This week DC's Stargirl is once again reserving the petrol for later down the road in another slower-paced, horror-inspired, character-driven episode. After an epic battle in last week's chapter, Yolanda (Yvette Monreal) has called it quits with the JSA and broken all ties with the team. "Summer School: Chapter Eight", set on a chilly 4th of July, splits the screen time between Rick (Cameron Gellman) and Beth (Anjelika Washington) as Eclipso plots to destroy the JSA one member at a time.
It is not all fun-and-games being a superhero in Blue Valley as we get a glimpse into Rick's world outside of tights. After a fight with his uncle scatters his college hopes literally into the wind, we see that all of his efforts to connect with Solomon Grundy have formed a bond. Meanwhile, while trying to gain access to the JSA confidential files, Beth is confronted by her parents who are telling her that the divorce is her fault, breaking down her confidence. A brief message from Dr. McNighter tells Beth that he is still alive and that they are able to connect through the goggles because there is a breach in the shadow barrier.
Courtney (Brec Bassinger) is finding it hard to keep her emotions in check and wants to go search for Eclipso, but Pat (Luke Wilson) tells her that the JSA is about being ready for a threat, not rushing in. After a classic universal monster setup, Rick calls Pat and Courtney for help but is forced to face his inner conflict over Grundy. It is under the light of the fireworks that Rick's conscience fails him, finding himself another victim of Eclipso. On the other side of Blue Valley, more emboldened by his recent success with Yolanda and progress with Rick, Lil Eclipso (Milo Stein) is waiting for Beth on her stairs and begins to break her down mentally. During a flashback to the original JSA, Eclipso goes so far as to play the race card pointing out that she is the wrong color to be Dr. Midnight. Materializing out of the shadows Eclipso (Nick Tarabay) taunts her, further reminding her that "No one chose you." In contrast to Rick, Beth rises above Eclipso's taunts and calls him out, revealing herself to be stronger than anyone (including viewers) had previously thought her to be. Little seen this episode, Barb and Mike wrap up the episode for the viewers and wonder how they can join the fight, foreshadowing a likely encounter with Eclipso, as a former foe signals his return.
From the opening crane shot of a solo car driving to the maggots in Beth's sandwich, Director Andi Armaganian masterfully slips in nods to horror classics such as The Lost Boys, The Shining, and It. She uses the lighting and mood of Beth's house to invoke some Poltergeist vibes as well. Writer Steve Harper deserves notice for writing such a strong black character. In her 'I chose myself' monologue, Beth rises above the perceived cowardice and embraces her courage surprising both Eclipso and the audience.
Points for Eclipso leaning into a key light as he is losing to Beth. The stronger she becomes is reflected in the light on his face as he becomes weaker. Brilliant. It is the subtle nuances like this that separate the show from other superhero dramas. Points for Courtney naming the staff Cosmo, that definitely sounds like something a teenage superhero would do. Points for the shock of Eclipso coming off as racist, which pays off even sweeter when Beth puts him in his place proclaiming, " I love being Black."
Things to watch for: while he has a lot to overcome, we have not seen the last of Rick. Look for him to somehow modify his powers when he comes back- possibly no more time limits? With Yolanda gone, will Jenny take her place? Will Beth? Is that really Dr. McNider reaching out through Beth's goggles? Will Grundy's concern for Rick make him be a surprise sleeper hero this season? Tune in next week true believers!
The CW's DC's Stargirl "Summer School: Chapter Eight" continues to be a slow-burning horror story that just happens to feature a young JSA. Viewers are slowly lulled into thinking they know what the outcome is going to be and slaps them with a killer third act. Not one character is the same after another member of the JSA is lost, and now Eclipso's reach extends past the characters into the audience as they do not know who or what they can trust.