If you haven’t guessed by perusing my articles for the last few years, Marvel is my favorite comic publisher by far. Brian K. Vaughan’s masterpiece Runaways happens to be my favorite comic by them, and has been for a very long time. After decades of waiting (and a cancelled movie years ago), the gang has finally hit the screen.
Is it everything I ever hoped?
Now, I will be breaking up the episode recaps for the premiere a little differently than I have in the past. I will be doing two articles for the premiere: the first two episodes together and the third episode separately. While Americans got the first three episodes simultaneously through Hulu, Canadians only got the first two episodes via Showcase -with the third airing next week, alongside Hulu’s fourth. Out of respect for our Canadian readers, the articles will be split in your favor so you have the option to not spoil anything for yourself.
Let’s begin with episode 1, “Reunion”!
Our journey starts where are all great journeys start: on a grimy bus in the middle of the night in downtown Los Angeles. A young runaway girl named Destiny Gonzales gets off the bus, unsuccessfully calls someone using a payphone, unsuccessfully asks someone for a place to stay, and then tries the payphone again. The woman on the other end asks Destiny to come and she hangs up. A few suspicious men start following her, speaking Spanish, and she gets scared and runs into traffic. They pull her back and insist they are rescuing her, but they are tased by the owner of the van that almost hit Destiny. It ends up belonging to a few friendly faces from the Church of the Gibborim. They promise they aren’t a cult and she can leave at any time – but they can help her.
After some snazzy urban-flavored title credits with lots of little Easter Eggs for comic fans (I’ll probably write a post about this later), we cut to six months later. In a very big house in Malibu (I think), Alex Wilder is playing what appears to be Star Wars Battlefront II on PlayStation 4, ignoring his mom Catherine’s calls to come eat breakfast. His dad Geoffrey comes in to his room and tries to talk to him, noticing he is playing a game that he used to play with his friend Amy Minoru, who last logged on two years ago. He offers to step in and play with his son, but Alex refuses and logs out, joining them for breakfast but choosing a glass of juice instead of Catherine’s pancakes. Catherine and Geoffrey decide that Alex has had enough time to grieve Amy’s death and that he needs to start seeing his friends again. Alex just wants to be alone, saying he will make new friends when he goes to college. Catherine and Geoffrey give up and leave to go to work at their law firm and real estate agency respectively, and Catherine reminds Geoffrey that they have a PRIDE meeting that night, which we quickly learn is a charity that they are part of.
In her own home, Amy’s goth sister Nico Minoru is going through the lengthy process of getting ready for school. Noticing her tights have a rip, she pops into Amy’s room to borrow some. As she sips tea in the kitchen, Nico’s mom Tina is notified by their smart home system that Amy’s door was opened. She catches Nico and angrily scolds her for going into her sister’s room. Nico protests that Amy would let her borrow some tights, and Tina reminds her that Amy is gone – to which Nico points out it doesn’t matter, then, if she borrows some tights. She pushes past her mother and knocks over Amy’s tennis trophy, shattering it. She tries to apologize and fix it, but Tina orders her to leave. As Nico leaves, her dad Robert (who saw the whole thing) asks if she is okay. She shoots back, “What do you think?”.
Instead of studying Calculus, muscly Chase Stein is pumping iron in his room. His nervous mom Janet tells him that breakfast is ready. He asks if his dad Victor is there, and she tells him that he is. Chase enters the kitchen and tells his dad about his big win against Harvard-Westlake. Victor, a successful renowned engineer, is much more interested in the fact that Chase got a C in Spanish, and tells him that if he was truly scared of him, he would be getting an A.
At the Church of the Gibborim, the pastor Leslie Dean concludes her sermon with the words of her father David Ellehr. As she speaks with churchgoers afterwards, her actor husband Frank leaves to go meet with his agent. Her daughter Karolina approaches and asks her to sign her permission slip for a class trip today, but Leslie refuses; they have a Vanity Fair shoot, and as the millennial face of the church, Karolina needs to be there. Karolina is frustrated that she wasn’t even asked.
Pulling up to Atlas Academy, Gert Yorkes and her young adopted sister Molly Hernandez are dropped off by their parents Dale and Stacey. Molly is having cramps, and Stacey tells her that menstruation is a blessing; if her breathing exercises and chamomile tea don’t work, she should go to the bathroom and give herself an orgasm as a natural pain reliever. Embarrassed and changing the subject, Molly says she is trying out for dance squad. Gert complains that Molly is just reinforcing hetero-normative stereotypes, but Molly just thinks the outfits are cute. Stacey and Dale embarrass the sisters further with talk of constipation, so they leave.
Outside, Gert is trying to get students to sign up for her anti-patriarchy club. She asks Chase, and his friends make fun of her before Chase ditches the flyer. Molly jokes that that went well. Chase passes Karolina, who wishes him a beautiful day before taking a #BLESSED selfie. Her mood is dampened a little by seeing Nico sitting alone, reading. Also watching Nico from afar is Alex on the balcony. He looks at a photo on his phone of the six of them, younger and happier. Alex calls his mom and asks if he can get the gang together at their house tonight. She approves his plans, which concerns Geoffrey. She reassures him that they had PRIDE meetings with the kids in the house all the time. Besides, they are teenagers; the last thing they are interested in is what their parents are doing. They enter an ominous chamber full of red robes. Elsewhere, in a strange white building, Leslie uses a hand-print scanner to enter a room with a bed containing an extremely decrepit man-thing wearing a full face breathing mask. She tells it that another one will be made eternal tonight.
Before class, Gert is still trying to recruit people to her club, Undermining the Patriarchy. It only needs three other members to be officially recognized as a club by the school, but no one is interested – or even paying attention. Alex approaches Chase, who is designing some Iron Man-like gloves on a tablet called Fistigons. Alex asks about the “hand blasters”, but Chase corrects him and starts geeking out over the Fistigons before realizing who he is talking to. Alex asks if he wants to hang out tonight, and Chase is not on board. Gert overhears and gets in a fight with Chase, the “roided-out jockstrap”. Karolina overhears too and Alex invites her, but she has a church conflict. Gert starts fighting with Karolina over her “oppressive cult”, who Karolina points out it positive and life-affirming and run by a woman. The bell rings and Nico is eager to leave. The ex-friends part ways, and Gert asks if he really wanted them all to hang out. Alex says it isn’t for him, but for her. He glances at Nico’s empty desk.
As Gert watches Chase’s ass, Chase begs his Spanish teacher Señor Walter to let him re-take the test, do a makeup assignment, anything. He can’t get a C. He is told to study harder next time. He angrily punches a locker. Gert jokes that underprivileged students should get their grades changed if they want. Chase says his dad is riding him about grades and he can’t afford a tutor, and Gert offers to help him study. Chase offers to buy her coffee that night if she helps, and it’s a date. Aaaw. Immediately after, Chase’s jock friends invite him to a party that night.
As Nico stares at Amy’s tennis trophy in the school’s trophy case, Alex greets her and mentions that he was trying to get everyone back together, but no one else wanted to. He says he misses them. He rephrases: he misses Nico. Nico pretends she can’t hear because of her earbuds and leaves to the bathroom to cry. Karolina is already crying in the stall after seeing someone edit her #BLESSED selfie into a rude #BRAINWASHED one. Both girls pretend they aren’t crying and have allergies, and come to the mutual agreement that there is too much pollen in the air because the bees are dying. Nico starts to touch up her goth makeup and Karolina tells her she doesn’t need to hide who she really is. Nico says that some people hide behind makeup, and some hide behind a smile; It’s still hiding. She leaves.
Outside, Karolina is doing an interview about the Church of Gibborim and their special bracelets when Destiny (remember her?) shows up and tells her that her mom and their church saved her from her rebellious lifestyle. Karolina excuses herself from the reporters to talk to Destiny, and asks her what it was like – not being saved; rebelling.
At dance squad tryouts, Molly starts her routine before being cut short by her powerful cramps. She is sent to the nurse’s office. She is given meds, but they don’t help. The nurse asks if it’s hereditary, but Molly says she has no idea – she is adopted, because her parents died in a fire. The nurse leaves to get more medicine. As the cramps get worse, Molly grips the edges of the chair and her eyes glow, as she crumples the chair like paper. She tells the nurse she feels much better. She goes home for the day, and upon realizing Dale and Stacey aren’t home, tries to test her new abilities in the garage. She can’t push the van, she can’t bend a crowbar – but she does catch the van as it rolls towards her, eyes glowing. She leaves hand-print dents in the front of the vehicle. She celebrates, then gets instantly tired and naps on the floor.
At the PRIDE meeting, Robert notices Janet did something with her hair. Victor passive-aggressively says he’s too busy changing the world to notice his wife’s bangs. Tina complains about the Yorkes’ homemade brie wheel, when – speak of the devil – Stacey shows up and asks why her Wizard phone isn’t downloading her mail. Tina tells her that she is the CEO of Wizard, not tech support, and Robert says they fix it in the new update. Dale urges them to back up her music library first, and they talk about some seven minute solo with the uninterested Minorus. Watching from afar, Catherine wonders how they were allowed in PRIDE. Leslie assures her they are there for a reason. Dale compliments Geoffrey with some accidentally racist comments, when Alex interrupts and lets them know that no one showed up and he will eat pizza alone. He leaves. Tina says that Nico hasn’t been the same either. They toast to PRIDE. Alex goes to his room and starts up the PS4. He texts the gang the photo of them younger.
Chase shows up the party. Karolina decides to ditch her church obligations and go to the party as well. A man inexplicably dressed as a bear hands her a pill that will “set her free”. Dancing, Karolina stops and longing watches two girls together, grinding and making out. She defiantly takes off her Gibborim bracelet. Her arms hands start to glow, sparkling and rainbow. She dances a bit, watching the pretty colors, and passes out. Chase’s jock friends seize the opportunity and carry her upstairs, and begin undoing her belt. Chase finds them and beats the hell out of them.
Good for you, Chase. That was messed up.
He waits until Karolina comes to, puts her belt and bracelet back on, and they leave together. She doesn’t want to go home, but she knows a place, and offers Chase a ride. We find out she never took the pill the bear offered her.
Gert waits for Chase to show up at the café, cue cards ready. He doesn’t show up. She considers texting Chase, asking where he is, but instead texts Molly asking her to feed the pets. Molly wakes up on the garage floor, protests, but does so anyway. She goes downstairs to Dale and Stacy’s biogenetics lab and begins feeding the birds when she hears a noise from the “KEEP OUT!” room. She looks in the dark window and makes out the shape of a deinonychus. You know, the long-extinct dinosaur. She runs upstairs, eyes glowing, tearing the door off the handle, and calls Gert. She doesn’t want to be home, and asks if Gert can take her anywhere but here.
On a beach, Nico tries to do a dark magic ritual before a large fire. It becomes more and more apparent that she is trying to resurrect Amy. She tries harder and harder to summon the goddesses and ressurrect her sister, but it fails. Nico breaks down crying.
At his house, Alex opens a pizza box when he hears the door buzzer. Standing at the door is Chase, Gert, Molly and Karolina. Gert tells him it was manipulative to send that photo. Alex says it worked – they are almost all there. A tear-stained Nico walks up and asks if they have room for one more.
The gang is back together!
And sitting around awkwardly. Alex offers them pizza, and then asks if they want to play Twister (as a nod to the comics). Molly says that not even she is 12 anymore (another nod to the comics). She then chastises Alex for sitting in Amy’s chair, but Nico says that Amy is gone and Alex can sit wherever he wants. Karolina posits that they don’t “work” as friends without Amy and Chase tries to leave. Alex says that they can’t blame Amy, and Chase chooses to blame Alex for not showing up to Amy’s funeral. Gert sarcastically questions who would ever not show up when a friend is expecting them, putting Chase in his place. Karolina argues that they were always going to grow apart, and Gert says it’s better than being friends with the perfect church girl. Karolina fires back that it’s better than an insufferable social justice warrior. Alex joins in with saying it’s better than an asshole jock. Chase argues that it is better than… Molly. (He has nothing against Molly she’s really nice). Nico asks what about her, and apologizes for not being Amy. Karolina decides they need to all sit and talk this out. They reluctantly agree, but Chase is raiding the liquor cabinet first.
Chase leaves to the Wilder’s study to get some bourbon despite Alex’s protests that their parents are in there. Nico asks Alex why he didn’t come to the funeral, but dismisses her question and instead thanks him for doing this for her. Chase interrupts their moment by saying their parents are gone. The teens enter the study and wonder why their parents things are there. Molly tries to get Chase to pour her a bourbon, but she is too young. He pours one for Gert instead, and apologizes for standing her up. He asks to try again, and Gert shuts him down in Spanish. Alex goes to get Gert a coaster, but realizes they are all stuck together, and turning them opens a secret passageway. Gert thinks it’s to a bomb shelter, Chase things it’s to a wine cellar, and Karolina thinks it’s to a hidden temple for persecuted worship. One way to find out.
The gang make their way down the pathway and, from a balcony, watch their parents in red robes performing a ceremony around some coffin-like object as Catherine is reading from a book. They can’t hear the PRIDE and the PRIDE can’t hear the kids; there is a strange magical sound-proof barrier. Leslie brings forth Destiny and Karolina recognizes her. The PRIDE makes her drink from a goblet, and then huddle around her. Gert refuses to let Molly see what is happening. The casket opens and the parents put Destiny’s body inside. Trying to see what is happening, Molly takes a photo.
With flash on. The parents see the kids fleeing the balcony, and Geoffrey wonders what the hell just happened.
Thus concludes the first episode of Runaways. I have to say, I liked it a lot. There were a lot of changes from the comics, especially to Molly, but they keep it fresh to someone like me who knows the story inside out – and certain changes, like the addition of Amy, add some great pathos and drama to the show. They definitely hint at what is to come, and I am excited to see more.
I give this episode a 9.5/10. Truthfully, it’s a near-perfect adaptation; but if I give it a 10, where do I go from there?
The second episode “Rewind” begins right where “Reunion” left off: The kids are running because the parents saw the flash from Molly’s camera. The parents quickly wrap up their ceremony, concerned that they were seen, but the kids find themselves trapped, with the secret passageway closed behind them. Alex is unable to open the door, so Chase tries, before concluding that it is heavier than it looks. As the whole gang pushes, Molly uses her super-strength to open the passage and then the kids scramble back to the guest room as the parents make their way up the corridor. Karolina thinks it must have been a Gibborim ceremony, but Gert points out her parents are Jewish. Chase thinks his dad may have discovered time travel. As Molly struggles to stay awake, Nico says that their parents definitely killed Destiny. Suddenly, all the lights in the Wilder estate go out.
Now, for why the episode is called “Rewind”. Earlier that day, as Alex heads off the school, Catherine tells Geoffrey that their son needs to stop letting Amy’s death define his life. Geoffrey reminds her that he taught her that Wilders never let their past define them. She points out that she told him that while he was in jail, so she gets some credit. She asks Geoffrey to held set up for the PRIDE meeting, as she has court this afternoon.
At the Stein residence, Chase is telling his mom about how excited he is to go to college to get away from his grade-A asshole dad, Victor. Janet tells him that his dad can be difficult, but it’s the price of his genius. She reminds him that he hasn’t hit Chase in a while, and Chase retorts that he knows he would get his ass kicked if he did. As Chase gets ready to leave for school, Janet’s phone buzzes. Chase jokes that he is surprised Victor lets her have friends and leaves. Janet picks up the phone and reminds the caller that she is supposed to call them, and is excited to see them at the PRIDE meeting tonight – even if Victor will be there.
Ooh, is Janet having a fling? Is it Robert? I bet it’s Robert.
In his workshop, Victor Stein is tinkering on the casket-thing that Destiny’s body will eventually be stored in. He opens it, places a rat inside, and closes it. He opens it again and is frustrated to find that the rat is still there. Janet arrives and Victor complains that the dematerialization chamber isn’t… well, dematerializing things. As Janet goes looking for the rat, she assures him that he will figure it out, and reminds him that it is okay to ask for help if he needs it. He yells at her that no one could help him, making her flinch, and then apologizes, saying he is really stressed. He demands she gets rid of the rat, because it is useless.
At the Church of the Gibborim, right after Karolina Dean storms off from her mother Leslie, the two clergywomen who found Destiny at the start of the first episode tell Leslie that Destiny Gonzales is not in her room and did not attend church. Leslie orders them to find her. Outside, Leslie’s husband Frank is meeting with his agent Phil. Phil wants to talk somewhere private, but – Frank quoting Leslie’s sermon – secrets only live in the shadows, and they are in the light. After all, if his agent drove all this way, he must have a big part for him, right?
Nope. Phil is letting Frank go. He used to be a child star, and teenage girls all over masturbated to his photo (according to Phil). Now, he is just “the guy from the church”. Even though Leslie’s dad gave her the church and Leslie runs it, Frank’s celebrity status is what put the Gibborim on the map. Phil suggests that Frank ask for a cut and leaves.
At the Minoru residence, Robert tells Tina that she needs to fix this and Tina agrees – but Robert isn’t talking about the broken tennis trophy, he is talking about her relationship with Nico. Not listening, Tina grabs the Staff of One and shows back up at Amy’s room, ordering Robert out. Robert ignores her demand, gluing the trophy back together, so Tina seals off the room with a spell. Through the barrier, Robert tells her that he misses Amy and he knows Tina does too, so why can’t she just say it out loud? She is pushing Nico away, and he doesn’t want to lose her, too. Tina agrees to start with a padlock and unseals the door.
After driving Molly and Gert to school, Dale Yorkes is enjoying a new flavor of bran bar for his constipation. (Cinnamon.) Dale and Stacey wait as a crossing guard ushers a lot of children past, but the man behind them in a Nemo car is impatient. They say that everyone who drives a Nemo is an asshole; must be because Victor Stein is the CEO. Stacey warns Dale to be on his best behavior tonight, and Dale totally forgot they even had a PRIDE meeting tonight. He asks Stacey to go alone, but she says she was up all night with their pride and joy – the deinonychus in the lab. Also, she doesn’t want Tina Minoru to insult her brie. Dale tells her her soft cheeses are out of this world. The man in the Nemo honks and speeds past, as the couple have stopped long past the crossing guard’s departure.
At the site of the new school the PRIDE is building, three black cars pull up and gang members pile out. They relieve the construction crew of duty, and the foreman tells them that they are funded by very powerful people. The lead thug says that that is the point, and he is doing this in order to send Geoffrey Wilder a message: Darius Davis says hello. As Catherine and Geoffrey set up the chalice and book in their ceremony room, the foreman delivers the message. Geoffrey isn’t concerned; it’s just Darius trying to pull him back in. Catherine ensures that he takes care of it before the PRIDE finds out and nothing jeopardizes that construction site.
Leslie catches up with Destiny as she is about to leave, and guilts her for not even saying goodbye. Destiny admits that she has a three-year-old daughter, and it’s her birthday. She promised she wouldn’t miss another one. In a last-ditch effort to ensure Destiny doesn’t leave the church, Leslie tells Destiny that it was supposed to be a surprise, but she was planning on moving her up in the church – to reach “Ultra” and “see more of the spectrum”. If she delays leaving for a few days, Leslie will promote her; she just needs to come with her. Destiny complies.
It’s a trap!
Geoffrey Wilder decides to pay the construction site a visit with a briefcase. Darius has his men search him and take his phone, and explains that Geoffrey used to run these streets. Geoffrey says he is building a better school for the community, but Darius thinks he is just doing it for himself. He examines the briefcase, and confident it isn’t a bomb, has Geoffrey open it. He pulls his gun just in case. Geoffrey opens it to reveal not $50k, but a tablet showing Darius’ grandma’s house. He reminisces about her spicy chicken, and warns Darius that if he doesn’t clear out and stop messing with him, that recipe will be all that is left. Realizing he hasn’t gone soft, the gang clears out, handing back Geoffrey’s phone so he can call his foreman to come back to work. Darius’ assistant reveals he has remotely hacked the contents of Geoffrey’s phone.
Frank arrives at home and finds Leslie praying in her office. He joins her and asks to go Ultra. He believes he is ready and wants to bear his half of the church. He saw his father-in-law go to an early grave because of the Gibborim, and he doesn’t want Leslie to, too. He wants to quit acting entirely. Leslie wants to talk about it after her PRIDE meeting, but Frank urges her to take him along. She just says that she is excited that he is considering going Ultra.
At the PRIDE meeting (sans Frank), Leslie passes out the file on Destiny, considering her a strong candidate. Geoffrey is uncomfortable, and Victor calls him out on it, asking if he is getting cold feet. Leslie reminds him that they all signed off on this together. Geoffrey just finds it strange that their sacrifices are 17 and most of their kids are now 17. Dale says that denial is a strong coping mechanism, and Janet jokes that so is Chardonnay. (Robert smiles. Totally cheating.) Leslie reassures them that the kids that come to her are addicts and the six months they spend with the church are the best (final) six months of their lives, better than they would live on their own. Geoffrey points out they don’t even know what cause they are sacrificing for, and Robert says that neither do they. Janet interjects that they all know why they are there, and Stacey says that if this goes well it will be the last time they need to do it. Tina asks to begin, and Geoffrey turns the coasters, unlocking the secret passage.
The PRIDE descend into the hidden temple, don their robes and get into position. Leslie uses a phone to tell someone they are ready on their end. In the creepy white room, a similar matter dematerialization chamber encases the decrepit old thing Leslie spoke to last episode. Leslie then tells a nervous Destiny that they are ready. Victor gets the chamber ready while Tina casts a silence barrier and Stacey and Dale mix poison in the wine. Leslie leads Destiny in. She is confused, because this doesn’t seem to line up with what she knows about going Ultra. Leslie assures her that this is all for her. Stacey brings her the wine and asks her to drink it, and Leslie forces her to. They strip her and carry her to the chamber as she asks them to stop. She asks what will happen, and Leslie reassures her that this is the light and she will be okay. This calms her until Geoffrey apologizes and she panics. Leslie calms her again and Catherine orders the casket closed. Leslie sheds a single tear as Destiny dies. Suddenly, they see a flash of light – Molly’s camera.
As the parents get dressed and we get a quick recap of the opening of this episode, Alex sneaks off and cuts the power to the Wilder estate. As the power starts to come back on and Alex returns to the teens, he explains that he hopes it will look like a circuit blew. Karolina has an idea. Meanwhile, Molly is passed out, asleep. Catherine and Geoffrey arrive to the kids playing Twister. After a few minutes conversation, they are convinced that the kids didn’t see anything and return to the PRIDE. The kids try to wrap their heads around how their parents could all be evil. Alex asks to see the photo Molly took.
Geoffrey and Catherine tell them their kids are there like old times, but didn’t seem to be aware of what happened. A circuit seemed to blow. Robert questions how that makes sense, considering Victor’s machine wasn’t plugged in to anything. Either way, the Wilders are convinced the teens are unrelated. Meanwhile, Leslie is having a hard time keeping together. Losing Destiny was a hard one. They head upstairs and leave Victor to pack up his machine alone. He hears banging on it, and opens it to find Destiny, begging for help. He gets angry. She shouldn’t be here. Victor Stein doesn’t like failing.
The kids and parents have a meet-and-greet and catch up, both sides trying to play it cool with various levels of success as they head out. Tina and Robert can’t find Nico, so Alex goes and finds her in the bathroom crying. She says that she can’t go home. She used to always have someone to take her side in fights against her parents, but now she’s all alone and her parents are evil. Alex assures her that she isn’t alone. He brings her downstairs and she thanks him before leaving with her parents. Geoffrey comments that he saw some “sparks” between them and offers dating advice but Alex goes to bed.
At the Church of the Gibborim, Frank looks through Leslie’s personal files on the computer. He then tries to access Leslie’s personal meditation suite – the room with the decrepit old dying thing that may or may not be her father. He is unable to access the hand-print scanner, but his frequent attempts rile up the man-beast in the room. An assistant tells Frank that even though he is Leslie’s husband, he is not allowed to be there, and escorts him away.
As Molly sneaks into Gert’s room and asks her to sing a lullaby for old times sake, Nico breaks into Amy’s room and lies on her bed, Chase is working out and Karolina is sitting by the pool when they all get a text from Alex. They are going to figure this out tomorrow at 10. The lullaby carries down below to the room below Gert’s, where the deinonychus listens.
In his study, Geoffrey is troubled. He feels like he has come so far from his life of crime, but yet is still killing people. Catherine assures him that what they did was different and important and asks him to come to bed. He goes to lock up and finds Molly’s hairclip near the secret passage.
Damn, who would have though an episode about The Pride from Runaways would be interesting? This was another great episode and this show has so much more than promise already. Not only is it a fantastic adaptation, fleshing out characters in a way the comics never did, it’s a legitimately great teen drama that doesn’t delve into soap opera. Two episodes in and I can’t recommend it enough. This episode is another 9.5/10 for me.
I had high hopes for this series and they are surpassing every expectation. Can they keep it up? Let’s find out with episode 3, aptly titled “Destiny”.