Runaways recap: 'Refraction'
A parent-teacher conference gives everyone an opportunity to confront each other, while Molly comes clean
Are we sure Victor’s last name isn’t Franken-stein? He’s created a monster — except in this case, the monster lives in him.
Decades before the series began, Victor was a different person. He chats up young Janet after a college lecture, finding a kindred, curious spirit in her as the two of them talk about the possibility of time travel. Years later, they’re married, and have Chase — who Victor says is “the only thing that matters.” Fast-forward again, and there’s Victor chiding adolescent Chase for tossing his athletic gear in the backseat instead of the trunk before beating him for talking back.
And so it’s curious why Victor is the way he is now. Waking up inside his lab, he hears future Chase’s voice on his time
machine radar, telling him that whatever happens, he shouldn’t pick up the fistigons. But why would Victor do that anyway? At this point, he’s still generous, amicable Victor, who greets his son by hugging him and lets jabs about how bad he smells roll right off his sweaty back. In fact, Chase isn’t even angry at Victor; he’s more angry at Janet for her affair and walks away after she explains why she did what she did.
The Steins aren’t the only ones walking on eggshells around each other. Over at the Wilders’, Catherine and Geoffrey search Alex’s room while he’s in the shower and, after he leaves, realize they need to be “up in his business,” as Catherine puts it. At the Minorus’, Nico is at first accepting Robert, telling him that he just needs to do the hard work and ask for Tina’s forgiveness, but when Robert explains that he doesn’t actually want to continue being with Tina, Nico gives him the cold shoulder. And finally, in a room at the Church of Gibborim, Frank interrupts Leslie’s ritual with a dying follower and uses healing gloves Jonah gave him to revive an old man. Leslie is disturbed by Jonah’s gift to Frank, telling him that he has no idea what he’s doing, especially as stunts like these could draw attention to him as some sort of savior. But that’s exactly what Frank wants.
Things aren’t any easier at school. Frustrated with herself and with her friends’ bickering about the looming Open House night — an event during which parents get to meet with their teachers and check out the clubs and goings-on at Atlas Academy — Molly ends up telling them all about how she had accidentally let slip to Catherine that she had seen them during their murder ritual. The older kids are appalled, and Molly, feeling extra guilty, winds up walking away from the group when she feels like she’s being reprimanded and running straight to the dance team, for which she had only partially auditioned. She asks if she can join now, late, but the captain just smiles an offers her a position as the team manager, which is a lot less glamorous than it sounds. Dejected but desperate, Molly accepts, and begins collecting the team’s dirty towels just as Karolina walks over and comforts her, telling her that they’re still friends, and Molly doesn’t ruin everything as she thinks she does.
Meanwhile, the Yorkes have begun examining Jonah’s serum, which Dale pocketed while Jonah was saving Victor. They’re astonished to find that it’s capable of healing, but when Dale goes in for a hug with Stacey, he drops a little bit of the sample onto his arm, where it gets absorbed into his body. (The Yorkes are clumsy scientists, it seems.) Dale starts growing lightheaded, and soon after Stacey returns from grabbing food for them, he’s tripping, babbling about eternity and how they can use the serum to “change everything about history and life.” Just then, the Wilders arrive to talk about Molly knowing more than she should, but with Dale running around crazed, Stacey turns them away, promising to talk later at the open house.
Back in her private meditation room, Leslie interrogates Jonah about why he gave Frank healing gloves. She says she can’t allow her husband to ruin the legacy of the church, but Jonah reveals that the church will go down eventually, because it’s not what matters. Instead, Pride is the only thing that matters, telling her to focus her energy instead on drawing the group back together — a group that doesn’t include Frank, who’s now taken his new job in stride, hiring Vaughn as his assistant to take objects of importance from the church for his personal use. While rummaging through storage, he finds the desk that had belonged to Leslie’s father, the founder of Gibborim, and discovers a photograph inside a drawer of Leslie in 8th grade, holding Jonah’s arm. Only thing is, Jonah looks exactly the same — which makes the flashback Frank keeps having of his wife and Jonah in bed together even more disturbing. (NEXT: Open house, open minds)
The open house gets underway, and Dale is already fast asleep after his manic, serum-induced episode. How awkward! Also awkward: Robert showing up and waving sheepishly to Nico, who’s parked next to Tina. Oh, and Victor, who’s up front with Chase and Janet, eagerly asking to meet with Chase’s instructors. Ugh, parents.
After the lecture ends, the families stroll outside to look at the club booths. There, Gert confronts Molly about abandoning the Runaways, but Molly defends herself, even as her new “teammates” fail to respect her. Gert finds that her patriarchy-smashing club has abandoned her after the one time she rebuffed them, and Karolina finally spots Frank, who’s arrived late to the party and is eager to find Leslie. Robert tells Nico that they’ll figure out a solid arrangement, in which Nico can visit his and Janet’s place every now and then. Nico, having heard Chase talk about his mother’s decision to continue being with Victor, advises Robert to talk to Janet about his plans.
Tina watches over her daughter and her husband, brooding just as Leslie arrives. The two leaders of the Pride — well, Leslie’s like the management, and Tina the enforcer — talk about their responsibility to a well-ordered Pride. And so, Leslie tells her to compartmentalize her anger and pain, and instead to take Robert back, especially given how Janet and Robert are ending their affair. Leslie’s sure of it, even though she’s only just told Janet to move on from her affair and watched as Janet uncomfortably dragged Victor away from crushing Robert’s hand.
Back by the booths, Dale is struggling with withdrawal — he says he feels as if he’ll never feel good again — when the Wilders finally corner both of the Yorkes and relay their message that they have to “handle” Molly. They decide not to hurt her, of course, but perhaps to quarantine her as the best course of action. Dale and Stacey refuse at first, but they fear what Jonah can do more.
Other uncomfortable conversations also go down around the school: First, Frank finds Leslie alone, shoves the photograph in her face, and asks her to explain exactly what Jonah really is. She relents this time, telling him that he’s the being that confirms her father’s religion, the being of light, and that she’s ashamed of her relationship with him — a fact Frank already knew but is devastated to hear confirmed. Second, Janet officially breaks up with Robert, telling him that she’s been ignoring him because, for better or worse, she’s Janet Stein, and must return to her family. After Janet walks out, Robert wells up — and Tina sees. And finally, Victor begins to show his violent streak again, this time nearly strangling the lacrosse coach as he orders him to let Chase back on the team.
Aaaaaand that’s not all. Even after the open house, more tense one-on-ones happen away from the Academy. Nico asks Alex again how he knew what her mother’s password was, and before he can answer, the scene cuts away. (C’mon, Runaways, that’s just an annoying device to stretch things out! Zero points.) At the Yorkes’ home, Molly walks into her room to find Dale and Stacey packing her things and giving her a BS explanation that it’s time for Molly to stay with her second cousin far away from Los Angeles. Molly, rightly, sees through the plan and nearly uses her powers when Gert stops her and talks her down. Gert tells her she’ll always be her sister and that they’ll find a way to save her, but for now, Molly has to go to protect the rest of the team.
And finally, Chase works on his fistigons back in the lab, only to hear Victor behind him, standing in the shadows and reprimanding him for being in the lab alone. Chase is confused — Victor had been so accepting of him being there — but this is the new Victor, the one who’s going through withdrawal from the serum. (At least, that’s what this episode has implied with Dale’s changing personality.) Victor tries to beat Chase, but when Chase punches him, Victor snatches the fistigon and points it at his son. He knocks Chase out of the lab and into the car, badly wounding him, before pointing it at him again. Just then, a shot rings out: Janet’s pulled out her gun and shot her husband to protect her son. Victor falls, bleeding on the ground, and Chase just gapes at his mother as she slowly puts the gun down.
It’s a jaw-dropping ending to an other slow-moving episode packed a little too full of clunky dialogue. Runaways has been mostly consistent with moving the plot forward, but here, as much as we needed Frank to end up in the loop and for Robert and Janet to move on, the additional strands overshadowed what should have been the central story: that of Molly confessing her guilt and realizing the consequences of it. The Gert-and-Molly scene in the final act landed well, but it felt less exciting than it should have — but then again, maybe Molly’s exile will mean the Runaways become the team they’re destined to be. And that’s very exciting.