Flashbacks can be a tricky thing for a TV show. Some shows, like Lost, make them a fundamental part of their structure. Such an approach can be a double-edged sword. While some viewers love the non-linear storytelling, others will be annoyed by the constant chopping back and forth. Runaways will have to make their way through this challenge, as much of the plot is clearly tied to events in the past. The death of Molly’s parents and the details surrounding the sacrifices of the Pride seem to hold the secrets of the show and those events lie in the group’s sordid past. This plot element is just one of the ways in which the third episode of Runaways made the mistake of slowing the pace a little too much.
Momentum on a TV show can be difficult to maintain. Viewers want the plot to move along, but not at the expense of character development. Often the result can be plot episodes, followed by character episodes, and this third episode felt a bit like that. After the second episode retold the plot of the first, this episode opens in an extended flashback. Again, the gambit risks feeling tedious. Instead of seeing these kids together and interacting, we sit through more backstory and set up.
This tactic is even more grating because the main cast together is so good. The witty report that all six have, including Molly, is wonderful. Some of the jokes are so quick they are easy to miss. Teenage snark is strong in this show. The decision to age Ms. Hernandez in Runaways is paying off. She’s proving capable of holding her own, getting digs into Chase and others. She is a little more immature and vulnerable, but not so much she is a liability. What is frustrating about the show is just how little all six are together. After spending most of the first episode gathering, then the second on the sidelines, they spend a quick few minutes on the beach and seperate again. With interaction this good, they should spend more time on screen together.
Their parting is a narrative ploy to try some new things. Gert and Chase as a pairing has romantic potential, as does Nico and Alex. The one on one conversations do provide some great moments. Gert’s brand of feminism, willing to treat Chase like man meat in a way she dispises happening to her own gender, is worth a chuckle or two. Alex and Nico have been set up as the power couple of the group, so their tension is great. Alex’s ability to see through her rough exterior makes him seem even more charming.
In the midst of all this, the parent subplots seem a little more plodding. The Janet Stein/Robert Minoru affair is predictable (they both are as nice as murdering cult members can be and married to pure monsters). The Minorus versus Yorkes story is also a bit cliche. We also get hints that Frank Dean has been lobotomized at some point. (He’s also suprisingly absent from the episode. Clearly he is the least favored parent of both the writers and the Pride.) As these plots continue the do manage to make the characters more well rounded. Tina Minoru is certainly more likeable after she is crushed by her cheating husband. But all that character work also is inferior to the drive of the main plot and time with the kids.
And this is the crux of the good and bad things about the episode and Runaways as a series thus far. The characters and their drama are both really good. The teen soap sensibilities of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage shine here while mostly constraining themselves from the more egregious parts of the genre. But there are just too many characters and plots. From time to time the show goes from complex to distracted. With so many good things, sometimes the viewer is watching a good sub plot and feeling like they desire a superior sub plot intstead. Bringing some focus to the proceedings would help the show. From here on out it could be exciting to see some of the plots tie together to help with the process.
Final Verdict-3.5 gratuitious lingere shots out of 5
- Speaking of lingerie, it seems that this show is excited to get people into their skivvies. I’m counting at least six scenes of some character in a state of disrobe. Is that “sexy” or just cheap titillation?
- I’m happy they murdered Destiny. (THAT didn’t come out right.) I mean primarily that it is good that the parents are actually murderers. If they had softened the Pride to a group that merely sends teens to another dimension, it’d be less interesting. Keeping an edge to the parents is good.
- Old Lace looks pretty awesome.
- The kids can’t get their powers fast enough.
- Molly and Catherine Wilder was a suprising pairing and a lot of fun. Molly’s ability to seem innocent while lying through her teeth is also good viewing.
- I’m super dissapointed that the Staff of One mythos seems to be less specific. The “one word, once spoken” rule is an awsome way to create tension in Nico’s power set. The staff feels much more generic now.