NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Stargirl” are present in this review
With Courtney’s new JSA assembled, and Pat finally agreeing to train the young heroes in the ways of protecting Blue Valley, Stargirl is ready to kick its ensemble up to exciting new heights this week! Not only that, but Courtney also finds herself squaring off with a new arch-nemesis in, “Shiv Part One”, which finally reveals the dark, chilling secrets behind Blue Valley High’s disagreeable queen bee student, Cindy Burman. At the same time, the ISA’s plans continue to move along in the background, complete with Barbara being called away on a special assignment with Jordan, around the time that homecoming motivates Cameron to make a surprising proposal to Courtney.
This episode kicks off a two-part story that’s meant to launch Cindy Burman into her super-villain role from DC Comics lore, specifically a role as one of Stargirl’s most stubborn recurring enemies, Shiv. This is done through a pretty clever contrast between Courtney and Cindy in this episode, after Cindy finds herself drifting away from Henry, and alienating her cheerleader co-captain, Jenny. As it turns out, there’s a sinister reason behind Cindy’s nasty behaviour as well, and not just the one that should be obvious to anyone possessing any familiarity with Stargirl’s history from DC Comics lore. Like Courtney, Cindy is desperate to be recognized by a father figure who doesn’t appear to let her make her own choices. In Cindy’s case, that’s the ISA’s own Dragon King, who continues to further a mysterious plot by the ISA, one with a clear relation to Jordan’s, “American Dream” project.
At the same time, Courtney faces her own difficulties in trying to prove herself to Pat and her new allies. This begins when Pat calls Courtney and her friends into his mechanic shop, but is nonetheless initially hesitant to train the young heroes in combat. Instead, Pat wants to use this opportunity to give the new JSA intel and background information on the various ISA members, something that Courtney immediately dismisses, destroying Pat’s homemade ISA displays, only to earn scorn from Pat and her teammates. This at least puts Courtney in the position of being on the same wavelength as Cindy this week, but it is nonetheless a fairly overused teen drama trope to have the otherwise sweet-natured Courtney inexplicably think she’s smarter and better than her friends, only to inevitably learn how to be part of a team and listen to others later, once her arrogance predictably gets her hurt, or otherwise compromised.
Regardless, Courtney and Cindy coming very close to striking up a friendship is interesting, after the two are forcibly paired on a chemistry project. As it turns out, Cindy is quite intelligent, particularly in the realm of sciences, and this is perhaps unsurprising to DC fans, considering that she’s the daughter of Dragon King. Speaking of Dragon King, we also get a great chance to see Cindy actually interact with her father for the first time this week, whereupon Cindy proves that she’s more than fine with murdering her father’s brainwashed minions, as well as being downright abusive to her similarly brainwashed stepmother. This would appear to be a hint as to what the ISA is planning, especially when Dragon King later mentions needing Brainwave’s abilities to power some mysterious device.
This in turn reveals that Cindy is not actually legitimately attracted to Henry, and is instead only dating him at her father’s insistence, in order to determine if Henry is developing telepathic abilities like his comatose father. Henry, naturally, is doing exactly that, but we don’t see him acknowledge this to anyone at this point. Gradually, the pieces of the ISA’s plans are beginning to come into focus, complete with Cindy already having some deadly fighting experience, as well as her own Shiv costume, which includes a flamethrower staff! Cindy has even been a metahuman this whole time, apparently, having the ability to project hidden blades from her skin, Assassin’s Creed-style! This becomes a key part of her arsenal during a climactic fight with Stargirl in the school gym.
Said battle comes during a homecoming football game, where we also see some nice additional development for Mike. After Barbara goes with Jordan on a trip to secure the purchase of an abandoned sewing factory outside of town, Mike expresses frustration to Courtney at the huge amount of time that she’s spending with his father. This finally gives Mike a bit more emotional depth, while also nicely building upon Mike being neglected at his science fair during last week’s episode. It’s smart writing, since it actively plays with the idea that Mike has stayed firmly in the background on Stargirl up to this point, due to the demands of Courtney’s and Pat’s superhero training. Obviously, when the other Dugan and Whitmore family members inevitably learn the truth about what Courtney and Pat are up to, it should be very interesting to see the fallout!
For all the intended good of that superhero training, Courtney nonetheless has her hands full with Shiv as well! This climactic battle is another of Stargirl’s better combat sequences, having a good combination of special effects and practical stunt work, while also swiftly and furiously having Shiv and Stargirl exchanging blows in impressive fashion! My only question is, how the hell does Cindy not recognize Courtney?! Courtney’s Stargirl disguise is really not that great, and Cindy doesn’t hide her face at all under her Shiv identity, for that matter! Even by the standards of unrealistically effective DC disguises, this is a huge stretch! Regardless, after Courtney ends up being injured and nearly killed by Shiv, she’s thankfully saved by, of all people, the school janitor! This mysterious character has lingered in the background of Blue Valley High for a little while now, and this episode finally reveals that, not only does he recognize Pat as Stripesy, but the janitor, Justin, happens to wield an enchanted sword! This is probably more than enough evidence to indicate Justin’s identity to DC fans, namely that he’s Sir Justin, a.k.a. Shining Knight, a surviving Arthurian knight who becomes a modern day superhero in DC Comics lore!
Shining Knight hiding in plain sight at Blue Valley High is a pretty cool prospect, plus Cindy’s proper debut as Shiv certainly doesn’t disappoint either! That said, the storytelling in, “Shiv Part One” isn’t always perfectly tight. The forced excuse to temporarily separate Courtney from her JSA buddies is pretty lame, not to mention that Cindy not recognizing Courtney in her Stargirl costume, not even acknowledging Courtney’s identity when Pat calls her name within earshot of Cindy, feels downright baffling. Perhaps Cindy will acknowledge knowing who Stargirl is during the second half of this storyline next week, but for now, it seems weird that Courtney’s rather poor Stargirl disguise would fool Cindy at all, even initially. Despite that however, it’s also pretty interesting to get some genuine glimpses at Cindy’s home life as the daughter of Dragon King this week, which contrasts very well with Courtney facing similar frustrations, as Pat also refuses to take her drive to succeed seriously. There’s a great hero/villain relationship starting to brew between Courtney and Cindy, so here’s hoping that this can keep being spotlighted effectively next week, assuming Cindy doesn’t turn out to need her eyes checked.
- Effective, ironic contrast between Courtney and Cindy
- Mike's development nicely plays with his neglect in the storytelling
- Great twist with Justin the janitor
- Courtney's superhero arrogance is forced and trite
- How the hell does Cindy not recognize Courtney as Stargirl?!