Stargirl 3×09, “Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters,” is the season’s standout and one of the series’ best episodes. This episode is Stargirl firing on all cylinders with a dynamic ensemble. It’s a shame that such a feat of comic-book storytelling comes on the heels of the news that the show will end with its current season. Consequently, that news gives this special episode and its poignant scenes an increasingly somber tone.
Nevertheless, “Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters” brings series-long questions under the spotlight, pulls long-running wishes into Blue Valley’s reality, and delivers some of the best action The CW and any other DCTV show has seen. Where some of this season struggles to make room for the Justice Society of America that Stargirl builds itself around, this episode sticks the superhero landing with remarkable ease.
You’ve Got a Friend in the Crocks
“Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters” starts with a callback to Season 2 that strikes an emotional chord, setting the tone for the episode. Barbara waiting for Courtney and Pat to come home from the Helix Institute and The Shadowlands, again, is heavy — even though the audience has the knowledge that Courtney and Pat are alive.
The family’s heartfelt reunion seamlessly leads into two necessary conversations: one between Pat and Barbara and the other between Courtney and Yolanda. It’s the most uninterrupted dialogue the duos have shared all season, and it works leaps and bounds in reaffirming their respective dynamics. It’s also fascinating to see the reconciliations bookend possibly irreparable division at the episode’s end.
Pat and Barbara’s conversation gives Luke Wilson and Amy Smart the space to strengthen a relationship that hasn’t received much focus. Wilson essentially monologues hefty exposition about Pat and Mike’s past, yet his line delivery gives what could be clunky information true emotional resonance. Similarly, Neil Hopkins infuses his performance with levity and genuine earnestness when Crusher reaches out to Pat.
As no one other than Hopkins could portray Crusher, Joy Osmanski is impeccable as Paula. Her performance constantly teeters on the line of unnerving and yearning for acceptance. Watching Osmanski’s composure change when Barbara genuinely appreciates Paula is compelling. In this episode, Stargirl‘s use of adult characters, including Sylvester and Mr. Deisinger, is some of the best in the season.
The JSA Is More Than a Band of Heroes
Stargirl 3×09 never loses sight of the JSA because of the adults, which the rest of the season struggles to do. Instead, the episode delivers some of the best character work of the season for them. For example, Courtney and Yolanda’s conversation after their reunion is such a rarity on the show that it’s impossible to look away from the TV as the two girls cling to their friendship.
There’s always an undercurrent of superhero happenings on Stargirl, but their conversation in Courtney’s room is more about two teenage girls coming back together after a fight, and it lands well because of that. Likewise, the JSA’s conversation at the lunch table finally feels less like a discussion amongst co-workers but one amongst friends. Cameron Gellman‘s performance really pulls that scene together.
Since the character is notorious for his tough exterior, Rick’s emotional turn is jarring at first. Gellman’s performance matches that energy as Rick stumbles over his tears to get his words out about how much he loves Beth, Courtney, and Yolanda. Though Stargirl rarely makes time and space for friendship-building scenes that don’t mainly serve as JSA briefs or debriefs, this scene keeps its effect because of Gellman.
The ominous shot of the hourglass strapped to Rick’s side before cutting to the act break is a poignant way to provide greater context for his sentimental remarks. Additionally, it reveals that Rick is somewhat aware of the hourglass’s effect on him and may be fearful of what it’s doing to him. “Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters” even delivers some Hournite crumbs, suggesting Beth is conscious of the slightest change in Rick’s demeanor.
Camney’s Paradise Has Frozen Over
Anejelika Washington‘s Beth Chapel emerges from “Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters” as the MVP. A lot figuratively and literally crumbles in this episode, and even more would collapse without Beth as Dr. Mid-Nite. Also, it’s exhilarating to watch Beth step into the action and excel even more as Dr. Mid-Nite because she brings an offensive approach that juxtaposes Rick and Yolanda’s defensive ones.
It’s immensely ambitious for Stargirl to tackle an entire act of TV as an action sequence, yet the show succeeds with its execution at every turn. Moreover, it balances multiple tones that tug at all the underlying stories of Season 3 while creating new threads for the rest of the season, like potentially the end of Cameron and Courtney’s relationship. Not to mention, Rick’s at an all-time low with the hourglass.
This enormous number rivals Sylvester, Paula, and Larry’s brawl at the grocery store earlier this season. Funnily enough, Stargirl ropes in some of the Crocks’ energy by randomly bringing Artemis back into the mix. Her reappearance and quippy attitude cut through the tension but never really diffuse it. Instead, Stargirl uses that pressure to drive the sequence forward and elevate the audience and characters’ anxieties.
It’s an endlessly impressive act of TV that encourages multiple rewatches to capture everything it delivers. There’s so much to learn about each character from how they fight, whom they fight, if they pull punches, and when they don’t. A superhero show (or any show) must give its action purpose, and this sequence tells as much of the story as any dialogue would. It’s an unforgettable portion of Stargirl‘s legacy.
A New Monster and Mystery
Though the JSA will need time to recover from the explosive events of “Frenemies – Chapter Nine: The Monsters,” Stargirl Season 3 is not slowing down.
This episode finally gives Jakeem and Mike’s mission more of a purpose than aimlessly searching for The Gambler’s killer. Jakeem takes the reins of The Thunderbolt and leads him and Mike to what appears to be DC’s Ultra-Humanite.
While that reveal inspires intrigue, it’s the lead-up to it that works incredibly well in Stargirl‘s favor. Not only does it amplify the horror undertones of the season, but it also elevates Jakeem. Mike’s use of The Thunderbolt until recent stems from selfish desires of wanting to uncover the truth about Blue Valley’s murder mystery before his sister — and her team. Jakeem’s different perspective reframes the narrative.
The story’s shift reenergizes this arc as a driving force for the remainder of the season. Jakeem’s selfless desire to find and help Cindy, and stumbling upon Ultra-Humanite, pulls the three secondary characters into the narrative more confidently than the rest of Season 3 has until now. This ending feels like Stargirl is setting itself up to stick one hell of a superhero landing as it approaches its all-too-near series finale.
Other Sparktacular Moments from Stargirl 3×09:
- Pat and Baraba with their World’s Greatest mugs
- Mr. Deisinger trying to advocate for a student he is worried about
- Pat telling Sylvester to be careful on his way back to Blue Valley
- “You gotta know by now you can trust me.”
- Yolanda admitting to being. a little wrong about Cindy
- “I got your back. I’ve got everyone’s back here. No matter what. And you all know that. Because you are my family. And nothing will ever change that.”
- Paula teaching Barbara self-defense
- The Thunderbolt aligning with the lightning bolt on Jakeem’s shirt
- The way Cameron’s face lights up when he sees Courtney
- Beth’s parents talking to Dr. McNider
- “Don’t ignore love.”
Stargirl airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.