In a predictable yet satisfying reveal, Courtney Whitmore finally learns the truth about her parental lineage, one that temporarily shakes her to her lowest point before soaring in a moment, not of triumph, but acceptance.
Warning: Minor spoilers for Stargirl Episode 11, "Shining Knight" ahead.
In "Shining Knight," the eleventh episode of Stargirl, the show pays off not one but two big story threads in a backstory-filled hour. First, we finally learn that the Blue Valley janitor is, in fact, the Shining Knight, the obscure DC superhero inspired by Arthurian myth. Like a soldier with PTSD, Sir Justin (Mark Ashworth) turns to Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson) for help recollecting his lost memories.
But it's not swords and sorcery that highlight this week's Stargirl. Instead, it's the painful story of an abandoned daughter who learns the sad truth about her real father. All season long, Courtney (Brec Bassinger) was convinced her father was Joel McHale's Starman, the brave leader of the Justice Society of America.
It was all a fairy tale. Courtney is not the daughter of Starman. She's the daughter of Sam Kurtis, a brawny drifter who left his family behind on Christmas night ten years ago. When Sam wanders back into town, he sends Courtney and the rest of the family into an emotional spiral, a phenomenon illustrative of toxic individuals who can poison a room with just their presence.
Courtney's belief in a made-up story about herself speaks to the power of, well, stories. Like Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy (at least until The Rise of Skywalker), Stargirl offers a refreshing twist on narratives about heroic protagonists. For perhaps too long, fictional stories have starred protagonists who share lineage with some great, important person, a connection that gives capital-M meaning to the hero's journey.
It wasn't enough for Luke Skywalker to be a farm boy from a nowhere planet, he had to be the son of Darth Vader. It wasn't enough Harry Potter was an orphan, he was the survivor of the last victims of Voldemort. The biggest mystery that gripped Game of Thrones didn't have anything to do with White Walkers, but the truth of Jon Snow's parentage. And for Courtney, it wasn't enough to just be a superhero. She told herself she had to be the offspring of an even greater one. It was that story that gave Courtney her initial bravery to don the mask.
But when Courtney learns the truth, that her father wasn't a great superhero but some jerk in a leather jacket, she's shaken. She's no longer a hero, she decides. Instead, she's a liability for having been responsible for Joey and Henry. And for putting others, including most of all her family, in danger. It doesn't help that the staff stops responding to Courtney, reinforcing her (mistaken) belief that her lineage to Starman made the difference.
Thankfully, Pat is there to tell her otherwise: "I always knew your dad wasn't Starman, Court. It chose you because it believed in you. It's just waiting for you to believe in yourself again. Heroes can come from anywhere."
And just like that, Stargirl is officially braver than Star Wars, going where Rey's story should have gone but ultimately never did. But never mind that. The best thing about this lesson is that it's being imparted to a similarly young and impressionable audience. Greatness, Stargirl wisely argues, doesn't have to be inherited. It's something you can be, and be worthy of on your own merits.
Courtney could have learned this lesson early on. At the beginning of Stargirl, Pat insisted Starman wasn't her father, but she wouldn't listen. Neither did Courtney listen when her friends told her lineage doesn't mean anything, because it didn't for them. Courtney simply couldn't accept it until she was ready, but you can't fault her. For a girl whose head has been in the clouds, she had to fall back down before she could land on her own two feet again.
It's a good thing she did. With the Icicle's plans ready to proceed, Stargirl will soon have her own moment of heroism — and it will be hers, not anyone else's.
Stargirl streams Sundays on DC Universe and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.