Runaways recap: 'Metamorphosis'
Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage know how to tell a great teen story, but it took four seasons of The O.C. to teach them how not to burn through too much plot.
So far, Runaways has moved at an energetic, yet believable speed. This is the first episode in which Schwartz and Savage seemed be leaning into some of their former tendencies: In 50 minutes, we saw the origin of the Pride, along with Nico, Alex, and Gert carrying off a mission to steal data from Tina Freaking Minoru, Molly recklessly letting Catherine in on their secret, Jonah in action with Leslie, Victor discovering his wife’s infidelity and getting cured of his brain tumor, and — deep breaths — the kids’ dynamic seismically shifting because of crushes come to light. It’s a lot. And it does tend to happen when galas are involved.
But of course, we’re not quite there yet. The hour begins with the Pride’s humble beginnings, as Jonah makes good on his promise to make Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder powerful. He takes them to the Murder Library, and while the Wilders gawk at their surroundings, Jonah explains that they’ll be doing things there they won’t want their neighbors knowing about.
Obviously, we know what that is. But during the first ritual, none of the Pride members other than Leslie knows exactly what’s going on — after all, they’re being played against one another to satisfy Jonah’s wishes, as they’re all indebted to the mysterious villain. Leslie assures her first sacrifice, a young man named Brooks, that the process will be beautiful, and in a way, it is: Victor’s box works as it should, lights up, and, poof! There goes Brooks.
It’s only after the demonstration that Leslie tells them what happened, with an assist from Victor: The box transforms human bodies into energy that can be converted and absorbed, and, well, in other words, yeah, Brooks is dead, but like, his life force is just in someone else, that’s all. So…mostly dead, you know?
The other couples are appalled to find that this strange ritual they’ve been asked to participate in for which they have to wear blood-red robes is for a totally creepy, awful thing, but they can’t turn back now. They’ve been filmed and the video has already been uploaded to a server set up by Tina, who doesn’t appear to feel all that bad about brandishing a wand and helping to melt a guy. That’s just a deal with the devil for ya!
In the present day, Jonah’s finally back after the Pride managed to get their act together, and he’s eager to meet his daughter. Leslie assures him she’ll bring him to her, but they’ll have to handle Frank, and besides, it’s a party celebrating the Pride’s fundraising — so please, Jonah, don’t make a scene.
The kids, meanwhile, have their own plan for the party that night. Alex calls up Nico to ask her to help him hack into her mother’s company, Wizard, that night, and just as she hangs up, she discovers Tina waiting for her at her door. “Training begins now,” Tina declares, and their first session goes surprisingly well. The pair get along, with Tina explaining the show’s (not comic’s) conceit that the staff is powered by some “high-tech magic” that involves electric currents from the user’s brain. Nico seems awed, and when she asks Tina about Amy’s diary, Tina wells up, admitting that they had their issues, but a mother-daughter relationship is always more complicated than it seems on the surface, or in a teenager’s diary.
Chase and Karolina also get some quality time with their parents, as Chase fixes his fistigons with a calm Victor, while Karolina and Frank talk about the merits of their religion, and whether their beliefs in the Church of Gibborim are worthwhile. Frank failed to go ultra, so now he’s having second thoughts about putting all his effort into his wife’s religion, and besides, he’s much more excited to put the “fun in fundraiser” that night!
Eventually, the Runaways regroup and figure out that they should all arrive in one limo to the gala, where they’ll find a way to get the evidence they need to implicate their parents. All right, everyone, put your hands in! (Next: Party’s over)
Hours before the party, everyone starts prepping, but not everything’s going smoothly: Alex and Geoffrey are still fighting, Tina is oblivious to Robert’s affair (though Victor, having tapped his wife and her lover’s phones, has figured it out), and Gert and Molly stumble upon Nico and Karolina sharing a moment — or at least, Karolina having one while gazing at her friend.
At the gala, they split up after Gert tries to talk to Karolina about her feelings for Nico. Karolina bristles at being asked outright about her sexuality — she’s still not sure what’s going on in her life, Gert! — and turns on Gert instead, asking Gert to admit that perhaps she has a big ol’ crush on Chase. Neither is willing to confess their feelings and only end up angry at each other, especially when Karolina pulls Chase aside to leave the group behind.
Oh well — for now, there are bigger matters to take care of, like stealing the video file from Wizard’s servers. Gert “flirts” with a security guard by asking him about his reading — Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, hence the episode title — and Alex and Nico sneak into the server room, where they discover that they can’t steal a single thing. Instead, they head upstairs to Tina’s office, where Alex guesses the password to get inside. Nico manages to activate Tina’s desktop, and Alex begins his work.
Back downstairs, Karolina’s frustrated — with herself, with her faith, with Nico, and with Gert. She can also add Chase to the list: Though she grabbed a bottle of vodka so she could sneak upstairs alone, Chase won’t leave her be, instead staying to talk so she can explain exactly what’s wrong in her life. And there’s a lot wrong: For one thing, everything she believes in has been a lie. For another, her mother’s evil. And finally, she can light up like a glow stick.
And, as it turns out, she can fly. When Karolina falls over the ledge, Chase reaches out and accidentally tears off her bracelet, allowing her to activate her powers and, uhh, rainbow herself back to safety. Stunned, Chase kisses Karolina — a kiss she doesn’t reciprocate — which Molly witnesses.
Speaking of Molly, the youngest Runaway has spent the evening repeatedly texting Catherine for answers about her parents, both of whom were glimpsed in the flashback at the top of the episode. When Catherine brushes her off — they are at a party, after all — Molly gets annoyed and texts her that “time is running out” because once the parents get carted to jail, there won’t be any opportunity to talk. Still, Catherine doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle Molly just yet: At the moment, she has to stand on stage with the Pride to talk about their achievements, and then watch as Victor, angry as another headache sets in, takes the mic and tells the entire audience that Janet has been sleeping with Robert before promptly passing out.
Seeing this, Chase immediately comes to his father’s aid, and after some of the Pride take Victor away to lie down, Chase reveals to Janet that Victor has a brain tumor. Hearing this and seeing how the Pride is falling apart, Leslie enlists Jonah’s help. Apparently, he has the ability to cure cancer, and he offers Victor a milky fluid that he and Dale inject after Chase leaves, which brings Victor seemingly back to full health.
Tina, though, has run off on her own after hearing about Robert. She wordlessly saunters past Gert, who’s now toying with two guards — including the man with the spider tattoo — by playing an arcade game Robert had bought Tina years and years ago. Then, Tina arrives at her office, sits down by the window, and cries. It’s a poignant moment both Alex and Nico witness, with the latter crying as she hears how hurt her mother feels.
Eventually, the kids and the adults reunite at the party. Alex assures them all he’ll decrypt the data and obtain the tape, while Chase arrives to tell everyone that Karolina can fly, and that his parents and Nico’s parents have a lot of problems to work out. After all, his father just got back up after a bad fall and is hugging both him and his mother as if nothing happened. That can’t be right.
In the end, Jonah finally gets his chance to greet Karolina. She’s his daughter, but he vaguely explains that he’s an old friend of Leslie’s and that it’s been nice to meet her face to face. Way to be creepy, Jonah, and then even creepier when Frank steps in to intervene. Jonah pulls Frank aside, but we don’t hear their conversation — something that also worries Leslie, who had been certain that Frank wouldn’t remember a thing about the last time he saw Jonah. (In an earlier scene, Frank has a very murky flashback of a time when Leslie’s private meditation room door was left ajar, and he witnessed his wife in bed with Jonah.) Dale says his serum should have worked wonders, but maybe it’s really wearing off for Frank.
Whatever the case may be, the Pride has bigger problems to worry about now. Molly has grown frantic about what she thinks will be the last time to get a chance to talk to Catherine about her parents, and approaches Catherine alone. Catherine, being the astute lawyer she is, asks Molly to explain her earlier text, but Molly just stumbles over her words, instead saying, “I didn’t see a thing.” Way to practically scream “guilty,” Molly! Thankfully Stacey arrives just in time to take Molly home — so for now, all Catherine can do is tell Geoffrey that she thinks Molly was in the basement, and saw everything.
It’s one hell of a cliffhanger to end on, and it’s exactly where the show needed to get to in order to move forward. Now, the stakes for the kids will be even higher, which means that, at the very least, they’ll have to work out a way to resolve all their adolescent feelings sooner or later. That means no more bad vodka, okay, Karolina?