Mild Stargirl spoilers follow.
It’s during the momentous “Shining Knight” that DC’s Stargirl fully, truly comes into its own, becoming less concerned with table-setting and more focused on character propulsion. It’s here, 11 episodes into the first season, that we finally get to meet Courtney Whitmore’s father. He’s not at all who we’d imagined he’d be, but the writing supports a growth in Courtney, not growth in the man who hasn’t changed since he vanished. The result is an astoundingly in-touch installment in what’s shaping up to be one of DC’s most emotionally intelligent shows to date.
The episode splits itself two ways. We get plenty of Courtney and her no-good father, but a healthy chunk of “Shining Knight” puts us in Janitor Justin’s boggled brain. The season has been building to the reveal that he’s actually Shining Knight—one of the Seven (eight) Soldiers of Victory—and now that we’re there, it’s clear that he’s going to be more integral to the plot than we’d realized. After seeing how he handled Cindy Burman in single combat, we’re confident in his ability to kick some serious ass. A Dragon King/Shining Knight confrontation is pretty much guaranteed at this point.
With “Shining Knight,” Stargirl grounds its hopeful story in an empowering truth: where you come from matters less than what you choose to be now. The wear and tear of such trite messaging would undo a lesser story, but Geoff Johns, helped in no small part by Jennifer Phang‘s sure-handed direction, prioritizes the impact of its themes over what’s actually being communicated.
The episode’s emphasis on how these lessons make us feel creates a better, more resonant show. We see the weight of Courtney’s world come crashing down on her in the form of her deadbeat father, Sam Kurtis. With concurrent stressors threatening to break her (her upcoming fight with the Injustice Society being the most distressing), Courtney finds herself at a crossroads. But when she shapes that intersection into a junction, she’s able to tap into an innate power, a strength that’s reflected in the renewed brilliance of her staff. Why leave her new life behind when she can fully assume what she has become?
This week’s episode of Stargirl is one of the finest hours of superhero television we’ve ever seen. Tender, chilling, infuriating. The emotions are all there and they’re all building to something spectacular. This is definitely one of DC’s best, most inspired endeavors, and we can’t wait to see what Johns and company have in store for us.