Friday, December 13, 2019

REVIEW: 'Runaways' - Alex, Nico, Molly and Xavin Mount a Rescue Mission to Save Their Friends in 'Smoke and Mirrors'

Hulu's Runaways - Episode 3.01 "Smoke and Mirrors"

With the team split up and Jonah and his family on the warpath, the Runaways must regroup.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Hulu's Runaways.

"Smoke and Mirrors" was written by Tracy McMillan and directed by Larry Teng

The second season concluded with Victor, Stacey and Tina having new alien hosts controlling their bodies and the suspicion that a fourth alien was residing in one of the Runaways. This premiere amps up that speculation but doesn't confirm whether or not that is true. Of course, the narrative certainly lures the audience into believing one plausible outcome here. It doesn't quite make logistical sense either. Alex, Nico, Molly and Xavin have regrouped at the Runaway hideout after their dangerous confrontations with their parents. Some of them are more aware than others of just how devastating those interactions were. Alex ensured that his parents were arrested. He seemingly got the justice he wanted. He is devoted to his friends though and is willing to help them escape their dire circumstances. Meanwhile, Xavin is around to explain how this alien body snatching works and that there is a time crunch if the kids hope to bring their parents back. But this group is also operating under the assumption that the aliens are holding Chase, Karolina and Gert hostage. That is true for two of them. Chase and Karolina are prisoners along with Janet. They are the ones thrown into the algorithm in order to live out their fantasies over and over again. Janet realizes what's going on because she has been in this virtual simulation before. She was the genius who found a way to bring Victor back to life after his previous run-in with death. She can break down the barriers between the simulations. However, she can't rescue herself and her son. Instead, she is trapped until some outside force comes in with benevolent intentions. Chase and Karolina have to be informed that what they are experiencing isn't real. For Karolina, it's a happy and peaceful experience. It's a joyous celebration where she and Nico are getting married. It's a beautiful moment. That image occurring in the premiere though may foreshadow dark and dire times ahead for the couple this season. That may be confirmed through Nico experiencing another dimension that may provide clues as to what's happening to her. Of course, her rage may also present as someone else taking over her body. That may condemn her to being one of the aliens. Nico just has more strength over the invader. That is certainly one option. That is just speculation at the moment. She fears that that's what fueled her desire to attack her parents and send her father into the hospital with critical injuries. She has no memory of that attack. And yet, it's much more likely that will be explained with whatever is going on with Elizabeth Hurley's newcomer to this world. That's certainly ominous. Right now, the action prioritizes getting Alex and Nico inside the Stein home to potentially rescue their friends. They learn about the tools they need to find in order to succeed in this mission. But again, the Runaways only succeed in luring the aliens away from the house by using information the audience knows but they don't. Alex sees three prisoners. He assumes they are Gert, Chase and Karolina. That would be the sensible opinion. No one knows that Gert has been taken prisoner by her father elsewhere. He may have remorse for that and try to make up for it by teaching her more about Old Lace's abilities. That is thrilling in the end despite how horrifying it is leading up to that point. But again, the show makes the audience believe Gert is the fourth alien by having Xavin shift into her. That's a trick that only works if Gert isn't already confined to one of the pods. If she was, then the aliens would be curious as to who is suddenly wearing this person's face in the outside world. They would have questions but wouldn't run out to retrieve their son. So, it's a massive fake out that doesn't really seem rewarding or smart. It's just a tool to lure the audience into the trap as well. That is deceitful and disappointing. It means this is a premiere full of false starts and the willingness to tease everyone along instead of building the tension in climatic ways. Yes, Molly gets the confirmation that she may be able to save Stacey. That will create a huge conflict in this story. But the show also needs to take its audience seriously because this plotting simply makes no sense for the Runaways to embrace in the hopes of saving their friends. It's the opposite of making them appear smart and capable of surviving against incredible odds.