Thursday, July 30, 2020

Inception Acceleration

OK, this is just bullsh*t right here. 

Something's definitely gone wrong with the flow of time. According to the interwebs, Christopher Nolan's Inception premiered on July 13, 2010. That's TEN FREAKIN' YEARS AGO! 

How the hell is that even possible? It feels like that movie came out maybe five years ago, at the absolute most. 

Time is most definitely accelerating lately. I'm afraid to go to sleep, lest twenty years speed by while I'm out and I wake up dead!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Stargirl season 1, Episode 10: Brainwave Jr.

Holy sh*t! Now THAT was an episode!

After just a handful of episodes, Stargirl has officially become the best superhero show on TV— leaving its brethren Arrow, The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow in the dust. Heck, at this point I'd argue that it's one of the best shows period on TV right now! Pity the fools who don't know about it and aren't watching it.

Brainwave Jr. manages to pack more twists, turns, revelations and human emotion into its scant forty two minute runtime than most feature films. Brainwave wakes up and soon goes full supervillain again, the Dugan household's thrown into chaos, the new JSA's almost destroyed from withing, Stargirl and her teammates take the battle to the Injustice Society and Henry Jr. manages to completely redeem himself (right before he pays the ultimate price, of course). Whew!

Last week I predicted that Barb would be less than thrilled when she eventually find out about her husband and daughter's extra-curricular superheroics, and I was right. I wasn't expecting her to throw Dugan out of the house and immediately plan on leaving town though. Hopefully she'll cool off in the next couple of episodes and realize her family's trying to save the world and give them her blessing. Or at least tolerate what they're doing. 

Kudos to actress Amy Smart as Barb, who finally gets something substantial to do with the role this week. She gives it her all too, playing Barb with a combination of rage, betrayal and eventual curiosity. Hats off as well to the writers, for not resolving this arc in one episode, and giving it room to breathe.

This episode also featured one of the best battle scenes of the series (so far!), as the JSA members— including Henry Jr.— teamed up to fight Dragon King's endless supply of minions. Whoever the stunt coordinator is on this show, don't let 'em get away! They're worth whatever it costs to keep them around!

Of course the highlight of the episode was Henry Jr. and his redemption arc. I'm amazed at just how far this character's come in just ten short episodes. He started out as an insufferable jerk and ended his storyline as a noble and selfless hero. I definitely did not expect that while watching the Pilot!

I actually feel bad for poor Henry Jr. In just under a month or so his father fell into a coma, he developed terrifying superpowers he didn't understand, he found out his girlfriend was only with him to keep him under observation and he discovered his father killed his mother. Yikes! And you thought you were having a bad week!

Credit goes to actor Jake Austin Walker, who plays Henry Jr., for turning in such a believable and powerful performance. Henry's redemption felt totally earned, as Walker gave the character a real sense of humanity and somehow made him sympathetic. I actually felt sorry for the guy!


The Plot:
Blue Valley. Two Years Ago.

Dugan sits in the diner late at night, reviewing what appears to be Hourman's journal. A couple tables away, Barb is looking over realty papers. A waitress approaches and tells them the kitchen's closing for the night and asks if they need anything. Dugan and Barb have a meet cute as they both order a banana split simultaneously.

The two chat for a bit, until the waitress returns with bad news— there's only one banana left. Cut to the two of them sharing a banana split, as true love is born.

Present Day.

Barb, Dugan and Courtney are all in the basement. Courtney's holding her Cosmic Staff, and Barb demands to know what the hell's going on. Courtney tries to lie, but Dugan insists on telling the truth. He tells her the Staff belonged to Starman. Courtney doesn't help matters much when she adds that Starman was her real father, and that Barb's boss Jordan, aka Icicle, killed him.

Barb doesn't believe any of this of course, so Dugan shows her a photo of Starman and himself as Stripesy. Barb's furious with Dugan for filling Courtney's head with these ideas. Courtney says Dugan didn't do anything, as the Staff chose her. Barb orders Courtney to go upstairs immediately.

Once Courtney's gone, Barb tells Dugan that their entire marriage has been a lie. He denies this, saying everything about their family is real. She asks if Courtney was really hurt in a car accident a few episodes back. Defeated, Dugan says no. Barb orders him out of the house.

At the hospital, Brainwave's regained consciousness. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't remember the last ten years and is surprised to see his son Henry Jr.'s now a teen. He wonders what they're doing in Nebraska, and Henry Jr. says they moved there after his mother Merry died. Brainwave doesn't remember his wife's death, and is shocked to learn she drowned in their pool.

Brainwave senses Henry Jr. has mental powers as well, and asks if he trained him. Henry says his powers appeared while his father was in a coma. Brainwave speculates that he must have telepathically reached out to Henry and awakened his latent abilities.

Meanwhile, Dugan's packed a bag and is leaving. He's stopped by Mike, who asks what's going on. Dugan says he can't explain it right now, but he's going to spend the night at his garage. Mike asks if he and Barb are getting a divorce. Dugan says he hopes not, and Mike says he's going with him to the garage.

At the hospital, Brainwave sleeps fitfully. Henry Jr. hears his father thinking about his wife Merry, along with Jordan. He tries waking him but can't, and eventually leaves. As soon as he's gone, Jordan enters the room and stands over Brainwave, saying it's good to see him.

Henry Jr. returns home and searches through the boxes of his father's video journals. Somehow he finds the tape made the day his mother died and pops it in the VCR. On the tape, Brainwave announces that Merry's dead. He then reminisces, claiming he met her when he was robbing a bank. She was a superhero called The Girl Of A Thousand Gimmicks, and she capture him— emotionally as well as physically. He was so impressed with her "pure thoughts" that he reformed (I guess?) and they married.

Merry caused Brainwave to question Jordan's mission— something the leader of the ISA could not allow. Jordan lured the Justice Society to the ISA and they murdered them all— including Starman, who coincidentally was Merry's brother (!). Brainwave knew Merry would never forgive him for playing a part in her brother's death, and hoped she'd go into hiding. Unfortunately she didn't, and ended up dying. Brainwave then curses Jordan on the tape, leading Henry Jr. to believe that Icicle killed his mother.

That night, the Cosmic Staff floats into Courtney's room and wakes her up. She tells it she can't go out because her mother's too upset, and orders the Staff back to its crate. Instead it leaves and sneaks into Dugan's garage, where it slips into his JSA training room. It stares at the photos of the ISA, and studies Icicle's in particular.

At the hospital, Jordan tells Brainwave that Project: New America is ready to go, and just needs his powers to activate it. He says with Brainwave's help they can control every mind in the heart of the country and bend them to their will. Just then the Cosmic Staff bursts in, sees Jordan and blasts him across the room. It fires a second blast, which is stopped by a mental forcefield thrown up by Brainwave. Jordan picks himself up, touches the Staff and freezes it solid.

Henry Jr. returns to the hospital and stops when he sees Jordan in his father's room, holding Courtney's Cosmic Staff. He hears Jordan telling Brainwave that Doctor Ito will help him regain his memory. Henry hides as Jordan and Brainwave exit the room. Brainwave senses someone nearby, but Henry Jr. shields his thoughts, and his father moves on.

The next morning Courtney wakes and goes down to the basement to get the Cosmic Staff. She's shocked when she sees its crate is empty. She marches upstairs and demands to know what Barb did with it. Barb says she doesn't know or care, and that the two of them are leaving Blue Valley. Barb says she's going to her office to get a few things, and tells Courtney to pack her stuff and be ready to go by the time she gets back.

Of course Courtney doesn't listen and goes to Dugan's garage, where he and Mike have spent the night sleeping in the Racer. Courtney pounds on the door, and Dugan opens it and asks what she's doing there. She says Barb's taking her away that day, so they have to hurry and stop Jordan and the ISA as soon as possible.

Dugan says it's over and the ISA won. He then asks about Barb. When Courtney says she went to The American Dream, Dugan becomes concerned. He says that's the most dangerous place in town right now, and races off to rescue Barb.

Mike then wanders out of the garage and asks Courtney what's really going on. When she says she can't tell him, he angrily says it's obvious she never wanted him or Dugan around in the first place, and tells her to have a good life. He shuts the garage door behind him.

Courtney walks dejectedly down the street, and suddenly "hears" Henry Jr. calling to her. She sees him across the street and runs over to him. As she approaches, he accidentally projects everything he's learned in the last day into her head, overwhelming her. She's shocked to find out that her father Starman was the brother of Henry's mom Merry, which makes them cousins! She hugs Henry, which takes him aback.

He tells her that Jordan has her Staff and his dad, and they need to get them both back. Courtney balks at "rescuing" a deadly supervillain like Brainwave, but Henry says his father doesn't remember the past ten years and is a normal man again. Courtney reluctantly agrees.

At The American Dream, Barb's cleaning out her office. she looks at a photo of her and Courtney and puts in in a box. She then picks up a photo of Dugan and Mike and gives it a long, hard look. She then types out an email to Sam Kurtis, who's Courtney's real father (or is he?). She tells him she's in Blue Valley, and they need to talk about their daughter. She sends the email, and then does a search for "Starman."

At the school, Courtney takes Henry Jr. to Rick, Yolanda and Beth and tells them what's going on. Rick congratulates her for revealing their secret identities to the enemy. Courtney insists that Henry's not the enemy, and is trying to help. Rick doesn't believe it and tries to pick a fight with Henry, who telekinetically knocks him on his ass.

Courtney says they don't have time for fighting, as her mom wants to take her away from Blue Valley immediately. She says she needs their help to get her Staff back, save Henry's father and defeat the ISA. Yolanda agrees to help, but says she can't forgive Courtney for choosing Henry over her. She says they're no longer friends.

Meanwhile, Dugan barges into Barb's office. She tells him to get out, and he says she's in mortal danger. He sees her looking up photos of Starman, and tells her to stay out of it. She says she doesn't know what to think, and wonders if her ex Sam Kurtis was really a superhero or not. Dugan tells her to take Courtney as far away from Blue Valley as possible.

Just then Jordan enters with his parents, Sofus and Lila. As everyone exchanges pleasantries, Dugan gets a call from Courtney on his cell phone. He shuts off the phone and puts it back in his pocket.

Elsewhere, the JSA break into Cindy Burman's old house and enter the tunnels underneath. After searching a while, they come to a fork in the tunnels. Courtney stupidly says they should split up. She, Yolanda and Henry take one direction while Rick & Beth go the other.

At The American Dream, Sofus and Lily thank Barb for inviting them to dinner, and bring her a tray of homemade Norwegian snacks. Jordan and his parents then converse briefly in Norwegian, and then take their leave. Once they're gone, Barb holds up her phone and reveals she recorded their foreign conversation. Dugan smiles.

In the tunnels, Hourman and Doctor Mid-Nite hear monstrous roaring ahead. They round a corner and see Solomon Grundy's cell. Hourman says he's the creature that killed his parents.

Elsewhere, Henry Jr. tries to apologize to Yolanda, saying he wishes he could undo what he did. She hisses that he can't, and tells him to forget it. Henry then senses his father nearby. They round a corner and find themselves in Dragon King's lair. They see Brainwave laid out on a slab, as Dragon King attempts to restore his memory. Courtney also spots her Cosmic Staff in a holding cage.

Just then Cindy, who's still locked in her cell, sees the JSAers and screams a warning to her father, begging him to let her kill Stargirl. Dragon King turns to see the intruders and orders his drones to attack them. Stargirl grabs a spear from the wall and begins fighting off the drones. Wildcat extends her claws and slashes them as well, while Henry Jr. shoves them back with his telekinesis.

Hourman powers up and tries to rip open Grundy's door. Doctor Mid-Nite asks him what he's doing, and he says plans to get revenge on the monster.

Stargirl's overwhelmed by drones, so Wildcat leaps across the room and saves her. After finishing off the last of them, Dragon King then confronts Stargirl himself. The two begin battling it out, as Dragon King proves pretty spry for someone over a hundred years old. While everyone's distracted, Henry Jr. runs to his father and tries to free him.

Dragon King breaks Stargirl's spear in half and knocks her to the floor. Just as he's about to deliver the killing blow, Wildcat jumps up and frees the Cosmic Staff. She tosses it to Stargirl, who uses it to block Dragon King's sword. She slashes at him with the Staff, tearing off his hood and revealing his terrifying, lizard-like face. Dragon King lunges at Stagirl, and she blasts him across the room, where he lies unconscious or dead.

Henry Jr. frees his father, but is shocked when he says he's not going with him. Henry says the ISA must have gotten to him and changed him back, but Brainwave says this is who he's always been. Henry Jr. then telekinetically slams his father against the wall. He tells Stargirl and Wildcat it's too late to save his dad, and they leave.

Elsewhere, Hourman continues trying to pry the door open, but it's too tough. Doctor Mid-Nite eventually convinces him they're not here for revenge, and they need to help their friends. Just then they're attacked by squad of drones, and Hourman knocks them all out with a single punch. He and Doctor Mid-Nite take off running, and they bump into Stargirl and the others. The whole group hightails it for the exit.

Meanwhile, Dugan and Barb sit in the diner again. Dugan compliments her for thinking to record the Jordan & his parents. She says she just wanted answers she could trust. She uses her phone to translate the Mahkents' conversation and play it back. Lila says she likes Barb, and Sofus says he's noticed how Jordan looks at her. Jordan then says it won't matter once the Machine is turned on, as everything will change. The two sit in stunned silence. Barb asks what Machine they're talking about, and Dugan admits he doesn't know.

At The American Dream, Jordan enters Barb's office to ask her something, but sees she's not in. He leaves, just as Sam Kurtis replies to Barb's email.

The JSA race through the tunnels and come to barred grate. Hourman pulls a couple of the bars apart, and Wildcat & Doctor Mid-Nite slip through. Just then the bars telekinteically snap back, as Brainwave appears in the tunnel behind them. Stargirl blasts him with the Staff, but he blocks the energy with a telepathic shield. 

Hourman and Henry Jr. pry the bars back open. Henry sends Hourman through, and tells Courtney to go as well. She refuses, so Henry uses his telekinesis to pick her up and shove her through the bars. They snap shut again before he can escape.

Brainwave psychically blasts Henry Jr., but he blocks the wave and fires off his own at his father. Henry tells his father he loves him, and doesn't want to fight him. Brainwave says he loves Henry as well, and wants to train him to hone his powers. Henry Jr. says his mother knew there was good in Brainwave and that he could change. He says that's why Jordan killed her.

Brainwave looks shocked, and says Jordan didn't kill Merry— HE did. He says he made a choice, and tells Henry not to make him choose again. Henry refuses to join his father, and telekinetically hurls a ton of rocks at Brainwave. Unfortunately, Brainwave stops them with his powers and slams Henry backward into the bars.

Stargirl and the others frantically try to break through the bars to rescue Henry, but Brainwave uses his powers to psychically brace them. He then causes the roof above Henry to crumble.

Henry Jr. turns to Yolanda and tells her he's sorry for what he did. He looks at Courtney and tells her she was right— people ARE good. He's then buried under several tons of rock & stone, as the stunned JSAers look on in horror.

• The episode begins with a flashback to two years ago. We get a crane shot of downtown Blue Valley, as the camera zooms past the Dallas Theater and focuses on the diner. 

This brief establishing shot is a goldmine of references and Easter Eggs. First of all, the theater's playing a film called Strange Adventures

That's a reference to the DC comic of the same name, which was first published in 1950 and ran for a whopping 244 issues. Strange Adventures was an anthology book that introduced numerous Silver Age DC characters such as Captain Comet, Star Hawkins, The Atomic Knights, Animal Man, Enchantress and Deadman. The book was cancelled in 1978.

In 2004, the book was revived as a six issue miniseries and retitled JSA Strange Adventures. It featured various members of the Justice Society in fantasy & sci-fi settings. I'm assuming the theater marquee is referencing this particular iteration of the book.

The camera then zooms past the marquee, and we see three posters advertising coming attractions. You gotta look reeeeeeally closely, but the three upcoming films are The Unknown Soldier, Prez and G.I. Robot. Those are all fairly obscure DC comic books!

The Unknown Soldier debuted in 1968's Our Army At War #168, and eventually got his own book. He was a WWII intelligence agent whose face was so disfigured he kept it covered with heavy bandages. He was a master of disguise, and often wore masks and makeup to impersonate others and infiltrate enemy bases. He also suffered from PTSD, which caused him to lose his temper at inopportune moments and blow his cover. I'm guessing that last part wouldn't fly here in sensitive 2020.

Prez concerned eighteen year old "Prez" Rickard, who— through a series of unlikely laws and constitutional amendments— became the youngest US president in history. He picked his mother as his vice president, his sister as his secretary, and his Native American friend Eagle Free as director of the FBI (Jesus, was he secretly a Trump?).

Prez premiered in 1973, and only ran for four issues before being canceled.

G. I. Robot first appeared in 1962's Star Spangled War Stories. There were actually six different G.I. Robots who appeared over the years, each designed to protect and augment human soldiers. The six robots were named Joe, Mac, J.A.K.E. 1, J.A.K.E. 2, J.A.K.E. 6.1 and Lord Job (?).

Apparently the citizens of Blue Valley really, reeeeally like these four movies. Back in The Justice Society, Jordan and his son Cameron sit in the diner in the present day. We get a very familiar-looking crane shot of downtown Blue Valley, as the camera zooms past the Dallas Theater and focuses on the diner. Oddly enough the theater's playing the exact same movie and advertising the same coming attractions— a full TWO YEARS LATER!

So what the heck's going on?

According to Stargirl graphic designer Shawn McBee, the marquee and posters were created specifically for this episode. During editing of The Justice Society, the producers realized they needed an establishing shot of the theater and diner. Having no time to shoot a new one, they took the shot they filmed for Brainwave Jr. and used it in Episode 6. Unfortunately that had the unintended effect of making it look like the theater hasn't changed its films for two years. Whoops!

• In the flashback, Dugan and Barb have a meet cute when they both order a banana split at the same time. A few minutes later the waitress informs them that because it's almost closing time, there's only one banana left. Barb then gets a bright idea and suggests the two of them share.

Cut to them eating a split that clearly contains two whole, unsliced bananas! Go ahead, zoom in all you want— there are two bananas in that pic! 

Methinks the waitress fibbed in an effort to get Dugan & Barb together!

• Welp, I called it! In last week's review I said: 

I predict lots of fireworks in the Dugan marriage next week. Barb's gonna be furious with Dugan for keeping the fact that he's a superhero from her all these years, as well as allowing her daughter to fight crime with a giant magic swizzle stick. Dugan will then likely bring up Barb's sudden chumminess with Jordan.

Hopefully these incidents won't lead to divorce and they'll be able to work it out.

Barb's world is also gonna come crashing down when she finds out her boss is a deadly supervillain!

Pretty much all of that came to pass, and more! I really didn't expect her to toss Dugan out of the house, or threaten to move Courtney back to LA.

• At the end of the previous episode, Henry Jr. psychically kills a shady lawyer in his father's hospital room. This episode takes place seconds after Henry's attack. At no time do we ever see the lawyer's body, and Brainwave doesn't notice it after he wakes from his coma.

Did Henry Jr. stuff the lawyer's body in the bathroom? He's gonna have some tough questions to answer when the cleaning staff eventually finds a dead guy in his dad's room.

• Brainwave embraces Henry Jr., and suddenly senses he has telepathic powers as well:

Brainwave: "Junior...? You have my gift. Did I know this? Was I teaching you?
Henry Jr.: "No. Started when you were in a coma."
Brainwave: "I may have been trying to reach out, triggering your latent abilities."

Is that what really happened? Or did Henry Jr.'s powers just happen to manifest while his father was out? The episode never says for sure, and considering Henry's fate, it doesn't really matter now.

• While Brainwave sleeps, Henry Jr. telepathically "hears" him dreaming about the death of his wife Merry. Henry Jr. then races home and watches his father's video journal recorded on the day of Merry's death. A couple things here:

First of all, Henry Jr. paws through a box of tapes and very specifically picks out one labeled "Day 3233." I guess Henry Jr. must be reeeeeally good at math, because apparently he was able to calculate that his mother drowned that many days after his father gained his powers! Impressive!

Is it possible Henry used his telepathy to figure out which tape he wanted to watch? I don't see how, unless he can read a videotape's mind!

Secondly, last week's episode began with a flashback to "Decades Ago," when Brainwave first used his telepathic powers. Gosh, that's not vague at all, is it? I spent a good part of last week's review trying to figure out just when the flashback took place. Based on Brainwave's apparent age, I said it couldn't have happened much more than twenty years ago.

Turns out that was a pretty good guess! 

Henry Jr. watches the tape labeled Day 3233. That works out to 8.8 years since Brainwave got his powers and made his Day 1 tape. Day 3233 is also the day his wife Merry died, and about the same time that the ISA killed the JSA. The JSAers died ten years ago, so 8.8 plus a decade equals about nineteen years. So I was pretty close when I estimated the flashback took place two decades ago!

• Henry Jr.'s shocked when he watches his father's Day 3233 tape and finds out his mother was a superhero named Merry, Girl Of A Thousand Gimmicks. Brainwave says they met when he was robbing a bank and she caught him. He says her thoughts were so good and pure that they changed him, and made him question the ISA's mission.

This follows the comics, in which Merry was introduced in 1948's Star Spangled Comics #81. In that issue, the parents of Sylvester Pemberton, aka the Star-Spangled Kid, adopted a girl named Merry. She eventually discovered her new brother's secret identity, and decided to fight crime as well. She eventually replaced Stripesy as the Star-Spangled Kid's partner!

Decades later in 1984's Infinity Inc. #3, it was revealed that Merry, er, married the supervillain Brainwave. It's assumed she reformed him, and they had a son named Henry Jr. Merry died of a broken heart after Brainwave returned to his life of crime.

• When Henry Jr. races home to watch the videotape, there's a roaring blaze burning away in the fireplace in his father's study. Henry seemed like he was in a big hurry to see what was on the tape. Did... did he really start a fire before he went through the box of tapes?

I guess it's possible the King family's housekeeper started the blaze, but why would build a fire in the study when Brainwave's still in the hospital?

• Moments after Brainwave comes out of his coma, Jordan pops up in his room and says it's good to see him again. How the hell did he know Brainwave was awake again? Did he just happen to pay him a visit right when he woke up? That'd be an awfully huge coincidence! Maybe Brainwave psychically called out to Jordan for some reason? The only problem with that theory though is that Brainwave seems surprised to see him.

• Barb goes to her office to clean out her desk before leaving Blue Valley for good. She stops and thinks about what Courtney said, and does an internet search for "Starman."

So... why does every photo she finds feature Starman with his face obscured by shadow? Obviously they're doing it here for plot obfuscation reasons of course, so Barb can't look at Starman's photo and say, "That's not my ex!" 

But what reason would there be for this in the universe of the show? Surely there's at least ONE decent photo of Starman's face out there somewhere.

• Courtney goes to the garage and tells Dugan that Barb's at The American Dream. He freaks out, saying that's the most dangerous place in town right now. He jumps in his SUV and roars off to save his wife.

I dunno why Dugan's in such a hurry. If you zoom in and look closely, you can see the reflection of The American Dream building in the window of the garage!

If you look at the town on Google Maps, the garage and The American Dream building are literally two blocks apart! Dugan could have walked there in a minute or two!

OK, obviously I'm being ridiculously nitpicky here, and applying real world geography to the scene. In the universe of the show, it's entirely possible that the two buildings are on opposite ends of town, and it'd take half an hour for Dugan to get to Barb's office!

• After Barb calms down, she sends an email to her ex Sam Kurtis, telling him they need to talk about Courtney and Starman. A few things here:

First of all, her message reads, "If this is you, please contact me." That implies she's not sure if "skurtis61" is actually Sam's email address. But that's not true though. If you watch the episode, she doesn't do a web search for Sam first— she just sits down at the computer and immediately starts typing him a message. 

That means Barb's definitely looked up Sam before now, and may even know where he's living. Did she share this information with Dugan? If not, then she shouldn't be so pissy about him keeping his superheroing from her.

• If you zoom in and look reeeeeeeeally closely at Barb's inbox, you can see she has an email from someone who calls themselves "TheRoyalFC," and they're asking if anyone has a two of spades.

That's a reference to the Royal Flush Gang, a playing card-themed supervillain team. They first appeared in 1966's Justice League Of America #43. Much, much later in 2003's JSA: All Stars #4, Stargirl learns that her father, Sam Kurtis, joined the Royal Flush Gang and was given the codename "Two Of Clubs."

Is this a well-hidden hint that the live action Sam Kurtis will be affiliated with the Royal Flush Gang? Who knows? I'm honestly not sure where they're going with Courtney's parentage at this point.

One last thing about Barb's computer. In the final minutes of the episode, we get a closeup of her screen, and see she has a reply from Sam Kurtis.

Who the hell leaves their personal email open on their WORK computer? Jesus Christ, Barb!

• While in Barb's office, Dugan gets an urgent call from Courtney and ignores it.

Note that Dugan still has a flip phone! Jesus Christ! Who is he, my dad? You'd think a guy who's technologically savvy enough to build a giant working robot would have graduated to a smart phone by now. I guess maybe flip phones are still a thing on Earth-2.

• Courtney brings Henry Jr. to Rick, Yolanda and Beth, and says she needs their help to recover her Staff and rescue Brainwave from the clutches of the ISA. Of course Rick immediately tries to pick a fight with Henry.

f you watched this episode on DC Universe, Rick calls Henry Jr. an asshole. Presumably that's because it's a streaming service and not subject to broadcast TV standards. If you saw The CW version, Rick calls Henry a "dirtbag."

• In Shiv Part Two, Beth conned her way into Cindy Burman's house, where she discovered a door that led to a vast underground network of tunnels and chambers.

In this episode the gang breaks into Cindy's now deserted house to access the tunnels once again.

I guess now that Dragon King's locked up Cindy in a cell, he dumped his "wife" Bobbie Burman and put the house up for sale!

• Ah, it wouldn't be an Arrowverse show without inconsistent superpowers. Earlier in the episode, the Cosmic Staff flies out of the basement and enters Dugan's garage, where it studies his Injustice Society chart. It realizes Jordan is really Icicle, and flies to the hospital to kill him (how it knew he was there is none of our concern). Jordan freezes and captures the Staff.

From this it's clear that the Staff is a sentient entity, one that can act autonomously and doesn't need a human to operate it.

Later on when Stargirl and the others sneak into the ISA's tunnels, she sees the Staff trapped in a metal cage, completely inert. Is this some kind of special energy-zapping cage, that prevents the Staff from activating? If not, why the hell doesn't it just blast its way out and attack Dragon King and his drones?

Wildcat eventually frees the Staff from the cage. You'd think that would be enough to trigger it, but it remains dormant. She literally has to physically hand it to Stargirl before it wakes and becomes active again.

What the hell?

OK, I get it— the Staff's a massively powerful weapon, and it could have made short work of the ISA by itself. So it was necessary to hobble it for story purposes, so the episode wasn't ten minutes long. So why not mention that it was damaged when Jordan froze it, or that the cage caused it to shut down?

• I had to laugh when Cindy— who's still locked up in her dungeon cell— sees Courtney and begs her dad to let her "kill the bitch!"

• When Dragon King spots the JSA in his lair, he orders his drones to attack them. Stargirl and Wildcat then fight back, straight up murdering dozens of the drones. Lest you doubt it, there are numerous blood spurts visible as the two slash the unfortunate minions' throats.

Henry Jr. uses his telekinesis to hurl a bunch of drones against a wall, but it's unclear whether he actually killed them or not.

So how do we feel about this? These are teenagers who are flat out killing people they'e labeled as villains. Are... are we not supposed to care because the people they're slaying are mindless drones? Does that make their deaths OK?

At this point it's still unclear as to whether the drones are actual altered people, or some sort of life forms constructed by Dragon King. As I've pointed out in past reviews, in the comics Dragon King abducts Blue Valley citizens and turns them into drones, so I assume that's what's happening on the show as well.

Apparently we're not supposed to think about any of this, as it's all completely glossed over and never addressed at any point in the episode.

• This episode proves that even without the Cosmic Staff, Stargirl's still a force to be reckoned with. She grabs a spear from the wall and uses it to easily dispatch dozens of Dragon King's drones.

This is actually much closer to the Stargirl of the comics, who doesn't have a Cosmic Staff. Instead, Comic Stargirl wears the Star-Spangled Kid's cosmic converter belt, which gives her enhanced strength, speed and agility. Later on she was given the Cosmic Rod (which is much different from the Staff) by the Jack Knight version of Starman.

• Wildcat has some pretty impressive moves during the big end battle as well, leaping across the set like a... well, a wildcat! I love the stunts in this series! So far they've all been pretty darned impressive— much more so than on the other Arrowverse shows.

Supposedly Stargirl's moving from DC Universe to The CW in Season 2. As we all know, The CW's notoriously cheap, so I hope the show's budget doesn't get cut and affect the awesome stunt work.

• After defeating his drones, Stargirl takes on Dragon King singlehandedly. At one point she sarcastically refers to him as "Snapdragon." Although it's played as a joke, that name's also a reference to the comics.

In Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. # 11 through 13, Dragon King created Operation: Snapdragon— an ambitious plan that would use a series of satellites to brainwash the entire world and put everyone under his control. Fortunately his plan was foiled by the Star-Spangled Kid, STRIPE and the Shining Knight.

• In Shiv Part Two, Cindy disobeys her father Dragon King. He threatens her, saying "Do not make me remove my hood!"

After that comment I doubted they'd ever give us a look at what was under his mask. I said they might give us a shot of the back of his head, as he reveals his face to a horrified character, but that we'd never get a full-on look at him.

Welp, looks like I was wrong! In this episode, Stargirl slashes at Dragon King, tearing his hood. He then whips it off and we get a closeup of his lizard-like face as he roars at her. Color me shocked.

By the way, his appearance here is pretty much identical to the way he appeared in the Stars And S.T.R.I.P.E. comic.

• Rick is now officially my least favorite character on the show. Heck, he's worse than Henry Jr. at this point! His "Angry Young Man" shtick is tedious and exhausting at this point, and he's fast becoming a liability to the team.

Case in point: When he comes across Solomon Grundy's cell, he instantly decides he's going to singlehandedly kill the monster that murdered his parents. He powers up and starts trying to rip the cell door off its hinges.

He's never seen Grundy, so he has no idea how big he is, how strong he may be or if he has a ghost of a chance of defeating him. Worst of all, his reckless actions place Beth and the rest of the JSA in mortal danger. He's a freakin' menace!

As if all that wasn't enough, he pried the door halfway open and then just buggered off with his teammates. Now that the door's been weakened, I absolutely, 100% GUARANTEE that at some point in the next three episodes (most like the season finale), Grundy will bust out of his cell and attack the JSA. Dugan will try and stop him with STRIPE, and may or may not get killed in the process (depending on whether Luke Wilson wants to stick with the show). Way to go, Rick, you dumbass!

• Ever since Wildcat aired, I've been convinced that Henry Jr. was NOT the one who sent Yolanda's nudes to the world and ruined her life. I insisted that it was Cindy Burman who did the sending, and Henry was innocent.

For weeks I've been expecting the truth to eventually come out, and for Yolanda to forgive him.

Welp, based on the end of this episode it looks like that ain't gonna happen. Even worse, it appears that Henry Jr. is indeed guilty of sending out the photos! He even apologizes to Yolanda this week, saying he knows how much he hurt her and that he'd do anything to take it back.

What the hell? This doesn't make any sense. There's no way that Henry was the one responsible for sending out the photos. It's just not possible.

Need proof? Fine. Watch this scene from the opening minutes of Wildcat. Yolanda gets up to speak in front of the entire class. Cut to Cindy Burman, who whips out her phone and presses a button. A second later, the entire school starts receiving nude photos of Yolanda. We then see Henry Jr. with a look of shock and utter disbelief on his face, as his classmates lose their minds.

Cindy is CLEARLY the one who sent the goddamned photos. They LITERALLY show her doing so. And Henry's expression proves without a shadow of a doubt that he had nothing to do with it. This isn't supposition on my part, it's all right there on the screen, and I don't see any way anyone could misconstrue what's happening in this scene.

So why does Henry apologize and take the blame for the incident? What am I missing here?

If he really DID send the photos out, then whoever directed the opening flashback of Wildcat dropped the ball big time!

• Best Scene Of The Episode: The JSA flees for their lives, only to find their escape blocked by bars across the tunnel. Hourman bends the bars open, and everyone slips through except for Stargirl and Henry Jr. Stargirl tells Henry to go on through while she blasts Brainwave with her Staff. Henry refuses to leave her behind, so he telekinetically picks her up and pushes her through the bars! That was freakin' awesome! I loved how he just got tired of her arguing and matter-of-factly picked her up.

• This week's MVP was most definitely Jake Austin Walker, aka Henry Jr. He took the most stereotypical character imaginable (the Rich Asshole Jock) and turned him into a living, breathing person with actual depth. It's amazing how in just a handful of episode, Henry Jr. went from insufferable jerk to sympathetic hero. Well done, Jake!

• Henry Jr.'s death was definitely unexpected, as this series continues to expertly subvert the audience's expectations.

So what do we think here? Is Henry Jr. really dead? It certainly looks that way, but remember, this is a comic book series. On such shows, death is generally about as serious as the common cold.

Most fans— including myself— are convinced we haven't seen the last of Henry Jr. Note that we don't actually see his lifeless body, which in the comic book world means it's a given a character will return.

I could definitely see Henry Jr. popping up in the season finale to get revenge on his evil asshole of a father.

Or not! According to actor Jake Austin Walker, Henry's story is over. In a recent interview, Walker said, "Henry's story, as far as I'm concerned, has come to a close. He is at peace. Would I love to bring Henry back, as biased as just a fan of the show and a fan of the character and I love playing him? Absolutely! But my thing is, and I've always stood by this, is a good character death can be immediately revoked if they're brought back in a lame way. I know Geoff (Johns) and the team would never do that. They're amazing. If they were gonna bring someone back, they have a huge purpose. But I guess my thing is I wouldn't want to come back unless it was truly deserved."

So there you go, straight from the, er, horse's mouth— Henry Jr.'s NOT coming back. On the other hand, that's exactly what someone would say if a character WAS going to return and the producers wanted it to be a shocking surprise! So we'll have to wait and see.

• Henry's death is a MAJOR deviation from the comics. There he became a superhero who called himself Brainwave Jr., and joined Infinity Inc. He often clashed with his father, the telepathic villain Brainwave.

In Infinity Inc. #10, Brainwave Jr. and the Star-Spangled Kid fought the Ultra-Humanite, a psychic supervillain who looked like a large white ape. At one point the Ultra-Humanite defeats Brainwave Jr., and is about to deliver the killing blow. At the last second, Brainwave appeared and sacrificed himself to save his son.

That's a LOT different from what happened here on the show!

• After Brainwave crushes his son under tons of debris, the JSA stare at the rubble in shock and horror. It was very polite of Brainwave to not instantly attack them, and let them all grieve in peace!
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