Maybe what Runaways needed was more time. I rarely feel like shows need more episodes in a season, but in this case, the show wrapped up at a point that felt far too abrupt and unsatisfying.
After a season overstuffed with mysteries — what does Jonah want? Can the remaining members of the Pride move past their failures? How will the kids survive? What happened Amy? What’s so special about Karolina? — the titular super powered misfits’ ultimate showdown with their villainous parents only yielded more questions than answers, and the lack of resolution came off more frustrating than thrilling. The plot, to me, has never felt more scattered.
There were highlights, to be sure: I loved the way their getaway played out, the way the cast embodied their print counterparts, and the way the series developed a solid origin story for a super-group, without diminishing any of the core six, but…is this really it for the first 10 episodes?
Guess so. At least it started off strong: In the opening scene, the six-some (plus Old Lace) face off against their parents in an epically shot sequence where everyone fires everything they’ve got, only for Jonah to arrive and literally light the way for the villains. He glows, fires a beam at the kids, and knocks them out; recognizing him, Karolina offers to stay behind and fight so her friends can escape. (And so Frank and Leslie can just…watch this melee happen, I guess?) Father and daughter have a, um, bright showdown, which releases an EMP that fries everything in their vicinity and leaves the rest of the kids (Nico most of all) worried for Karolina. Eventually, they return to the construction site, only to see that everyone’s gone.
The next day, they wander the streets of L.A. They’re hungry, they’re tired, and they’ve got Old Lace hidden under a blanket in a shopping cart. Yikes! What’s a group of five teenagers and a dino to do? Alex says to relax, and the team decides to get off the streets, and to the woods surrounding Griffith Observatory, where they bicker over whether they should go back for Karolina. Nico obviously wants them to help her out, and the team, in the end, agrees to take a risk for their friend who risked herself first.
The Pride, meanwhile, has fractured. They accuse each other of how much they knew about their kids’ abilities. Turns out: None of them had any clue. And so, in the spirit of parental kinship, they decide to put all their cards on the table, with Tina revealing that she had nothing to do with the Hernandezes’ death, but Leslie did, and that she’s sorry it happened. Leslie explains that she didn’t know Molly would be there, but that somehow, they must have found out what happened to Molly’s parents, pieced it all together, and gone to the dig site. They agree that their next move as the new Pride should be to track down Karolina and figure out where the rest of their kids are hiding.
It won’t be easy for them to get to Karolina, even with Leslie’s help. She’s in Leslie’s private meditation room with a mask on her face — the same one Jonah had on back when he was Gross Flaky Guy — and though Jonah insists that Karolina’s healing nicely, Leslie is outnumbered as Frank wholly agrees with Jonah and is glad he betrayed the rest of the Pride. And when Jonah later wakes Karolina up by removing her mask, he tells her he’s her father, and how he’s happy he’s giving her the gift of feeling less alone. It’s cryptic, and it unfortunately doesn’t shed any more light (heh) on what exactly he wants from her.
The kids, still hiding out, form a plan as well, while also getting some of their secrets aired out. Nico asks Chase about his hookup and Chase nudges her about her and Karolina, while Molly snags a disguise for Gert and puts together a cuckoo look for herself. Alex tells Gert she has to leave Old Lace behind (no!) as dragging a dinosaur along will only slow them down. Gert reluctantly obeys, telling her service dino — she finally names her Old Lace after seeing an ad for Arsenic and Old Lace in the paper — that she’ll find her in the woods again someday.
Once ready, they confront Vaughn, the Church of Gibborim follower, and ask for his help in getting Karolina back. They tell him about what’s really been happening to Leslie’s runaways, and how Karolina could be next, but Vaughn refuses to listen to their tales. He tells them that Gibborim is his family, and he’d never turn his back on the Church.
Which is why Chase and Molly wind up posing as runaways and sneaking into the Church of Gibborim themselves. Vaughn, though, spots them right away — but instead of giving them up, he lies to the two scary recruiters who stop him and tells them that Chase and Molly are clearly “special runaways” who must be taken care of immediately. They believe him — for the time being. (Next: Thanks, Yawn — er, Vaughn…)
Vaughn takes Chase and Molly to Karolina — he scampers when he sees Molly “code breaking” by pulling the door to Karolina’s room off its hinges — and Karolina, still feeling a little weak, embraces her friends. The three can’t celebrate their reunion for too long, though; as they leave, they’re caught by the two recruiters, who call security after them. Using his X-Ray goggles, Chase is able to help them evade the guards, but he spots a luminous outline of Jonah, who’s also prowling the hallways.
Outside, Nico, Gert, and Alex wait for Chase and Molly to bring Karolina back out. Alex rushes off to get a ride for all of them, which gives Nico an opportunity to report to Gert what she’s learned from her conversation with Chase: that even if he doesn’t show it, and even if she’s anxious about it, Chase truly likes Gert very much. And at that, Gert’s speechless.
Alex has a far less comfortable time on his side mission. He reaches a van and manages to get everyone away from the Church of Gibborim (Vaughn had been ordered to help them by Leslie, who wanted Karolina to get away from Jonah), but just then, he overhears his parents talking about how they’ll have to find Alex before Jonah does. The Wilders, see, have just stopped by the Church of Gibborim hoping to find Karolina, but end up turned away by Jonah, who tells them that they’re not in a position to make demands. All they can do is trust in what he’s doing…or else. But what is he doing?? It has something, it seems, to do with the text he receives shortly afterward: “Mission accomplished. Let me know what’s next.”
On the other side of town, the Pride has returned to the dig site. They want to discover more about what they’ve been working toward all these years, and the Yorkes lie to Leslie about what they’re doing, afraid she’ll snitch on what they’re about to do. Instead, Leslie’s just as curious — and even incensed — over what’s really at the dig site. The Yorkes then report that whatever’s down there is alive, and that’s a fact Leslie didn’t even know. After all that, it turns out the inner circle of the Pride includes Jonah, and Jonah only.
Later, the Yorkes talk over what their finding means, questioning how it’s survived underground for so long. Thinking things through, they conclude that it must have something to do with Jonah’s serum, based on his DNA, and that maybe they could use Jonah’s DNA to stop whatever creature’s underneath, and maybe even stop him. So in other words, they need to use Jonah himself to destroy whatever he’s created. Easy peasy! All they need is the support of the rest of the Pride.
And as Alex puts it, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” He’s learned this lesson himself, calling up Darius for help. Darius wants to know what’s going on with Alex’s friends, but Alex wants to make a deal. (Good thing the other kids aren’t attempting anything this foolhardy. Nico uses the chance to talk to Karolina, thanking her for what she did, before reciprocating Karolina’s earlier kiss. Aww.)
As night falls, both sides gather again to figure out what to do next. Leslie calls the Pride together — save for the Wilders, who have decided to go off on their own to find Alex, and Frank, who’s off doing who-knows-what — and explains that they have a common enemy now. She admits that Jonah’s been using them all. (“No s—-,” Stacey responds. Stacey’s the best.) She also admits that she’s made mistakes in her life that have cost them dearly, and that she has done something even worse than murder Molly’s parents. At that, she glances at Tina — and everyone understands.
The truth about Amy Minoru is finally revealed: Amy had hacked Wizard’s server and set off an alarm that Tina got, but Jonah did as well. Jonah wanted to be sure that Amy was taken care of, even if she may not have seen the sacrifice tapes. Leslie tried to warn Amy by texting her, but clearly it wasn’t enough, and Leslie has no idea what really happened when Jonah arrived. She doesn’t have to, as Robert points out. However he did it, Jonah murdered Amy, and in the end, she died for nothing, because Amy had been after Wizard’s secrets, not the Pride’s. Tina’s despondent, accusing Leslie of keeping all of this a secret, but Leslie says that she had loved and trusted Jonah, but now she knows better. She tells the Pride that they need her to get close enough to kill Jonah — and killing him is why they’re all there.
Jonah, though, doesn’t seem all that concerned about his mortality. He and Frank meet again, this time with Frank saying he’d do anything for Karolina’s safety. (At the very least, she has two devoted dads. One just happens to be a megalomaniacal villain, the other a thick-as-cardboard minion.) They stand over Victor’s box, and Jonah explains that once Victor’s back on his feet, things will get “very very interesting.” He then pulls back his sleeve and reveals that his body’s going gross and flaky again. Uh oh.
The other missing Pride members, the Wilders, have also come up with their own plan: Geoffrey is about to make a call that “will change everything,” he promises — and not necessarily for the better, probably. It’s a plan that’ll get Alex to safety before “going to war.” Alex has also carried out his own plan with Darius, and when Nico asks him who he had called earlier (while also noticing that he now has a gun), Alex brushes her off, saying that he didn’t call his parents.
In the morning, the kids arrive at the bus station, hoping to get the hell out of Dodge. There’s a wonderful shot of all of them standing in a row in front of the building, making the decision as a unit — and then another wonderful surprise, when Gert hears a noise coming from a nearby dumpster and realizes that Old Lace has followed them the whole way there. But right after that blissful reunion comes a devastating shock: On the news, an Amber Alert has gone out for Molly, who has been reported to be missing and is believed to be a part of a “group of teenagers” involved with the death of Destiny. All of their school photos are splashed on the news — which means all of them have been framed for their parents’ murder of an innocent girl.
With no other options, they decide not to wait around to purchase bus tickets after all. Instead, they run — into the alley, and away into the unknown, as a team, as a unit, as a motley crew of superheroes who aren’t totally sure they’re heroes yet. And as they run, they pass by the day’s newspaper, which warns of L.A. being the next site for an earthquake.
And so, season 1 turns out to be a prologue, an origin story that ends just as the action begins. It makes sense on one level why the season would end here — it practically begs for another season (and, as Hulu announced on Monday, we’ll get one), just so we can get to see the team acting as a team once and for all, on the run — but the pacing of this final episode felt too rushed, especially compared to the earlier episodes this season, and the story required some massive leaps of logic. Alliances formed seemingly out of nowhere (do we really need a character like Darius around when we have a whole set of villains in the Pride?), while enemies (mainly Jonah) spoke in stereotypical villain fashion, speechifying about the truth and grand plans and all that, without any of it going anywhere.
Maybe it will in season 2. It probably will, and I’m keeping an open mind. This season did have its moments: The kids’ joy in harnessing their powers (especially Molly and Karolina) were infectious, and if the drama got a little overly soapy, both the older and younger ensembles largely pulled it off. Besides, Old Lace steals every scene she’s in. Now all she needs is a chance to feed on a diet of all those extraneous story lines.