Stargirl Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, “Summer School: Chapter Eight”

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Image for article titled Stargirl Celebrates a Spooky 4th of July

photo: Kyle Kaplan / The CW

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the restrictions on COVID filming had a pretty big impact on this season of Star girl. You can see the seams in how the show breaks down its main characters into their own spin bubbles, using fewer locations and extras, and generally trying to stretch their episodic stories at a slower pace. But I’m equally impressed with the way the show’s creators have turned those limitations into strengths too, mostly by leaning to a horror tone that justifies this tense, lonely, leisurely pace. As “Wild cat” and “Stundenmann and Dr. Mid-Nite “ Episodes from last season plays this centered hour of Beth and Rick like a continuation of the Yolanda-centered episode last week. And while Yolanda’s guilt made her story a natural fit for a Catholicism theme Horror story in and between churches, Rick and Beth can participate in their own classic horror templates also: Rick finds himself lost in the forest with a monster, while Beth is trapped in a house that is haunted by a racist, sexist, otherworldly little child.

The two situations play with Rick and Beth’s greatest fears. Beth worries that she is inadequate and undesirable – someone that people will only tolerate rather than someone they want actively on their team. Rick, meanwhile, fears he has the potential to become the same kind of callous monster as the cruel uncle who raised him. That’s one of the reasons Rick has been taking care of Solomon Grundy since letting the giant monster in Final last season. Rick understands that love, kindness, and care can change even the cruelest of dogs. And by adopting Grundy as his own pound pup, Rick hopes to write his own story of salvation even.

That’s why it’s so annoying when Rick’s story moves to such a shockingly dark place. I expected Chapter Eight to be similar to Chapter Seven, with Eclipso manipulating Beth and Rick into giving up their place as JSA heroes. And while that basically happens to Rick, his fearful visions have far more real consequences than Yolanda’s climatic showdown in churchh fakee brain wave. In fact, we see firsthand how much damage Eclipso can actually do by dealing with people’s minds. By making Rick think Grundy is being hunted and then making him believe Grundy killed a little girl, Eclipso can respond to Rick’s panicked need for violent revenge. Then it just takes a little more mental manipulation to get Rick to almost kill his uncle in the mishapto understand that he actually beat up Grundy.

Part of what makes Chapter Eight so unnerving is that it takes a really long time to figure out what is real and what is not. We don’t notice who Rick beats up until he does – which makes the horrified reactions from Pat and Courtney even more understandable with hindsight. In fact, it wasn’t until Barbara and Mike stepped in as a team exposition that I understood that the whole Hunter subplot was also an Eclipso manipulation. It pays to leave so many things ambiguous over the past week about how much this episode can mess up viewers’ minds – even if we think we’re ahead of the characters what actually happens.

Image for article titled Stargirl Celebrates a Spooky 4th of July

photo: The CW

Beth’s storyline, on the other hand, offers a very different sense of surprise. Though it looks like the character Eclipso would have the easiest time to manipulate, mainly because she has never shown much steadfastness in combat. It turns out that Beth’s spiritual acumen is really her greatest superpower. While Yolanda and Rick let Eclipso manipulate their emotions fairly easily, Beth is able to look through his scare tactics to find out what he really wants: to get his victims to give in to their worst fears. And more importantly, Beth finds the mental strength to stop this mindset completely. She didn’t need someone to choose her mid-nite as a new PhD because she picked herself for the role. And she doesn’t give in to self-doubt or Self-hatred because she loves who she is and she loves being black.

It’s a real booth Get up and cheer up, mainly because I didn’t expect cute Beth to be the first to break free from Eclipso’s spell. And meIt’s a big rejection for anyone who I was wondering why Beth is a JSA sales rep and not just tech support. It turns out that she’s really great in a crisis. In fact, she’s the only one so far who has been able to find out the full extent of how far Eclipso’s visions of fear can go (she hasn’t even left her own home in this case). And thanks to her AI glasses, she is now also equipped with the ability to see through them.

While the July 4th setting of the episode doesn’t add much to the process (other than an excuse to cut back on a fireworks display to cut Grundy’s CGI rendering time), the real fireworks come from the phenomenal performances by Anjelika Washington and Cameron Gellman. And they also come from the surprising sweetness of this harrowing episode. From Grundy, who calls Rick his friend, to Courtney, who does the same thing with the Cosmic Staff (aka Cosmo), to Mike, who calls Barbara “Mama” and Beth finds strength in her own parents, there is a lot of light to compensate for the darkness in “Chapter Eight”. The JSA might be another hero (and how are they going to get Rick’s smashed hourglass back?), But there’s still hope for the team.


Scattering observations

  • Thanks to Jarrod Jones for filling it out for me last week! I really enjoyed reading his thoughts on the episode, although I can’t believe I missed the great Catholic scare hour! This is exactly mine Daredevilloving street.
  • While last week’s episode left some confusion as to whether Brainwave or Eclipso was behind Yolanda’s visions, this episode seems to anchor her experience firmly in the Eclipso camp. Unless the show tries to trick us even further!
  • Speaking of which, while I was initially disappointed that the opening credits apparently spoiled Joel McHale’s long-awaited return as Sylvester Pemberton, it turned out that the episode only used it as part of Beth’s nightmare sequence. Well played, Star girl!
  • In retrospect, I wish I had graded “Chapter Six”—The big JSA vs. ISA vs. Eclipso Fight episode – an A- instead of a B +, so if something like this is important to you, you can mentally reclassify it.
  • “You named the staff?” “You gave the robot a name!” she Did.”


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