Review: Stargirl Season 1 – Episodes 1-3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Directed by: Glen Winter, Greg Beeman, Michael Nankin
Written by: Geoff Johns, Colleen McGuinness
Starring: Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, Amy Smart, Trae Romano, Yvette Monreal, Cameron Gellman, Anjelika Washington, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Hunter Sansone and Christopher James Baker
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Three episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Once again, DC Universe shines the spotlight on a character or characters we weren’t expecting to headline a TV series. This time, it’s Stargirl, who’s played by Brec Bassinger. Actually, The CW will re-air episodes on the day following their DC Universe debut (more on that later), thereby broadening the audience for this one.
Basically, we follow young Courtney Whitmore as she and her family move to a new town. Not long after arriving, she harnesses the power of the Cosmic Staff, and the requisite superhero adventures commence. Rest assured this is not “The Justice Society of America and Stargirl” as much of the internet has been wrongfully assuming – although the JSA does provide the backbone for the overall story as you will eventually see.
Seeing as how this show focuses on a high school student who also happens to be a burgeoning superhero, a dynamic such as the one shared between Courtney and Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) can really make or break the whole thing. Fortunately, Bassinger and Wilson work extraordinarily well together as both stepfather and stepdaughter, and mentor and mentee. This is by far the most family friendly of any DC Universe series produced to date, and I can see this relationship resonating with viewers far and wide.
Even after viewing three episodes, I can’t speak too much to Bassinger’s chemistry with the rest of the cast. There are several kids she meets at school that will no doubt play larger roles going forward, but they weren’t fleshed out enough for me to forge attachments to early on. Then again, I think the inaugural season was intentionally structured this way, lest the producers jump the gun and fall into that “JSA and Stargirl” trapping mentioned earlier.
Getting back to the subject of being family friendly, I couldn’t help feeling there’s a sense of optimism and wonder not unlike that displayed by Smallville back in its day. If you were a fan of young Clark Kent’s exploits, then you may feel right at home here.
When it comes to overall presentation, the cinematography is a notch above anything else on The CW, as we’re used to seeing DC Universe shows being shot like they’re feature films. Visual effects, however, aren’t flawless, yet they still trounce most of what the Arrowverse has had to offer this season, barring maybe “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” Really, I can’t be the only one who’s thought The CW has decreased the budget allotted to the once glorious Arrowverse.
And, of course, superhero stories would be nothing without their villains. In this instance, Icicle stole the show, at least in my view. Once you see him and action and begin to understand his motivation, you may find yourself agreeing with me. Oh yeah, we also get an actual comic book accurate version of Solomon Grundy in a live action production, so that was definitely cool to see.
Though it kind of pains me to say it, much of what’s presented in Stargirl‘s first two episodes is nothing new. We’ve all seen superhero origin stories ad nauseam – especially those involving characters still attending high school – and you’re most definitely going to get that “been there, done that” feeling. I’m just hoping this doesn’t turn off too many potential fans, because this show gets better the more it stretches on.
However, we live in a world wherein most viewers who watch TV shows on a week-to-week basis may tune out after only one or two episodes if they don’t like what they see. If you don’t believe me, take a gander at Batwoman‘s declining Nielsen ratings which read similar to that of a stock market report from 1929. Stargirl has the potential to be a much better series than Batwoman, but I can’t personally guarantee everyone out there will stick around for the third episode, which is where I really had my interest piqued.
Something else that dawned on me was that of the longer running times for these episodes. Shows airing on streaming services can often clock in at nearly an hour per installment (Doom Patrol being a fine example), and Stargirl is no different. The first three episodes produced clock in at roughly 53, 51, and 44 minutes, respectively.
Now, you’re probably going to ask why I’m even bringing this up.
Well, shows airing on The CW boast an average runtime of 42 minutes – and that means a lot of material will have to be cut for particular episodes of Stargirl so that it may accommodate a prime time slot on the network, therefore DC Universe should probably be your first choice for consuming this piece of entertainment. It’s entirely possible that we could see the longer installments being presented with limited commercial interruption, but I don’t know if that’s the plan.
Like I said, you’re going to want to watch at least a handful of Stargirl episodes before making your own judgment. You may be hooked right out of the gate, but I think the third chapter is what will really draw in folks. I understand that not every debut season will be like that enjoyed by The Flash, though the DC Comics scholars amongst you will no doubt fangasm over the JSA stuff served up. We all need something to make us smile during this difficult time, and Courtney Whitmore just might be the gal to fill that role.