Stargirl 3×05, “Frenemies: Chapter Five: The Thief,” makes strides in striking a balance with its many moving parts, but the characters still buckle under the pressure of the plot. As the season nears that halfway mark, a focus shift during this episode opens the storytelling up to turn into a new direction that prioritizes the characters more efficiently.
“Frenemies: Chapter Five: The Thief” pull the characters together more cohesively than the murder mystery pushes them together. The latter still unfolds, becoming a secondary story to the interpersonal relationships on the show. That storytelling decision aids the mystery because investment in the characters gives it higher stakes.
However, the lack of focus on those dynamics until now causes a glaring disconnect when the drama ensues. Of course, Stargirl intentionally steeps some of the characters’ connections in mystery so that those threads can tie together later in the season or series. But, that tactic cannot work for the Justice Society of America — not yet, at least
Camney Is in Their Honeymoon Era
The disjointed drama between Courtney, Beth, Yolanda, and Rick come through strongly during lunch when Cameron stops by their table. The tension, though mostly unfounded, between Rick and Cameron holds the most credence within Stagirl‘s history. Furthermore, in fairness, Courtney calls Yolanda (and Rick) out on her unfair bias against Cameron.
Nevertheless, it’s challenging to understand how and why these teenagers are turning in on themselves as friends and a team again when there’s been little to no recovery from a similar instance last season with Eclipso. It’s the third season, and this supposed friend group has yet to find its footing, making the angst and drama less worthwhile.
It becomes exhaustive instead of constructive because the characters’ connections are surface-level and plot-heavy. For example, one of the last meaningful conversations about something not superhero-related was between Beth and Rick, and it was only a few sentences — if that. Their interest in each other’s personal lives is essentially nonexistent.
Therefore, it’s jarring for Courtney’s friends to become so interested in her romantic relationship. It would be different if the characters built some deeper bonds on-screen before this argument. Unfortunately, Rick, Yolanda, and Beth’s varying disapproval of Courtney and Cameron’s relationship reads as a professional liability, full stop.
Balancing Teen Drama and Superhero Drama
Strangely, Stargirl expresses awareness of the characters’ dual existence within the YA space and the superhero space during “Frenemies – Chapter Five: The Thief.” For example, Blue Valley’s timelessness means that Blue Valley High has bullies who still threaten kids for lunch money. But it still doesn’t do enough with the teen drama elements of its show.
In a sea of superhero media about primarily adult men, a live-action TV show based on young-adult heroes and anti-heroes works in Stagirl‘s favor. The show has such untapped potential in that department that shines during the lab partners scene between Cindy and Courtney. The double meanings in their dialogue skillfully juxtapose the setting.
The duo discusses the implications of literal villainous fathers and superpowers while touching on the human story of wanting to love and be loved and trying to pass a lab in science class. That scene proves how the show has its finger on the pulse of what it could use, so it’s frustrating that it never follows through as well as it could.
Mike and Jakeem are freshmen at Blue Valley High, wading through that adjustment period and trying to climb the ranks of the superhero world. That story is fascinating and collides the two worlds the show struggles to marry, but Stargirl never gives Mike and Jakeem the individual or collective depth they deserve to serve that narrative.
Blue Valley History Lesson
Sometimes it’s as though Stargirl is too caught up in its history to look to the future with the new generation of the Justice Society of America. The show is at its best when it uses that history to inform a better future, pushing characters to believe they can be better. Season 3’s shining example thus far is the Crocks — Larry and Paula.
Joy Osmanski and Neil Hopkins bring magnetic energy to every scene they’re in, even when that scene is crashing Pat and Barbara’s date at Richie Rock’s Diner. Larry and Paula’s best efforts to break good work in their favor even when their tactics don’t because Osmanski and Hopkins are like personified fireworks on-screen.
Two other standout performances come from Meg DeLacy and Hunter Sansone as Cindy Burman and Cameron Mahkent face-off — again. DeLacy and Sansone give an edge to Cindy and Cameron’s history. The setting of Blue Valley High’s halls adds a level of discreet urgency to their discussion-turned-argument that Stargirl should utilize more often.
Nevertheless, this scene reveals more than the tip of the iceberg regarding the duo’s shared history. In addition, it strengthens Cindy and Cameron’s characterization. It reaffirms that the pair lived lives in Blue Valley before Courtney’s arrival, which is more necessary than it sounds. Hopefully, this thread doesn’t become a loose end.
Sylvester Supports the JSA — For Now
As for other loose ends, “Frenemies – Chapter Five: The Thief” follows through on another loose end — sort of. This season has yet to give Mike Dugan any real one-on-one scenes with anyone in his family. Thankfully, this episode takes a beat to remind everyone that Stargirl knows he’s a valued member of this family, especially in Barbara’s eyes.
Barbara and Mike’s relationship is one of Stargirl‘s most underrated dynamics and one of the best elements of past seasons. So, it’s fitting for that emotional tether to pull at Sylvester’s heartstrings and inspire some intense reevaluation. Amy Smart and Joel McHale play off each other that it’s easy to forget Stargirl isn’t about a mundane family.
Their grounded discussion about mentorship is innately human, regardless of its implications on how Sylvester does or doesn’t foster a new generation of heroes. In turn, it’s a compelling narrative to see Sylvester turn Barbara’s advice into concrete practice. Sylvester’s call to Beth (while she’s taking a test) is a stark tonal shift from the past.
Sylvester’s guidance turns a necessary new leaf during “Frenemies – Chapter Five: The Thief.” Though heartbreaking, his advice to Beth about her parents is what she needs to hear. Instead of encouraging Rick to harness unbridled strength 24/7, he reinforces the relevance of Rex’s limiter. Sylvester still has a lot to learn, but Stargirl is about accepting people through their growing pains and believing they can be better.
Other Sparktacular Moments:
- What if Cameron found about about his dad from Wikipedia?
- All of this season has happened in five (5!!!) days?
- Why did it take Cindy that long to notice that she could use Gambler’s devices to hack into his laptop?
- Mike and Jakeem staring longingly at Cindy after she saved them from bullies
- Maria and Zeek sparking up a romance
- Beth calling Sylvester “Mr. Pemberton” like she calls Pat “Mr. Dugan”
- The reminder that Sylvester’s sister Merry Pemberton was married to Henry Sr.
- The Dr. Fate and Wotan name drops
- Operation: Dragon Queen
- Every nickname Cindy comes up with that keeps her from calling someone their name and becoming closer to them
- “You don’t want him to feel like us.”
What did you think of Stargirl 3×05, “Frenemies – Chapter Five: The Thief?” Let us know in the comments below!
Stargirl airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.