T-minus 30 minutes.
Yes, the clocking is ticking as the new Justice Society of America only has half an hour to destroy the machine until the brainwashing is permanent.
Those are the somewhat cliche phrases that go perfectly with the cliche cliffhanger Stargirl Season 1 Episode 12 ended on.
In what world would Pat ever hurt Courtney, even if Brainwave is controlling him?
It's a small nitpick to focus on, but it feels like the show was trying to do everything it could to amp up the drama before Stargirl Season 1 Episode 13.
It would have been better if the episode ended just a few seconds earlier when the broadcast incapacitated all the adults.
That would have certainly heightened things, as not only do the teens have 30 minutes to stop the broadcast before the brainwashing's permanent, but they have to do it without adult help.
That, in and of itself, would be challenging, but setting up Pat to "attack" Courtney just took things one step too far.
Pat is the moral compass, the heart of this show.
Mike: So, what’s my job?
Pat: You, Mike Dugan, have the most important job of all: You’re going to look after the dog, OK.
Mike: Is that really all I’m good for? The dog?
Pat: It’s an important job, buddy. Do it with pride.
Doing anything remotely terrible, even while under the influence of Brainwave, would destroy who Pat is in the viewers' minds.
He's worked so hard for Courtney to see him as a father figure, and hurting her in any way would destroy all the progress they've made.
If this were a slightly darker superhero show, perhaps the writers wouldn't be afraid to go this route and explore any potential consequences.
However, Stargirl is a family-friendly show, for the most part, and Pat attacking Courtney doesn't fit the mold at all.
It's unclear what will happen, but I'd go up against the Gambler to say that would be a firm 'no.'
It's unfortunate because the rest of the episode was a strong set up for the season finale.
With the finale still to come, this episode got time to breathe and dig into some things that needed exploration.
One of those things was Mike.
He can be an annoying character most of the time, and while his continuous complaints about being left out of the loop were irritating, he did have a point.
Mike: You know, you’re so lucky the staff picked you. I wonder if I would have found it first, maybe it would have picked me.
Courtney: Um, maybe.
Mike: Tell you one thing, it would have made my paper route so much easier.
Mike: Could I try it?
Courtney: Go for it. Sorry.
Mike: It’s all good. You know, my dad doesn’t have any special powers either, but he still built STRIPE. Maybe one day I could do something like that for the JSA.
Courtney: Yeah, that’d be super cool.
At what point was he going to be let in on the huge, life-altering secret?
When he was at the cabin? When everyone went off to fight the Injustice Society of America? After everything went down?
He had a right to know what was going on. Getting answers was the best thing for his character.
Once Mike knew the truth, he finally stopped his griping and became pretty likable.
Mike had a sweet conversation with Courtney about what might have happened if he'd found the staff first and admitted his jealousy but didn't let it get him down.
Instead, he turned it around and realized he could do something to help the new JSA in the future, even if he didn't have superpowers or magical items, just like Pat.
It was a nice moment between him and Courtney and solidified their bond as brother and sister.
Another was the further examination of the ISA's plan.
For episodes, viewers have correctly suspected the ISA was planning to brainwash the populace en masse to achieve their plan for a new America.
Chuck: There is what you would call a catch to reprogramming developed minds like this.
Beth: A catch? Oh no.
Courtney: Beth, what is it?
Beth: There are people who will fight too hard against the reprogramming process.
Courtney: And what happens to them?
Beth: Their brains will shut down. They’ll die.
Yolanda: How many?
Beth: Twenty-five percent of their target audience of 100 million people.
Courtney: They’re going to kill 25 million people?
The Gambler: Give or take a few million, yes.
However, the revealed very few details on what that would like, prompting us to fill in the blanks on their own.
Most of us -- at least I did -- believed the ISA would be brainwashing the half the country so they could get away with wicked things, like killing for sport, while still ensuring they would face no opposition to their efforts.
However, we did not expect their efforts to involve creating a more tolerant, environmentally-friendly society for all.
People who have no qualms about murdering at the drop of a hat don't seem like they would especially care about an end to discrimination, universal health care, and stopping global warming.
Those two sides seem at odds with each other, and yet, that's precisely what the ISA has planned, which raises the question of whether they're as bad as we initially thought they were.
Of course, this brief moment of uncertainty is underscored by the revelation the brainwashing will kill 25 million people, which is something that has no moral ambiguity.
Granted, with this being the penultimate episode, there certainly wasn't enough time to fully explore these moral quandaries.
Still, even so, it's an interesting and unexpected exploration of whether the ends justify the means.
Beth: Whatever they’re going to make people believe in, they call it the ‘New Constitution.’ They want to combat… global warming? Oh, wait, they want to force people to…
Courtney: They’re going to force people to what?
Beth: Force them to embrace solar and wind power. They’re going to eliminate discrimination over race, religion, sexual orientation.
Rick: You’re kidding me?
Beth: Oh, and universal healthcare.
Courtney: That sounds good. Is that not good?
Rick: Hey, Pat, are you sure we’re on the right side?
Pat: There’s got to be something else.
Most would agree that killing 25 million people just to ensure the whole populace adheres to your ideals isn't morally OK. But you could make the argument that people becoming more accepting and tolerant, even with extreme measures, isn't so bad.
That's not advocacy on the merits of brainwashing to create a more tolerant society, but rather understanding how such an argument could be made from a purely philosophical perspective.
Lastly, even though the episode was enjoyable as a whole, including that obvious red herring of a cliffhanger, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how frustrating it's become that the show relies on Chuck.
Beth's self-proclaimed best friend has become the crutch the series has decidedly been leaning on when it doesn't want to take the time to find another plausible way to devolve information.
Usually, this can be overlooked, but there were one too many instances of lazy writing.
From Chuck figuring out that Brainwave absorbed Henry's telepathic powers when the younger King died to his determination that the ISA was building a synaptic amplifier and magically scanning Rex's decoded equation into a 3D rendering of the tunnels, it was just too much.
It was too improbable that a machine would be capable of all of that, and it became a distraction rather than an asset.
It's a shame too because Chuck can be a delightful addition to the team. That was evidenced when he informed Beth about the boy band, New Kids on the Block.
Ayana: You know, when your father was a child, he was picked on for playing his favorite instrument too, but he never stopped pursuing his passion. He never let anyone else define him, and eventually they stopped bothering him.
Ayana: Because he took the bow of his violin and put it through one of their eardrums. They never bullied him again.
In the future, Chuck should be used sparingly.
While some fantastical elements exist in this world, Dr. Mid-Nite's goggle can sometimes go too far for the audience's suspension of disbelief.
Some stray thoughts:
Who are worse parents: Sportsmaster and Tigress or Principal Bowin? Sure, Sportsmaster and Tigress murder their daughter's coaches regularly, but they've never actually condoned violence to her.
Ayana, on the other hand, essentially told Isaac that he should use his instrument as a weapon against his tormentors. While neither of them deserves 'parent of the year,' maybe Ayana shouldn't be so quick to judge others.
Not that it matters since she's dead, but it's still something to think about from beyond the grave.
I'm glad Barbara and Pat had a much needed follow up to their earlier conversation. They still have some things to figure out, but now they're both on the same page.
Barbara still isn't happy that Pat lied to her, but she is getting a better idea of just how dangerous all of this is, and that's something she can understand.
Mike may not have superpowers, but he's pretty handy with a drill. Forget driving STRIPE; he should focus on upping his drill game.
What, exactly, do Yolanda's, Beth's, and Rick's respective parents/guardians think the teens are doing at the cabin? Like Mike said, what kind of parents pull their children from school in November to go camping? Also, with how strict Yolanda's parents are, there's no way they would have agreed to let her go, right?
I've decided Brainwave is eviler than Icicle. Brainwave had the audacity to blame Cindy for Henry's death, while Icicle continued to lament Barbara's presumed death. Again, it's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'd like it on the record for posterity's sake.
So what did you think Stargirl Fanatics?
Will Pat do the unthinkable and hurt Courtney?
Were you surprised by the ISA's ultimate end goal?
Has the series become overreliant on Chuck?
Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the latest episode, remember you can watch Stargirl online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.