Photo: Michael Desmond (Hulu)

We’re only three episodes into the season, and one of the big plots has already been resolved, sort of. By the end of “Double Zeros,” Darius has tried to give Alex some sage life advice about dominoes while teaching him more about where his family came from, traded him for the deed to the construction site (thereby psychologically scarring the boy even further and eroding even more of his trust in parental figures), and been shot down in cold blood by Catherine. It’s possible that Tamar and Livvie will show again, but this could basically be the end of Alex’s attempt to learn about his family history, or to connect with his dad’s background.

I liked watching Darius, Alex, Tamar, and Livvie in their weird offshoot show, but I don’t mind where this story went, and that it went there so quickly. It’s been relentlessly paced, funny, and more than a bit sad—just the way Runaways should be. Mostly, it pays off in the scene where Darius and Geoffrey stare each other down in a warehouse and bullshit each other about dominoes. Ryan Sands isn’t the best actor among the Runaways parents, but he’s really excellent in this scene with DeVaughn Nixon. Even through their (somewhat over the top) costuming, we get a strong sense of how long and deep their relationship really is, and how much the two still love each other, even after years of pain. And the wide shot of the men hugging briefly before parting forever is one of the better single images of the season so far.

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As part of Darius’ new life, Geoffrey offers him a suite at the posh Gordon Hotel, which seems like an incredibly obvious trap. It is a trap, it turns out, but not because of Geoffrey: Catherine is lying in wait, unbeknownst to her husband. I’ll miss having Darius around on the show (I’m especially fond of the way he tips his cap to the tightly-wound businesspeople in the hotel), but Darius is right: Now we know who’s the real G in the Wilder family. She was the one who orchestrated Darius taking the fall for Geoffrey, she was the one who kept Geoffrey away from his old life, and she was the one who decided Darius was a loose end that needed to be eliminated. This is an ingenious piece of plotting, both on a character level and because it’s going to really put the Wilders at odds in a way they haven’t quite been before.

The Steins, meanwhile, appear to have reconciled after Janet visits Victor in his near-death mind prison. I’m a little skeptical of Victor’s transformation, given how much of an abusive asshole he’s been, but it does seem like the show wants us to take him seriously as having changed after his near-death experience.And, at the very least, I love James Marsters’ delivery of “You shot me? I assumed it was Robert,” almost as if it’s a joke in a screwball comedy. Eventually, they’re able to hack Jonah’s alien code after Victor guesses that Jonah’s key is mathematical in nature, and discover a map of what might just be his home planet. (Also, the diner set is a lot of fun, even if I do want Marsters back in the main cast and not floating in that tube.)

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For the teens, the focus this episode is largely on bringing Alex back to the team. Though everyone complains about him a bunch early on, they all eventually admit that he’s important in my favorite shot of the episode, when the camera pans around them in a circle as they throw out zingers about how Alex might be an incredibly annoying dork, but he is part of their family. (And a very good tactician.) Eventually, they have to save Alex from his parents at the airport. This is probably my favorite scene of the season so far, both because it’s an effectively dorky (in a good, earnest way) use of Run The Jewels in an action sequence and because it finds smart ways for each of the Runaways to use their powers as a team—while still featuring enough tension to allow for fumbling moments like Nico trying to come up with a new spell to start the car.

By now, Nico has discovered the primary limitation of the Staff Of One—it will only respond to each command one time—but only after being accidentally blasted by the Fistigons. At least she gets to create a big cool wall, which is an excellent small-scale superhero effect. But everyone else is developing their powers, too. Karolina, practicing after her visits with Jonah, has a near-total command of her levitation and energy blasts. Molly is confident enough to just pick Alex up and run with him. And Alex—well, Alex still doesn’t have any superpowers, but this is a great episode for Rhenzy Feliz. From his thin, uncontrollable smile when he thinks about Livvie to the way he plays at being sympathetic to his parents so he can call Nico to his closing scene with Nico where they bury the hatchet on Alex’s crush and become friends again, Feliz makes clear why Alex should still, at least nominally, be the leader of the team.

The other fight scenes in this episode are, unfortunately, some of its weaker points. “Double Zeros” is bookended by two scenes where Molly tries to be a superhero and fights off the same pimp, who looks like a combination of Adam Levine and Jax from Vanderpump Rules. This is a pretty stereotypical “superhero goes on first mission” situation, and I’m not a huge fan of the way the episode uses the shorthand of “sex worker in trouble,” but it works fine as, well, shorthand. In each case, it’s way more interesting when Molly gets home, only to be confronted by one of the other Runaways—first Nico, then Gert. The second time, Molly is followed home by a new hot teen menace who is sure to evoke excitement if you’re a fan of the Runaways comic and confusion if you’re not: Topher.

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Stray observations:

  • “Double Zeros” is written by Kirk A. Moore and directed by Larry Teng.
  • Meanwhile, Gert is starting to get “brain lightning,” a symptom of withdrawing from antidepressants. As a person who takes antidepressants, I’m interested to see where this development goes, and as a critic, I’m amused that Chase is the audience surrogate character who knows nothing about the nooks and crannies of mental healthcare.
  • Frank: “You look upset.” Leslie: “Good. It means my face is working.”
  • Janet tricks Jonah into letting her talk to Victor alone by pointing out that they’re basically the same type of condescending asshole, “Down to the custom cufflinks.”
  • Molly is good at relationship advice, apparently. Spread the word.
  • Runaways Dad Of The Day: Victor Stein. Victor has only interacted with two characters so far this season, and I can still feel that searing dad energy coming off him. Maybe it’s the diner set, or maybe it’s just James Marsters?

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