You’ve just seen your parents kill a young woman in a freaky ritual. What now? Do you run away from home? Try to figure out what the hell is going on? The teen heroes of Runaways opt for the latter before they commit to the former, and “Destiny” has them investigating their parents to find answers. The show goes deeper into genre territory as the kids make new discoveries, distancing the story from other teen soaps as it incorporates superpowers, magic, experimental technology, and — at long last — a dinosaur with a nose ring. This episode gives viewers the best indication yet of how Runaways will use a superhero world to add new dimensions to teenage drama.
Molly is at the center of “Destiny,” which begins with a flashback to her parents’ funeral when she was a little girl. The kids play Uno while the parents discuss the recent tragedy, and it’s heavily suggested that there was some Pride-related foul play behind the fire that left Molly an orphan. Tina Minoru is the top suspect given her burnt hand, and building a mystery around the Hernandez deaths adds an extra layer to Molly’s desire to learn more about her parents and what happened to them.
The tension within Pride isn’t a new thing: Its members have been paranoid of each other for a long time, and now they’re suspicious of their kids. Finding Molly’s kitty hair clip on the floor of the study, right in front of the secret passageway, is major cause for concern for the Wilders, so Catherine decides to put her youth attorney skills to use and have a conversation with Molly. After a highly destructive escape attempt, Molly ends up in Catherine’s car, where she’s asked questions that could result in her having her memory erased if she doesn’t answer correctly. Luckily, Molly is quick on her feet, and she takes advantage of people not taking her seriously to convince Catherine that she was sent to spy on the parents in the study so the other kids could raid the Wilders’ liquor cabinet.
While Molly deals with Catherine, her friends investigate their parents to decide how to proceed. Alex inspects his dad’s office, Nico gets her hands on her mother’s staff, Karolina checks the church’s youth group office, and Chase and Gert partner up to search Victor Stein’s lab and see what’s going on with the monster Molly saw. The text message Karolina received from Destiny at the end of last episode has her convinced that there’s a more innocent explanation for what they saw, but the others quickly point out how easy it is to send a message with a doctored image. Her investigation at the church doesn’t clear anything up, but it does provide a clue about what happened at the party when Karolina takes a look at the luminous woman painted by her grandfather in the past.
Victor Stein is freaking out about his machine not working correctly, and he’s starting to hallucinate Destiny after killing her with his bare hands in the last episode. The Yorkes are also struggling with their guilt, and they toy with the idea of running away themselves, escaping Pride by taking their family to the Yucatan, where they’ll be protected by their prehistoric guard dog. The Yorkes are the most sympathetic parents, and Kevin Weisman and Brigid Brannagh’s warm, affectionate performances bring out the goodness of these characters, intensifying their internal conflict regarding their involvement with Pride.
The Yorkes have a healthy, loving relationship that is the polar opposite of the Minorus, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tina Minoru tries to reconnect with her husband after seeing how the Yorkes interact with each other. She wants to recreate the kind of date they would have when they were young (with some added inspiration from Fifty Shades of Grey), but Robert isn’t interested. He makes a valid point that Tina is moving at 100 miles an hour after shutting him out for two years, but he also has another reason for distancing himself: He’s having an affair with Janet Stein, and it’s gotten to the point where he’s bought a place for them to live after they both leave their spouses.
While her parents are on their date, Nico reconnects with her dead sister when she finds one of Amy’s journals in her mom’s desk. She also gets her first taste of real magic when she looks at one of Amy’s signature paper snowflakes while holding her mother’s staff, subconsciously casting a spell that fills the room with snow. Alex comes by to help Nico clean up the mess, and when Tina comes back home, Nico takes off her top and straddles Alex on her bed so her mom will be so angry about her promiscuity that she won’t bother asking questions.
Alex is shaping up to be the blandest member of the teen cast, but that’s more of a story issue than a performance issue. Rhenzy Feliz captures Alex’s serious, pragmatic nature, but he doesn’t get much to do in this episode. With a cast so big, some characters are bound to drift into the background, but it’s strange to see Alex end up there so quickly when the pilot situated him as the main teen character. That said, teen dramas have a long tradition of lead characters surrounded by more compelling sidekicks (Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., and Riverdale to name a few), so Alex just needs to stick with his friends instead of going off on his own. His interactions with Nico toward the end of the episode bring out a previously unseen charm, and I understand why he goes in for a kiss, given the mixed signals he’s getting from Nico.
The TV version of Gert has a much more intense, desperate crush on Chase than the comic-book character, but that also makes sense for a teen soap. These characters aren’t supposed to be mature, and juvenile behavior emphasizes their youth. “Destiny” gives Gert the one-on-one time with Chase she wants so badly, and she even scores a peek at him naked when she puts on the X-ray goggles in Victor’s lab. Ariela Barer and Gregg Sulkin have great chemistry, and the banter between their characters make them a lot of fun to watch. Gert ends up in Chase’s arms by the end of the episode, but it’s not a romantic moment: They just released the dinosaur locked up in the Yorkes’ basement, and the reveal of Old Lace is the most exciting moment thus far. (I’m going to refer to the dinosaur by her comic-book name until she’s named on the show.) This show was already fun, but now there’s a dinosaur in the mix, providing an X factor that raises the stakes while creating all sorts of new questions about the Yorkes.
The reveal of Old Lace highlights the technical ambitions of the series. The special effects are wonderful, but there’s also plenty of effort put into the music and production design. Music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas has worked with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage on The O.C. and Gossip Girl, and she has an ear for picking music that sets the tone while also informing the action onscreen through the lyrics. Introducing Atlas Academy in the pilot with Raury’s “Friends” gave the school a chill, breezy vibe, and the song’s lyrics about the joy and peace of being with friends directly contrasts with the current state of the teen characters’ relationships.
In “Destiny,” There’s an especially evocative music cue: Tony Quattro’s “Fuerza” begins when Nico starts snooping around her mother’s magical staff, energizing the scene with flutes, handclaps, and percussion. That energy carries into the next scene as Catherine Wilder approaches Molly at a coffee shop, and while the song cuts out once Molly takes off her headphones, it kicks in again when Molly makes her escape through the bathroom. The music makes the moment exhilarating rather than scary, and the forceful beat and lyrics about strength enrich a scene that has Molly letting loose.
Marvel’s TV shows don’t have the most specific production design, so it’s refreshing to see Runaways put so much effort into creating distinct spaces. The playroom in the opening flashback is an opulent space that reinforces how these kids have grown up in wealth, which introduces an important question for future episodes: When they run away, how will they survive without their parents’ resources? This show is building to the moment when these characters leave their homes behind — it’s the title, after all — and making their rooms feel lived in and shaped by their personalities connects them emotionally to these places. When they do finally run, there will be a genuine sense of loss.