Stargirl Season 3 Premiere Review - "The Murder"
Stargirl Season 3 premieres on Wednesday, Aug. 31 on The CW. The below review discusses some plot details, but no spoilers.
DC's Stargirl is special. Its story, themes, and characters -- all of which developed organically over the course of the first two seasons -- ground themselves in the notion that how we treat each other matters. Its playful energy and steadfast commitment to its innate innocence instantly distanced it from its sister shows. Now, as the Arrowverse-adjacent superhero series enters its third season, showrunner Geoff Johns and the writers are pulling out all the stops to elevate it even further.
The premiere, titled “The Murder,” brings The Gambler (Eric Goins) back into the fold. The Colonel Sanders-looking criminal mastermind returns to Blue Valley determined to atone for his past lawbreaking… or is he? The Justice Society of America is hopelessly split over whether or not reform is possible for former Injustice Society members. The Courtney Whitmore school of thought insists that light can pierce any darkness, that a lifetime of dastardly deeds doesn't make someone a hopeless case. Conversely, the Rick Tyler/Yolanda Montez approach to trust aligns more with a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. Testing the JSA further are Cindy Burman (Meg DeLacy) and the overbearing Crock parents (Joy Osmanski and Neil Hopkins), who all insist they've changed for the better.
And yet, even as Courtney deals with these new problems, much is the same. Amy Smart's Barbara Whitmore is as good-hearted and attentive as ever. Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington) remains a vital foil for the JSA; without her, Courtney would be left to manage her hotheaded teammates alone. On the periphery, Mike (Trae Romano) and Jakeem (Alkoya Brunson) still struggle to make cases for themselves as heroes. It's a busy season for Stargirl, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
“The Murder” adopts the tone and structure of a whodunit, setting up a season-spanning murder mystery while still deepening and darkening existing arcs. We get a ton of new insight into the Gambler, who until now was an underwritten baddie lost to the wind. Some of the Gambler-focused plotting seems fairly predictable initially, but those of us who are caught up know that Johns and his writing team are partial to surprises.
Stargirl has always been liberal — and brilliant -- with its curveballs, and this bouncy season opener sees the show at its most surprising. The closing minutes are gasp-worthy; even the most comic-savvy viewers won't see the first twist coming.
But if anything separates Stargirl from other super-outings, it's the tone. The soapy angst of other CW DC shows is mercifully low-key here, glimpsed only in more brooding characters such as Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), Rick (Cameron Gellman), and Cameron (Hunter Sansone). Even then, though, the melodrama never overwhelms other, more measured emotions. Instead, the writers opt for something closer to The Breakfast Club than Days of Our Lives (and thank God for that).
If the premiere is anything to go by, the Stargirl/Starman dynamic will be a game-changer.“
Casting-wise, Stargirl couldn't have found a more perfect performer for its emotional and thematic anchor. Luke Wilson's Pat Dugan is Middle-Class Fancy incarnate; a living, breathing manifestation of “This lawn isn't gonna mow itself.” The “cheeseball by day/sidekick by night” routine is a snug fit for Wilson, who is no stranger to the everyman role. But Pat Dugan is far more than your run-of-the-mill suburban dad. Remember: he chose this life after years of running around with superheroes. Even then, though, he still carries an air of “I can school you ten ways to Sunday without you realizing it.” And he totally can, too. The guy is a wealth of wisdom, insight, and understanding, a paragon of stepfatherhood who has been a guiding light for Courtney and her friends. “The Murder” finds Pat pulling double duty as a mentor to both Courtney and Starman (Joel McHale). More specifically, he's forced to mediate when Courtney and her idol realize they have to share custody of the cosmic staff they use to fight crime.
If the premiere is anything to go by, the Stargirl/Starman dynamic will be a game-changer. For most of the series, Starman was a relic of the past, a symbol from whom Courtney could learn and a beacon of hope for her when she needed it most. Now that he's alive and crashing with the Whitmores, he has become an unexpected — and unwilling — problem for Courtney and the JSA. Not much is clear just yet, but it's safe to say that Starman's return will continue to complicate things for Courtney.
For starters, the staff is now bonded to two people, cleverly spinning the expression “Don't meet your heroes.” Starman's pride, temper, and attachment to how things should be starkly contradict the idealized version occupying Courtney's imagination. Luckily, McHale takes the challenge seriously and imbues his character with a melancholic waywardness. The requisite goodness that draws the staff to its wielders is still actively guiding him, but so is his impulsiveness. He's a good man who never created a life for himself outside of his superhero identity. The consequence is a person who doesn't know what true contentment looks or feels like.
McHale does a bang-up job carrying his end of the mentor/mentee relationship, but the back-and-forth works because Brec Bassinger has the chops to keep up. She continues to impress with a lead performance that reinforces her casting as one of the best decisions DC has made in years. Her take on Courtney Whitmore is everything the character needs to be: kind, fair, and gentle… but totally up for kicking ass if trouble's afoot. (Johns, who co-created the Stargirl character in 1999, has spoken openly about how incredible Bassinger's audition was). What's more, her chemistry with co-stars Washington, Wilson, DeLacy, and Monreal continues to be one of Stargirl's greatest strengths. Some of the episode's best moments happen in the Blue Valley High cafeteria, where the JSA members discuss supervillains over trays of colorless slop.
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Stargirl has always been about seeing the good in others. Its big heart and keen sense of self make it one of the most self-actualized superhero adaptations ever. With “The Murder,” the stage is set for what will hopefully be an outstanding season of superhero television.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Hayden Mears