It’s probably no accident an episode of Stargirl written by James Robinson would make a reference to The Shade.
But beyond that nice little tip of the hat to the best comic book of the 1990s, Starman, the fourth episode of the series does something we’ve been waiting for: a story involving Yolanda Montez (Yvette Monreal). The character has been there from episode one, but since the series is playing out any and all origin stories it can, Courtney (Brec Bassinger), being the title character, received three episodes of development while Yolanda groused on the sidelines. Now, we finally get to find out why and how a brush with Stargirl can change things.
Thanks to this week’s flashback, we know Yolanda’s situation is devastating. Whether or not Henry (Christopher James Baker) gave Cindy (Meg DeLacy) the photo — he was showing it to some of his buddies, after all — it’s clear he never should have put Yolanda in that situation. She trusted him and the consequences of doing so were immediate. Beyond wrecking her reputation at school — and her chances to be student body president — the leaked photo shattered her relationship with her family; which just absolutely sucks. So much so, we even recoiled when Yolanda cops to “bringing shame” to the family. It is such an outdated way of thinking that we can’t believe she would frame it this way. Every single person in Blue Valley (except maybe her brother and Whitmore-Dugan family) traumatized her and that’s the real crime. Granted, if her family could not be moved by her speech, then they cannot see the damaged they caused by not supporting her.
Then again, the sort of slut-shaming she’s experiencing may be part of Icicle’s (Neil Jackson) Project New America. No doubt a “return to traditional values” is baked into the plan as it is a favorite concept of bullies everywhere. As it happens, Blue Valley seems to be filled with bullies as both Henry and Cindy qualify as villains-in-training and the entire Zarick family was wiped out for not being bully-ish enough. If the show was in a frame to examine it, Stargirl would be a lot darker, but it’s clear from Courtney’s positivity that it wants her joie de vivre to overpower the unsettling psychological underpinnings of the way people live in Blue Valley.
In fact, there are some strange optics here in terms of a white girl coming to a brown girl’s rescue, but we’re going to set those aside for the moment as it was nice to see both Yolanda and Courtney exchange friendly banter and learn to team up.
In terms of Yolanda as Wildcat, we like a lot of it. The costume, which looks damned silly in photos, looks much better when it has movement. It’s so accurate to the comics that her cowl has that same “is it a dog or a cat?” feel of the traditional comic book design. We also like the idea that at some of Ted Grant’s abilities were weaved into the costume and that it changed itself to fit Yolanda. There’s also something to be said for a potential body positivity thing as she now regards her own with shame. As we’ve said before, we love the fact Stargirl is not afraid of the hokiness inherent to a lot of JSA costumes. But with Yolanda, we see the designs can actually work within the context of the show.
And even though we hope her family will come around, there is something to be said for Yolanda finding no solace within that dynamic and only recovering what she lost with the JSA. It will be interesting to see which way the show goes with this story thread.
As the episode essentially served as Yolanda’s introduction, we look forward to seeing more of her as a member of the team and as an individual with resonant story beats of her own. We’ll admit we’ve never seen much of her comic book counterpart as both Robinson and show creator Geoff Johns revived Ted as the Wildcat for much of their time with the JSA in the 1990s and early 2000s, but we’d love to see this version of her get imported back into the DC Comics universe.
Also, we should probably mention the brief appearance by Dr. Ito (Nelson Lee) as he is the one who mentioned The Shade. While his costume screams Golden Age goofiness, we loved everything about his scene. Of course, being Starman fans, we have to wonder what The Shade did to betray the Injustice Society. Did he stop them from killing Ted Knight? Or was it Jack who swayed him from evil? We’ll talk more about Jack Knight another time as we think he may be important later on in the season.
Stargirl streams Mondays on DC Universe and airs Tuesdays on The CW.
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