NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Stargirl”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
Another DC series bites the dust in the wake of this year’s CW purge.
After former Arrowverse shows, Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman came to an abrupt end earlier this year, with both shows concluding on an unresolved cliffhanger that left their storylines prematurely halted, it’s no wonder that Stargirl found itself on the chopping block next. Despite the series’ modest ratings, Stargirl was one of the most expensive shows in The CW’s current programming lineup, largely due to it being the lone refugee from DC’s now-shuttered DC Universe TV app to migrate to the basic cable network, rather than HBO Max. The series bumped costs up further by having to honour a pre-existing commitment to film in Georgia as well, rather than The CW’s usual favoured filming ground of Vancouver, something that further prevented Stargirl from exploiting crossover potential with The CW’s other DC shows. Sure, Stargirl takes place within its own self-contained universe on Earth-2 anyway, rather than the mainline Arrowverse’s Earth-Prime, but as the Arrowverse has proven many times over now, inter-dimensional and even inter-network barriers are sometimes irrelevant in the name of crossing over beloved small screen DC heroes.
So, between its high costs, the fact that it can’t easily mesh with its fellow DC programming, its primarily teenage superheroes, and the fact that it likely only endured on The CW in the first place because of executive producer, Greg Berlanti’s immense pull at the network, it was inevitable that new CW owner, Nexstar would have no interest in producing further episodes of Stargirl once the ink was dry. That’s a shame, because Stargirl easily justified its higher production costs throughout its run, namely by being one of The CW’s most engaging, enjoyable and charming shows overall, let alone DC shows. The show stayed strong right up to the end to boot, continuing to elevate its storytelling with an especially strong third and final season, one that also manages to cap itself off with a highly satisfying, and thrilling series finale.
Allegedly, there were two endings shot for Stargirl’s latest season, in case it beat the odds and managed to secure a Season 4 renewal in the end. Even then though, it seems evident that the showrunners knew that Stargirl was almost certainly on its last legs, as this final episode pulls out all the stops with an explosive final battle, and a rather definitive resolution to Courtney and co.’s evolution as Justice Society heroes. This kicks off when the team finally puts together that former Starman, Sylvester Pemberton is actually an enemy, being the disguised Ultra-Humanite. This adds another great layer to the inevitable confrontation against the Mahkent family, now fully aligned against the JSA, while Cindy, Mike and Jakeem try to duck the pursuit of the also-resurrected Dragon King, now with his mind inside the Ultra-Humanite’s former ape body. Yeah, there were an awful lot of resurrections during this final season of Stargirl, weren’t there?
Still, virtually all of the show’s most dangerous baddies (save for Eclipso, I guess), being united against the various heroes of the JSA is a hell of an action spectacle to go out on, especially by CW standards. Pat even manages to survive his live burial at the hands of Ultra-Humanite Sylvester, in one of the more unlikely turns of this episode, but still, I guess it’s good that S.T.R.I.P.E. got a chance to join in on the action too. This finale’s spectacular last battle is very visually striking too, on that note, potentially being one of the most ambitious set pieces in CW history, in fact! Obviously, the villains are inevitably defeated in the end, with Pat doing the honours of destroying Ultra-Humanite forever, but even as Stargirl continues to thrive as comfort food for the DC faithful, it does so with the inspiring oomph that the series has always delivered so well.
All of the resolutions for the heroes and villains absolutely shine too. Dragon King being turned into a plush toy by Thunderbolt is an embarrassing, but fitting end for Cindy’s twisted father, just as Lily Mahkent accidentally getting herself crushed by a car feels like poetic justice, following Lily’s unyielding bloodlust throughout this season especially. It’s Jordan that meets the most violent and surprisingly grisly end though, as Artemis takes revenge in Copenhagen by using her late father’s explosive puck formula to burn/melt Jordan alive on the street. Oof! That’s some sweet, brutal revenge on Icicle right there, finally putting down Stargirl’s most persistent arch-villain for good!
As much as it’s fulfilling to see Stargirl’s deadliest villains all meet justifiably harsh ends however, some of the best scenes in this finale are actually its quiet, emotional moments. It’s tough not to shed s tear when Mike finally meets his birth mother, for example, while Pat and Barbara keep a watchful eye nearby. Likewise, Courtney honouring her promise to the late Gambler by delivering his letter and last testament to his daughter, Becky is another of this finale’s most heartwarming moments, once again proving that some of Courtney’s most noble acts are the ones she does out of costume. As exciting as Stargirl’s final battle was, it wouldn’t have landed quite so effectively if we couldn’t also see its enduring heroes reconcile and mend fences, while also doing exactly what they said they would do when it comes to honouring both sides of their identities.
Thus, the heroes strike the perfect balance between finding fitting endings for their characters, while still leaving plenty of room for further adventures off-screen. In fact, this finale even ends with a time jump to a decade in the future, whereupon Shade is giving a tour at a JSA museum, confirming among other things that Cameron eventually joined the JSA as a heroic new Icicle, Courtney eventually upgraded her mantle to ‘Starwoman’, and the children of Green Lantern also eventually joined the JSA as Jade and Obsidian, as did Mike and Jakeem, becoming the new S.T.R.I.P.E. and Thunderbolt. As Shade recaps the JSA’s adventures from the past three seasons, he also mentions the team joining with the Seven Soldiers of Victory in a battle against cosmic villain, Nebula Man, no doubt a tease of what an aborted fourth season of Stargirl would have been about, had the series not been cancelled.
“As much as it’s fulfilling to see Stargirl’s deadliest villains all meet justifiably harsh ends however, some of the best scenes in this finale are actually its quiet, emotional moments.”
It’s definitely bittersweet to hear about further adventures for Courtney’s new JSA in this show’s future, even if we’ll never see them. That being said, it still feels heartwarming to see that Earth-2’s heroes will endure past Stargirl’s conclusion, possibly meaning that they may still be accessible in future DC TV projects, even outside of The CW. Hell, Brec Bassinger is already claimed to be reprising her role as Stargirl during the current season of another former DC Universe series, Titans, though it’s currently unclear whether this is the same Earth-2 Stargirl from this show, or a multiversal doppelganger based in the Titans universe on Earth-9. It seems that both options are equally likely, since this series ends with John Wesley Shipp’s Earth-2 Flash making a surprising re-appearance at the JSA museum, before declaring that the JSA is needed in another universe. A following text card that says, “Never the End” then seems to further tease that Stargirl’s characters will endure in some other form beyond this show, whether it’s appearances in other DC TV projects, or perhaps in a comic book continuation, a la Smallville, or Tim Burton’s Batman movie duology.
Much like FOX’s Gotham, NBC’s Constantine or DC Universe’s own Swamp Thing, Stargirl feels like a modern DC show that was killed too early, before it could achieve its full storytelling potential. Even so, the series’ commitment to everlasting hope and optimism is felt throughout this finale, right down to the defiant promise that the live-action Earth-2 and its heroes will continue their fight off-screen, and in other mediums. They’re already keeping that promise too, what with Courtney (or some multiversal version of her) seemingly making a return appearance on Titans sometime next year. That feels like a consolation prize for a highly underrated DC show that deserved to run several seasons longer than it ultimately did, but I suppose it’s nonetheless worth confirming that Stargirl also went out at the top of its game. Its final episode is action-packed, emotional and exciting, while also proving that this universe has plenty of storytelling potential left to tap in other forms. There may not be many storytelling curveballs of note, but Stargirl should still be commended for shining bright right up to the end, to the point where it barely seems bothered to have gotten the chop at The CW.
So, in that spirit, I guess I can hope that it’s not truly goodbye for Courtney and her friends. Maybe more like, “See you later”?
- Flashy, action-packed final battle
- Heartwarming resolutions for the heroes
- Inspiring teases that this universe's JSA will endure, even off-screen
- Pat's live burial is quickly made pointless