Monday, June 1, 2020

Stargirl Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

It's the first ever episode of Stargirl!

To be honest I wasn't sure if I was going to review this series or not. As it turns out I liked the pilot episode so much I decided why not? What else am I gonna do during the lockdown?

The character of Stargirl was created by writer & producer Geoff Johns, and she and her partner S.T.R.I.P.E. made their comic book debut in their own series way back in 1999. While the Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. book ran for a scant fifteen issues, the character of Stargirl proved quite popular and lives on, appearing in numerous other DC comics.

Johns has a deeply personal connection to Stargirl character, as he modeled her after his late sister Courtney, who was killed in the 1996 TWA Flight 800 disaster. After the 
Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. book ended, Johns then went on to develop a live action series based on the comic. 

In a recent interview, Johns spoke about the connection between Stargirl and his sister, saying, "Stargirl was, obviously, named after and inspired by my sister Courtney. It is her spirit and optimistic energy that I wanted to put back in the world with Stargirl. It is celebratory, forward-looking and positive. And I hope that comes through when you watch these episodes."

So far I've been underwhelmed (to say the least) by DC Universe's offerings, such at Titans, Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing. So I wasn't expecting much from Stargirl. In fact I almost skipped the series altogether, as I was expecting it to be another man-hating SJW-fest like Batwoman.

Happily, that's not the case. Stargirl is a compelling, exciting and best of all FUN adventure series. See, Batwoman and Doctor Who producers? It's possible to have a strong female character who doesn't constantly bash the male demographic.

Pilot episodes can often be stiff and contrived affairs, as they have to set up an entirely new cast and world, as well as tell a compelling story. Stargirl pulls this off effortlessly. It's well written and well acted, and features an impressive cast for a TV show, including Luke Wilson, Joel McHale, Henry Thomas and Amy Smart, to name a few.

It also looks surprisingly cinematic. In fact it could play in any cineplex across the country and not be out of place. It reminds me a lot of classic sci-fi/action movies from the 1980s, such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Ghostbusters and Back To The Future.

They obviously threw a ton of money at this project, and it definitely shows. Let's hope they didn't blow the entire budget on the pilot, and the rest of the season will look just as good.


The Plot:

Ten years ago on Xmas Eve, Stripesy (aka Pat Dugan) races through LA in his antique car, the Racer. He contacts his superhero partner Starman (aka Sylvester Pemberton) and says he's on his way. Starman tells him to stay away, as he's only a sidekick. Suddenly he screams and the line goes dead. Dugan steps on the gas and barrels through the front gate of a mansion, whose windows are glowing green with energy.

Dugan runs toward the mansion, where a battle's raging between the Justice Society Of America and the creatively-named Injustice Society. Suddenly Wildcat crashes through a window and lands in front of him. Dugan tries to help Wildcat, but it's too late. He rushes into the mansion, which is filled with energy blasts and explosions.

Hourman's attacked by Tigress and The Wizard. Doctor Mid-Nite sees Dugan and tells him to run, right before he's dragged away by a large hand made of black goo. The Wizard attacks Dugan, but is incapacitated by an energy blast from Starman and his Cosmic Staff. 

Just then the evil Brainwave appears and levitates Starman. The two blast away at one another, as Starman eventually gets the upper hand and hurls Brainwave across the room. Unfortunately Icicle hurls a jagged blade of ice that hits Starman in the chest. Dugan rushes to his side, as Starman says the Justice Society is finished. 

Dugan drags Starman to the Racer, throws him in and roars off. Icicle orders Solomon Grundy to bring them back. The behemoth chases after the car and easily catches up to it. Dugan pushes a button on the dash, and the Racer converts to jet-mode and flies into the air. Unfortunately Grundy manages to clip one of the engines before the car's out of range.

Dugan and Starman manage to fly quite a ways before the car gives out and crash lands. Dugan says he's going to get help, but Starman tells him it's too late. He says the Justice Society must live on, and someone has to become the new Starman. Dugan looks at the Cosmic Staff, thinking he means him. Starman clarifies he didn't mean Dugan, as only someone with grace, honor and courage can carry the Staff. Ouch! He then ups and dies.

On the other side of LA, five year old Courtney Whitmore stares out the window with an Xmas present in hand, waiting for her father to show up. Gosh, I wonder who dear ol' dad could be? Her mother Barbara tells her she has to leave for work, and Courtney's best friend Mary Kramer and her mom will babysit her. A disappointed Courtney stares dejectedly at the gift.

Cut to the present day. Courtney, now fifteen, is packing up her stuff— including her prominently displayed gymnastic trophies— for her family's big move. She sees the Xmas gift from ten years ago in the back of a closet shelf. She stares dejectedly at it again and tosses it into a box. Mary enters and says she can't believe Courtney's moving.

Just then a car roars up and Mary says it's Courtney's new dad. Courtney hisses that it's her STEPdad, and he's the reason she and her family are moving to Nebraska. We then see that Courtney's new pops is none other than Pat Dugan! It's a small world after all!

Dugan and his teen son Mike try to help Courtney with her packing, but she just snarls at them. Barbara reminds Courtney that whether she likes it or not, they're all one big family now and they made the decision to move together.

The new family sets out for Blue Valley, Nebraska. When they arrive, Mike's amazed by the size of their new house (which doesn't look all that big, but whatever). Dugan notices the movers as they drop a long wooden crate. He scolds them, telling it contains something valuable and delicate. Hmmm, I wonder what could be in it?

Later the family walks through downtown Blue Valley. Courtney and Mike are unnerved by all the friendly townspeople who go out of their way to say hi to them. They arrive at the diner where Dugan and Barbara first met. Courtney asks why Dugan was living in Nebraska, and he awkwardly says he was "looking for something."

That night, Dugan enters the basement of their new home and unlocks a trunk. We see it's filled with classified JSA documents, including files on the Injustice Society. There's also a map with Blue Valley prominently circled.

Meanwhile, Courtney unpacks in her room. She stops and gazes out the window at the stars, which are much brighter here in the small town. As she turns away, we see several stars increase in brightness, forming a pattern.

The next morning, Dugan drives Courtney to her first day of high school (where's Mike?). Along the way he tries bonding with her, but she ignores him. He drops her off and she pauses out front, dreading to go in. She enters and walks down a crowded corridor, spotting the various cliques, such as the band members and the geek squad.

She enters the principal's office, and is upset to find the school's gymnastic team has been disbanded due to budget cuts. Her class advisor tells her to go out for the cheerleading squad instead, as it's the "same thing." Courtney sneers in disbelief right as the Advisor takes her school I.D. photo.

Elsewhere, Dugan stops by the garage he apparently now owns. He's welcomed by Larry Crock, aka "Crusher," who owns a nearby gym. He looks Dugan over and tells him he can whip him into shape in no time. Don't worry— I'm sure this is setup for something that'll payoff in a later episode. 

Meanwhile, Barbara reports for her first day on the job at "The American Dream," which is some sort of charity organization (I think?). She briefly sees Councilman William Zarick and The American Dream's CFO Mr. Sharpe. More setup!

Back at the high school, Courtney runs into mean girl Cindy Burman and her friend Jenny Williams. Seems they've already vetted Courtney and ask her to hang out and join the cheerleading squad. Courtney says she's not interested in cheering, and their attitudes instantly change as they both stalk off. Even more setup!

Courtney goes to the cafeteria and looks for a place to eat. She sits at a table filled with three other loners and introduces herself. A girl named Beth Chapel warmly says hello and tells Courtney it's the table for "losers." Rick Tyler angrily says, "Speak for yourself" and walks away. The remaining loner, Yolanda Montez, says nothing. Although we don't realize it yet, we've just been introduced to Courtney's future teammates. Still more setup!

Just then Henry King Jr. and his posse swagger over to the table and begin harassing Yolanda, calling her a slut for some reason. Courtney tells him to leave her alone, and when he confronts her she shoves him back. He falls into a cafeteria worker, causing her to drop a tray of food. Principal Bowin immediately swoops in and takes Courtney to detention. 

That night, Courtney fights with her family at dinner. She storms down into the basement, where she kicks an old box. It falls over, spilling its contents. As she picks it up, she finds a photo of Dugan in his Stripesy costume, standing with Starman. Underneath the photos she sees the actual Starman costume. 

Just then the wooden box from earlier begins glowing. She opens it up and sees the Cosmic Staff inside. She picks it up and it glows even brighter. When she lets go, it hovers defiantly in the air. She twirls the Staff a couple times, and it starts pulling her up the stairs out and out of the house. 

The Staff takes her to a nearby park. It hovers ten or fifteen feet off the ground, and Courtney jumps up and grabs it, flipping around on it like a gymnastic parallel bar. She asks if its alive, and suddenly it flies off into the air, as she hangs on for dear life.

Meanwhile, Dugan enters the basement and sees the boxes have been opened and the Staff's missing...

Courtney and the Staff fly over a forest, and she eventually makes a hard landing. She looks through the trees and sees she's at the local drive-in. She sees Henry and his gang terrorizing the patrons in the other cars and disrupting the movie for everyone.

Courtney ties a bandanna over her face, then sneaks into the drive-in and uses the Staff to let the air out of Henry's tires. One of his gang spots her, and the others over and surround her. With the Staff's help, she easily beats the crap out of Henry and his thugs. The Staff then fires a blast of energy that destroys Henry's prized car. Courtney runs off, and Henry looks mournfully at the car, saying his dad's going to kill him. 

Courtney sneaks back into the basement, where Dugan's waiting for her. She tells him she knows he's secretly Stripesy. He's furious with her, but asks if she's OK. She says yes, but sheepishly admits the Staff blew up a car. He grabs the Staff away from her and says it's dangerous, and isn't supposed to work for anyone but Starman.

Dugan says the JSA was wiped out ten years ago on Xmas Eve, and he was the only survivor. She asks if Barbara knows his secret, and he says no, because people close to the JSA end up dying. He tells Courtney she's at risk just for knowing about the Staff, and to leave it alone. 

She wonders why the Staff worked for her. She opens the locket she wears, which contains a photo of her dear, departed dad. She compares the photo with one of Starman, and realizes they look nearly identical. She says Starman must have been her father, as they both disappeared on Xmas Eve. 
Dugan adamantly insists that's impossible (but doesn't explain why).

Undeterred, Courtney stomps upstairs and straight out asks her mom if her dad was a superhero. Barbara basically says her father was a no-good lout who abandoned them both, and Dugan's the only man who's ever been there for them.

Meanwhile, Henry Jr. sits in his study, telling his father what happened. He says a kid with some sort of rod fired an energy blast at his car. Rather than discount his preposterous story, Henry Sr. sends his son to his room. He then opens a secret compartment in his library, revealing his old Brainwave costume inside. Gasp! Henry King Sr. is Brainwave! And he's living in Blue Valley for some reason!

The next day, Courtney finds Dugan sitting on the porch, leafing through a scrapbook of his JSA days. She says he should have had someone help him come up with a better name than "Stripesy." He explains the name made more sense when his pal Sylvester Pemberton went by the name "The Star-Spangled Kid." 

Dugan was the driver for the Pemberton family when he was twenty and Sylvester was fifteen. Sylvester put on a mask to stop some crooks who were threatening his parents, and Dugan became his sidekick. Later on Sylvester changed his name to Starman.

Courtney tells Dugan she doesn't like it that he's keeping secrets from her mother, but she gets it. Plus he makes her mom happier than any man ever has, so she officially approves of him. She says she'll keep his secret as long as he doesn't get in her way. Dugan reluctantly agrees.

That night the Staff wakes Courtney and points to the window. She grabs it and it flies off with her as she holds on.

Meanwhile in England, Icicle gets a call from Brainwave, who tells him Starman is back. Icicle says that's impossible, as he personally killed him ten years ago. Brainwave insists he's back and came after his son.

Braineave (now in full costume) goes to the drive-in, where he checks out the spot where his son's car exploded. He seemingly senses the Cosmic Staff's energy.

The Staff deposits Courtney on the roof of a building, and she realizes it wants her to practice handling it. She does so, twirling it around and even learning to stand on it. It then takes off, as she rides it like a surfboard. 

Courtney revels in the experience as she soars through the night sky. Suddenly she sees something in the distance, and a swarm of car tires (?) fly right at her. She falls off the Staff and lands in a pile of tires outside a warehouse. She's then telekinetically thrown around as an invisible enemy toys with her.

She runs into the tire warehouse to hide. Inside she see Brainwave standing at the opposite end of the building. He uses his powers to pick her up, and telepathically asks where she got the Staff and why she went after his son. He then pulls her toward him, wondering why she's thinking about her father. 

Finally the Staff responds and hits Brainwave, knocking him for a loop. He sends another volley of tires at Courtney, but this time she's able to easily avoid them all. The Staff fires at Brainwave, causing an explosion that starts a fire. 

Courtney runs outside, where she's stopped by a giant robot that looks suspiciously like the red & white Racer. The robot says, "Courtney, I told you not to touch the Staff." Inside the robot we see Dugan operating its controls.


• I was impressed by just how closely this series follows the comic book version of Stargirl. In the comics, young Courtney Whitmore is the stepdaughter of Pat Dugan. She and her newly blended family move from LA to Blue Valley, Nebraska. There Courtney discovers that Dugan is secretly the superhero known as Stripesy, and years ago fought crime with his partner the Star-Spangled Kid. 

Courtney finds the Star-Spangled Kid's costume and gear, alters it to fit her and becomes the Cosmic Staff-wielding superhero Stargirl. Dugan then builds a giant robotic suit he calls S.T.R.I.P.E., and uses it to accompany and protect Courtney.

That's pretty much EXACTLY what happens in this pilot episode! In fact it's amazing just how faithful it is to the source material. Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. even look exactly like they do in the comic! The only appreciable difference is the Star-Spangled Kid/Starman change, which I'll get to in more detail below. 

I assume this fidelity is due to the fact that the character of Stargirl and this series were both created by writer Geoff Johns. Well done, Geoff!

• Just a heads up— I streamed the episode on DC Universe the day before it aired on The CW, and was surprised to see that the broadcast version cut out a TON of content! Seriously, thet deleted a good TEN MINUTES of content! That's a LOT!

I assume they did so to make more room for commercials? Whatever the reason, it's something to be aware of, and you may want to try and catch the streaming version instead of watching it "live."

I'm not gonna list every single edit in the broadcast version, but I will say they cut out some pretty significant scenes. Like Courtney's encounter with Cindy Burman and Jenny Quick. It's obvious the two will play a much bigger role later on, so excising their intro makes no sense.

Also cut were scenes of Dugan looking through his JSA memorabilia, Courtney's detention, her walk home from school and most importantly, the scene in which she discovers the newspaper clippings of Starman and Stripesy.

They also cut out Brainwave's entire phone call with Icicle, which seems like a crucial plot element. And they removed the scene where Courtney deflects the tires that Brainwave telekinetically hurls at her. 

• At the end of Crisis On Infinite Earths Part Five, the Seven Paragons defeated The Anti-Monitor and used their power to reboot the Multiverse. We then got a montage of the various rejiggered Earths and their inhabitants.

Apparently the Earth-2 we all knew and loved from The Flash is no more. Stargirl and her friends now live and work on the new and improved Earth-2.

You'd never know that from watching the Stargirl premiere though! At no time during the pilot episode is there ANY indication that this series is taking place on an alternate Earth. The only way you'd know it is if you caught the end of Crisis. Maybe the whole Earth-2 thing will be addressed in a later episode?

I'm honestly kind of puzzled by this. Before the Crisis miniseries premiered, The Flash, Supergirl and Black Lightning all took place on different Earths. The writers said the main reason they were adapting Crisis was to eliminate the Multiverse and move all the characters to the same Earth, in order to make crossovers easier. 

And now here they are starting up the whole multiple Earth mess all over again! Puzzling!

• When I saw Dugan's car at the beginning of the episode, I assumed it was taking place in the 1950s. Nope! It's the present day (on Earth-2). Apparently Dugan's a mechanic who restored a vintage auto.

It was an easy mistake to make, as the JSA premiered in the comics in the 1940s. They couldn't very well do the same in this series, else Dugan would be well over a hundred years old in 2020. So the writers have rejiggered the timeline so the JSA made their debut decades later.

• Dugan arrives at a mansion, where the JSA are making their last stand against the Injustice Society. Although we never actually see the Green Lantern in this scene, that green explosion is most definitely his power ring's calling card.

By the way, I was very impressed with this ten minute opening sequence! It looked amazing— especially for TV— and easily rivaled something you'd see in a Marvel movie. Well done, Stargirl production team!

• I was surprised by the costumes in this episode— especially those of the JSA members. They were all VERY comic-accurate, which was a nice change of pace from The CW's usual black leather hero/villain costumes.

Here's Wildcat, looking just like he's supposed to— complete with boxer's tape wrapped around his fists!

Doctor Mid-Nite looked really good too— for the three seconds we saw him. Supposedly he was played by Henry Thomas of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial fame, though you couldn't prove it by looking at him here.

Hourman looked pretty accurate as well, as they got his impractical hood and his hourglass necklace perfect.

We also get a very quick glimpse at the winged metal helmet of the Jay Garrick Flash, who was a member of the JSA in the comics. Based on the shards of ice embedded in the helmet, I'm assuming he was killed by Icicle.

I really wasn't expecting to see any hint of the Golden Age Flash on this show. Especially considering there's a Jay Garrick who pops up from time to time over on The Flash.

Lastly, there's a pretty comic-accurate Sandman lying dead on the steps as well.

As cool as it was to see all these characters in live action, it was also kind of frustrating. Most of them show up for five seconds, tops! I really wish the episode had let us spend a bit more time with them. I get that the name of the series is Stargirl, not Justice Society Of America, but... if you're only gonna give us subliminal glimpses, then maybe don't bother with 'em at all.

I have a feeling we'll probably get a flashback with these characters in a later episode. Why else would you cast recognizable names like Joel McHale and Henry Thomas if you're only going to use them for thirty seconds?

 Oddly enough, while the JSA's costumes looked exactly as they should, the same can't be said for the Injustice Society. The majority of them look NOTHING like their comic counterparts, as most are wearing leather get-ups or even street clothes!

The only one who looks even remotely like he should is The Wizard, who's wearing a stage magician outfit.

I think I may know why they changed their costumes. Like the JSA, the Injustice Society characters were all created way back in the 1940s. As a result of this, some of them end up looking downright goofy to modern eyes! 

Like Icicle, for example. I'm assuming he's supposed to inspire fear, but his "Jack Frost" look is more likely to generate giggles and laughter. Same goes for The Fidller and Harlequin. The only one in the bunch who looks the least bit menacing is Solomon Grundy. 

Normally I'm not a fan of changing a character's costume for live action, but I think they made the right call here.

 Let's talk about Starman, shall we? For some reason the version who appears here isn't quite like any who's ever appeared in the comics, and seems to be a confusing amalgam of at least three different characters.

There've been many Starmans (Starmen?) in the comics over the years, but Ted Knight (not that Ted Knight!) was the first, debuting in the 1940s. He wore a green & red costume with a finned helmet, and carried a cosmic rod that looked not unlike a magic wand. The rod allowed him to fly and fire energy bolts.

Much later in the 1990s, Jack Knight took over the role of Starman. He was the son of Ted Knight, and famously refused to wear a costume. He was also the first to wield the Cosmic Staff (I think), which looked almost identical to the one seen in this episode.

Note that there are many other characters with the name Starman, but it'd take another 50,000 words to list 'em all, so let's just forget about them for now.

The Star-Spangled Kid (aka Sylvester Pemberton) and Stripesy (aka Pat Dugan) first appeared in the comics in 1941. They were unusual in that they subverted the typical duo dynamic, as the Star-Spangled Kid was a teen superhero with an adult sidekick! 

The Star-Spangled Kid had no actual superpowers, but was a skilled fighter and acrobat. To add to the confusion, for a time he actually used Starman's cosmic rod (!).

Sometime in the 1980s, the Star-Spangled Kid changed his name to Skyman and got a new costume, complete with a cosmic converter belt that gave him the power of flight, increased his strength and allowed him to fire energy blasts.

Note that at no time in the comics was Sylvester Pemberton ever called Starman.

The Starman seen in this episode takes bits and pieces from all these characters, and mashes them into a brand new version. Sylvester Pemberton calls himself Starman, wields the Cosmic Staff and wears Skyman's costume. Confused yet?

I'm not sure why the producers chose to complicate the character like they did, but there you go.

• Just to make things even more complicated and confusing, this episode isn't even the first time we've seen the Justice Society— or even Stargirl herself— in the Arrowverse

The JSA first popped up on Legends Of Tomorrow in Season 2's The Justice Society Of America. In that episode, the Legends traveled to 1942, where they encountered the JSA and were mistaken for Nazi spies (?).

That particular JSA consisted of Commander Steel, Vixen, Dr. Mid-Nite, Obsidian and... Stargirl! Note that her costume looks pretty much like the one Courtney eventually gets on this series.

Apparently on Earth-1, the JSA operated in the 1940s, but on Earth-2— where this series is set— they didn't become a thing until much later, in the early 2000s. And they had a completely different lineup.

It's probably best not to think about it too much, and just ignore this earlier version of the team. Legends Of Tomorrow certainly has!

• Dugan rescues Starman and they roar away from the mansion in the Racer. Solomon Grundy chases after them, so Stripesy pushes a button on the dash that converts the car to flying mode.

Wow! That's a pretty prominent button there. And it's right next to the radio knob! Hopefully Dugan never tries to change the station and accidentally ends up blasting off instead!

• Whenever  Icicle talks, we see his visible breath, as if it's colder than the surrounding air. That's actually a nice little touch! Why don't they do that with Killer Frost (another icy character) over on The Flash?

• Courtney's newly-blended family prepares to move from LA to Blue Valley, Nebraska. When the moving van arrives, we see the company's called "American Action Movers."

Note that in the episode's most obvious reference, the hand-lettered "Action" in their logo is identical to that of Action Comics.

• Courtney and her new family move to Blue Valley, Nebraska. In the comics, that was the traditional hometown of Wally West, aka Kid Flash.

• When the family arrives in Blue Valley, Mike's quite impressed with their new home, calling it a "mansion." 

Thing is, it doesn't look all that big. Based on those upper windows, it doesn't even have a full second floor, as it looks more like a furnished attic. I'd say it's maybe 1200 square feet at the most. What the hell were he and Dugan living in before? A one room studio apartment?

• Based on what we see of Blue Valley, it's a peaceful, quiet, bucolic little town in the middle of nowhere— not unlike a 1950s sitcom town.

So is there a lot of crime and supervillain activity going on in small Nebraska towns? Or will Stargirl end up with a LOT of free time on her hands?

• After they're settled in, Dugan goes down to the basement and leafs through old JSA files on the Injustice Society. As usual, The CW's Prop Department does a bang-up job here. They went to the trouble of taking a mugshot of Brainwave, and even used an image of a younger Christopher James Baker! 

They also typed up a fake arrest report, and even aged the paper to make it yellow! The rest of the props in this scene are similarly well done. Good job, guys!

• Courtney stares wistfully out the window of her new bedroom, missing her friends and former home. As she turns away from the window, we see a dozen or so stars brighten, forming a pattern in the night sky.

I can't make any sense out of the pattern here (it kind of looks like a lopsided fish), but I'm sure it'll be explained in a future episode.

• Courtney and her family are amazed by overly friendly residents of Blue Valley. The citizens actually go out of their way to wave and say hello to them. In fact in this scene we see a group of high school kids enthusiastically waving at Dugan and Courtney as they drive by.

Oddly enough though, the second Courtney enters Blue Valley High, we see the students there are all typical surly, cliquish teens, identical to the ones everywhere else in the country. So much for that small town friendliness!

• Apparently Blue Valley High's football team is the Fighting Chipmunks! Or maybe Hamsters? Woodchucks? I can't really tell.

• Based on how he's centered in the shot and the way the camera lingers on him, I'm assuming this creepy janitor who leers ominously at Courtney will become important in a future episode.

• I loved Courtney's awful school I.D. photo, taken just as she finds out the gymnastics program's been cut. To add insult to injury, if you look closely at the inset of how the final I.D. will look, her head's not even centered on the card!

Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out the the I.D. we see later doesn't quite match the one seen on the computer screen. Her expression seems slightly different, and her head's been scooted over to the left of the image.

• I'm assuming Cindy and her friend Jenny will eventually cause problems for Courtney in future episodes. Heck, Cindy just looks like a supervillain in training, what with her cartoonish white-streaked hair.

Jenny's last name is apparently "Quick," which is significant. In the comics there was a speedster called Johnny Quick who was a member of the JSA. There's a Jesse Quick in the comics as well. I have to assume Jenny will end up becoming a speedster at some point? But will she be a good one or an evil one? Based on her affiliation with the obviously villainous Cindy, I'm gonna say evil.

UPDATE: When I wrote this review, I checked IMDB to get the full names of all the characters. I swear by the gods old and new that when I first looked her up, the site listed Jenny's last name as "Quick." It has since been amended to "Williams." So any and all discussion of her possibly being a speedster is now moot. Sorry for any confusion.

• In the school cafeteria, Courtney sits at the "losers" table with, from left to right, Beth Chapel, Rick Tyler and Yolanda Montez. Although it's not evident here, this scene just introduced us to three fifths of the members of Team Stargirl!

In the comics, Beth Chapel becomes Doctor Mid-Nite II, Rex Tyler's the new Hourman and Yolanda Montez takes over the mantle of Wildcat. Based on this shot from the end of Crisis, it's a good bet the same thing's gonna happen on this show!

 Dugan drives Courtney to school, but strangely enough she misses the bus at the end of the day and has to walk home. I guess that's not impossible— I had the same arrangement in high school, as my dad drove me there and I rode the bus home. It just seemed odd to me though.

 The episode spends a good deal of time introducing various residents of Blue Valley— so it's probably no surprise that many of them are secretly members of the Injustice Society. Read on if you're interested in who's who— otherwise skip to the next paragraph.

Larry Crock, aka Crusher, who runs the local gym, is secretly the Sportmaster. When Barbara reports for her first day at The American Dream, she's briefly introduced to Mr. Sharpe (seen above at left) and Councilman Zarick (at right). Sharpe is secretly The Gambler, while Zarick is The Wizard.

• At one point a disgruntled Courtney goes down to the basement and snoops through Dugan's stuff. She finds this old photo of the Justice Society (which looks a LOT more than ten years old!).

Seated from the left is Wildcat, Hourman, Starman, Sandman and Doctor Midnight. In the back row from left is Johnny Thunder, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl (I guess the JSA's not a total sausage-fest), Flash, Hawkman, Doctor Fate and Johnny Thunder's partner/alter ego, Thunderbolt.

Amazingly, these characters all look EXACTLY like their comic book counterparts! You can get a better look at them here in this behind the scenes photo. It's amazing how close they got. Well done, guys! I'm reeeeeeeally hoping these characters will be featured in flashbacks in future episodes, so we can see them in action.

• When Courntey's nosing around in Dugan's stuff, she discovers her new stepdad used to be a superhero. At one point she finds a newspaper with the headline, "The Star-Spangled Kid And Stripesy Defeat 'Doctor Weerd.'"

I'm assuming that's an homage to the cover of Star-Spangled Comics #5. Note that on the cover Stripesy's using his hand to shield his face. I think maybe the photo Courtney finds is a reference to that odd gesture?

• Courtney also finds another photo of Stripesy and Starman. Earlier Dugan told Courtney he was five years older than Starman when they first became a team. Oddly enough, they look like they're the same age here. There's a reason for that— in real life, Luke Wilson and Joel McHale are both currently 48!

• I want to give a shoutout to the FX team for this shot here. When Courtney grabs the glowing Cosmic Staff, you can see its light is actually shining through her fingers, illuminating them from within. Much like how you can see inside your fingers if you shine a powerful flashlight behind them. 

I'm not sure if the glow was added in post with CGI, or if the Cosmic Staff prop actually lights up. Either way, it looked pretty cool!

• Nice setup and payoff: Early in the episode we see a panning shot of Courtney's room, which contains numerous gymnastic awards and trophies. Of course later on those skills come in handy after the Cosmic Staff chooses her to become a superhero.

• The Dugan's microwave has its own little story arc in this episode, that sadly ends in tragedy.

At one point we see Mike gazing blissfully at the microwave, seemingly transfixed as he nukes some marshmallows inside it. 

Note that the oven's also swaddled in bubble wrap, presumably to protect it during the move. For some reason he didn't remove it before using it.

A few minutes later the Cosmic Staff pulls Courtney out of the house. As it does, we see the microwave in the foreground. It appears there's been an explosion, as molten marshmallow covers the handle and smoke pours from the top of the oven.

A bit later we see Dugan carrying the still-smoldering microwave down to the basement, to see if it can be cleaned or salvaged. 

The takeaway here is that apparently Mike isn't too bright, doesn't know that marshmallows explode violently in a microwave and destroyed the family's oven on their first night in their new home.

R.I.P. Dugan Family Microwave, 2016-2020.

• Helpful tip for the producers: If your main character is an underage teen girl, maybe don't shoot a scene in which she's swining around on a vertical rod. Yeah, I get that she's just practicing how to use the Cosmic Staff, but it looked a lot like pole dancing.

• After finding out about the JSA, Courtney becomes convinced that Starman was secretly her dad. Dugan scoffs at the notion and adamantly insists it's impossible.

Why couldn't Starman be her dad? Was he impotent? Gay? Did he hate kids? How can Dugan be so sure? Was he with him twenty four hours a day?

Then to prove he's right, Dugan asks Courtney what her dad's name was, and she says "Sam Kurtis." Dugan says Starman's real name was Sylvester Pemberton, so that settles that! The two men had different names, so there's no way he could be her father!

• After hearing that Starman's apparently back, Brainwave opens a secret room in his study and stares pensively into it. Inside we see his costume, along with a framed photo of a woman and a stack of videotapes, each labeled a different day.

This is obviously some more setup for a future plotline. I'm guessing the woman in the photo's Brainwave's wife, who's likely dead. And I'm assuming the tapes are a record of her degeneration? Maybe? It's even possible that Starman accidentally caused her death. 

I'm sure we'll find out what this all means in a future episode.

• By far my favorite part of the episode was the final thirty seconds, in which Dugan— who's driving the giant S.T.R.I.P.E. robot from inside, Gundam-style— confronts Courtney.

I've always been a sucker for robots, so this scene was right up my alley. As an added plus, it looks almost exactly like the S.T.R.I.P.E. from the comics.

While I'm sure the robot in the episode's final scene was likely CGI, the prop department actually built a FULL-SIZED S.T.R.I.P.E. robot for the show! WOW! That may be the coolest thing I've ever seen. As I said in the intro, The CW is throwing a TON of money at this series, and it's definitely all there on the screen!

As much as I like the giant robot though, it raises a ton of questions. We've already seen that Dugan's car, the Racer, has a flying mode. Based on the similar paint schemes, it appears the car can transform into this robot as well.

So... if Dugan's car can turn into a giant robot, why didn't he use it ten years ago when the JSA were being slaughtered by the Injustice Society?

And if he's smart enough to engineer something like that, why the hell's he living in Blue Valley, Nebraska? He should be in SILICON Valley, heading up his own tech firm!

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