Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Marvel's Runaways hits the rewind button in its momentum-halting second episode

Rhenzy Feliz, Gregg Sulin. (Photo: Paul Sarkis)
Rhenzy Feliz, Gregg Sulin. (Photo: Paul Sarkis)

The first episode of Marvel’s Runaways was intriguing but burdened with the task of delving into the personality quirks and backstories of six main characters. So, naturally, the second episode of Marvel’s Runaways...delves into the backstories and personality quirks of twelve more main characters. “Rewind”—probably should’ve known what was going to happen just by the title, huh—rehashed the events of the premiere, but from the perspective of the main cast’s secretly supervillain parents. I swear, this is the last time I’ll compare Runaways to Stranger Things (probably a lie) but “Rewind” felt a lot like the latter show’s “The Lost Sister,” if only because it halted some serious momentum dead in its tracks. Mostly, this is the second part of a two-hour premiere; Runaways doesn’t begin, really, until Alex sends a text in this episode’s closing moments: “We’re going to figure this out. Meet me tomorrow @ 10.”

But first, we have to figure this thing out. “Rewind” works a lot better than it maybe should, thanks to the diversity of the couples that make up Pride. There’s a villain trope for every kind of comic book fan: The street-level kingpins, the mystical sorcerers, the high-profile tech geniuses, the smiling evangelists, and, worst of all, the people who enjoy listening to Phish.

What “Rewind” does especially well is establish the fact Pride isn’t a mustache-twirling cabal of pure wickedness. When the six runaways stumbled on their parents’ underground ceremony, it wasn’t a “gentleman, to evil” situation. Pride is a group of human beings with regrets, infidelities, and scars all their own, carrying out decidedly unpleasant tasks in service of...something.

That “something” is a much, much harder point to pin down. I appreciate a good bit of mystery-building as much as anyone, but Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage chose “Rewind” to pile on the unexplained questions and enigmatic proper nouns thick and heavy. It’s as exhausting as it is interesting. Take this exchange between Frank and Leslie Dean:

Frank: Take me Ultra.

Leslie: You know what that entails.

Taken alone, it’s a perfectly fine piece of plot-setting. But change a word or two and this same exchange happens roughly twenty times throughout “Rewind.” This episode is built on “you know what this means” and “we know why we’re here.” Eventually, it starts to lose its impact. It stops piquing your interest and starts poking you in the face.

What the episode lacks in answers it makes up for in oddly moving human moments. Janet Stein (Ever Carradine) sharing a secret call with another Pride member, because even villains have forbidden crushes. Tina Minoru sealing off her dead daughter’s room with a spell. Even the Yorkes, Stacy (Brigid Brannagh) and Dale (Kevin Weisman) showing proud-parent enthusiasm over the dinosaur that lives in their basement.

But it’s Alex’s parents, Catherine (Angel Parker) and Geoffrey (Ryan Sands) Wilder, who offer the most intrigue. Geoffrey is a gang member turned businessman, and the weight of the past and the present is apparent in every move Sands makes. The actor is a hulking dude, but his shoulders hang heavy in every scene except when he’s intimidating former members of his gang come to collect a ransom. Which offers up the question: Which is the front, the businessman or the thug?


It’s appropriate that Geoffrey is also the one to find the evidence of the kids’ snooping during the episode’s final shot. Because he’s also clearly the most torn. If, say, Chase’s mad scientist-ass father had found that cat pin, the tension would be the severity of the punishment. But Runaways is playing with an idea more interesting than my parents are secretly villains!! Here, the villains, whether they can admit it or not, are secretly parents first.

Stray Observations

  • Everything involving the kids this episode, sparse as it was, was incredibly fun. Now that the table-setting is out of the way, there’s a warm Goonies quality to this group of misfits in way over their head.
  • I’m still not sure how to feel about that oddly sexual “puttin’ on our Pride robes” montage.
  • I do know that I loved the episode-ending montage that played out under Gertrude singing a lullaby to Molly.
  • Destiny Gonzalez (Nicole Wolf) seems to be a more substantial role than just sacrifice-fodder, having returned from whatever bright light the Pride threw her into. All I know is, Leslie Dean convincing the runaway mother to stay an extra day so she could use her in the Pride ceremony was some next level cold-bloodedness.
  • Update on the disgusting crusty man (?) we saw in bed last episode: Still crusty, but now seemingly hooked up to Victor Stein’s machine, which played a part in whatever procedure Pride was carrying out.
  • Everyone’s clear hatred of Stacey Yorkes’ homemade brie cheese is probably the most consistently tragic storyline Runaways has so far.

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.