Stargirl review–New series begins with a powerful start tonight on the CW Network, first season now on digital

Review by C.J. Bunce

Isn’t this a great time for a new superhero series to begin?  If you agree then you’re in luck, because tonight’s premiere episode of Stargirl might be DC Comics’ best TV pilot yet.  Prepare to meet the next superheroes from the corners of 30 years of DC Comics.  Courtney Whitmore’s relationship with her new stepdad is like you’d expect at first–awkward.  But it’s doubly awkward when he’s an over-eager good guy named Patrick played by Luke Wilson (known best for his roles in Wes Anderson movies and an unforgettable spot on The X-Files).  Courtney (seen above sporting a rather timely mask) discovers there is more than meets the eye with Pat, and the series opener will propel viewers further ahead into his secrets and past–sooner than you might expect.  The result is incredibly promising, a pilot mixing well-done special effects with a great story, a coming of age tale targeted at kids, a fun cast of familiar faces and a new young actress hitting the ground running (or soaring), a cool car and a 1950s vibe, and throwbacks for viewers who keep their eyes open.  And the entire first season is now available on digital.

For anyone who has seen the several previews for Stargirl, you’ll already have caught that Patrick was once S.T.R.I.P.E, a mechanic in a powered armor supersuit, and sidekick to Sylvester Pemberton, aka Starman, played by Community, Ted, and The Soup’s Joel McHale.  Purists will be happy to see this is the same Star-Spangled Kid from the 1940s (aka Skyman).  A member of Seven Soldiers of Victory, the All-Star Squadron, and the Justice Society of America, he and his superhero team got around.  In the new series the title character of Courtney aka Stargirl, played by Brec Bassinger (School of Rock), stumbles upon Starman’s magic staff as the new combined family of four move to Nebraska from California to begin a new life together.  But is this really an accident?  What lies ahead for this young woman, her relationship with her mother and stepdad, and her efforts to make friends at a new school?

Throwbacks are to comic book references, plus viewers will see other elements seep into the story that have made other genre series work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, iZombie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and The Flash.  Wilson and Bassinger (who have lots of room to grow ahead of them to form some chemistry) are a nice match to Courtney’s mom, played by Amy Smart (Scrubs, Justified), and her step-brother, a kid with a (pre-pubescent) Bud Bundy/adult-smart shtick, played by Trae Romano.  (Neither Bassinger nor Romano appear to be related to the famous actors that share their surnames).

Who isn’t looking forward to Joel McHale as a DC Comics superhero, and Luke Wilson as his sidekick?  After the first episode you’ll be wishing for even more.  Viewers will get hints that second famous league of extraordinary superpeople–the Justice Society of America–might just be an ongoing feature of the series in one form or more.  After Oliver Queen died elsewhere in the Arrowverse, this is a great time for a DC Comics reboot.  In fact, if the rest of the opening season is like the first episode, we may have something like Zachary Levi’s big-screen movie Shazam! to look forward to, that kind of fun, only on the small screen at home every week this summer.

Justice Society

The pantheon of superheroes includes Anjelika Washington and Henry Thomas as versions of Doctor Mid-Nite, Yvette Monreal and Brian Stapf as Wildcat, and Cameron Gellman and Lou Ferrigno, Jr. as Hourman, taking on Christopher James Baker as Brainwave, Joy Osmanski as Tigress, Neil Hopkins as Sportsmaster, Nelson Lee as Dragon King, and Neil Jackson as Icicle.  You may or may not meet them all right away, but expect creator/executive/producer Geoff Johns’ best translation from comics to screen yet, with callouts and try-ons that worked in classics like The Karate Kid, Hero at Large, Back to the Future, Shazam!, the King Arthur legends, and The Flash.  Even more surprising is the writers choice to attack early on elements of the characters that other creators might have decided to leave for season one cliffhangers.

Recommended for fans of the superhero genre, coming of age characters, and Blue Valley High School, teenagers who are into gymnastics, and anyone looking for a positive new show, look for the first episode of Stargirl premiering on the CW Network tonight, May 19, 2020.  Get the entire first season now here on Amazon.


Leave a Reply