The latest episode of Stargirl is among the best in the series so far, both for performances and good old-fashioned superhero fun. To quote Doctor Strange, they’re “in the endgame now.” Well, just for the season, since we did get news that Stargirl is renewed for season 2 on the CW. Still, we’ve not really yet seen the team in action. And, as I’d personally hoped from the moment the character showed up, it turns out that Stargirl and the Justice Society of America needed Brainwave Jr.
Now, I admit that I’ve not yet read Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., but it is on my DC Universe reading list. So, I am not sure if Brainwave Jr. shows up in that series. However, I am familiar with Brainwave Jr. from the Infinity Inc. comics, and he’s a remarkable character. The son of the original Brainwave, a villain, and superhero Gimmick Girl, the character tries to be a hero. However, due to his half-villainous parentage, he doubts himself. Yet, in Stargirl the Justice Society of America hasn’t really felt like much of a superhero team, at least not until Brainwave Jr. showed up.
Also, Amy Smart’s Barbara Whitmore is finally let in on the family superhero dynamic. DC-based series, especially those on the CW, don’t care much about secret identities. So, fans expected that Barbara eventually would make her way into the inner circle. The dynamic at play in the Dugan-Whitmore house is going to be interesting going forward.
We’re going to get into spoilers, so if you watch the show on the CW, bookmark this page and come back after you’ve seen it.
The Justice Society of America Is Led by Stargirl, But It’s Brainwave Jr. Who Makes Them a Team
Image via Warner Bros. Television
In this episode, Jake Austin Walker’s performance as Henry King Jr. is what sells the whole thing. Young Hank is falling apart. He can’t control his powers. His peers are having super-battles in the street. And, thanks to a collection of VHS tapes he finds in his father’s study, he learns that he had no idea who Christopher James Baker’s Henry King really is. However, thanks to Brainwave Sr. waking up with some convenient memory loss, we get to see how Hank saw his dad.
We learn that in this reality, Gimmick Girl and Brainwave got together. Hank believes that Neil Jackson’s Jordan Mahkent killed his mother, by tipping off the original Justice Society of America to their location. In fact, this was the battle that opened the series premiere of Stargirl. We also learn that Starman was Gimmick Girl’s brother, making Hank and Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore cousins. In fact, one of the most heartwarming moments of the episode is when, upon learning this, Courtney hugs Hank. There’s a lot at play here, emotionally speaking (which we’ll get to).
Now, there are always those in the fandom who love to nitpick. And the fight sequence between Dr. Ito, his minions, Stargirl, the Justice Society of America, and Brainwave Jr. is the best in the series. Of course, these kids fight at a level that they probably shouldn’t be able to. Training is boring and not very cinematic, so I recommend coming up with some creative head-canon as to how they got to be such good fighters and moving on.
The episode ends with young Hank facing down his father, who reveals he killed his wife not Jordan. In order to give Stargirl and the rest of the Justice Society of America time to escape, Brainwave Jr. sacrifices himself.
Finally Getting to the ‘Family’ Story at the Core of Every Superhero Drama
Image via Warner Bros. Television
Family is a central part of any superhero drama, both the found family of the heroes and their actual families. While the superhero part of the story is great, the domestic side of it is thrilling as well. Barbara finds out about the Cosmic Staff, the Justice Society, and she blames Pat for dragging her daughter into what she sees as madness. She throws Pat out of the house (and her step-son Mike, though it’s his choice). Again, we know she’s going to come around and not really move the family away from Blue Valley, but it’s dramatically interesting to watch it all play out.
The toughest scene in this part of the story is when Trae Romano’s Mike confronts Courtney about what is going on. She naturally doesn’t tell him, and he takes it hard. So, even if Barbara joins team Stargirl, Mike may remain on the outside creating some interesting potential for conflict in season 2.
Part of me wishes this narrative had been given its own episode. Because Courtney feels like she’s let down her whole family. She lets down Mike by lying to him. She feels responsible for potentially splitting up her Mom and Pat. So, when she finds out that Henry is her cousin, she’s just so happy to find some “new” family. Another connection to her dead father. Or, is it?
During the episode, Barbara insists that Starman was not Courtney’s father. In fact, she emails Courtney’s father, though it’s clear she’s not talked to him in some time. Towards the end of the episode, she gets a reply. So, it seems the mystery of Courtney’s connection to Starman will be solved before the end of the season.
What’s Next for Stargirl, the Justice Society of America, and Brainwave Jr.
Image via Warner Bros. Television
Despite her best efforts, Stargirl struggled to turn the Justice Society of America into a team before Brainwave Jr. came along. While the team didn’t like or trust him, they all appeared very distraught when his own dad buried him under tons of rock. The loss of Brainwave Jr. will likely bring them together, because it makes clear the stakes they face. Also, as Nick Fury knew in Avengers, sometimes the heroes need something to “avenge.” However, I doubt that this is the last we’ll see of Brainwave Jr. In fact, since the Dragon King’s “big plan” needs a telepath to work, he’ll likely be instrumental in stopping that mad scheme.
Yet, it does feel like the new Justice Society finally turned a corner. Until now, Stargirl has been a teenage coming-of-age story that just happens to have moments of superheroics. Hopefully, the team spends less time arguing amongst themselves and more time kicking villain ass. The fight sequence was truly fantastic and fun to watch. Also, we got a taste of Solomon Grundy, one of the weirdest but most indestructible DC villains.
What did you think of the episode? Do you agree that Stargirl and the Justice Society of America are better off for having Brainwave Jr. on the team, even for a short time? Do you think he’s coming back? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image via Warner Bros. Television.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.