It’s been a good while since I stopped watching any of the CW superhero shows. I was an avid viewer of practically everything that fell into the Arrowverse. But then something happened around the sixth season of Arrow and all of the surrounding shows. It just didn’t click with me anymore. Sure, they’re all shows based on comic book superheroes but, at a certain point, the entire Arrowverse started to feel a little too mellowdramatic and complicated. All of the storylines were becoming too intertwined with each other, which can be a blast when it comes to their annual crossover event. But when you feel you’re obliged to watch all the shows and not just the ones you like, it can feel overwhelming. It wasn’t much of a problem when it was just Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. But they kept on adding shows like Supergirl, Black Lightning and Batwoman! It just became too much for me.
I pretty much checked out in the middle of that season and I haven’t seen a single CW superhero show since then. But when I heard they were releasing a live-action show based on Stargirl and it was following an entirely new continuity outside of the Arrowverse, well, I decided to take a shot and go watch the entire thing!
Stargirl is about Courtney Whitmore, a normal teenage girl, who runs across a magical/sentient artifact called the Cosmic Staff that belonged to another superhero, Starman. Believing that her long lost father was the superhero in question, she dons a costume akin to Starman and starts searching for the supervillains who supposedly killed her alleged father and most of the Justice Society of America. She is partnered with her stepfather, Pat Dugun, a mechanical genius who also happens to be Starman’s old sidekick, and the two investigate the mysterious dealings that’s happening in Blue Valley, the town they just moved to.
If I were to summarize the entire first season of Stargirl into one word, that word would be “charming.” While the base story of still a tragedy as you do see all of the heroes die at the hands of the Injustice Society at the very beginning of the first episode and even the CW’s official trailer, it’s still comes off as much more hopeful than most of the CW’s other offerings. There are much more moments of youthful naivety because Courtney Whitmore is still a young teenager who really hasn’t opened her eyes to how cruel the world can be. Because of this, the entire show does feel much more lighter than most of the CW’s other superhero offerings. It’s kind of like Legends of Tomorrow but with slightly more intricate story.
Also, Stargirl does turn the traditional “superhero with sidekick” template on its head as it’s Stargirl, the teenage Courtney Whitmore, who has the adult Pat Dugan working as her sidekick. It shouldn’t make sense but, somehow, they manage to make it work here. I will give credit to Geoff Johns, who created Stargirl in the comics and who is also the creator and producer of the series, with making the dynamic work so well. I guess a lot of credit also should got to Brec Bassinger and Luke Wilson who play Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl and Pat Dugan respectively, as the way they bounce off each other does feel natural even if the circumstances are extremely strange. I will say they are the best characters in the show because their dynamic works.
Another thing that worked even if it doesn’t follow the typical superhero story template is the actual focus on family life. In most superhero shows in the Arrowverse, most of the emphasis is on the superhero side of things and not really on the secret identity stuff. Stargirl devotes a lot of time on Courtney Whitmore’s home life and family, which should be boring but it isn’t! A lot of that is because Courtney’s entire family are really good characters by themselves and they do have defining traits that add to the overall charm of the show. It’s really great to see Amy Smart, who plays Courtney’s biological mother Barbara Whitmore, in, well, anything actually! She’s really fun to watch here. Her stepbrother Mike Dugan, played by Trae Romano, is also a blast to watch, even if he really doesn’t offer much to the entire superhero story.
However, even if the entire secret identity portion of the show is great, that doesn’t mean the superhero portion is bad. Well, at the very least, the villains in Stargirl are quite good. I may like reading comics but I’m not all that familiar with the Injustice Society so I have no real idea what the baddies are like in the comics. But, if they’re anything like the way they’re depicted in the Stargirl show, then they must be underrated top tier villains when it comes to personality. They’re all charming in a rather nefarious manner so they are enjoyable to see in action.
Unfortunately, while the villains in Stargirl are a joy to watch (even though I know they’re supposed to be the guys were supposed to hate), I can’t say the same for most of the heroes. I will say the best ones are Stargirl and STRIPE, the robot mech Dugan pilots, as they are the best characters in the show after all. Stargirl and STRIPE’s allies, however, just suck. The biggest issue I have with them is that they’re just not charismatic and they definitely are overshadowed by how good and charming Stargirl, her family and the villains are! They lack the spark of personality that makes their counterparts much more enjoyable to watch.
Possibly the worst character would be Doctor Mid-Nite II because, well, the character that adopts the moniker doesn’t even feel like a superhero and more like someone who likes the idea of being a superhero. Even by the end of the season, you never actually see her do anything as it’s mostly her supercomputer goggles, which she basically stole, mind you, who does all of the heavy lifting! Give the supercomputer goggles to either Courtney’s mother or stepbrother and it would have been loads better. I know that’s not “comics canon” and all that but it would’ve worked so much better!
Most of the special effects and costumes in Stargirl are also rather laughable. I do like the mixture of practical and CGI effects used to animate the Cosmic Staff, even though they can be comically simple at times. There was one particular scene when the Cosmic Staff poked itself in Courtney’s room but it never really fully entered the door, leaving me to believe it was just a stagehand carrying the staff behind the wall to simulate it “floating” next to Courtney. There are also multiple scenes where we see Courtney “fighting” on the Cosmic Staff as it “pulls” on her, even though it’s obvious the actress just miming the interaction. On the other hand, I liked all the work put into making the Cosmic Staff glow. If they make a life-sized Cosmic Staff toy that glows with different intensities and in different sections, I would certainly buy one!
The effects they used for the STRIPE robot is a little hit or miss. There are times when it looks okay but there are also moments when it looks incredibly fake. It looks fine in still shots but, more often than not, STRIPE doesn’t look alright when in motion. However, a part of me is okay with the herky-jerky movements of the robot because it does kind of look like it might move that way if it were real.
The thing I really can’t get behind are the costumes as they all look like low-rent cosplay outfits! Stargirl’s outfit looks like what a female Captain America cosplayer would wear if she realized she didn’t have the right materials. The new Hourman and Doctor Mid-Nite costumes are terrible as they look like they were thrown together at the last minute. Even the villains have awful looking costumes! It’s sad that the best looking supervillain outfit belongs to Sportsmaster and that’s only because the hockey mask he wears in the show looks like it was given to him by Casey Jones… if Casey Jones handed him an old rejected design of his mask. The worst costume belongs to Wildcat. That’s both because it looks cheap and, oddly enough, is true to the comic book design. I’m sorry but giving your superhero a cowl that has chubby cheeks should be a crime!
Even though I knock on the show because of the rather crappy looking costumes and the sub-par superhero ensemble, strangely enough, it does add a modicum of entertainment to the entire product as it does feel like a rather campy superhero show that’s trying it’s best to entertain the viewer. Like I said, Stargirl is just a charming show overall because of all of its elements, both the good and the bad. I am definitely on board with a second season of Stargirl as it’s a rather easy show to get into. It’s definitely not the best superhero show out there but it’s just charming enough to hold my attention.
Have you seen the CW’s Stargirl? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!