Director – Glen Winter
Writer – Geoff Johns
Finally the debut episode of Stargirl is upon us. After a seemingly endless wait for the first instalment to drop, here it is. The general vibe leading into this debut was one of positivity, with comic book legend Geoff Johns being extremely hands on with the show, lending an expertly guided hand to a character that is his own creation. Having viewed the first episode, it is my opinion that such optimism was not misplaced and that, based on this opening hour, this is a show that should keep long time fans happy with its frequent nods to the canon and should also help to attract a younger audience with its teenage protagonist and vibrant, fun tone.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the episode can be found within the first ten minutes. Serving as an extended prologue, set ten years in the past, the makers of the show have really gone big right out of the gate. JSA fan? Then you’re going to love this opening salvo. Helping to explain the history of the cosmic staff by way of a hugely entertaining smackdown between the JSA and the Injustice Society, this is comic book heaven. An almost endless parade of iconic characters have their own piece of screen time in a scene that must have swallowed up a huge amount of the season’s budget. That being said, we are only introduced to messrs Pemberton, Grant, Tyler and McNider. But based on the archival photo uncovered later in the episode (pictured above), there is always the possibility of the likes of Jay Garrick, Dr Fate and Hawkman joining the fray at a later date too. Hope springs eternal that we eventually get to see the full roster in glorious action. Perhaps an entire episode exploring Pat Dugan’s past?
That said, this episode is mostly set around the here and now, with an emphasis on a new generation of heroes. Whilst the new line up will only start to take shape over the coming weeks, a small teaser was shown during the final moments of the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-crossover, showing us the new team. But, that is something for another day. This is ground zero, with our titular heroine yet to become Stargirl. Introducing Courtney Whitmore and her family is very much the order of the day here as we get to know the principal characters. Played by Brec Bassinger, Courtney is the prototypical American teenager. Resentful of her stepfather Pat Dugan (played to great effect by Hollywood stalwart Luke Wilson) for moving the family from California to Nebraska, Courtney remains unaware of Pat’s superhero sidekick past. Bassinger is spot on casting for Whitmore, looking age appropriate and possessing the wide-eyed innocence of the character. Her sense of glee and wonder when first utilising the cosmic staff is palpable, which is a testament both to her performance and the writing of Johns. Clearly this is a character that doesn’t wear the burden of being a superhero heavily ala Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne. This iteration of Stargirl does feel lifted straight from the pages of the source material in a more accurate fashion than previous live action versions in Smallville and Legend of Tomorrow.
What this episode does effectively is set up characters and arcs that will pay off further down the line. The 3 misfits that Courtney meets on her first day at her new school? That’s the proto line up of the new JSA right there. Surviving members of the Injustice Society alive and at large? The game as they say, is truly afoot. Hell, we even are treated to a live action debut for S.T.R.I.P.E right at the end of the episode. I get the sense that this could be the show that keeps on giving to comic book fans. With a rich tapestry of heroes and villains to draw upon, get ready for more Easter eggs than we will know what to do with!
As opening episodes go, Stargirl is off to an extremely strong start. This is a fun, light show on the face of it, but certainly with a dark undercurrent lurking beneath the surface ready to pounce. Despite several flight scenes that do emphasise the show’s budgetary restrictions, DC/WB/Berlanti have put a lot of money on the screen here. It looks and feels bigger than the fare typically on offer from the CW, which can at times be a chore to watch. Whether this will also succumb to eventual fatigue remains to be seen, but I think we are on solid ground. A nicely rounded cast that will provide comedy and pathos in equal measure bodes well. The relationship between Courtney and Pat looks strong enough to carry the whole show, as the father/stepdaughter dynamic is flipped on its head with the emergence of their superhero team and Pat’s part to play as the eternal sidekick.
Thoroughly enjoyable fare, with enough there to make devoted fans smile with recognition and easily accessible for new fans too, Stargirl could turn out to be the new jewel in the crown for DC television. With a family friendly vibe, the young and the old can enjoy this in equal measure. Be sure to check this out on both the DC Universe app and on the CW!