Tuesday, January 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Runaways' - The Runaways Confront Pride and Then Deal with the Fallout in 'Hostile'

Hulu's Runaways - Episode 1.10 "Hostile"

The Runaways face off with their parents. But when Jonah arrives unexpectedly with a new game plan, the kids realize they are in over their heads.

As this first season progressed, it became more and more obvious that this year was basically just going to be a preamble to the story that Runaways was actually going to be about. The teenagers didn't run away from home after they discovered their parents were villains who were killing kids in ritualistic sacrifices. Instead, they run away after the parents discover how much they know and the plans that they have. It's still a satisfying motivation for the title action. It just happens in the finale versus the premiere. That's a key distinction for the show. It happened so that there could be a more stunning and emotional confrontation between the Runaways and Pride in "Hostile." And yet, the show still suffers a little bit by being too cryptic about what's actually going on. It's a case of some characters having all the answers and not sharing them with everyone else. Yes, there are a couple of big reveals in this finale that bring some nice resolutions to the stories that have been important this season. The details of Amy's death are wrapped up pretty neatly through one monologue. But Victor Stein is still in stasis. There's still no confirmation for what's at the bottom of the hole that Jonah desires so much. Instead, the drama comes from the personal stakes of the Runaways fighting back against their parents. And again, that is still very exciting. There are still just a number of stiff moments that keep the show from being the best version of itself.

The opening battle definitely has the feeling of the Runaways showing off their powers to their parents as they all stand in line. It's really clunky that the two sides are literally standing in lines just allowing one side to attack and then the other. It feels stiff and awkward even though it's meant as an empowering moment. Karolina is proving that she inherited the same powers as Jonah has. Molly is revealing just how strong she is. Gert is introducing her pet dinosaur to Pride. Chase has his fistigons. Meanwhile, Pride has protection from the Staff. Tina wields it and is capable of blocking off everything that the Runaways throw at them. Meanwhile, Dale is able to take down the dinosaur with one convenient tranquilizer dart. But all of this is really just setting the stage for Jonah's arrival. Now, the majority of the Runaways have no idea who Jonah is. Chase knows him as the mysterious guy trying to heal his father for some nefarious reason. Karolina knows him as the man with an interest in the church as well as her. And now, there is the revelation that Leslie feared Karolina inheriting these powers because they come from Jonah. They give him his strength and ability to live forever. But they also signal the fact that she might have to be on the receiving end of the ritual at some point in the future.

There is a lot of powerful imagery that comes out of Jonah and Karolina using their powers in mirror ways. Jonah has complete control of his abilities. He knows exactly what to do because he has been wielding his power and influence for a long time. He can break down his essence and heal people with it like he did for a short time with Victor before he went crazy. He's the one controlling Pride and knows exactly what is beneath the city. Karolina is still just exploring her identity. This season ends in such an empowering place for her in so many ways. She stands her ground and protects her friends. Jonah arrives and overpowers the Runaways. The parents are pleading with him to show mercy on them. He's not having any of that because they have put his lifelong mission at risk. He's willing to kill them and doesn't care how destructive that will become for Pride - which it does. But Karolina takes this moment as a time to protect her friends. She can face Jonah in battle. She just has to wield her powers in the same way. He fires. She fires back. It all comes to a conclusion when they fire at the same time and the subsequent blast destroys all forms of technology within a reasonable distance. It's a fight that leaves the Runaways uncertain of what happened to Karolina. But the audience sees that she is recovering back at the church in the same way that Jonah has always been kept alive. That's a significant visual because it proves that Karolina could be tempted away from the Runaways in the pursuit of understanding what's going on with her.

But that's what makes it terrific when the Runaways all decide that they need to rescue Karolina and break her out of the church. It's a bumpy journey getting to that point. It's the latest example of how Alex isn't as noble and idealistic a leader as the show probably wants him to be seen as. He just reluctantly goes along with the rest of the group even though he thinks it's a huge mistake. But the rest of the Runaways know they can't leave their friend behind. And so, Molly and Chase go in behind enemy lines. Yes, there's some weird business of the Runaways trying to convince Leslie's assistant into helping them by placing some doubts in his mind. He's susceptible in that way because he has no clue what's going on at all. In the end, he does help Molly and Chase get to Karolina. They are able to break her out of the church. Sure, it may happen a little too easily - largely because Leslie assists in the mission to take back control. But the finale has a lot of story it needs to get to. As such, it's perfectly okay for it to rush through this development knowing that Karolina is eager to leave with her friends as soon as possible. And then, all of this is rewarded immensely with Nico kissing Karolina. For the majority of this season, this romance was played as a one-side attraction. Karolina was exploring these feelings by herself without really letting anyone in. She took her chance with Nico not knowing what would happen. And now, it's so fantastic to see Nico reciprocate these feelings and be Karolina's biggest champion and supporter amongst the Runaways. It's an earnest and open relationship that makes it easy to root for these characters and their bond. That stands in stark contrast with Nico's bond with Alex, who adds yet another secret in that he reaches out to Julius for money and a gun.

Meanwhile, the divisions within Pride are becoming stronger and more defined. It's now clearly Jonah, Frank and Victor against everyone else. Frank is the only one who is completely loyal to Jonah at the moment. He completely trusts Jonah even though Jonah is responsible for Karolina being injured. That loyalty may not be earned. Leslie has doubts about it. But that mostly just defines her own growing concern with what Jonah has been doing for all of these years. She has protected this mission at all costs. She's done that because she was in love with Jonah. She's killed kids to keep reviving him over the years. Now, she fears she'll have to keep doing that in order to keep Karolina alive as well. But Karolina is only in that position because of what Jonah does. And so, she is no longer blindly following him. Pride is trying to figure out the secrets that Jonah has kept from them. They learn that whatever is beneath the city is also alive. That creates a new mystery for next season. But the Pride is only able to come together in the end by getting their secrets out in the open. That means Leslie confessing to killing Alice and Gene Hernandez. It also means sharing the tragic details of Amy's death. She was the one who warned her to get out of the house before Jonah arrived. So, she had to have known that something tragic would happen to her with Jonah involved. But she still allowed so much of this to happen because of her love for him. And now, that is no longer enough. She's willing to forge new bonds with the specific goal of killing Jonah.

All of this may ultimately lead to the Runaways and Pride wanting the same thing. The show has made it abundantly clear that Jonah is to blame for all of this chaos and destruction. He's the one who brought everyone together. Their lives are defined by his interest in the parents' skill sets. The Runways have united against their parents because they see them as completely nefarious and willing to destroy the entire state to achieve their goals. Meanwhile, Pride is able to shift that blame back to Jonah. They have done some horrible things throughout their lives. It still makes it impossible for the Runaways to ever return home and continue living with them under the assumption of normalcy. But it's much more complicated and nuanced than anyone expects or understands at the moment. The audience has the privilege of seeing this conflict from so many angles. Geoffrey and Catherine are separated from the rest of the Pride because they just want Alex back. They don't really care about anyone else. The others are united in their hatred and desire to kill Jonah. Meanwhile, Geoffrey probably puts in the call to the cops to find and detain the Runaways in order to keep them safe from Jonah. That may be a completely foolish move because of how powerful Jonah is. The police department wouldn't save them. But it's also unclear if that was the call that Geoffrey was mentioning in the scene prior. It's just important to note that the Runaways are actually fugitives being hunted for murder. Destiny's death has been pined on them. That's a compelling cliffhanger that produces such an enticing and intense final image of the Runaways actually running away.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Hostile" was written by Quinton Peeples and directed by Marc Jobst.
  • I care about Gert and Old Lace way more than Gert and Chase. That's slightly problematic. Of course, Gert and Chase aren't all that bad as a couple either. They've just barely spent any time actually together. Neither have Karolina and Nico. But their story has some definite resolution by the end of the season. Gert and Chase had their hookup last week. Things became immediately awkward and melodramatic afterwards though. That was lame. But things are still optimistic for them as well because they both admit to Nico that they really like each other.
  • There's some awkwardness going on with Old Lace throughout this hour as well. The Runaways all tell Gert that she'll have to say goodbye to her because it would make it so much more difficult to sneak around the city. There's this big, epic goodbye between Gert and Old Lace. It's such an emotional moment that finally gives Lace her name. And then, the hour closes with Gert and Lace being reunited. It's very emotional and rewarding. There's just a little whiplash to it as well.
  • The Runaways immediately know that they will have to change up their appearances in order to avoid being caught by their parents. And yet, they don't do a great job at seeming different than usually. Gert gets a green wig that isn't all that convincing. Chase gets a new coat. Nico gets a new ring on her lip. But that's about it. They are still recognizable as soon as their pictures are released to the public.
  • Last week it became clear that Julius was going to become some kind of complication in the fight between Pride and the Runaways. And now, he's basically just on the sidelines and doesn't do anything. It seems like the show only included that scene of him being obsessed with the construction site instead of his pregnant girlfriend in order to justify him giving that money and a gun to Alex. But that's a connection the show doesn't make in a natural way at all.
  • Overall, this was a good and promising first season of Runaways. It had some really strong moments. The casting was pretty much terrific across the board. It just needed the jolt of excitement that comes from the Runaways actually running away. And so, the stage is perfectly set for the second season to improve in many ways. Hopefully, the wait for more episodes isn't too long. Plus, the second season will include 13 episodes. That's very promising.