Photo: Greg Lewis (Hulu)
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Who knew it would take literal teenagers to make a Marvel show have even the slightest sense of play? There are moments in some of the recently-departed Netflix series that stick out, whether because they’re effective fights, condensed character moments, or Vincent D’Onofrio wearing cool suits—but Runaways is easily my favorite Marvel TV series, because it’s the only one where it seems like anyone involved is having fun.

There’s a lot happening in “Gimmie Shelter,” which has to set up the new status quo for the Runaways after they finally left home, establish what the kids are up to, check in with their parents, and reveal Jonah’s quasi-mole. But the episode remains, even in its heaviest moments, light and playful, which is really impressive considering everything that’s going on.

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Take the shot of Molly picking up the heavy shopping cart with a dinosaur inside. Or the scene of Chase and Karolina acting like rich assholes to steal a Range Rover with the license plate “L1TCO1N.” Or pretty much everything with Darius, who pranks Alex by tricking him into think he’s going to have to kill someone (or at least clean up a body) and instead winds up painting Darius’ unborn child’s room sea foam green. (Don’t want to get paint on your nice thrift store outfit!) Darius makes a strong opening bid for best supporting character of the season—DeVaughn Nixon didn’t have much to do besides glower at the Wilders in season one, but putting him in a paternal position with Alex, including a brief version of “the talk” about interacting with cops as a young black man, has a lot of promise.

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It’s nice that Alex, at least, has a parental figure, since the rest of Pride is up to their same old tricks. Frank is an idiot who gives statements to the press, calling attention to Pride’s operation. (Kip Pardue, meanwhile, was accused of—and somewhat apologized for—sexual misconduct on another set.) The Wilders brush off any criticism by literally saying “haters gonna hate” when someone suggests their men in the LAPD might not have found the kids. Except, of course, the LAPD has picked up a bunch of random teens who only loosely fit the descriptions of Pride’s kids. (This was extremely predictable but also very funny.) And the Yorkes get in a lot of excellent banter about who is going to jab Molly’s relative Graciela with a mind wipe device, only to be surprised by Tina, who murders the older woman in cold blood.

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So yeah, there’s a lot happening. But throughout the episode, the script (by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage) and direction (by Allison Liddi-Brown) keep building to small moments of tension—is Alex about to get into a car with his parents, will Chase get the Fistigons back from that guy who looks like Blake from Workaholics, who is meeting Jonah—without letting any of them become leaden. We already know the answers to most of these questions (probably not, yes, Karolina), but without drawing them out and insulting the audience’s intelligence, the Runaways team makes it much easier to invest in actually feeling something when they get resolved.

By the end of the episode, the Runaways have found an abandoned mansion near Griffith Park, which will serve as their new aesthetically appealing and angst-heavy headquarters. Nico has held a Wiccan funeral for Graciela. And we finally learn who the mole is going to be this season. I appreciate how effectively the show is playing with the expectation from the comics that Alex will turn out to be a mole for Pride. Instead, Karolina is the one who sneaks out to meet with Jonah—her father—and the episode ends with her in his arms as an earthquake begins to shake the city. Uh oh!

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Stray observations

  • The kids talk a lot about how hungry they are, but how is Gert feeding Old Lace? I feel like a dinosaur should have to eat a lot.
  • Victor is trapped in what is, essentially, a mind palace—a version of 1980s Philadelphia—while he recovers from being shot. Jonah seems to be keeping him there for ulterior purposes, which I don’t mind because I love to see my ’90s supernatural boys bicker.
  • I really like that Gertie makes Molly wear a helmet even though Gert... isn’t wearing one.
  • I’m your new Runaways reviewer! The most important thing to know about my perspective on this show is that I love the dads, and will be taking extra time every episode to reward a Runaways Dad Of The Day. Today’s Dad Of The Day is also my favorite Runaways dad, Dale Yorkes/Kevin Weisman, for his delivery of the extremely ironic line “Graciela’s a Bond villain!” Keep jabbing, my man!

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