This Marvel’s Runaways review contains spoilers.
Marvel’s Runaways Season 1, Episode 7
When the Marvel’s Runaways TV show was announced, a story about teenagers who find out their parents are murderers, one might have expected for a fair amount of coming-of-age angst. We’ve gotten it, but in a refreshing twist exemplified by the superb “Refraction,” it’s not only the teenagers who are suffering from uncertainty and growing pains. It’s the adults, too.
This theme was in full effect in Episode 7, which saw many of the parents experimenting with new things. Victor Stein is experimenting with being a good person. Leslie Dean is experimenting with being a good friend. And Janet Stein is coming to some conclusions about her experiment on being in a healthy relationship.
This results in some major moves on behalf of the parents, the kind of plot developments I was bemoaning the lack of in last week’s episode. For Victor, his phase as a good husband, parent, and person came to an abrupt end as soon as Jonah’s serum left his system. The effects were devastating. In a shocking move, Janet seemingly killed her husband, forced to choose between saving the life of her child and shooting the man she, on some level, still loves.
Victor is an easy guy to hate… unless you’re one of the people who love him. Runaways seemingly attempts to give Victor some context, flashing back to his first meeting with Janet in college. As we later realize, the scene is more about giving Janet context. When a love-desperate Robert points out the cycle of abuse to Janet, she doesn’t so much deny it as recognize it and move on. It’s a “yes, and…” situation. She is the kind of woman who called Victor out on the scientific pick-up line he first used on her. She knows that she is trapped, but it takes Chase’s imminent death to force her out of it—or at least force it to a violent conclusion.
Will Victor’s death stick? Given that we’ve seen multiple characters, including Victor himself, come back from terminal cases, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility. This seems like an abrupt end for a character the show has spent a fair amount of time and energy investing in, not to mention an abrupt end for a person Jonah and Pride have spent a fair amount of time and energy investing in. If we’re going to have our cabal of villainous parents, then it feels like Victor Stein belongs in the mix.
While Victor and Janet were spiraling into a pit of domestic violence, Leslie misses the forest for the trees, tasked with solving the marital tensions amongst her friend group. She’s pretty hilariously bad at it, mostly because her motivation is not about trying to understand or empathize with her friends, but rather to stablize Pride.
While Leslie may fail at figuring out her friends’ love lives, she actually does a pretty good job making strides in her own. When Frank finds a picture of kid Leslie with Jonah as he looks today, Leslie begins to come clean about the larger machinations of the church, Jonah, and Pride. It’s an unexpected moment of honesty that may lead her to lose Frank, as she more or less admits to having an affair with Jonah, but is also arguably the kindest thing she’s done for her husband or anyone in the history of this show.
One has to wonder how the ever-eager to please Frank will react when he realizes just how much dishonesty both his church and his marriage are built on. Frank’s a cool guy, but he is also a dude who has been socialized to get angry when his masculinity is perceived to be threatened. It’s especially tragic that Frank has doubled down on his commitment to the church just when Jonah is trying to convince Leslie that her commitment should be to Pride.
It’s a hard week for both husband and wife. The church may have been built up around Jonah’s larger, mysterious mission, but that doesn’t mean that Leslie doesn’t believe in the workd she is doing and the people she is helping. (You know… the kids she isn’t murdering.) Meanwhile, Frank gave up his acting career to devote his time, energy, and star power to his wife’s religious institution.
They have both sacrificed a lot for the church. Like Janet—who tells a bratty Chase who is trying to guilt her into feeling guilty over not noticing Victor’s brain tumor (not cool, Chase), that she has expended so much energy trying to hold the family together—it’s not easy to give up on something after you’ve devoted your life to it.
Janet and Leslie weren’t the only ones forced to make some hard decisions this week. When the Wilders come to Stacey and Dale with their suspicions about Molly, the parents decide to send Molly away to some second cousin. It’s a tough development to watch—not only because we as viewers and the others teenagers feel a protectiveness over the younger Molly, but because Dale and Stacey are easily the best parents on the show. This made even more clear when the parents all attend an open house. Dale may be suffering the hangover-like effects of coming off of a drop of Jonah’s serum, but they actually know what’s going on in their kids’ lives.
Dale and Stacey’s decision is informed by a seemingly unrelated scene that came earlier in the season: Tina threatening the couple after revealing that she know about their Yucatan escape plan. As the two people who have actually tried to get out of Pride, it’s not hard to root for Dale and Stacey. When they send Molly away, it’s heartbreaking, but you also know where they are coming from. They are genuinely afraid what Jonah will do to Molly if he finds about she knows something about Pride. And, given the conspiracy they’re apart of, they’re smart enough to be afraid of Jonah.
Molly’s exile leads to a short, touching scene between Gert and Molly. They are sisters in every way that matters, and Dale and Stacey are her parents (you may notice they make reference to her “birth parents” in the scene where they are sending her away) in every way that matters. The heartbreaking separation makes me wish that all of the Yorkes would put their cards on the table. They would make a good anti-villain team, if Dale and Stacey are brave enough to break away from Pride.
For the second week in a row, Runaways focused more on the parents—their relationships with one another, and with their kids—than it did on the kids themselves. This made for some great drama, but I remain eager to delve back into the kids’ lives in some meaningful ways. I almost wish this were two shows, one about the parents and one about the kids, that eventually crossed back over in some epic Defenders-esque crossover event. In its existing format, Runaways is filled with arguably too many fascinating characters, leading to viewer frustration even when the episode is good, like this one.
Still, with only three episodes left in the first season, there’s no doubt the action, twists, and consequences are going to ramp up from here on out. Alex’s program is almost done decoding the video that will supposedly implicate their parents in their crimes. Chase from the future could be back with another warning. And these kids still have to, you know, runaway. It’s a good time to be a fan of this show.