and channeled it into his next use of the hourglass. He may still do that now, but Rick’s at least letting Beth in on what’s happening in his life. Consequently, Rick’s inclusion of her implies a trust that fortifies the JSA and the characters’ evolving dynamic.
Similarly, “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail” picks up Courtney and Cameron’s forbidden romance and starts to give it real stakes — superpowers or not. Even if Cameron didn’t have emerging abilities that could hurt himself, Courtney, and others, this romantic narrative feels so true to young love in high school. It’s awkward and adorable.
Namely, Courtney and Cameron’s walk is so mundane that it’s easy to forget Stargirl is about teenagers with aliases. Instead, it plays as two teenagers with crushes they don’t know how to navigate because of what they’ve been through over the last year. The pull of humanity between them makes the push of Cameron’s superhuman powers effective.
The camera catches their hands, wanting to connect, but Cameron pulls away because he could unintentionally hurt her if his powers flair. It’s a compelling display of their forbidden romance, but it quickly becomes a human story when Cameron says he has to go. Stargirl expresses an awareness of how Courtney used that line with Cameron.
So, he desires to keep her at arm’s length for multiple reasons — almost like a double-edged sword, and it lands so well. Brec Bassinger and Hunter Sansone continue to do great work together, as do Neil Hopkins and Joy Osmanski. The latter repeatedly proves that making them series regulars is one of the best things to happen to Stargirl.
Their comedic timing is impeccable, and it becomes even more impressive when they can seamlessly switch gears and harness any scene’s drama. Stargirl is a charming, hilarious, heartfelt show that usually strikes a wonderful balance of humor and drama. Stargirl‘s all-star cast continuously showcases its expertise in executing that vision.
Stargirl 3×01, “Frenemies – Chapter One: The Murder,” is an evergreen reminder that Joel McHale is especially great at that. So, it’s a dream come true for this episode to give McHale, Hopkins, and Osmanski free rein to literally bounce off each other in Blue Valley’s local grocery store. Their fight sequence is one of the best on the show thus far.
The dialogue leading up to the fight being an argument about The Purge is something only those three actors could make equal measures comical and serious. It softens the edge of the battle until the action ensues. Nevertheless, it’s jarring to see three supposedly reformed heroes and villains of a different time destroy a small business in a small town.
That point hits harder after Stargirl follows Sylvester through a day in Blue Valley, reaffirming its charm and innocence. That precursor makes Sylvester’s rash actions even harder to comprehend, and it questions how much the Crocks changed if Sylvester could easily push their buttons. Also, it contributes to Stargirl‘s discussion of modern heroes.
All of which “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail” examines upon everyone’s return to the Whitmore-Dugan house. Pat and Sylvester’s heated confrontation is more than necessary. Pat’s easygoing nature and kindness are vital on Stargirl, but Sylvester needs more than niceties after using Cosmo to create chaos rather than inspire greatness.
Their conversation reinforces that Sylvester’s adjustment to the modern era is as big of an adjustment as the Crocks breaking good. So it’s engaging for Stargirl to threaten their progress — however slight — by pitting them against each other. But, fascinatingly, all three end the episode with a sympathetic fresh start that Blue Valley encourages.
Sylvester’s comes on the heels of Pat pulling out the big guns and giving Sylvester an opportunity to be a better man and a better Starman with the purpose of doing it for Courtney. Sylvester has self-destructive behaviors that stem from his survivor’s remorse, so it will be interesting to see if his motivations ever shift. He can’t always exist for others.
“Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail” potentially cuts Sylvester’s redemption journey short as he meets a similar fate to The Gambler when he returns to the crime scene. It’s not entirely believable that Stargirl would permanently kill Sylvester after he defied death once before. Therefore, the stakes of that reveal are nearly nonexistent.
After all, Sylvester only started turning over a fragile new leaf in the episode’s final act. Mostly, he is pretty mean and rude during “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail.” For instance, his comments to Cindy Burman are a projection of his perception of Dragon King, which is not only unfair but a cruel way to twist a knife in Cindy’s chest.
In many ways, Cindy is where Sylvester wishes he could be. Cindy is a (sometimes reluctant) member of the Justice Society of America after proving herself in the battle against Eclipso. Her growth is non-linear, but her development has spanned two seasons, which Sylvester doesn’t have on his side. There’s time invested in Cindy’s progression.
So, Sylvester is at the starting line of a very long race, and Cindy is somewhere in the middle — perhaps with the Crocks. Assuming Sylvester lives, that narrative juxtaposition will be intriguing to watch. Regardless, Stargirl Season 3 makes notable progress in featuring its ensemble more equally, meaning this episode sticks the superhero landing.
Other Sparktacular Moments:
- Maria being proud of her tea
- Pat and Barbara drinking out of their World’s Greatest Mom and Dad mugs
- Cindy still calling Courtney “new girl”
- Paula and Barbara becoming best friends
- Every time Zeek is on screen
- The entire exchange between Cameron and Rick
What did you think of Stargirl 3×03, “Frenemies – Chapter Three: The Blackmail?” Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.