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Runaways Doubles Down on its Parents Problem

Last week my frustrations over Runaways finally hit a tipping point. The one consistent part of this first season has been the inconsistency. The inconsistency between the kids and the parents, between the character’s relationships, between the subversive elements and the lame, harmful tropes we’ve seen a hundred times. Even worse, it felt like most of this inconsistency was built to stall the story in place.

I hoped last week was the end of that. I was wrong.

runaways robert janet

Recap

Another week of Runaways, another one starting with a flashback. This time we see the Steins meet each other for the first time to talk about time travel. There’s a cut forward showing Chase’s birth, and then another of Victor beating Chase when he was a kid. Finally the episode returns to the present, where Victor’s time machine works enough for him to receive a message from Chase in the future telling him not to pick up the Fistigons.

Yeah, this is going to be one of those episodes.

Geoffrey walks in on Catherine “cleaning” Alex’s room as an excuse to snoop. They discuss whether Molly told Alex about the ritual and also Alex’s love life. Alex leaves the shower to find them in his room and they talk about things happening recently, as well as establishing there’s an open house at his school. He leaves before Catherine can see his laptop cracking the sacrifice video he stole. Catherine mentions a plan for dealing with Molly involving her parents.

Over at Victor’s home lab, Chase finds his dad in the midst of some revelation. They also talk about the open house while Victor continues playing the supportive, changed father. Janet interrupts. Chase chastises her for her affair, so she also recommits to their family. Meanwhile Robert tells Nico he and her mother are separating and he’s moving out. Nico tries to talk him into apologizing but Robert doesn’t want to. He loves Janet and wants to have a relationship with her.

Next, Leslie delivers some parting words for a man in a hospital bed while his kids watch. Her husband Frank walks in before they remove his ventilator and somehow uses magic glowing hands to heal the man. Turns out he got gloves from Jonah to give him this ability. Leslie is clearly upset by this because of the effect spreading word will have on the church.

At school, Nico tells Alex about her dad and asks again how he knew her mother’s password. The others show up before he answers. They snark at each other and discuss the video Alex is cracking until Molly freaks and admits to telling Catherine what she saw. The others talk down to her until Molly runs off angrily.

Her parents check out a sample of the serum Jonah used to heal Victor. They talk about how his DNA heals when manipulated. A drop spills on Dale’s hand and immediately affects him. Leslie confronts Jonah about giving Frank his healing gloves. Jonah basically acts like an entitled prick while Leslie talks about protecting the church, but Jonah admits he’s bringing the church down because Pride is more important. He tells Leslie to redirect her energies on fixing her friends.

Molly goes to watch the Mean Girls cheerleaders again after failing her audition earlier this season. She wants another shot but gets relegated to an errand girl they treat like crap. Karolina tries to reconcile with her because she’s awesome and reassures Molly they are still friends.

When Stacey returns to the lab she finds Dale freaking out like he’s on speed. They quickly realize Jonah’s serum caused it. The Wilders arrive asking to talk about Molly but the Yorkes blow them off until the open house at the school. Over at the church, Frank goes through a storage room and finds a picture of a 12-year old Leslie and a grown up Jonah. Gross. He has another memory of catching Leslie and Jonah having sex.

The open house starts with a glimpse of all the parental tensions while someone gives a speech. Gert bickers with Molly and finds an anti-patriarchy club started without her. Karolina talks to her briefly before her dad arrives asking after Leslie. Robert talks to Nico about a dream future with Janet. Leslie goes to work trying to mend things with the Steins and Minorus for Pride’s sake. Victor delivers an unspoken threat to Robert.

The Wilders finally corner the Yorkes to talk about Molly. Karolina and Chase notice and go to convene the group. The Wilders present their plan to the immense displeasure of the Yorkes. The Wilders seem genuinely worried what would happen to Molly if Jonah found out.

Meanwhile the teens reaffirm their commitment to bring their parents down.

Frank finds Leslie and shows the picture he found. She admits to sleeping with Jonah. She also says he is the figure her father built the Gibborim church around. Victor assaults the lacrosse coach to demand he let Chase back on the team. I don’t remember him being kicked off, shows how much I care about that I guess. Robert approaches Janet and she shuts down any future for them.

Nico again confronts Alex about knowing her mother’s password and again we see nothing from it. Back at the Yorkes house, Molly finds her parents packing her stuff. They want to send her to live with someone else. Molly almost uses her powers as the argument escalates but Gert drags her away. She promises they will always be sisters and comforts her, but says she should leave.

And finally, Victor finds Chase working on the gloves and is back to abusive piece of crap mode. Chase angrily tries to leave. His dad tries to hit him and Chase punches him. Victor uses a Fistigon on him in retaliation. He is about to use it again when Janet shoots him.

Can’t say I’m upset at all.

Review

This episode basically doubled down on all my frustrations from last week. Even worse, it confirmed my suspicions about why so many of the worse plots seemed to exist. Why did Victor Stein have an about face and become a better parent for two episodes? To stall. Why did Tina suddenly become a better mother? To stall. Why are the teens suddenly clashing and splitting? To stall.

If Runaways had managed to stall in better fashion, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I’ve seen plenty of TV that stalls the plot for an entire season to focus on characters as part of the greater plot. Mr. Robot’s second season did so in service of the amazing third season to follow. The Americans did the same with season 5 for the upcoming sixth season. You can get away with stalling.

Thing is, neither of those shows stalled in the first season.

What exactly is Runaways waiting for? This is your premiere season. The season where you have to grab an audience and invest them in your show. Instead Runaways is acting like a show taking audience investment for granted.

As a result, I’m left scowling when it YET AGAIN lectures Janet Stein for cheating on a husband who has abused both her and her son. I’m left watching more uninteresting marriage drama between Leslie/Frank. I’m left watching Nico confront Alex twice about knowing her mother’s password and NOTHING coming of it either time. Over and over I watch Runaways kick the can down the road in a way that makes paint dry.

The Stein abuse storyline especially just rubs me completely the wrong way. Runaways can’t seem to decide what the hell the point of this was. Are we supposed to feel bad for Victor? Are we supposed to support Janet? Why is Chase’s perspective of all this sidelined in favor of his parents? It’s easily the worst subplot on the show right now and it dominated this episode. Why? Why make that choice?

Unfortunately, and surprisingly to me, this episode didn’t even have fun scenes to make up for it like last week did. There was no Gert distracting the security guards. There was no Karolina struggling with everything happening in her life or getting ready for a party with Nico. The closest thing this episode had was Molly’s fears of abandonment and having them come true at the end, but it was not enough. Not even close. Instead the parents got even more of the focus than last week.

It’s just so frustrating. They are not interesting enough to swallow this show whole like this. They have become main characters more than their kids have.

This episode seemed to squash most of these extraneous plots, but did they really? Molly’s going to have at least one more week focused on this move. Alex still needs to wait for his hack of the video to complete after 2 freaking episodes. The Stein family plot will continue one more week. At this point I’m expecting things to continue in this frustrating holding pattern.

I won’t pretend nothing happens. The problem is how we get all these little revelations but without anything coming of them. We learn something, but the episode doesn’t take action on it. Which is why I feel like everything Runaways does anymore is just meant to stall.

Why? Because clearly they want to end the season with the runaways running away.

How in the world will they pause this another 3 episodes? I don’t know. They saw their parents kill someone all the way back in the first episode and yet here we are, still waiting for something to come of it. Other than Karolina, there has been no exploration of anyone’s powers in these past two episodes. Instead we’re sitting around waiting for something to happen. They always find a way to put it off.

I want to like this show more, because there are elements there that would easily make me love it. Instead Runaways keeps focusing on things I don’t give a crap about because they are holding those elements back.

I hope the show figures it out. It’s probably too late for this season, but I hope I’m wrong. And if not, I hope they can figure it out for next season. I really want to see everything the comic hype and the show’s brightest moments make me believe is possible.

Runaway Thoughts

  • Eww, Jonah had a daughter with someone he has known since she was in 8th grade and he was an adult? Eww.
  • So Jonah is some alien or something? Unless there’s some weird magickey-science explaining him.
  • Molly tried her hardest to salvage this episode. She just wasn’t quite enough.
  • I may not like the parents but the Yorkes are at least entertaining. I have a significant crush on Stacey.

Images Courtesy of Hulu

Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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