DC's Stargirl may be one of television's most underrated superhero shows. When it first debuted in 2020, the then-DC Universe series brought a unique spin to the world of DC superheroes with a fresh, upbeat tone as it introduced Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl to the live-action space and offered up thoughtful, family-friendly adventures that had, in many respects, been missing in the genre. When Season 2 debuted last summer, the series maintained that thoughtfulness, but shifted gears as it made the jump to The CW, maturing the show and its characters as it delved into horror with the heroes of Blue Valley taking on Eclipso. Season 3 of the series debuts tonight and, once again, the show makes another shift this time into murder-mystery territory and, once again, the shift not only pushes the characters and their journey forward, but makes the show even more engaging, resulting in a third season that feels not only as fresh as its first, but also allows the viewer to grow right along with it.
The Season 3 premiere finds Courtney (Brec Bassinger) as well as the rest of her teammates in the JSA in an interesting place. Season 2 saw the young heroes defeat the terrifying and evil Eclipso — a battle that came with some heavy losses and hard lessons — but also saw the surprise return of Sylvester Pemberton/Starman (Joel McHale), who had been dead for over a decade. As Season 3 opens, while there has been a short time jump, we find the characters having settled into a quieter "new normal," though there is an uneasiness just at the edges. Villains from the past are now integrated into daily life, having seemingly turned over a new leaf, and the result is a peace that feels anything but settled.
It's that unsettled nature that quickly becomes the foundation for the episode and the season. Courtney, while prepared to embrace change and welcome the idea of people being able to start fresh, is herself off-center due to Starman's return, while the rest of her allies and friends are not quite so willing to put on a smile and move forward. That is perhaps what is the biggest strength of the season premiere, is the authenticity of how each of the characters is processing their experiences. No one is fully willing to move forward the way Courtney seems to be, and it creates a nice bit of tension that is sure to play a larger role as the season progresses.
That tension is also integral to the central "mystery" that is set up in the premiere as well. Bassinger confirmed earlier this year that Season 3 of DC's Stargirl would center around a murder mystery and the series jumps right into that, giving the young heroes that major crime to solve in its first episode, but there's more to this mystery than simply a whodunit. There are also major questions about the motives of the reformed villains, as well as the big looming question of Starman. The answers to these questions hold major stakes for Blue Valley as well as for the titular heroine and, much like Season 2 before it, the series does an excellent job of making that clear from the jump.
Outside of story and plot, Season 3 of DC's Stargirl does a solid job of advancing each of the characters. Cindy Burman/Shiv (Meg DeLacy) shows signs of genuinely trying to change her ways while Beth Chapman (Anjelika Washington) is brilliantly off her game, in a sense now that she's no longer responsible for holding her family together. There's also the genuine delight of the returns of Paula Brooks/Tigress (Joy Osmanski) and Crusher Crock/Sportsman (Neil Hopkins), who provide just the right amount of humor and intensity and are set to be a ton of fun this season. All of the cast, truly, is bringing their A-game this season and it shows.
DC's Stargirl manages to pull off something rare in television in that its third season may be its best yet. By maintaining the authenticity and thoughtfulness that made the first two seasons such a delight, the series is able to push its characters and stories into fresh new directions without losing its core. Season 3 brings real stakes and challenges but does so with realism, making it easy to identify with the characters and get fully immersed in the mystery. The series is easily one of the best on television and Season 3 just cements that.
Rating: 5 out of 5
DC's Stargirl Season 3 debuts on Wednesday, August 31st on The CW.