DC's television universe will get a little bigger when Stargirl debuts on DC Universe and The CW next week, but the new series based on Geoff Johns' DC Comics character of the same name isn't just another superhero show. Stargirl is a bright, fresh, uplifting delight that delivers not only family-friendly adventure but genuine, thoughtful intrigue, making the series not only accessible to audiences of all ages but making it easily the best of DC's television offerings to date. It is, simply put, the superhero show that television has been missing.
The series stars Brec Bassinger as Courtney Whitmore, a teenage girl who finds her life turned upside down when her mother not only remarries, but her new stepfather moves the entire family from Los Angeles to Nebraska. Courtney now has to deal with her life being uprooted — new "father," new home — but she soon discovers Starman's Cosmic Staff hidden among her father's belongings and quickly becomes more than just a high school student. She becomes the next generation of justice, even as her transition into hero brings up her own search for the truth about her real father as well as the universal work of simply trying to find a place in the world.
Straight out of the gate, Bassinger's Courtney is a radiant, complex character. This is not some caricature of a teenage girl. Instead, Bassinger brings the character to life in a way that will feel, for fans of Johns' Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. comic series upon which the series is based, as though she walked right off the page. For those unfamiliar with the comics, Bassinger's portrayal of the character feels real-life authentic. Courtney could be someone from your own life — Cosmic Staff and all.
Bassinger's isn't the only outstanding and beautifully real performance in the series. Luke Wilson's Pat Dugan is believable as not only a concerned and loving stepfather simply trying to do the best for his family but also as a sidekick. After only few minutes of screen time, Wilson has you convinced that sidekicks are just as critical as the main hero is. In fact, there isn't a single weak performance from any of the cast. While some of the villains do lean toward the cartoonish — especially in Courtney's first encounter with them — there's a realistic sense of menace that doesn't usually come across in other DC shows.
That isn't to say the series is perfect. There are a few tonal missteps, a few little hiccups in the show's momentum, and certainly a few times where the show steps a little too close to "after school special" territory. That said, those small distractions generally only serve to balance the story's authenticity further. If viewers cringe or wince a little here and there, it's because they can put themselves into the scenario and feel that awkwardness themselves.
Stargirl is also absolutely stunning in a way that the rest of the DCTV offerings isn't. The show has a decidedly cinematic feel to it in a way that the rest of the DC's live-action slate lacks. While one might expect this as compared to The CW's The Flash, Batwoman, Supergirl, etc. given the production differences (Stargirl is a DC Universe series being shared with The CW as opposed to a The CW series organically) but Stargirl takes it to a new level. The visuals look like they belong in a movie and even some of the performances — specifically Joel McHale's absolutely brilliant Starman — are bigger and better than anything on television.
Stargirl is the best of superhero television. It's both light and bright and has a bit of grim and dark just on its edges. In a superhero landscape littered with heroes suffering with the angst of understanding their mission and purpose, Stargirl offers instead a refreshing sense of clarity and confidence. It's a beautiful series infused with love, hope, and unwavering faith that good can overcome evil without good losing its soul in the process. Stargirl is like nothing else and it's exactly what we need.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Stargirl debuts Monday, May 18th on DC Universe. The series will debut the next day, Tuesday, May 19th, on The CW.
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