Personally, I have a significant amount of indecisiveness when it comes to Stargirl. For some reason, I cannot figure out if I’m just expecting too much, or if I’m really receiving too little from the story. Follow me here. Eclipso is supposed to be a huge villain, where he is the sole Big Bad in this season. Yes, Shiv and The Shade are villains as well, but they are not in league with Eclipso the way Tigress, Sportsmaster, The Gambler, and Brainwave were with Icicle. Eclipso is the evil looming over Blue Valley, as well as the world, if Courtney and the rest of the JSA can’t stop him. Unfortunately, Eclipso’s FX are scarier than he is. The sound engineer and director of photography are doing a fantastic job in really giving Eclipso some gravitas. It’s the work of the writers’ room that leaves something sorely lacking within him. Aside from a creepy child’s giggle, are you even remotely frightened of Eclipso? Why does he hide behind the image of a child when his true form is so much scarier? I can’t be the only one who is now just outright annoyed at the sight of young Bruce Gordon. Geoff Johns seems to be saving the real Eclipso for the finale, as we really don’t see much of him in these episodes. As has been proven before, the wait will certainly be worth it.
Episode 11 brings Courtney to an alternate version of Blue Valley within the Shadowlands, the birthplace of Eclipso. While trying to find her way out, Courtney comes across people both unexpected and expected. This is a real treat to see, because it feels like an Easter egg hunt for characters we’ve met in the first season. Meanwhile, Pat and Barbara are focused on how to get Courtney back. This entire ordeal is caused by The Shade, whose moral ambiguity varies moment to moment. A handful of episodes ago I was wowed by his fabulously dramatic entrance in the brawl between teen JSA and ISA. It was the pose for me. Then he got hurt by Eclipso in that same fight, and we didn’t really know what was going on with him until recently. We will have to turn to the comics for any insight into who The Shade is, and what could possibly be his overall plans for himself and Eclipso.
The Shade was first introduced in the Flash Comics #33  as the villainous Richard Swift. In this comic, Swift was someone who commanded the night by changing the time of day at will, with the use of a machine. This Golden Age version of the Flash is Jay Garrick, the first Flash and an original member of the Justice Society of America. (Fun fact, if you have a mint condition #33 issue, it holds an estimated value of $12,000.) From 1942 to the 1990s, The Shade is rarely seen in the comics until the Starman issues in the early 1990s., where he is rebooted to being a morally gray antagonist to the original Starman, Ted Knight, and his son/successor Jack. No longer in need of a machine to command the shadows, the Shade has magical abilities to control demons and mythical creatures, and even teleport through time. This rebooted Shade draws his power from the Shadowlands, a dimension of sentient darkness. In the Starman comic series, the Shade aides Starman against Eclipso, and continues to mentor Jack Knight. It was James Robinson who wrote the Starman comics, which spanned from 1994 to 2001, rebooting The Shade into the charismatic English thief that has inspired the tv version of the character on Stargirl.
Robinson additionally wrote a 12-issue series titled The Shade, where the final issue reveals bits of how Richard Swift becomes The Shade via a ritual meant to invoke a goddess, where Richard is used as a sacrifice. The ritual is botched, and Richard gains the immortal powers from the Shadowlands. This is quite similar to Shade’s origin story in Stargirl. It also helps that James Robinson is writing for the television series, having specifically written episodes 2 and 12 for this season, as well as a couple in the first season. Episodes 11 and 12 are very important in terms of revealing to us the true nature of The Shade. I really enjoy Jonathan Cake’s casting as this witty, rogue character. If this were a different type of production, we’d likely see more of what Cake has to offer as an actor, but this is a CW show, so we’ll have to find satisfaction with what we can get.
The penultimate episode 12 leaves much to be desired for being such an important climactic point for the big finale. There certainly is an effort to setup twists and surprises that have been in the works all season long. Even Pat gives us a real jaw-dropping, shocking moment. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Hopefully the biggest chunk of the budget will go into the finale for an epic showdown. Whatever the end result is, this second season of Stargirl has been interesting, and it helped me to care about Courtney’s circle of family and friends more than before. Here’s to the finale!
Watch Stargirl: Summer School Tuesdays on the CW, and streaming the day after on cwtv.com
Ruth Kotsalos spent her Saturday mornings as a kid fully invested in Batman: The Animated Series. Since then, she has been a fan of all DC animated cartoons and movies. Ruth currently works in the nonprofit sector, has a masters degree from The New School, and lives in New Jersey with her husband John, and their German Shepherd puppy, Athena.