September 12, 2022

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Stargirl 3×02 Review – Everyone’s a Suspect

DC’s Stargirl -- “Frenemies - Chapter Two: The Suspects” -- Image Number: STG302g_0051r -- Pictured (L - R): Joel McHale as Sylvester Pemberton / Starman -- Photo: The CW -- © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The lines between heroes and villains continue to blur this week. Courtney spends more time with her predecessor, Sylvester, and begins to see that not all heroes are quite so heroic. The other members of the JSA continue to doubt Cindy Burman despite not having any visible evidence to support it–though they may be onto something. One of the show’s most enjoyable characters has decided to move on. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 3, Episode 1, “Frenemies: Chapter Two: The Suspects.”

“The Suspects”

After stumbling upon a suspicious murder in Blue Valley, the JSA begin looking at potential suspects. A tense run-in with The Shade (guest star Jonathan Cake) makes Courtney (Brec Bassinger) and Pat (Luke Wilson) realize that Sylvester’s (Joel McHale) old ways could land them in hot water. Finally, Barbara (Amy Smart) steps in to help Paula (Joy Osmanski), whose attempt at fitting in has not gone so well.

It seems like a big theme in DC television is the idea of legacy heroes. The Doom Patrol is the second manifestation of that group, the Titans live in the shadow of their superhero parents and mentors, HBO’s Watchmen was all about the legacy of the original Watchmen, and even Peacemaker has to tangle with his own family history with regard to superpowered individuals. Stargirl is no different; Courtney and Rick both follow in their parents footsteps, Pat tries to come to terms with his relationship to the previous JSA, and members of the ISA current and past are having to ask questions about their own legacies.

Shade and Star

Photo: The CW — © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

One of the central conflicts this week occurs between the Shade and Starman, neither of whom has been entirely what they seem. While the Shade appeared at one time to be an out-and-out villain, the real truth is that he’s mostly just selfish–a pre-Star Wars Han Solo as much as anything–and last season forced him to rethink some of his previous actions seriously. He’s been spending his free time at the town diner, training the head waitress Maria to make a perfect cup of tea. It might be the most stereotypically British thing one can do, but he’s also over 200 years old.

First, Pat and Sylvester question him at the diner, and we get a glimpse of Sylvester’s bubbling rage. Later, Courtney and Sylvester visit his home to question him; is he paying taxes on this place, or is it just still considered abandoned even though everyone knows this dude is living there? They’re there to talk to him about the Gambler’s death, but someone has to ask these questions.

Sylvester attacks the Shade with almost no provocation. Even in his short time, he’s been every bit as suspicious and antagonistic as the Shade ever was. The encounter causes the Shade, still sick from the Eclipso fight, to decide that Blue Valley doesn’t make sense as home any longer. I hope this isn’t a true exit–the Shade is one of my favorite types of characters, and he brings some old-school comic book flavor to the proceedings.

Is Sylvester really Sylvester?

Photo: The CW — © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The whole event only reinforces both Courtney and our suspicion of Sylvester. We’ve seen previously, elsewhere in the DC universe, how dying and coming back to life can change a person–Arrow, Titans, any time Ra’s Al Ghul shows up anywhere–for the worse. Is Sylvester truly himself, and just a jerk in general? Or is he something else–a clone, a tulpa, something else wearing his body? When he later breaks down as he reflects on why he attacked the Shade, it comes across as somewhat false. My hope is that this really is Sylvester, as that would be a lot more interesting with regard to the show’s themes about legacy and generations.

Parents up front

Photo: Danny Delgado / The CW — © 2022 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The other thing that has me genuinely curious is the relationship developing between Barbara and Paula. There’s a short scene with Paula and Crusher at the gym, seemingly plotting something, but Paula’s interactions with Barbara seem to be genuine. If she was worried about supplying a cake for the thing she’s going to, she could just buy a cake as she suggests, instead of learning from zero how to bake. The show has messed with our expectations enough times that the plotting could just as easily be for a surprise party as a heel turn.

Right now, the kids themselves seem to have taken somewhat of a backseat, with the exception of Courtney. We get quick updates on Rick, Beth, and Mike’s lives, but Sylvester, the Shade, and the parents really seem to be the core of the story right now. That will certainly change, and I’m still curious about Mister Bones, the skull-faced man voiced by Keith David, that appeared at the end of Season 2, and how he’ll play into things. It seems like we’ll likely find out more about him soon.

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