Stargirl pilot recap – welcome upbeat energy in DC’s new superhero show

May 18, 2020 (Last updated: August 11, 2021)
Jonathon Wilson 0
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A refreshingly upbeat entry into DC’s small-screen canon with a great cast and plenty of promise going forward.

This recap of the Stargirl pilot contains spoilers.

I understand that it’s difficult to take this as a good thing, but Stargirl has more in common with DC’s other small-screen properties than with the Arrowverse shows, even though after a premiere on the DC Universe streaming service it’ll be airing on the CW. The production and effects and general level of competency here feel more akin to something like Titans or Doom Patrol, though without the grating faux-edgy self-seriousness, than to the shoestring-budget camp of Green Arrow, the Flash, et al. And it’s much more earnestly enthusiastic than any of them.

I think that’s the primary selling point of Stargirl, which is about a teenage girl and has the idealism to match, though the personal attachment that Geoff Johns has to Courtney Whitmore, who was inspired by his late sister and is here played with moxie by Brec Bassinger, is obvious too. Johns created the character and co-created the show, serves as its executive producer, and wrote the first two episodes; that intimate relationship between creator and creation is consistently felt here.

Courtney, little known outside of earnest DC fandom, becomes the titular Stargirl after discovering the Cosmic Staff, latterly in the possession of long-dead superhero Starman and now in the personal effects of her new stepdad Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson). She resolves to become her own kind of hero, with help from Pat, the particulars of which are probably best not to go into at this juncture, and I guess busying herself with that helps to take the sting out of the fact that her life has been upended from Los Angeles to small-town Nebraska.

Amy Smart plays Courtney’s mom, Barbara, and Trae Romano her step-brother, Mike, but it’s really the slightly unusual dynamic of Courtney and Pat that makes up the show’s strongest emotional throughline. The novelty of a teenage girl bonding with her step-father in this kind of world-saving context gives the show a welcome freshness, while Courtney’s innate and uncomplicated morality gives it a charming center.

The Stargirl pilot has enough personality and charm to get away with some rushed pacing, which is really the only knock against it as an opener. The show’s positivity and charisma are winning elements, and welcome in the DC oeuvre. How it’ll fare long-term is anyone’s guess, but these early signs are more than promising.

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