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A New Age of Justice – Stargirl Episode 1 Review

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Stargirl Episode 1 – Pilot

Writer: Geoff Johns

Director: Glen Winter

Starring Brec Bassinger, Luke Wilson, and Amy Smart

New Episodes premiere every Monday on DC Universe

The first episode of Stargirl, Warner Brothers newest original series for DC Universe, premiered on Monday. Today I finally had a chance to watch it. Before watching the pilot I knew very little about the history of Starman and even less about the history of Stargirl. I sort of remember Stargirl being featured in the early days of the New 52, but the character didn't leave a lasting enough impression that I can recall exactly which title(s) I read that she appeared in. So I went into the first episode of this show with zero expectations. Although this first episode had some flaws, it was a million times better than I ever imagined it would be.

The pilot basically boils down to Stargirl's (and by extension Starman's) origin story. The opening scene was my favorite part of the episode. It sets a pace for the pilot that the rest of the struggles to maintain, but that didn't keep the first episode from being entertaining. Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) and Barbara Whitmore (Amy Smart) move their blended family to Blue Valley, Nebraska. Barbara's daughter Courtney (Brec Bassinger) is dejected at having to move across the country, until she stumbles upon the Cosmic Staff. Hyjinx and adventure ensues and Courtney begins to get a sense of the greater destiny that may await her. Granted I don't have much knowledge of the source material but to me, the first episode came across as a great superhero story. Unfortunately, it also came across as a comparatively weak television show.

I wasn't very impressed with the main characters' performances in this first episode. In general, Luke Wilson is kind of like vanilla ice cream. Even those who don't like the vanilla recognize that it's a legitimate flavor of ice cream. Similarly, Amy Smart does a great job of playing Amy Smart. Her performance was less energetic than in many of the roles I've previously seen her in, though she did make a believable mother. Brec Bassinger displayed more range than the more experienced adult actors. She really fits the part of Stargirl and was the most believable in her role. I found her emotionality to be a little flat, but overall she gives a solid performance. I feel I should point out that the first episode didn't give the actors much to work with in terms of emotional or dramatic moments. Instead, as most pilots do, the episode introduces the characters and sets up the story. I can only assume that the performances will get stronger as the show's story progresses.

One thing that baffled me about the pilot however, was the setting. Stargirl is obviously set in modern times. She has a smart phone and her little brother mentions Fortnite. In the context of the show, the Golden Age of Superheros ended ten years before the current events of the episode. Now, my issue isn't that this timeline is different than in the comics. My problem with the setting was that it was all over the place. The flashbacks feel like they are occurring in a time much earlier than ten years before. Blue Valley looks like a town out of an eighty's movie. A lot the of soundtrack for the episode is composed of music from the fifties, as is the car Luke Wilson's character drives. In addition to the time setting being all over the map, Courtney's high school has a shocking amount of diversity for a rural Nebraska community. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see such a diverse cast of supporting characters, but the multi-racial / multi-cultural population of the high school just felt out of place compared to the rest of the episode's physical setting. Finally, the episode shows a major supervillain achieving one of the main goals of every supervillain ever. Yet after accomplishing this achievement, the supervillain has, for some reason, retired to a small town. The episode foreshadows that there's a major reason for this, and I'm sure it will eventually be an important plot point, but for the moment this detail left me confused.

DC Universe's Stargirl has a lot of potential. Because of this, I can put up with the subpar acting in the pilot and put aside my bafflement at the episode's setting. The itself story was well put together and coherent and the action scenes were exciting. Although I had some concerns with the first episode, it definitely left me excited for more. Honestly, the ball is in the court of the writers and directors now. It is on the strength of their writing and direction respectively that Stargirl will either soar or fail.

SCORE: 3 / 5