Stargirl definitely had more life in it, with plans for more stories. Showrunner Geoff Johns has said as much, but it’s clearly obvious watching how much work this finale had to do to feel like a finale. Spoilers follow for Stargirl Season 3, Episode 13, “Frenemies: Chapter Twelve: The Reckoning.”
Courtney (Brec Bassinger) and the JSA find themselves in the fight of their lives against their biggest threat yet.
A lot happens in this episode. There’s a huge fight, lots of tying off loose ends, and an epilogue, and it was probably impossible for it not to feel rushed. With that said, Stargirl managed to finish out its run with most of its loops closed, even if it was done so hastily.
The episode picks up where the last left off–the kids are figuring out that Sylvester has been messing with them and trying to divide them while Pat Dugan has seemingly been buried alive deep in the woods. We also get another peek into some existential horror when we find out that Icicle and the Ultra Humanite revived Sylvester before removing his brain some months ago.
Circumstances bring the kids to a junkyard where they come face-to-face with the possessed Starman, Icicle, and the Mahkent family. A monster of a fight ensues that in itself has tons of plot development. Some of it is fun, some is pretty hamfisted. When Courtney is doubting her link with the Cosmic Staff, Barbara straight up tells her “the staff only works for him because you think it should,” at which point Courtney says exactly that to Sylvester.
Pulling out all the stops
At the same time, this is the fight we’ve been waiting for–it’s a knock-down-drag-out fight between the JSA kids and Icicle, Ultra Humanite, and Dragon King. There’s some of the show’s standard awesome fight choreography, of course, and lots of betrayals. Sofus Mahkent and Beth Chapel come face to face again, and quickly agree that the fight is stupid. Lily Mahkent sees this and threatens to kill her husband, at which point Yolanda intervenes, accidentally causing a car to fall on Lily, leaving only her feet uncrushed. The wicked witch is dead!
When Icicle goes after Courtney, Cameron finally lets himself see the truth, and he joins in for the fight against his father. There’s a shot at one point of Cameron doing backflips in the background, and it’s kind of silly. The show did all of this work to establish Courtney as a gymnast and martial artist before she got the staff. Rick is a brawler, and Beth can only fight when the goggles are helping her. Only Cindy and Yolanda, who also had previous training, can fight at Courtney’s level. So why is Cameron suddenly doing spinning roundhouses just because he got ice powers?
There’s one other nitpick I have for this fight. We see Pat free himself from his live burial, and the next time he shows up, it’s in a fully repaired version of his mech, STRIPE. The show made a big thing out of destroying STRIPE last week, but it doesn’t bother to tell us how he managed to get another one put together so quickly. It’s not the biggest deal but it’s just something that the show normally is smart enough to write around.
Shiv gets justice
The fight goes on for a while and the heroes win one by one; Pat clobbers Sylvester with a rock, giving his thrice-transplanted brain permanent trauma. Cameron blasts his father with a powerful ice attack that seemingly disintegrates him and sends an ice cloud shaped like his face up into the sky. Cindy is fighting her father when Jakeem, being a cheesy, cringe-y teenager, wishes to Thunderbolt that “the most beautiful girl in the world never be bothered by her father again,” turning the ape-bodied villain into a stuffed animal. From here, the show focuses on tying up loose ends.
The team realizes that Sylvester’s brain might still be alive somewhere, and the show cuts to his brain in a vat in a mountain base, screaming on repeat, and that’s pretty horrifying. Courtney visits the Gambler’s daughter, Becky, and gives her his letter. Yolanda calls her mother to tell her the truth about her extracurricular activities. Beth asks her parents to be her sidekicks formally, and it’s the cutest thing because they’re just a family of huge dorks. Rick sheds a tear over Solomon Grundy’s grave, asking why everyone else got a chance to be revived except for him, only for a sickly-pale hand to burst forth from the ground.
Cameron, who had left with his grandfather, returns and asks Courtney if she really thinks she can help him, and they hug. Finally, Artemis Crock finds Icicle, now living in hiding in northern Europe, and traps him on a sticky substance that will burn, as she explains, even on water. Icicle is dead for good, though we don’t get the satisfaction of watching him boil off.
The story closes out with a jump ten years into the future. Stargirl is now Starwoman, and the JSA has had a successful run. Beth and Rick are about to be married. Jakeem calls himself Jakeem Thunder. The Shade is giving a group of people a tour of the JSA’s headquarters and explaining all of this, rather than the show walking us through it. They found Sylvester’s brain and brought him back to life–though we don’t actually get to see any of this.
As he’s explaining, the Flash–Jay Garrick, once again played by John Wesley Shipp–shows up and tells him that they need the JSA’s help. So why is the JSA headquarters a museum? And why is the Shade giving tours like some kind of goofy pageboy?
It’s an ending, at least
The thing is, I don’t mind most of this. Once again, Stargirl had a lot of work to do in finding ways to give us as many satisfying endings as it could considering that the season wasn’t meant as a series finale. The show ends with a title card that says “The End,” and then adds “Never” at the beginning to make “Never the End.” This could be confusing for viewers who aren’t aware that this is a series finale, but okay.
It’s nice that the show got to have some kind of ending–I’m willing to forgive the showrunners a little. At least they didn’t end on the kind of cliffhanger that Legends of Tomorrow did. Stargirl went out somewhat on its own terms, while it was still doing fresh and new stuff, instead of getting dragged out for a half-dozen more increasingly disappointing seasons. When we look at the lackluster endings of so many other superhero shows, Stargirl stands out as one of the better ones.