The last time someone died in Blue Valley, it was an important lesson for Stargirl. Now, another loss will haunt Courtney. And this time, it proves no one in this sleepy suburban town is safe from death when the story demands it.
Spoilers for Stargirl Episode 10, "Brainwave Jr." ahead.
In "Brainwave Jr.," the tenth episode of Stargirl on DC Universe and The CW, Courtney (Brec Bassinger) learns she has a cousin in Henry Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), Blue Valley's star football player turned latent psychic.
How they're related is unimportant. What's important is that they both share a grudge against Jordan/Icicle (Neil Jackson), and decide to team up to take him down. But the rest of the heroes, having been bullied by Henry Jr. (or worse) need a lot of convincing to let the psychic son of a villain join them.
All throughout Season 1, Henry Jr. has learned to grasp his psychic powers inherited from his father, the villain Brainwave (Christopher James Barker). Last week, it seemed as though the son was to replace the father — until Henry Sr. woke up from his coma. But "Brainwave. Jr." demonstrates an organic change in Henry Jr.'s allegiances. He isn't destined to become the villain. Instead, like his comic book counterpart, Jr. chooses to side with the good guys.
It is, unfortunately, a temporary alliance. In the depths of the lair of the Dragon King (Nelson Lee), Brainwave and Henry Jr. have a long, overdue talk. That's when Brainwave reveals to his son that Icicle didn't kill his mother.
"Junior, Jordan didn't kill your mother. I did," Brainwave tells his son. "I had to make a choice. Don't make me choose again." When Henry Jr. refuses, Brainwave overpowers his son and drops heavy debris on him. Henry Jr.'s last words are an apology to Yolanda and assurance to Courtney that "people are good. Don't let this change your mind."
In this crushing episode (pun intended), Stargirl goes where you wouldn't think a breezy superhero show would. And yet, it's a natural conclusion to Henry Jr.'s story. Stargirl this week is reminiscent of the best moments (mostly deaths) in Game of Thrones, the ones that felt heartbreaking yet made sense in the bigger picture. (At least what we thought was the bigger picture of Game of Thrones in 2014.) Sure, losing Ned Stark or Oberyn was harsh. But those moments reminded audiences always what was at stake, and what it's like to actually lose.
The loss of Henry Jr. in Stargirl isn't as defining as Ned's execution, but it will motivate our heroes from now until the finale (and beyond). And it's still unexpected. It's easy to imagine Henry Jr. having mileage in his role as a full-fledged member of the Justice Society, even though Hourman already perfectly occupies the archetypal role of "brooding alpha male."
With the loss of Henry Jr./Brainwave Jr., Stargirl shows it isn't married to its key principal: inheritance. In characters like Courtney and Cindy, in both the JSA and the ISA, Stargirl is all about the sins of our forefathers and the price the next generation has to pay. This show's inciting incident alone involved Courtney taking up the cosmic staff, a relic she believes belonged to her father. (I still suspect Stargirl will pull the rug underneath and reveal Starman wasn't actually her father. The way Courtney's mom dismissed Courtney's claims this week is too telling.) With the loss of Henry Jr./Brainwave Jr., Stargirl proves it's willing to make sacrifices for a greater cause. If only it didn't hurt so much.
Stargirl streams Sundays on DC Universe and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.