Photo: Michael Desmond (Hulu)

There’s some good stuff in “Hostile Takeover,” sort of. Gregg Sulkin has a lot of fun as Chase plays negotiator and delivers an inspirational sports speech to a sleeping Gert, evoking Riverdale’s recent attempt to have Archie give a similar speech. (I don’t know how it took me this long to realize it, but Chase is definitely the Archie of Runaways.) Lyrica Okano continues to anchor the season, and make scenes of Nico grimacing while holding the Staff Of One feel compelling. And we get confirmation that some of the members of Pride have, in fact, been possessed by the aliens from Jonah’s ship. At the very least, it seems like AWOL is out of the picture.

Livvie brings AWOL to The Hostel after he threatens her family, and the bulk of the episode is taken up by a standoff between the strike team and the Runaways. AWOL proves to be a deeply uninteresting villain, serving mostly to provoke Alex and yell things from an old movie about dirty cops. I’m sure there will be some people who find his shtick compelling, but I’m not seeing it.

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Though there is one fun moment when Alex tricks AWOL into pursuing him into the roof of the building, only for Karolina to set an airborne trap, the beats of the hostage situation are mostly about waiting for Nico to use different spells. First, she camouflages the outside of the building, keeping the strike team at bay for some reason and taking her out of the picture while Chase negotiates via security cam. Then, she turns the building into a fortress (why didn’t they do that in the first place?) to keep AWOL trapped inside. Finally, apparently under the influence of the staff, she tells the strike team to “get out” and seemingly disintegrates them.

I don’t mind the focus on Nico; Lyrica Okano is probably the best member of the ensemble, including the parents. I don’t even mind the “magic is too much power for me” stuff, even though feels like it’s coming dangerously closing to full-on Dark Willow territory. (Have we had any indication before now that the staff has been speaking to Nico?) But this episode largely papers over the way that, compared to the rest of the team, she’s become overpowered, or at least the writers’ easiest solution to narrative problems. That makes the rest of the team feel useless. The best action sequences from this season—the airport rescue, the confrontation with Topher—have useful contributions from everyone, and I wish that this showdown had continued that, rather than using the rest of the Runaways as a stalling tactic.

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There are definitely some good moments peppered throughout this plot, at least, mostly because of Chase. (In particular, Chase admitting that Alex is smart even if he’s been messing everything up is fun, and a good moment between the two frequently self-assured boys.) And toward the end of the episode, Chase, in a reversal of Gert’s decision from earlier in the season, brings the dying Gert and Old Lace to the only people who would know how to treat a dinosaur—the Yorkes. Stacey, it turns out, somehow managed to release an airborne pathogen that made Old Lace sick, and only has enough of the antidote to cure one of the two. I really hope Stacey is one of the aliens from the ship, because this is a super weird and out of character thing for her to do. If the idea is to make Stacey more interesting and easier to fold into the villainous Pride fold, I guess it makes a certain kind of sense—but it really feels like it’s coming from out of nowhere.

Mostly, I’m concerned because Victor and Tina have taken the center stage as the most important Runaways parents, since they’re no longer actual Runaways parents: By the end of the episode, we’ve confirmed that those two, at least, are both aliens from Jonah’s ship. I was really hoping that Janet would be the one to be possessed, because it would be cool to have all of the moms get the chance to be more villainous—but I guess when you have James Marsters on the show, it makes sense to use him this way. I will miss more of his buttoned-up Victor, who reacts to realizing he has forgotten having sex with Janet by condescendingly telling her, “Janet that’s ridiculous, you know how important a clean lab is to me.” Victor ends the episode by putting up fliers looking for other refugees from the ship.

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Frank’s takeover of the church, meanwhile, proceeds apace, a bizarre B-plot that increasingly feels like it should be part of a different show. Leslie is committed to destroying the church, but... hasn’t shut it down, or stopped services from happening? I haven’t mentioned the way that the Church Of Gibborim is an obvious analogue for Scientology yet (though it is), but the comparisons are growing more and more obvious. Frank, an aging actor without a support system, needs more than just his family—he needs mass validation. Though Leslie expresses a desire to just put their family back together and leave, he’s unable to put the church behind him. The last we see of the Deans, Leslie is being forced into some kind of “reconditioning” procedure, which definitely does not bode well. Will this plot wind up connecting back with the aliens slowly taking over the rest of Pride? Who knows. As long as AWOL isn’t there to growl about it.


Stray observations

  • “Hostile Takeover” is written by Ashley Wigfield and directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd.
  • Gert, summarizing the last 15 years of prestige television to her boyfriend: “People don’t change, [David] Chase. The sooner you realize that the better.”
  • Livvie leaves Alex to go protect her own family, which I guess is reasonable in the sense that the Runaways have a target on their back, but is unreasonable in the sense that Livvie is far less equipped to protect her family than, like, the team of super-powered teens. Besides, Alex has gotten pretty difficult to deal with.
  • Runaways Dad Of The Day: Dale, I guess? He’s trying. Sort of.

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