Season 1 of Stargirl on DC Universe is now behind us with a lot to unpack when you look back. For instance, if you didn’t see the two-part season finale (“Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.”) then you missed a pretty big revelation about The Injustice Society of America (ISA). They are, turns out, politically left-leaning, as in Progressive or Communist – as if there is a difference.
The slowly building “surprise” came in episode 12 – the second to last and part one of the finale – when Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington) used her Doctor Mid-Nite goggles to hack into the ISA mainframe and learn the nature of their evil plan. She discovers their “New Constitution” for America, a manifesto behind a broadcast that gives the villain Brainwave (Christopher Baker) control over the minds of 100 million people.
Beth is stunned when she finds the ISA wants to combat global warming, inequality, and give everybody “universal” (that is, subsidized) medical care. All are social justice causes typical of the idealistic left and, naturally, the ISA wants to kill millions to institute their change – about 25 million or 25% of those Brainwave has control over.
Stargirl and the team find out the part about genocide after a little more digging. I know – the fanatical utopians are genocidal and the bad guys? Big shock, right? Well, if only that’s where it stopped.
Oddly, Beth, Courtney, and the others feel compelled to stop and think for a moment. In their callow minds, The Injustice Society can’t be all bad if they stand for the first three things. Those are good causes according to a certain narrative.
All of this happens in one big climactic scene. Check it out for yourself:
The moment of pause plays right into the twist that Brainwave’s broadcast has a lethal effect on developed grown-up minds. In other words, adults will keel over and die because they can’t handle the stress. By design, that’s who Brainwave marks for death.
If you are a politico, a student of history, or strictly paying attention to the arguable culture of death around you, you know it’s the older folks, often aged and infirm, that suffer the brunt of youngsters’ ideals and naivete.
It’s like Denny O’Neil once said: it is perceived as “too late” for his generation, the old guard, but he “might find a really smart 12-year-old.” That is to say a really dumb and impressionable child without life experience.
Courtney’s brief questioning of her mission comes, goes, and is never mentioned again. She and The Justice Society snap out of it and make short work of the ISA and their giant radio tower beaming out Brainwave’s signal.
Icicle (Neil Jackson) tries to recoup his losses by kidnapping Courtney’s mom Barbara (Amy Smart). He takes her to a rooftop and monologues about how he, his family, his people, and his efforts rebuilt the town of Blue Valley and put it on the right track.
There’s a familiar played-out ring to that; the megalomaniac always thinks he’s the solution. For all his grand designs, though, Icicle is taken out quickly with the help of Courtney’s little brother Mike (Trae Romano) and a pick-up truck. He’s a lot like Thanos in that way.
Playing devil’s advocate, it’s not so bad. Conservative elements are present in the stew. Showrunner Geoff Johns, and the writers, paint SJWs as a syndicate of bad guys which is unexpected and a rarity in Hollywood.
Then there is the cast of characters. Neil Jackson – who once played a character named after Ethan Van Sciver on Blade: the Series – breathes cold life and gravitas into Icicle. He is fantastic in the role of a Wizard Mort of the Month if there ever was one, otherwise.
A very human component is at work too. Jackson plays the part of an upstanding citizen convincingly and, even if his cause comes first, he shows signs of doubt and fighting his inner supervillain around Barbara and Brainwave. This Icicle is no two-dimensional extremist.
Characters like Wildcat (Yvette Monreal), on the flip side, are deep and conflicted also. She, for one, has an edge and a darker backstory. But, in the end, she demonstrates a belief in forgiveness and second chances – whether she gets either or not.
Occasional blurring of lines aside, Stargirl overall harkens back to the Golden Age and the Red Scare with its firmly definable white hats and black hats. JSA is good and wholesome, ISA is bad and corrupt with little variation or fluidity.
Ultimately, it’s the injection of wokeness, no matter how slight and short-lived, into its young characters that is troubling and doesn’t bode well for the show’s transition to a new platform.
Stargirl returns for Season 2 as a CW exclusive which could mean its budget – as well as quality – will get slashed. Let us know if you plan to tune in.