Welcome to Marvel’s interpretation of L.A. where the teens seem to have more of a moral compass than their parents. In the first episode we’re introduced to a group of teens and their parents. Introducing a cast of sixteen main characters and additional characters is not an easy feat, but the show pulls it off well.
The episode starts with a young woman whom we later find out is named Destiny Gonzalez. Fresh off a coach bus into LA, Destiny is promptly harassed by two men. Thankfully she’s rescued from the street harassers by two women who look like they’re about to attend brunch or church. The two ladies tase the pair and load Destiny into a church van full of other young people. The harassers recognize the van and comment that Destiny would have been better off with them. It takes one predator to know another, so perhaps the two street harassers are right.
Flash forward to six months later and we are introduced to our main characters and family units.
Parents: Angel and Geoffrey; Child: Alex. Angel is a lawyer and Geoffrey is a business man. Geoffrey has a criminal past which Angel seems to have helped him overcome. Alex is a bit of a nerd and enjoys playing video games. He’s also become a loner in the last two years, but misses his friends.
Parents: Tina and Robert; Children: Amy (deceased) and Nico. Tina is a CEO and Robert works for the same organization. Tina is harsh towards Nico, while Robert is more caring and sensitive towards Nico’s difficulties of coming to terms with her sister’s death. On first appearance Nico is into goth clothing and culture, but later we also see her casting spells.
Parents: Janet and Victor; Child: Chase. Victor is a tech mogul who is as intelligent as he is aggressive and harsh. His poor behavior extends to his wife and son, both of whom he treats shabbily. Janet is also smart and tech-minded, but it appears that she takes a backseat to her husband. Chase is a jock, but he has also inherited his parents’ intelligence.
Parents: Leslie and Frank; Child: Karolina. Leslie is the head of Gibborim a spiritual organization that has hints of well-known spiritual organizations, plus a mysterious and potential cult vibe. Frank is an actor whose heyday as a teen heartthrob has long since passed. Karolina has the aura of a perfect girl, good looking but also kind and deeply committed to the family enterprise.
Parents: Stacey and Dale. Children: Gert and Molly [Hernandez]. Stacey and Dale are Phish listening, hippie-ish bio-engineers. Gert is socially aware and ready to campaign for what she believes in. Molly’s birth parents died in a fire ten years earlier and Stacey and Dale adopted her. Molly is the youngest of the group and sweet.
The teens used to be very close, but things changed two years ago. Alex tries to bring the group back together by inviting them to hang out at his house while their parents hold their meeting for an organization called Pride. This is how the teens developed their friendships during their childhood. Alex approaches his old friends individually and reminds them of the importance of the day and the importance of their friendships. Everyone seems reluctant to try again. Through clues and discussions, it is revealed that what changed the group’s relationship was the death of Amy, Nico’s sister; today is the second anniversary of her passing.
A few key things happen to the group while at school. Karolina discovers that a picture she put on Instagram and tagged with #Blessed was reposted and tagged with #Brainswashed. This upsets Karolina and she hides in the bathroom to cry. At the same time, Nico is also crying in the bathroom over her chat with Alex about her sister. Karolina tries to connect with Nico, while Nico responds with snark and tells her that they both are hiding behind something; Nico behind makeup and Karolina behind a smile.
Molly attempts to try out for the cheerleading team. She is sent to the meditation office to ‘breathe through the pain’ after suffering from massive pain which she attributes to the arrival of her first period. During an extreme episode of pain, she exhibits super human strength. Later at home she exhibits this strength again when a parked van begins to roll onto her. Every time Molly uses her strength she is flat out exhausted.
Gert overhears Chase trying to convince is Spanish teacher to help him change his poor grade. The teacher refuses, but Gert offers to tutor Chase and he agrees.
After school back at the Gibborim church campus, Karolina is interviewed about the organization and the spiritual bracelet she has worn from childhood. Destiny, the young woman the church ladies saved from street harassers, approaches Karolina. Destiny starts to proclaim how wonderful the organization has been to her. Karolina talks to Destiny away from the eyes of the journalist, but she isn’t interested in homegirl’s testimony. Karolina wants to hear about the joys of being rebellious.
In the evening, the parents gather for a meeting of their Pride club at the Wilder house. At this point, little information about the organization is stated apart from the organization’s focus on helping society. The parents interact and it’s clear that they are not necessarily friends, but work together due to their membership in Pride. There are signs of mild flirting between James, Nico’s father, and Janet, Chase’s Mom. Meanwhile, both of Alex’s parents are unimpressed with The Yorkes.
None of the teens come and Alex is left by himself with tons of pizza and drinks. Nico is alone and casting spells on the beach. Chase stands Gert up to attend a party while she waits to tutor him. Karolina ends up at the same party as Chase. She’s in uber rebellious mode and accepts a pill from a stranger in an animal costume. We don’t initially know if Karolina takes the pill or not. However, she does take off her bracelet and starts to see herself glowing.
Soon after, Karolina passes out and Chase’s creepy rugby teammates swoop upon Karolina and take her upstairs. Chase quickly follows and catches the guys preparing to assault Karolina. They basically invite him to join in. Well, they clearly underestimated Chase because he is the homie that doesn’t consider this to be fun. Instead of joining them, Chase fights with the predator dude bros and they leave. Chase fixes Karolina’s clothes and puts her bracelet back on. When Karolina awakes, Chase doesn’t explain what happened. Karolina explains that she didn’t take the drug, but doesn’t explain that removing the bracelet is what made her pass out.
Meanwhile, Molly does her sister’s chores by feeding the household animals after Gert contacts her to ask for help. Molly encounters an animal in a locked door and it appears to be a dinosaur. Clearly too many weird things are happening to Amy and being home alone with a dinosaur is the last thing she wants, so she contacts Gert to meet her away from the house.
Since no one has shown up, Alex texts a picture of the friends during happy times to everyone. This prompts the crew to show up at Alex’s house. After a bit of awkwardness and small talk the teens explore the house and stumble upon a secret passage in Alex’s house. This takes them to a secret lair where they see their parents dressed in robes in the midst of a sacrificial ceremony. The person being sacrificed is Destiny. Oh Destiny, you’re in danger girl! A protective bubble surrounds the ceremony, but when Molly takes a picture with the flash on, the parents notice the flash. The teens quickly flee and with a strength assist from Molly, they’re able to run away.
In the second episode we see the day of the ceremony from the parents’ perspectives.
Gang members attempt to takeover a Pride construction site and threaten the workers. The group is led by one of Geoffrey’s old gang buddies. Geoffrey arrives at the construction site and tries to barter a deal with his old associate. He’s told he has to pay ‘taxes’ worth $50,000 for building a school in his hood. Instead of giving the gang a suitcase full of money Geoffry gives them a tablet that shows surveillance of the gang leader’s grandmother’s house. Geoffrey thinks he’s won the round, but the gang downloaded information from Jeffrey’s phone during the meeting.
The church ladies who brunch, from the beginning of episode one, alert Leslie that Destiny is missing. Leslie finds Destiny where we first met her, at the bus stop. This time Destiny’s trying to return home to be with her child. Leslie convinces her to return to the church with a promise that Destiny will ‘go ultra’, which seems to be another level of church hierarchy.
Another person who’s interested in going ultra is Frank. After Leslie returns home, Frank tries to discuss his commitment to the church, but Leslie appears to be suspicious of Frank’s new found full on devotion to the church. After all, earlier in the day Frank met with his acting agent who dumped him as a client. Frank is not a member of Pride so he is not allowed to attend the meeting. Leslie and Frank’s relationship seems a bit strained. Besides hiding Pride’s true motives from Frank, Leslie also visits a room that only she can enter. The contents of this all white room include a very frail and frightening looking creature in a Bane inspired mask.
Before the ceremony, Geoffrey seems to be the only member of Pride who is bothered by the decision to sacrifice Destiny. Geoffrey reminds the group that their children are the same age as Destiny. Leslie justifies using Destiny by explaining that the teens they sacrifice have all had difficulties and the six months they spend with the church are some of the best times they’ve had in their troubled lives. Whether anyone truly believes Leslie or if she even believes herself, remains to be seen. The parents change into their robes for the ceremony and we see the camera flash from from the parents’ perspective. They see the flash, but not their children.
Back in real time, the teens are able to escape to the guesthouse and start playing a game before their parents come to check on them. Chase’s father hangs back in the hidden passage and it turns out that Destiny is still alive due to the teens disruption of the ceremony.
The teens hang out with the parents and appear normal and happy to have reunited with each other. After the party ends, Alex texts the whole crew to meet the next day. Karolina sends a text to Destiny and the text is read. The episode ends with Geoffrey finding Molly’s cat pin in his office near the secret panel.
Subtle Highlights and Questions
- The scenery and settings feel natural and add to the quality of the show. From the Gibborim church grounds, to the school campus, and the homes of each family, the settings provide more information to the viewer without adding unnecessary dialogue or exposition.
- The music is perfection. A soundtrack needs to be in the works.
- The diversity of the cast is a beautiful thing to behold and the differences are recognized instead of ignored.
- Hopefully the writers will provide more complexity to Tina’s character. So far, she’s interesting, but the trope of the harsh/no nonsense Asian mother could get old without any layers.
- Introducing sixteen characters in the first two episodes without making it tedious or exhausting is a feat.
- Runaways is so good that it has Agents of SHIELD potential. (This is extremely high praise given how Agents of SHIELD has strengthened with subsequent seasons.
- Are Pride’s sacrifices of young people for a greater good or are they just plain evil?
- Who’s the guy in the mask in the white room?
- What happened to Amy?
- How will Geoffrey handle his old associates?
- How much of a problem will Frank be for Pride? Will his nosiness be a good thing?
- What are everyone’s special abilities?
Marvel's Runaways S1E1/S1E2 Review Score
Starring: Allegra Acosta, Ariela Barer, Brigid Brannagh, Ever Carradine, Rhenzy Feliz, Virgina Gardner, Brittany Ishibashi, James Marsters, Lyrica Okano, Kip Parude, Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Greg Sulkin, Kevin Weisman, Annie Wersching, James Yaegashi