Much of my reviews have been devoted to the plot and pace of Runaways. Given the mystery elements of the plot, it just seemed like the most pressing issue involved with the series. With only this week and next left for the show, I wanted to start this week taking a little closer look at the cast and the acting in the show. It is easy to forget just how young this cast is and how good a job they’ve done with the task in front of them.
This particular episode spent expensive time with Ariela Barer‘s Gert. Barer has created a wonderfully conflicted character. Gert is a feminist who decries the objectification of women, while also having an unhealthy interest in Chase’s butt. She hates the ways the patriarchy puts women in a box, yet also loves when she gets attention for her looks. For all her gruff exterior to those who don’t know her, she is warm and maternal with Molly. In an age where everyone on social media is interested in being more outraged than anyone else, this dichotomous personality is well developed. In this episode, it was beautiful to see Barer take the character to a more vulnerable place, admitting her deep hurt over being “invisible.” It wasn’t a full break down into a crying mess, but she showed real hurt in her performance. The romantic moments that followed were a welcomed bit of positivity for her character.
Speaking of romantic entanglements, Gregg Sulkin has surprised as Chase. Given the actor’s profile, his character was always likely to be thrust into a more central role in the show than the comics. Sulkin does well to show some of the ways that parental rejection and abuse can mess with a child’s self-perception. Early on the creative team made a smart decision to keep Chase as someone with a high intellect (creating his own fistagons) and a low social intelligence (he is the only one who can’t see that Karolina is a lesbian). This keeps some elements from his “dumb jock” stereotype from the comics while also creating a more compelling character. The show also gives little glimpses into him letting some of his father’s worst attributes come through, such as the constant threats of violence to achieve his will, while not hitting the audience over the head with that tendency.
Allegra Acosta is maybe the greatest find of the show. Her Molly is a bit older than the comics (though they seem to always be really hazy on her true age) but the innocence of the character is still there with Acosta’s performance. Innocent, but not stupid. She is actually perceptive and often helps the team cut through their high school politics by just telling things the way they are. She’s pithy without being obnoxious as well.
Virginia Gardner has been tasked, as Karolina, with the “coming out of the closet” storyline, both with her sexuality and her alien origins. That storyline has been a bit more tortured in its slow development. Gardner does a good job in acting the torn allegiance Karolina has between her parents/church and friends. She is relatively believable as the “goody two shoes” church girl. Her interactions with Sulkin and Lyrica Okano have not been as strong as some of the other dynamics.
Speaking of Okana, her Nico is one of the performances that I’m most mixed on. I found her failed ceremony in the pilot moving and believe her rage at Alex for not telling her more about Amy’s death. Generally, the nonchalant way Nico masks her feelings behind angsty attitude is a bit one not and annoying. That’s the writing as much as anything. It also seems that the relationship between her and both Alex and Karolina is largely about their characters. Viewers still can’t really tell what Nico thinks about any of it.
Finally, Rhenzy Feliz‘s take on Alex is still something I’m struggling to figure out. Even with recent bombshells about his knowledge about Amy’s demise, it seems we aren’t getting full disclosure from him. At times he steps into leadership well and shows what a commanding presence he could be. One of the challenges of this character is that he doesn’t have a power. So while all the other characters seem to gain confidence and come into their own as they get a stronger sense of what they can do, Alex sits by himself kind of twiddling his thumbs.
As to the movement of the plot in this episode, everything clicked along well. The Pride’s involvement with the school is starting to take some shape. One of the tastier tensions in the show is how much or how little they understand the danger in drilling. Are they innocently doing whatever Jonah says? Or do they know from the Hernandez’s what’s happening and still going through with it? They are getting some of the malice back in their characters. We now know that Leslie and Tina teamed up to murder the Hernandez family (and didn’t bother to try to protect Molly!). Also, the Yorkes have been far more enabling of the evil than their funny exteriors make the viewer want to believe. The long game with Frank Dean is now fully in view. At long last, the families and kids are face to face and everyone knows everything. It is all set for what looks to be a major finale and springboard into the (hopefully) soon-to-be-greenlit second season.
Score: 5 glowing rocks out of 5
- I would be less forgiving of the fact that Runaways seems to be borrowing the plot of The Defenders (magical material sitting under a major city that will cause disaster if mined by the bad guys for reasons less than clear to the audience) except that somehow it feels like it makes a little more sense this time around. That scene where they looked down into the hole the first time felt so much like the end of one of the Daredevil Season 2 episodes. Apparently, ground holes are the new sky holes for the MCU.
- It’s great to see the little easter eggs that suggest the writing team is at least acknowledging the comics. There was another reference to a “leapfrog” and Molly is checking out the “tar pits.” All of this feels like the writers assuring fans that the full-on running away is coming.
- This episode also had the first larger MCU connection in my mind, with Alex suggesting the team should be “avenging” the runaways that died at their parents’ hands. It is hardly an appearance by Captain America, but it’s something.
- One of the better subplots in a second season will be the kids adjusting to a loss of financial capabilities. As they approach the school site you realize that this is a part of LA most of them have never hung around. Taking spoiled 1% kids and thrusting them into hiding out in the streets creates a survival sub-plot that should add some tension to the show.
- If anyone is keeping track at home, Alex is doing a great job of giving answers that feel satisfactory but actually make no sense. Why again does he have Tina’s password? He tells the whole story about Kincaid and all that, but there is still no real answer to the question he was actually asked.