Marvel’s Runaways Recap: The Parents Aren’t All Right

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Photo: Paul Sarkis/Hulu
Marvel's Runaways

Marvel's Runaways

Rewind Season 1 Episode 2
Editor's Rating 4 stars

We all want to feel pride: to believe that we achieved what we set out to do, that we made the right decisions to create our best possible selves. That goes double for parents: Biological or not, a child’s development is another thing to feel proud of, assuming their kid meets expectations. Pride is tested during adolescence; children have no idea how puberty will drastically change their minds and bodies and affect their self-esteem, and parents can’t predict how this new person will challenge the expectations they set. Pride becomes something harder to attain, and as a child becomes a young adult, the things they take pride in might directly conflict with what their parents want from them.

Pride is at the core of “Rewind.” It’s a major theme, but it’s also the name of the parents’ cabal, the one that has them putting on robes so they can drug and kill teenage runaways. The episode picks up immediately after the pilot’s cliffhanger with the parents noticing a mysterious flash of light from the temple balcony, as the kids make a run for it back to the guest house before their parents figure out something is up. Molly’s superstrength helps them break through the secret door, and once they make it back, they try to rationalize what they just saw. Maybe it was a religious ceremony? Some kind of time travel experience? They’re panicking, and then the lights go out.

After the opening sequence, the episode jumps back to the start of that day, showing the events of the pilot from the parents’ perspective. The first episode of Runaways had a lot of material that wasn’t in the comic, but it followed the arc of the first issue to show that the TV show is staying faithful to the source. A straight adaptation of the first volume of Runaways would be film length, not TV length, so the story needs to gain extra layers to sustain a full season (and ideally more). “Rewind” is when the show reveals just how much more it’s doing, and those extra bits with the parents in the pilot were just a tease of how important they will be to the overall storytelling. The parents have their own group drama rooted in personal histories, and this episode provides valuable context for their relationships.

Putting significant focus on the parent/child relationship set Runaways apart from other superhero comics, but that dynamic was always focused on the child’s point of view. Those relationships are enriched by the parents’ perspectives, because conflict is more compelling when it isn’t completely one-sided. The members of Pride don’t think they’re evil. They’re killing people, but they believe it’s for the greater good, although what exactly that means differs from person to person. The one who knows the most is Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), but you get the impression that she hasn’t told the rest of Pride about whatever she’s doing in her creepy white room with the crusty old guy. Her husband, Frank (Kip Pardue), is definitely in the dark, but he wants to become more involved given that he sacrificed his acting career for his wife’s church.

Victor Stein (James Marsters) plays an important role as the builder of the glowing box that will hold the sacrifice, but problems with his work are making his personal relationships even worse. His domineering relationship with Chase was showcased in the pilot, and his sense of authority also applies to his wife, Janet (Ever Carradine), who has found comfort in the arms of a secret lover. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Minorus isn’t violent like the Steins, but it’s still very fraught: It’s clear that Tina (Brittany Ishibashi) and Robert (James Yaegashi) have been grieving their daughter’s death separately, and at one point in the episode, Tina uses her staff to create a magical wall between them that represents the emotional one.

The Wilders and Yorkes have the most stable marriages, but they have their issues too. Dale and Stacey Yorkes are the cutest couple, unabashedly dorky and totally supportive of each other. They hate being a part of Pride, and can’t wait until they don’t have to interact with any of those other snotty parents. They also have a dinosaur locked up in their basement, which makes them pretty damn cool, even if everyone else thinks they’re losers. Geoffrey Wilder (Ryan Sands) is the most complicated parent, an ex-con who turned his life around after growing up gangbanging in the hood. He’s a real-estate mogul with connections to both the police and the mayor’s office, basically the L.A. version of The Wire’s Stringer Bell with a family, and his wife Catherine (Angel Parker) reminds him that he needs to be proud of what he’s accomplished instead of doubting his progress.

With the exception of Chase in the pilot — working out without a shirt on, having his butt scoped out by Gert — the main characters haven’t been sexualized in their appearance. This is a teen soap, so sex will definitely make its way into the narrative, as it did with Karolina’s assault at the house party, but the pilot wasn’t especially “sexy.” That’s where the parents come in, and their ritual becomes more intimate thanks to a sequence when the parents change into their Pride robes. There are lingering shots on Leslie Dean and Catherine Wilder in their underwear, and it adds a layer of eroticism to their secret sacrifices, drawing out the sexual undertones of a plot that revolves around teens walking in on their parents and catching them in an act they weren’t supposed to see.

Once the action catches up to where the cold open left off, the spotlight shifts back to the teenagers, who have to go interact with their parents and act like everything’s totally normal. The most powerful thing about this scene is seeing how the parents act with the kids who aren’t their own: There’s a sense that they missed seeing these faces and are delighted to have them back in their lives. Those feelings will change once the parents figure out what caused that flash of light, and Catherine finding Molly’s kitty hairpin in the study gives new reason to suspect. Molly is the youngest kid, and she hasn’t learned how to distrust authority figures like her friends do. This revelation about the parents hits her hardest, and she goes into Gert’s room so she doesn’t have to sleep alone. Gert sings an unsettling lullaby underneath a montage showing the characters going back to their normal routines, but try as they may, nothing will be the same after this.

With a predominantly female cast and multiple actors of color, the Runaways comic breaks from superhero team tradition. The show goes even further with the diversity angle, and both Molly and Gert are played by Latina actors. Molly is explicitly Latina, with the change of her last name from Hayes to Hernandez, but Gert’s race is never mentioned. I know some fans are unhappy about Barer being considerably thinner than Gert was portrayed in the comics, but her size did fluctuate depending on the artist, and Ariela Barer embodies Gert’s “antagonistic to hide her vulnerability” quality so well that she feels like the ideal candidate for the role.

The representation also improves when more time is spent with the parents, and spending most of the episode with the Wilders and Minorus puts families of color at the forefront of the narrative. Geoffrey Wilder’s subplot brings his gangster past back to haunt him, and he has to show that he hasn’t gone soft if he’s going to protect his investment in the Pride Community School. Construction of the building is shut down by one of Geoffrey’s old associates, but instead of accepting any ransom demands, Geoffrey delivers a briefcase containing a monitor with a live feed of the man’s grandma’s house. If Geoffrey will kill a grandma who used to feed him when he was young, sacrificing a runaway teenage girl doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And yet he’s a loving family man with genuine concern for his son. No person is all good or all bad, and by admitting as much, the Runaways TV show has the opportunity to explore morality in a way the comic never did.

Marvel’s Runaways Recap: The Parents Aren’t All Right