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Runaways - Fifteen - Review: "Tipping Point"

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Runaways 1.04 "Fifteen" - Review:
Directed by Ramsey Nickell & Written by Tamara Becher-Wilkinson

Check out the spoiler free advance preview of Fifteen here by Samantha if you haven't seen the episode yet! This is very much a spoiler-heavy review/recap of the latest episode of Runawayswhich aired this Tuesday on Hulu.

After the first three episodes of Runaways left us with the revelation that the kids' parents were up to something, it was going to be interesting to see how long it would take the kids to continue their PI work before being discovered. Like the parents themselves, the kids are too quickly forming different social groups as they each head down their own paths despite their shared experiences, with Gert and Karolina looking to find a shred of evidence that proves their parents innocence as Nico decides that Destiny's murder should be reported to the police as one.

The decision to drag out the departure of the kids which was what the comic pretty much opened with has so far been a success. The slower pace does mean that the series is taking a while to get to the point where they have to runaway, it is giving these characters plenty of room and development which is crucial when you're juggling a large cast as these. It's too easy to leave one or two in the shuffle when you're balancing both the parents and the kids, and so far, Runaways is succeeding, exploring the dynamic of the group and the different relationships that the characters share between them. Not everyone is quite in perfect harmony with each other just yet, and there's still tension there. Chase ignores Gert on campus and Gert finds herself enlisted on a mission with Karolina so she can attempt to prove her parents' innocence. Whilst Gert is drawn away from her first meeting of kids looking to tear down the patriarchy, they do find a file on the laptop belonging to Leslie, Karolina's mother. The file is encrypted, but Gert luckily has a R2-D2 memory stick (I love the Star Wars references that the show is throwing in so far, we've already had Star Wars Battlefront show up this season and I wonder how long it'll be before we get another.) on hand to copy the file across so they can decrypt it at a later date.

Chase meanwhile is facing repercussions from jerks for his decision to stick up for Karolina and ends up getting in another fight with lacrosse players. He ends up quitting the team not long after, and shows up at the house to the continued awkwardness of Chase and Gert. It's quickly becoming apparent that this is Runaways' first love triangle, with Gert having a crush on Chase while Chase likes Karolina. Chase himself tells Karolina about the fact that he had been protecting her, and Karolina in return demonstrates her ability to light up by taking off the bracelet. I love how the show is balancing its CGI so far, with this being a highlight of how it's used. This is a big episode for Karolina, and it's all about her losing faith in her parents after standing up for them when half of the group jumped to conclusions. The casting department have so far been spot on with their casting and Virginia Gardner knocked it out of the park here as her life broke down around her.

The collapse of the Pride was inevitable when it was revealed that Destiny's sacrifice wasn't pulled off correctly and just like with the kids, lines continue to be drawn. Victor, Chase's dad, ends up kidnapping a girl to try and pull off another sacrifice, driving along in his van with music blaring, in an attempt to fix The Pride's problems, but the girl isn't there when the van opens. It would have been easy to paint Victor as the most one-note antagonist of all the parents here, but this episode did a good way in fleshing his character out whilst at the same time making him the most unpredictable and cold-blooded as any of them. That scene in the lab with Victor and Chase where Victor pulled up to confront Chase was unexpectedly tense, and reminded me a lot of the car scene between Peter and Liz's dad in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and benefited from good performances by both Gregg Sulkin and James Marsters (Again, the casting department in Runaways is on fire). At least for now, Victor is willing to work with Chase on whatever project he's working on, rather than shut him out completely, encouraging him to do better than what he views as child's play.

For a show that uses the Runaways comics as its source material, I'll have to admit that when I went into this episode I wasn't expecting the first major characters who attempted to run away would be the parents, with the Yorkes being those who are almost able to put their plan almost into action to the point where they're willing to escape without Old Lace, who has gone missing. They decided to flee from the craziness around them and would have gotten away and would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been to the intervention of Tina who wants to know why they missed a pride meeting. With Gert being still so keen to believe her parents' innocence, the escape could have easily incorporated her and Molly, and they could have escaped successfully to the Hernandezes’ ranch in the Yucat√°n. Tina's involvement naturally puts this idea on hold for now, and Tina gets to threaten them about their plan to leave after having them followed earlier. It's Stacey who breaks down as she knows that the seemingly perfect plan is over, and Gert picks the worst time to argue about what just unfolded between them and Tina.

One of the more lighter moments of the episode was seeing that Gert was able to control Old Lace by voice command. It was a cool moment for sure, especially seeing Molly in action against the creature, and the two operating on their own together was really fun to watch. Like with Karolina, the detail that's put into the CGI elements of this show really help make moments like these stand out, and this decision to add extra depth and care to these scenes doesn't take away from the experience at all.

Nico and Alex went down their own path that was mostly separate from Karolina, Chase, Gert and Molly this episode that ended up with them in the biggest trouble yet. After accusations that Alex's dad would have been the most likely to commit the murder of Destiny due to his past as a gang member, Nico decides that they should actually report Destiny's death as a murder and decides to head to the police not realising that the police likely have some connections with the Church as well. The slow, gradual buildup of tension throughout this episode was really well done as you just knew the police wouldn't immediately be able to sort things out for the kids, and ending with Alex's abduction was a great way to push things to a tipping point after the reveal that Leslie's file that Gert had stolen contained plenty of information on the kids who had become Ultras and been declared missing as a result, going back one per year for the past fifteen years. He decided to go with Nico because he believed that she shouldn't have been on his own, and this last, frantic scene of him being kidnapped really makes the wait for next week's episode all the more unbearable. It looks like now that we've had plenty of time to flesh out the characters, the show has decided to take one big leap in plot advancement, and it couldn't have come at a better time now that we're properly invested in them even if the direction leading up to the kidnapping was fairly predictable.

The flashbacks to Amy's death and the effect that it had on Nico was a big way to begin the episode. We got to see what Nico was like pre Amy's death, and it's pretty clear that it shook her hard. The episode was as big for her as it was for Karolina, as she worked out that something sinister was behind Amy's death and it was more than, like everything, what it appeared to be. Amy's death happened on the same day as the Pride meeting. What if her death was a sacrifice? That would have been a pretty cold move for the Pride, even colder than what they've done already. Tina is one of the more dedicated members of the group however, knocking Nico out with the Staff to prevent her from calling the police in the first place, and out of all the Pride it's not that much of a leap to imagine that she would be able to go with through something like this.

The show itself had a pretty surreal moment this week with Leslie. Her marriage drama with her husband Frank is something that is among the weaker points of the show so far as I don't particularly care for it that much, but the sight of Leslie climbing into bed with the mysterious charred man was disturbing as hell. Frank ends up asking her if she's cheating on him, but Leslie is quick to remind Frank where the real power lies in that relationship, suggesting that it might be time for him to become an Ultra. The two end up getting over this and sharing a moment of happiness together, which makes it all the worse for Karolina witnessing it in the context of the events that she has experienced. She knows that whatever happens from this point forward will never be normal again.

I love that pretty much everything the parents do is all secondary to what the kids are doing. The kids are the driving force of the comics and they should be the driving force of the show too. It's risky with giving the parents such a prominent spotlight that the show could potentially undermine the development on the main group of kids, but Runaways has found a delicate balance here, with writer Tamara Becher-Wilkinson (Iron Fist, Covert Affairs, Shades of Blue) using these characters well to move the plot whilst fleshing them out at the same time. Hopefully it won't be too long before we get some questions answered too, because it seems they're only piling up by the episode.

What did you think of Fifteen? Who is your favourite character so far? Let me know in the comments below. Be sure to check out episode five which airs next Tuesday on Hulu.

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