Marvel's runaways · Recap · TV Shows

Feminism and secret societies in Marvel’s Runaways (Premiere Recap)

For the last few weeks, my parents have been telling me to watch the new “Marvel’s Runaways.”  I was originally hesitant because my dad has questionable taste in entertainment. When he’s not watching action movies (whose fight scenes make up roughly 3/4 of the plot) he’s binging on British crime dramas or, believe it or not, contentedly watching generic heterosexuals fall for each other in rom-coms.

Scroll to the bottom and hit continue reading to skip right to the recap!

However, I’ve had 13 days off work for Christmas break and there’s only so many cooking shows that I can consume in a given day. (I’ve heard so many fancy terms lately that I’m pretty sure I’m a Master Chef now. That’s how it works right?) Anyway, I decided to take a risk and watch Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu.

Let me preface this recap by admitting that I absolutely love teen dramas. The angst of One Tree Hill essentially ran through my veins all throughout high school and the loveable stupidity of Pretty Little Liars carried me into adulthood!

In fact, the plot of Runaways is somewhat similar to the basic premise of Pretty Little Liars. A group of physically attractive friends, from various distinctive social circles, “break up” following the death of their friend, Amy. The characters in Runaways even fit similar Mean Girlesque tropes.

You have Chase Stein, “the jock” (just like Emily Fields), Karolina Dean, “a church girl” (dead ringer for Spencer Hastings), Nico Minoru, an introverted goth, (anyone recall Aria Montgomery’s pink hair?). Also in the main cast are Molly Hernandez, an adopted, all around positive character, Gert Yorkes “an insufferable social justice warrior” and Alex Wilder, the stereotypical nerd.

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Now that we’ve made our introductions, let’s get to the recap!

The series opens on a troubled looking young woman named Destiny who, can you believe it, is a runaway. She’s originally being harassed by two men on the street until she runs into the road and is nearly hit by a van bearing the words “Church of Gibborim.” Destiny’s would-be-assailants, immediately begin to physically drag her away from the van claiming “we’re saving you!”

Two women emerge from the van, tase the harassers and encourage Destiny to join them. They open the van’s door to reveal multiple young men and women already inside. The women claim it’s not a cult, just a warm meal, a shower, a place to sleep and “if it’s not for you, you can totally leave” [yeah, that’s what all the cult leaders say.] Sadly, Destiny is desperate enough to buy their BS and gets in the van. As it pulls away the two men claim, “she would’ve been safer with us.”

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Fast forward six months and the camera opens on Alex Wilder who is playing video games alone. Apparently, he hasn’t played this game since his best friend and gaming partner, Amy, died. Thanks to PS4’s user activity log, we know it’s been two years to the day since her death.

Next, we have a few quick scenes that set up the familial framework for each character. Nico is revealed to be Amy’s sister and her family isn’t processing her death well. Chase, who is lifting weights in his room (because he’s a jock, get it?), clearly has a sociopathic father named Victor. (Fun fact, the actor played Spike in Buffy). Then we cut to Karolina. She’s the face of the Church of Gibborim, her mother is leading a service and the two women who recruited Destiny are in attendance. Finally, we’re introduced to Gert Yorkes and her adopted sister, Molly Hernandez.  Their parents, Dale and Stacey, are new-aged hippies. We know this because they recommend drinking chamomile tea and having an orgasm as the solution for Molly’s stomach pains.

With Gert’s purple hair and keen interest in feminism, I was certain they were setting her up to be an LGBT character. (Also, any character whose opening dialogue is “you’re just reinforcing hegemonic masculinity while marginalizing women’s identity” instantly makes a lasting imprint on my social justice heart).

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As the story progresses, however, it becomes abundantly clear that Gert isn’t just straight, she’s madly in love with Chase (who only has eyes for Karolina). Gert even offers to tutor Chase in Spanish just to spend more time together. In recent years, the term feminist has been hotly debated. As a lesbian, I’m used to seeing strong women “fighting the man” within my own community. However, Gert, the feminist intent on dismantling the patriarchy, actually likes men.

In recent years, many people have been hesitant to self identify as a feminist because they believe it’s inherently linked to hating men or lesbianism. Remember when Shailene Woodley said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist because she “loves men, and [she] thinks the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.” [insert endless eye rolls] In this world wrought with fear of being labelled a “man-hater”, Gert, with her purple hair and jean jacket, fiercely embraces the term. She proves you can fight to empower women while simultaneously valuing men. I love when it’s shown that these two things are not mutually exclusive. [Believe it or not, we feminists don’t want to castrate every man we see]. 

At their high school, somehow all six friends are in the same homeroom. Alex, clearly attempting to honor Amy’s memory, decides to invite the gang over to his house because all sets of parents will be at the annual meeting for some secretive “charity” foundation called PRIDE. Naturally, Alex’s invitation is rejected by all of his friends who harbor deep resentment toward each other.

Alex meets up with Nico in the hallway and confessed that he misses her but Nico ignores him.I think Alex might have a crush on Nico, I’m not sure.

This triggers Nico and makes her become emotional about the death of her sister. At the same time, Karolina is being bullied for being the face of Gibborim. Both girls end up in the bathroom crying and share a very tender moment together. Karolina urges Nico to stop wearing so much make up. Nico quips “some people hide behind make up, others behind a smile. It’s still hiding.”

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The school day ends with Molly trying out for the dance team. During her routine, she experiences intense stomach pain and is advised to go to the meditation center or nurse. (This school is obviously very alternative because it also has no chairs- “sitting is the new cancer”). While at the nurse’s office, her eyes begin to glow and she develops super strength.

Instead of going to Alex’s house later after school, the gang spends their nights in a variety of different ways. Nico builds a huge pentagram on the beach in an attempt to communicate with Amy. Gert gets stood up for a tutoring session by Chase who ends up at a house party. Karolina, fascinated with rebellion, also shows up at the party. She’s offered a pill, hilariously by a man in an animal onesie, and begins to enjoy the music. She notices two girls kissing.

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After lingering on the girls, Karolina removes the religious bracelet she’s worn since the day she was born. (Could this be a sign of emergent sexuality?) Immediately, Karolina begins to glow with rainbow colors, passes out, and is nearly raped by Chase’s meat-head friends. Luckily, Chase sees jerk 1 and jerk 2 carrying Karolina upstairs and follows. After punching his teammates in the face, it’s clear Chase is no longer a member of the popular crowd. Undisturbed, Chase tends to Karolina and puts the bracelet back on wrist and leads her from the party. While this is occurring, Molly discovers a huge reptilian figure (possibly a lizard?) behind a door in her home. She calls Gert and asks to be taken from the house. Eventually, all friends end up at Alex’s house for the first time since Amy passed away.

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Chase calls Alex out for skipping Amy’s funeral and tensions run high. Karolina, who claims to be sick of bottling her emotions, says they need to talk about what happened to Amy. In typical teenaged fashion, Chase looks for alcohol in order to talk about his emotions. This leads the gang to Alex’s parents’ study. They inadvertently discover a secret passageway that leads to a cathedral type space located deeply below the family home.

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The children see their parents, dressed in red religious robes, at the end of the passage. It’s clear they’re performing some sort of ritual and cannot detect the presence of their children. Karolina recognizes a figure clad in white as Destiny from the Church of Gibbromin. Each kid watches as their parents force her to imbibe liquid and, what I can only guess, is sacrifice her.

 

Earlier in the episode, a figure with badly chapped skin and a breathing mask over their face was lying in a bed. I can only assume Destiny filled her Destiny (lol) of being sacrificed to revive the chapter body. Could Runaways pull a PLL and have Amy still be alive? Or is it Leslie Dean’s father (the grandfather of Karolina.) I’ll have to see!

Takeaways:

  • Amy’s been dead for 2 years
  • Molly Hernandez is adopted, has super strength and her parents died in a fire when she was a baby
  • Chase’s dad is a sociopath, who wants his child to fear him
  • Karolina glows rainbow when her clearly magical bracelet is removed
  • Gert is in love with Chase despite him being in love with Karolina
  • Alex most likely has a crush on Nico
  • Destiny was sacrificed for some greater purpose and the Church of Grimmon is obviously a terrifying cult

Rating: 3 out of 5 rainbows

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3 out of 5 rainbows for the feminist attitude, two women kissing and general diversity of the cast. (I love seeing people of color on TV and only two members of the main cast are white) Can’t wait to watch more!

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