I’ll give “Summer School: Chapter Five” this: The image of someone throwing up paint is one I won’t soon forget. For an episode that never quite finds an interesting way to visualize the impending storms that sit at its center, “Chapter Five” at least has fun playing around with its art-centric horror visuals. In fact, the climatic confrontation between the JSA and an Eclipso-possessed Mr. Deisinger (Randy Havens) is one of the best action scenes Stargirl has ever delivered. It’s equal parts creepy and creative, all while dramatically upping the stakes of Eclipso as a threat. It’s just a shame that it comes at the tail end of one of the more lackluster hours of the season.
“Chapter Five” isn’t bad exactly, it’s just workman-like in the way it checks in on the season’s ongoing storylines without doing much to actively move them forward. In addition to the “Eclipso possesses Mr. Deisinger” threat-of-the-week, much of the episode is centered on Cameron Mahkent and the question of where he’s going to fall within Blue Valley’s balance of good and evil. But while “Chapter Five” ostensibly tries to tie Cameron and Mr. Deisinger together as two artists in search of a muse, their storylines never quite coalesce into a cohesive whole—especially when there’s the underdeveloped and ultimately pretty anticlimactic “bad weather” throughline hanging over it all too.
Still, I was a big fan of Hunter Sansone’s performance as Cameron last season, and it’s fun to see him front and center here. Cameron’s loner artist persona offers an interesting mix of sensitivity and moral fortitude. He rejects Cindy before she even gets a chance to make her ISA pitch because he remembers the way she responded to her mother’s death by telling her fourth grade class, “I never liked her anyway.” Cameron can immediately sniff out Cindy’s inner coldness (“You’ve never been sorry about anything”), yet he’s still totally in the dark about what his dad was actually up to in Blue Valley. And he’s still living under the influence of his Norwegian grandparents—who it turns out have the same ice powers that Jordan had, and that Cameron seems to have inherited too.
All of that raises questions about where Cameron’s allegiances will ultimately fall. “Chapter Five” drills home the idea that Eclipso can take advantage of people’s fears and vulnerabilities—as he does with Mr. Deisinger’s longing for a muse, Yolanda’s guilt over Brainwave and Henry Jr.’s death, Rick’s complicated feelings toward Solomon Grundy, and Beth’s stress over her parents’ divorce. And poor, confused Cameron seems like a prime candidate for that kind of manipulation. He’s pretty darn heartbreaking as Courtney pulls away from their almost-kiss: “You did this to me last year, Courtney. You always leave. Or never show.” Add ice powers and evil grandparents into the mix, and things are bound to get even more complicated.
Like a lot of things in this episode, however, it’s a storyline that’s mostly just biding its time for the future. Elsewhere, The Shade asks Barbara to be his snitch, Pat agrees to find a JSA project to work on with Mike, and Rick stands up for Beth’s idea that Doctor Mid-Nite might still be alive. But “Chapter Five” doesn’t weave together those elements as elegantly as it could, and at only 40 minutes without commercials, there’s not a ton of storytelling meat on its bones. Instead, the episode is all about building to that great final fight, which casts Eclipso as a Venom-like sentient ball of paint able to crawl its way through the halls of Blue Valley High.
If Eclipso is the personification of darkness, the one thing that can stop him is Stargirl’s light. While Yolanda, Rick, and Beth are overwhelmed by fear visions, Courtney is able to keep her wits about her. I’m not sure if that’s thanks to the Cosmic Staff or her lack of inner doubt, but, regardless, it leads to the very cool image of Courtney fending off Eclipso’s darkness with a Cosmic Staff blast while telling Mr. Deisinger to literally grab the light’s power to free himself. In fact, the whole fight is filled with amazing imagery, from the visual stuttering effect as Yolanda’s headaches kick in to the Abyss-style face that emerges from one of Mr. Deisinger’s paintings to the beams of light that ultimately come pouring out of the art teacher’s face. It’s impressive stuff, particularly on an Arrowverse budget.
“Chapter Five” really sells the idea that Eclipso is a threat unlike anything the JSA has faced before. So while this episode might not do a ton for the season on a plot level, it at least effectively raises the stakes for what’s to come. If Eclipso’s powers are spreading beyond just the black diamond itself, nowhere may be safe for the JSA—or the ISA for that matter. Though Cindy confidently tells Artemis and Isaac that all they need is the black diamond (and Mike) to complete her plan, she’s underestimating the fact that when you play with hellfire, you might just get burned.
- The episode opens with a brief prologue of young Cindy and her mom in Farmersville, California 10 years ago, where they’re unsuccessfully trying to escape her dad. Also, Beth finally talks to her parents about their potential divorce.
- The Shade tells Barbara that she reminds him of someone in his family. Along with the wistful way he talked about Doctor Mid-Nite’s daughter last week, it makes me very curious to learn his full backstory.
- I love all the subtle snakeskin patterning in Cindy’s costuming this season.
- I also like that they’re really leaning into the James Dean styling with Cameron.
- Zeke’s junkyard selling all those Thunderbolt-conjured stop signs for $5 a pop is a great little callback to “Chapter Three.”
- Okay, Pat’s white board specifically says that the temperature in Blue Valley is 83 degrees with 94% humidity and a “feels like” temperature of 89 degrees. In which case, the bundled-up way everyone is dressed in this episode is patently absurd!