Star kicked off its first season with all the drama one would expect from Lee Daniels, the director behind Precious and the co-creator of Empire. Mixing music with soap opera theatrics, the new show follows a different kind of family than the Lyons.
The three leads of the show – Jude Demorest, Brittany O’Grady and Ryan Destiny – are all relative newcomers. Daniels wisely balanced that out by casting veterans Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt in key roles. Actor/singer Lenny Kravitz also appeared in the pilot.
Let’s take a look at the action of the pilot episode and see if it’s worth watching episode two.
Star Doesn’t Let Anything Get in Her Way
“Star won’t listen to nobody but herself,” Carlotta Brown (Latifah) says in the opening narration. After the title, we’re introduced to Star (Demorest), who is living in a foster home in Pittsburgh and still hasn’t turned 18. She’s on the phone with her friend, Alexandra (Destiny), who she has been recording music with long-distance. Alexandra wants her to come to New York, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. Once she reaches 18, Star vows to get her sister, Simone (O’Grady), so the three of them can record together.
Star’s mother Mary was a drug addict, who we learn has died. Her sister is living in a different foster home and they haven’t seen each other since they were five years old.
Star hates her life and, instead of doing her chores, storms out to go to social services. She wants to be transferred to another home and to be reunited with her sister.
Now, Daniels takes us to another world. Alexandra wants her father, Roland (Kravitz) to lend her the money to get Star to New York so they can record together. Since they only met on Instagram, Roland is weary of the idea. At first, he thinks her friend knows her famous father, but Alexandra explains that she used a fake name on Instagram, so Star has no idea how much money she really has.
There’s clearly some tension between the two because Alexandra wants to start her own career. “I need to make music that feeds my soul,” she says. “And my music don’t?” her father replies. Alexandra has no respect for her father’s current music. “You sound just like your mother,” he tells her and slams the door as he leaves.
At the social services office, Star begs to be allowed to meet her sister, Simone. While Star is breaking down in the office, the show cuts back and forth to give a preview of the life Simone has. The social worker agrees to process Star out of the system so she can see Simone and then Star leaves Pittsburgh behind forever.
On the bus ride to Harrisburg, Star reads her file and finds letters from Carlotta, their godmother, who tried to find them. Star later arrives at the home of Simone’s foster parents, which seem empty. She goes upstairs, only to find her foster father sexually abusing her sister. Star grabs a knife from the kitchen, runs back upstairs and kills Simone’s foster father. Well, that’s one way to begin a show with some drama.
The two rush out of the home and begin driving to Atlanta, because Star thinks they can make it in that music scene and Carlotta lives there. But first, they go to New York to pick up Alexandra.
They stop at a hotel, where she all three of them get to know each other a little better. Alexandra spots blood on Simone’s shirt, but Simone says it was just barbecue sauce. Alexandra believes her and goes off to bed, but Star reprimands her sister. She tells her that they have to forget everything about their past lives in foster care – including the murder Star committed. Star says they have to in order to follow their dream. Simone corrects her – it’s your dream, she tells her.
Arriving in Atlanta
The trio arrive in Atlanta in the morning, as we watch Carlotta sing at church. Star goes into a salon, where Carlotta’s daughter, Cotton (Amiyah Scott) doesn’t believe that Star is looking for her. So, she shows the letters and is told where Carlotta is. At the church, they find Carlotta, who is shocked to see Simone and Star.
After church, Carlotta’s neighbor Derek (Quincy Brown) asks her to join a Black Lives Matter protest. Carlotta tries to shrug them off. The three explain their goal: to hit it big in Atlanta. Carlotta reveals that she was in a girl group with Star and Simone’s mother and had a hit single. In order to stay with her, the girls have to work at Carlotta’s salon, which is really disappointing to Alexandra. Simone remains quiet and would rather sleep in a room apart from the other two. She really doesn’t want to sing as much as Star and Alexandra do.
A week later, they start rehearsing in the bedroom. It’s a quick scene, but we see how Star is already trying to be the leader of the group, even as Alexandra hopes to keep all three of them equal in their first song. At the salon, Star has trouble and a customer walks out. Everyone else can’t understand why Carlotta would keep a white girl in the salon. Star tries to stand up for herself, even calling one of the other hairdressers a racist.
Star storms out, but Simone feels more at home in the salon. She’s more interested in hearing about her mother than worrying about recording with Alexandra or Star. Meanwhile, Alexandra convinces Star to take part in a contest in Decatur to start building buzz. The performance goes off well, but there was no one there to watch them. This would have been a really good time for Daniels to show how good the girls are, but instead, the performance is cut short.
Star Knows Where the Managers Really Are
Star thinks she knows where managers are: a strip club. Cotton, who saw the performance, bumps into the girls on the street and says that Star is right. Alexandra refuses though and tries to go on a traditional route. Even though Simone backs the idea of stripping to find a manger, she rushes to Carlotta’s. Alexandra refuses to go and goes back to the salon.
There, Carlotta and Simone have it out. Carlotta accuses Alexandra of using her goddaughters to escape whatever she’s running from. After storming out, Alexandra and Derek have a conversation. She asks him how he can think he can change the world. He thinks he can do it through protests, she thinks music can do the trick. A romantic spark is in the air here, so keep an eye on that relationship.
Meanwhile, at a strip club, Star spots Jahil Rivera (Bratt), a manager who needs a career revival. She takes him to a private room and this means we finally get an extended song sequence. “I Bring Me” is performed is in Star’s mind. “You’re trouble,” Jahil tells her after the song. “Sometimes,” Star replies.
He proposes that she perform at a party he’s providing the entertainment for. She’ll only do it if Alexandra and Simone can perform too. He agrees and Star heads back to Carlotta’s, ready to celebrate. After she leaves, Star sees Cotton being sexually assaulted. It turns out that Cotton is transgender.
After another commercial, Carlotta tells Cotton that she knows where she took Star last night. Carlotta calls Cotton a boy, and she corrects her. “Girl, mama.” Simone is surprised by the revelation, but even more surprised to learn that Star got them a manager. If they do well, Jahil will sign them, Star says. Oh, and Carlotta has some kind of past with Jahil.
Next, we cut to Jahil trying to convince football player Hunter Morgan (Chad James Buchanan) that Star, Simone and Alexandra should perform at his party. Apparently the last time Jahil arranged an act for Hunter, it didn’t go so well.
At Carlotta’s, Star and Alexandra are practicing. Simone finally shows up, but she’s in a church outfit. She tells Star that the two of them should be saved. “There’s something wrong with you, Simone,” Star tells her. “Ain’t nothing wrong with me,” Simone says. Star insists that the only one who will save them is a manager. The scene ends with Simone wanting her weed. Throughout the episode, we’ve seen Simone smoking marijuana.
‘I Can Be’
Later, Carlotta shows up at Jahil’s place. They had some kind of bargain and Carlotta wanted Jahil to stay out of her life. He had no idea that Star was Mary’s daughter. Jahil insists that Star could have a great career, but Carlotta threatens to call the law if Jahil goes near the girls again. Jahil managed Carlotta and Mary, but blames them for destroying his career. Carlotta pulls a gun out of her purse and tells him that he better stay away.
The three girls are getting ready, unaware of what is going on between Carlotta and Jahil. Simone and Star get into another argument, because to further emphasize that Simone isn’t really interested in the same kind of career Star wants.
At Hunter’s home, Hunter take a keen interest in Star. Simone begins drinking and is already drunk before their performance of “I Can Be.” “You want legit homie, this is it,” Jahil tells Hunter during the performance. “I’ve been asleep for the past 10 years.”
Wow, everything is starting off great, right? Star is going to realize her dream and get away with murder… or not. Just before the episode ends, we see Simone’s foster father wake up in the hospital back in Pennsylvania.
Star has an interesting premise and the pilot appears to have outlined every possible plot thread for the show’s first season. All three girls are very different personalities and how they will stay together is the focus, but the performance from Queen Latifah might be the best reason to tune in. We won’t find out if Star will have to face any consequences for her actions for three weeks. The next new episode of Star doesn’t air until Wednesday, January 4 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
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