‘Stargirl’s Jake Austin Walker Opens up About Henry’s Heroics & Heartbreak
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1, Episode 10 of DC’s Stargirl, “Brainwave Jr.”]
There’s no other way to describe the end of Episode 10 of DC’s Stargirl than completely heartbreaking.
Henry King Sr., a.k.a. Brainwave (Christopher James Baker) comes out of his coma with amnesia (namely, he can’t remember his very evil ways). And so his son, Henry (Jake Austin Walker) gets a glimpse of the father he wishes he’d had, but only briefly because the ISA swoops in to return his memories.
Henry and the Justice Society of America team up — with Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl (Brec Bassinger) the only one accepting him into the fold, especially once she learns his mother was Starman’s sister — in hopes of saving his father before he’s back to being a villain. But they’re too late, and when father and son face off, Henry learns his dad was the one to kill his mother … before his father kills him, too, when he refuses to join the ISA.
Here, Walker reveals why he’s “at peace” with his character’s arc.
I was sad to see Henry go because he’s come such a long way.
Jake Austin Walker: I know, it’s heartbreaking, right?
It looked like Henry was dead, but is there a chance he’s not?
As far as Jake Walker knows, Henry is dead. That boy is dead in the dirt. But I’m really at peace with Henry’s arc, and as far as I know, he’s with his mother now. … He went out a real hero, though. I’ll give him that.
Might we see you again?
That’s completely up to the writing team and the network and where they want to go with the story. As a huge fan of the character, I would love to hop back in the shoes of Henry if it was justified, if it really mattered to the story and not just to bring him back to bring him back. Because the only thing with a story, an arc as amazing as the one they gave me and I was so lucky to have is that when you kill a character like that, if you bring them back, it can dampen the effect that the death had.
I would love to come back, just because I love the cast and I love the show and I love the universe, but if I did … it could be really cool to do something relative to Yolanda or in the comics, they did this whole thing where Brainwave sacrificed himself to help Brainwave Jr. get out of the conscious realm with Starman. But that’s just wishful thinking.
How did you find out this would be the end of your character and how he would go out?
I met with Geoff [Johns] right before I got the role because I was a little on the fence, only because they wouldn’t tell me what the role was or the details of the character. … Geoff was kind enough to invite me to his office, and we chatted about the character, and he’s like, “Let me just be completely transparent,” and that’s when he laid out everything. He told me the entire character arc, so I did know I was going to die at the hands of my father by the end of the season. It wasn’t like on some shows when you find out when you get the script.
I really was at peace with it because I was so lucky with the levels they gave Henry that when I found out he was going out as a hero, it felt so perfect. It felt so full circle and it didn’t drag on. His character is so specific and so I was really happy with it. I was very, very content, and I love, love, love, love how he went out like such a badass.
Speaking of that scene, what’s going through Henry’s mind? First he makes the decision to protect the JSA and uses his powers to force Courtney to safety, then he’s using his powers against his dad, and then his dad tells him he killed his mother and tries to threaten him into siding with him.
One thing I thought was really interesting too when we were doing it is we don’t know what Henry and his father were telepathically saying to each other on top of the telepathic lines because there’s so much going on in our heads at once. I read it as complete and utter heartbreak, in the purest form, because the whole reason Henry’s down there is because he wants to see the good in his father. Every sign he’s read has basically shown that his father’s pretty evil, besides some tapes.
You go down there, thinking you’re so sure of everything, you’re going to change, you’re becoming better as a character, you know in your heart you’re becoming a better person, and so for his father to draw that last [line] and show him that he’s gone over the edge, there is no coming back for his father, it was just pure, absolute heartbreak for Henry. And anger and heartbreak ride the same rollercoaster, so that’s where I was trying to stay that whole time for all of that — and hopefully it really played out for the scene — just pure catastrophe, just pure heartbreak.
Especially since he had seen the father he could’ve had when his dad first woke up.
Exactly. That is just such a gut punch of a scene. Another big thing I thought about for that scene was God knows how long it’s been since Henry and his father hugged each other. Who knows how long it’s been since Henry’s had some genuine compassion like that in his life? It was nothing but heartbreak for him, bless his heart.
Henry tried to attack his father, but could he have killed him? And if he had, what would that have done to him? Would he have continued on the hero path or headed towards evil?
I think if Henry had a little more time and wasn’t so caught off guard — one of Henry’s downfalls is that he lets his emotions get the best of him. Rick is all anger, but that’s a certain kind of emotion that eventually can be stomped out — because I think those two characters share a lot of parallels. With Henry, he was so distraught that I feel like had he been more thought out, he could’ve gotten the best of his father. My only thing though is I don’t think Henry would have gone as far to kill his father. He has too much love for his father.
He would’ve hurt his father, but I don’t necessarily think Henry would have joined the JSA, too. I don’t think if he would’ve won that battle and kept going that he would’ve been an official JSA member. He would help them, but I think he’d ride this — not anti-hero, I don’t think he’d be vicious — line of vigilante.
He’d still have a lot to figure out for himself. After finding out your father killed your mom and you possibly beating your dad up or killing your father and then finding out that your uncle, basically your only family, is Starman and then he’s also dead, I don’t think he would’ve been like, “Now it’s time to join the team.”
But that’s in an alternate universe. It’s a different world. I’d like to think Henry would have gone to discover more about his history and hone in on his powers for good, but you never know.
Because he saw the team as a means to an end, just used them to get to his father.
Right. He and Courtney would have had a deep relationship. I think [they] would have been really close and had a good family and he would help when he can, but I don’t think he would’ve suited up with the team and been a full-fledged superhero. I think he would’ve gone and traveled and tried to figure out more for himself.
Speaking of Courtney, she told him they’re cousins, but that was more something to think about later for him, right?
Right. And it was cool because you can see there’s a slight — he’s happy about it. I don’t know if it’s stated, but I do believe Henry’s slightly older than all the JSA. I think Henry and Shiv are older, more seniors, so he has — not like the JSA’s immature by any means — a slight more maturity to him that would’ve led him to go down darker routes and more adult routes in his means. Because to Henry, this is all just heartbreak and pain for him. There was really no happiness in any of this. He would’ve had a lot to figure out after the battle with his father.
There was also heartbreak in his relationship with Yolanda and those final moments they had, when he wished he could take back what he did and his apology before his death — and he saw this girl whose heart he broke fighting to try to save him.
The beauty of it is he saw his father sacrifice everything, basically human compassion, what it means to be human for this ridiculous — well, in his mind it’s not ridiculous, but to Henry it is — what, New America? With Henry, one of his biggest things — and especially that last sorry he says to her — he didn’t want to die like his dad. He wanted to make sure if these were his last moments he was going to do everything in his power to show that he has a heart and that in his passing, hopefully she can, in time, forgive him.
What I thought was so beautiful about that entire moment is there is no genuine acceptance of apology. It’s just him saying, “If I’ve gotta go, I’m at least still going to tell you this.” They don’t necessarily forgive Henry for his actions but they do show that people are capable of growth, and that was the entire message, that whole scene. I think it really played out well. I feel so heartbroken for poor Yolanda though. That girl’s been through so much.
So how he treated her would have been one of his biggest regrets?
Oh, yeah, absolutely, without a doubt. If Henry ever came back in the future — and this is just me speculating — that would be his top plan would be to figure out his life and also rekindle or make up for Yolanda. Because he did love her. I argue that she was the only thing he really loved besides his father.
Did Henry ever care about Cindy or was it just easy to go along with whatever they had?
Cindy was just an easy distraction. Henry’s like a misanthrope where basically nothing stimulates him, nothing really brings him excitement, so I think half the reason he bullied and half the reason he was with Cindy was just to do it, just to be her arm piece, just to entertain himself. I don’t think there was actually really ever much love there. He definitely liked her, but I don’t think he loved her half as much as Yolanda. He knew what he was getting into with Cindy. He knew Cindy was the popular girl. With Yolanda, that was genuine love.
DC’s Stargirl, Tuesdays, 8/7c, The CW