With several of The CW’s TV superhero series wrapping up, “Stargirl” is a welcome addition to a DC library of shows that is consistently impressive.
The series premiere opens on a flashback sequence set 10 years in the past, introducing viewers to the Justice Society of America (JSA). The team, led by Starman (Joel McHale), are defeated in battle by the Injustice Society after Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) causes the death of the original Starman. The production value on this sequence was stunning, an area that DC has been excelling at with their selection of in-house (DC Universe streaming app) TV shows like “Titans” and “Doom Patrol.” 10 years after the fall of the JSA, we are introduced to Courtney Whitmore, a high school sophomore who is moving to Nebraska with her family. Courtney struggles with the move and also struggles to develop any rapport with her step-dad — and former sidekick to the deceased Starman — Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson). Courtney eventually uncovers the Cosmic Staff, formerly wielded by Starman, and finds that her skills as a gymnast compliment the magical abilities of the staff.
Up to this point, this story has been told a thousand times over, especially in the superhero genre. Our protagonist is an angsty teenager that has trouble adjusting to life in a new town filled with over-the-top bullies. However, what keeps this new series from falling on the wayside of cliche superhero tropes is the timing of its release. DC’s new direction for the DC Extended Universe comes at a time where fans of the genre are suddenly experiencing a dry spell of content with the postponement of a slew of DC and Marvel films. “Stargirl” simply fills in that void with a convincing performance by its cast and clever interactions between characters.
The pilot featured strong cast performances all around. Courtney’s relationship with her step-dad Pat is clearly a strained one and Wilson does enough as the former sidekick to keep viewers interested in the role he plays throughout the series. Courtney’s discovery of the Cosmic Staff is sure to change that relationship around, likely making Wilson a mentor to Courtney. Also contributing to the quirky family connection is Courtney’s young step-brother, Mike Dugan; he is a surprisingly witty addition to the otherwise cliched family dynamic. There are some secrets to be learned here, like why Courtney’s mom kept her husband’s superhero identity from her own daughter, and the villainous Brainwave’s intentions now that Courtney is the defacto proprietor of the Cosmic Staff — a glowing melee weapon that has a consciousness of its own.
Will Courtney reform her own modern version of the JSA? If so, fans should be prepared to be introduced to a whole new roster of young vigilantes in the growing DC universe. We don’t know much about Henry King, Sr. aka Brainwave, the villain of the series, but we do know he is responsible for the death of Starman — Courtney’s supposed father. This sets up some measure of anticipation for the next few episodes of this arc, and provides just enough intrigue for viewers to tune in and learn more about these largely under the radar DC characters.
The overall simplicity of this origin story of sorts, is sure to provide fans with an aptly-needed superhero show that delivers a simple message of aimless curiosity and hope. Though it’s a message that has been thoroughly overdone in the superhero genre, it’s a message that is always welcome, especially in times of crisis. Although it didn’t have an established conflict, the brief appearance of Brainwave was enough to impose an ominous presence on the aura of the show. So far, “Stargirl” is sufficiently enjoyable and has plenty of material to explore as the series progresses.
Verdict: The “Stargirl” pilot episode is uninventive but has enough heartwarming moments for viewers to enjoy. It has enough twists that are familiar yet interesting enough for viewers to stick to this one. As another DC universe project that makes the most out of their E-list characters and newest member of the DC Extended Universe roster, “Stargirl,” may be well on her way up that list.