NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Stargirl” are present in this review
Henry King Jr. is dead. The Justice Society is predictably reeling from the loss of another would-be superhero for the Post-Crisis Earth-2 as well, and that’s before a key figure from Courtney’s past appears to further test her heroic resolve. “Shining Knight” finally challenges, and even genuinely upends, a key cornerstone of Courtney’s faith in herself as a superhero, when her birth father, Sam Kurtis makes an unexpected trip to Blue Valley, in order to reunite with his daughter. Meanwhile, confused janitor, Justin stumbles into Pat’s garage, seemingly under mental duress, and presenting an ominous warning of what’s to come for the country, should the Injustice Society succeed with their plans to brainwash a significant chunk of America’s population.
The title of this episode appears to suggest that Justin will finally get his time in the spotlight. As many avid DC fans would no doubt know, Justin is actually Sir Justin, a.k.a. Shining Knight, a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, as well as a former superhero ally to Pat. Justin has clearly undergone some sort of trauma at the hands of the ISA, and Pat appears to be the key to reversing it, leading to Pat welcoming Justin into the Whitmore/Dugan house, so he can recover his identity. That’s great and all, but for an episode called, “Shining Knight”, we got disappointingly little of Shining Knight. Justin felt disappointingly neglected within his own episode, and that’s frustrating, considering that Stargirl’s first season is set to wrap up in just a couple of weeks.
Despite that, this episode still nonetheless worked very well in many respects, particularly within its core storyline centered around Courtney and her birth father, Sam. After Sam unexpectedly shows up at Barbara’s doorstep, concerned about Barbara’s E-mail to him, he gets a chance to reconnect with Courtney after many years away. This seemingly uplifting gesture comes with a crushing realization for Courtney however, as well as her team; Courtney’s father is not in fact the late Starman. This leaves Courtney simultaneously struggling with the knowledge that she was mistaken about her origins this whole time, while also suddenly having to reconnect with her absent birth father.
The interactions between Courtney and Sam add a ton of fantastic dramatic heft to this episode. A sublime, if slightly short-lived crisis of faith is thus created for Courtney here too, one that Pat and Barbara eventually have to help see her through. Making this storyline even more intriguing is that Sam initially seems like a pretty decent guy as well, even being downright charming, showing genuine interest in Courtney’s life, expressing honest remorse about his absence, and voicing a desire for Courtney to come visit him in Los Angeles at some point. Even though Courtney is being faced with the knowledge that her father isn’t a superhero after all, she does nonetheless appear to develop a genuine family connection with Sam, something that promises to enrich her life in many unexpected ways down the road.
But, again, if you’re an avid DC fan, you may already know that this isn’t meant to be. In a well-executed twist, Sam eventually asks for Courtney’s locket to help finance a house, which Courtney turns over to him, crushed that her father cares more about money than her. This further shatters Courtney’s faith in herself as Stargirl, and later comes with Sam confessing to Pat that he has no intention of being part of Courtney’s life, and simply came to see her for the valuable locket. Pat then tells Sam never to come back before punching him out, eventually resulting in a tearful Courtney embracing Pat as her true father figure. With Pat’s and Barbara’s encouragement, Courtney is then eventually able to re-power the Cosmic Staff, finding her resolve to be Stargirl once again, even with a deadbeat father instead of a superhero father. Justin even bears witness to this sight, which creates a fantastic swell of positive emotion, just in time for Stargirl to kick off its two-part season finale storyline next week!
Of course, that’s not to say that Courtney’s family problems are done. After Henry Sr. visits Jordan in his office, he reveals Stargirl’s identity as Courtney Whitmore, leading to Jordan uncharacteristically hesitating when it comes to Project New America. This again makes me wonder why Jordan is in charge of the ISA, when Henry seems to be both smarter and more dangerous, but whatever. In any case, Jordan eventually discovers that Barbara was poking into Icicle’s history, as well as the history of the ISA, using her work computer, and he subsequently decides that not only Barbara, Courtney and Pat, but even Mike are too dangerous to allow to live! Okay, in fairness, it was pretty stupid of Barbara to do ISA searches on her work computer, but I suppose that, even if she’d done them at home, Gambler could have just hacked her activity all the same. In any case, this primes the ISA to become extra dangerous for the imminent climax of Stargirl’s first season, especially with Brainwave seemingly absorbing his dead son’s own metahuman abilities, in turn allowing him to psychically dominate even more of Earth-2’s United States! Oh dear.
It really would have been nice if we got any worthwhile material about Justin this week, considering that many viewers no doubt already have the necessary pieces to put together his significance as Shining Knight. That said, it’s difficult to complain much about, “Shining Knight” in the end, since it’s nonetheless a very emotionally charged episode, in all the right ways. Courtney’s initially heartwarming and ultimately disappointing reunion with her birth father wonderfully sustains the bulk of this episode, nicely challenging Courtney’s faith in a way that maybe could have used an extra episode to flesh out, but still landed pretty effectively in the end. Likewise, the ISA officially targeting the entire Whitmore/Dugan family, now that Jordan knows the truth about Barbara’s treachery, also promises to create an exciting obstacle for the imminent conclusion of Stargirl’s first season. Stargirl still hasn’t really fixed its overall issue with hasty plotting, but most of the show is so wholesome and well-characterized that it’s really difficult to care, least of all in an especially dark time for humanity in the real world, which makes this series and others like it feel more crucial than ever for consumption.
Stargirl ultimately does disappointingly little with Justin's identity crisis this week, but nonetheless performs strong, thanks to an emotionally charged reunion between Courtney and her birth father.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Courtney's birth father challenging her resolve
Pat cementing himself as Courtney's ideal father figure
Jordan going on the offensive against Barbara and her family