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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A single text sends things crashing down on Marvel's Runaways

Gregg Sulkin (Photo: Greg Lewis/Hulu)
Gregg Sulkin (Photo: Greg Lewis/Hulu)
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Man, Alex is being a dick, right?

Sorry, there are probably more important plot-points to cover from “Tsunami,” and we’ll get to them shortly. But the thing I keep returning to is how unnecessarily unlikeable this show rendered Alex—ostensibly its lead Runaway—in service of keeping some sort of twist secret until episode eight. Alex was much more aware of the circumstances surrounding Amy Minoru’s suicide than he let on—an innocent game of Battlefront revealed that Tina Minoru hacked into her daughter’s computer—and is shocked, straight perplexed that Nico is mad about this for longer than two hours. It’s such an odd witch’s brew of bad characterization and shoddy writing for one of Runaways’ only emotionally consistent characters. When it comes to Nico, at least, Alex has been quietly sensitive up to this point. Now he’s greeting her like, “Are you still upset I withheld information about your sister’s suicide? I said sorry like three times.”


Woof. And he’s supposed to be the smart one.

In fairness, no one was really making any intelligent decisions in this episode. With Pride, this actually made for an interesting turn. In the aftermath of Janet Stein putting a bullet in her husband’s shoulder, Tina sends out a text reading “tsunami,” Pride’s ultra-sensitive secret code for “shit is real bad, fam.” (The only other time she did this was when the Hernandezes house burned down, totally by accident.) Episode writers Rodney Barnes and Michael Vukadinovich play out the ensuing power struggle—and the decision over who’s going into the Gibborim light box to revive Victor Stein—as borderline comedic and it...kind of works.

Runaways’ portrait of Pride as reluctant villains has always involved more telling than showing. Here, the rapid-fire finger-pointing routine shows, for the first time, the assembled Pride as perfectly normal, flawed humans and parents playing the role of cold-hearted child-killers against their will. A little pressure turns Pride petty, and what’s more relatable than that? Janet yelling, “What has Dale ever done for Pride?” is probably the most (intentionally) funny moment on this show, along with this follow-up:

Robert Minoru: Why don’t we just go get Frank, put him in the box? He’s not even in Pride.

Leslie Dean: Not the worst idea.

Unfortunately, like a lot of Runaways’ most interesting ideas this all amounts to a lot of treading water. Tina eventually destroys the box to stop her husband sacrificing himself, and Victor’s barely-alive body is basically put on Gibborim-fueled ice. So, again, this show shouts a lot while taking baby steps forward.

The situation isn’t any less volatile over with the teens—sans Molly, who is digging up new mysteries of her own—in the sense that everything is quickly and only sometimes logically, falling apart. Alex’s digging into Wizard is finally decrypted, but Chase has a change of heart. After a scuffle and one surprise distraction by a velociraptor, Chase destroys Alex’s laptop and, assumedly, the evidence against Pride.

Here’s the thing: I want so badly to love Marvel’s Runaways because of interactions like the ones leading up to that smashed laptop. It’s fascinating that Gert so clearly resents so much about Karolina and yet is the only one who truly understands her. It’s thrilling to watch Lyrica Okano as Nico occasionally get outwardly excited over a new bit of evidence or companionship and then remember that, since Amy’s death, she decided to be the type of person who doesn’t get excited. Even Alex and Chase’s conflict is brilliantly realized: Alex wants his parents taken down because he feels betrayed, Chase can’t stomach the idea that he might be betraying his parents.


But Runaways is determined to be a show where everyone is in conflict with everyone else, and it undercuts itself at every turn to keep it that way. Which is fine for drama! Runaways is a fine show that has a chance to be great. In that way, I cannot think of a better analogy than that laptop scene. There it was, a way forward, a chance to bring this story into some kind of cohesion...and then at the last minute someone threw it on the ground and stepped on it.

Stray Observations

  • There is even more mystery to unpack regarding Amy Minoru’s death. As we see in the closing seconds, Amy received a text from a blocked caller that said, “He found out, LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW”—he found out, not she—and then was confronted by a shadowy someone. More and more, it seems like the work put in to make Tina seem like the ice-cold murder-witch of Pride was to throw the scent off Amy’s real killer. Robert? Jonah? Alex?
  • What’s the bigger mystery? A) Molly getting a mysterious letter from her parents that leads her to a VHS tape in a lock-box, or B) Graciela’s decision to keep that secret letter for years instead of, like, reaching out to Molly.
  • “He called me first.” Ariela Barer is really good at selling small moments.
  • One of the laziest tropes in all of storytelling is having a character ask someone else to pour them a glass of whiskey and then later doing something drastic.
  • Fun fact: Tsunami is also the name of the Marvel imprint that originally published Runaways.

Vinnie Mancuso is a contributor to The A.V. Club. You can also find his pop culture opinions at Collider.com, Decider.com, or being shouted out a Jersey City window between 4 and 6 A.M.