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Runaways - Kingdom - Review: "Rescuing Alex"

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As usual, this is a spoiler-heavy review of Runaways. Haven't seen the episode yet? Want a spoiler free preview? Check out the excellent write-up by Samantha here.

Runaways 1.05 "Kingdom" - Review:
Directed by Jeffrey W. Byrd & Written by Rodney Barnes & Michael Vukadinovich

After the kidnapping of Alex at the end of last week's episode, it was going to be interesting to see what direction Kingdom would take the series. It's been slowly building to the moment where they realise what powers they have and using them in action for the first time was pretty awesome. They may not quite know the full extent of their powers just yet nor are super experienced in how to use them, but for a series that's based on what is essentially a comic book team-up story, it would have been kind of disappointing if we didn't get to see them use their powers together, even this early on. Thankfully, Runaways more than delivered, giving us an exciting showdown midway through the episode between the group and Alex's captor Darius. They don't have any plan, they're not the Avengers, they're not The Gifted's mutants, but they know they have to rescue Alex and it gave them the drive and motivation that made the fight scene all the more important. Presumably one day we'll get to see the Runaways in action to the level that the Mutant Underground are working at now. But for the moment, it's a good decision to make the characters have a steep learning curve for their powers and this episode played off that effectively.

The episode opened with a flashback to Geoffrey Wilder, which was one of the weaker decisions that the series had to make so far. Whilst we got to learn about his early life, we didn't really need to. It was unfortunately one of the more uneven moments of the episode as the show adopted a slower pace than normal, moving the story away from the focus on what makes the series interesting, which is the kids and the struggle against their parents and the cult that they're up against. We do get to learn a bit more about Darius too, a fellow gang-member of Geoffrey, who confessed to murder so Geoffrey could gain a huge boost in financial profit. This story suffered the same problem that the seventh episode of Stranger Things' second season suffered from, and that was horrible placing in the series. Whilst episode seven would have been a good story on its own, you have to take it into consideration to the whole of the series, and as a result Eleven's sidequest really didn't need to have its own episode devoted to it especially where we left off back in Hawkins. The same is very much the case here, with Geoffrey being Eleven's Lost Sister Kali, and the Runaways are the ones being trapped in the lab about to be overwhelmed by Demodogs. Either way, we learn that Darius took the deal in the end, but told Geoffrey not to forget about him.

It doesn't take us too long to get into the thick of things following Alex's kidnapping, and Nico and Karolina are wondering what's going to happen to Alex when Gert and Molly show up. Nico uses her staff to track down Alex, rather than simply just wait for Chase like Gert suggested. Meanwhile, Darius is being taken to Geoffrey's old stomping ground. Here, Alex knows that he has his father's gun on him, but decides to hold off using it until he gets a better chance to do so. Darius explains that he's kidnapped Alex because he took the fall for Geoffrey in exchange for setting his family up for life and Geoffrey didn't exactly keep to his deal. Geoffrey decides to offer the $50,000 that Darius first wanted, only to find that the offer's gone up to $1 million, putting Geoffrey in a world of trouble that forces him to lie about Alex's whereabouts to his wife, Catherine, and enlists the aid of the cop Flores to back him up when everything goes south, not knowing that Alex's friends are looking for him as well.

Gert is trying to get ahold of Chase but he isn't responding. One of my favourite parts of the previous episode was the development in the relationship between Chase and his father, Victor, and this episode very much continued that development as they continue building the Fistigons. Victor ends up apologising for his behaviour and says that he liked inventing things where he was younger too, like with Chase. Chase eventually does wind up noticing what's going on when his dad leaves to get a coffee, being alerted by Gert to the fact that Alex is missing and decides to get the Fistigons, bringing them with him. Meanwhile, Alex is impressed when he learns that they cloned Geoffrey's phone in the second episode to track down Alex, but Geoffrey shows up not long after and Alex is forced to shoot Andre in the back when Andre has the chance to stop Geoffrey. However, Alex's freedom doesn't last, as he finds himself a hostage again, taken by Darius who uses the SUV to escape. This thrilling game of cat and mouse just added another new element in the form of Karolina, Nico, Molly and Gert, who have arrived to save the day - despite having no idea what to do.

And that's where we get our fight scene that I talked about at the start of the review. Darius gets exposed to the team's powers in action, but does get the upper hand until Chase arrives to save the day. Nico's usage of the Staff of One helps stop the bullets headed their way, and Alex immediately returns to try and rescue Andre from Geoffrey's car. Geoffrey explains that he is trying to get Andre some help, but in reality, he's just found the perfect sacrifice for Pride. Alex knows this and pitches the idea to rescue Andre not long after when the team are celebrating their first success, and the team end up agreeing to help.

It turns out that the ritual to sacrifice Andre is happening elsewhere, not in the same place as before, robbing the team of the chance to save Andre. Nico and Alex sharing a kiss once Alex reveals that he tried protecting Geoffrey even though he wasn't sure whether he should be protecting him or not, but Karolina arrives saying that they've found a hidden camera which would provide the team with the evidence that they need based on the footage of past sacrifices to arrest their parents. That's if they can break into WIZ and find the footage, and that's if they even want to do it, as Chase in particular is starting to have second thoughts. Meanwhile, while this is all going on - it turns out that Andre's sacrifice was successful and Leslie is relieved to work out that it worked, pouring his energy into the pod belonging to that of her lover.

The fallout from the kidnapping sees Alex stand up to his dad after attempting to find anything he can about Andre online and failing to do so. Geoffrey flips out at Alex and calms down, asking for forgiveness, only to be rejected. This episode did a lot to flesh out Alex this week, who has been among the weaker members of the Runaways in terms of development with the attention largely spent elsewhere on characters like Karolina, Gert and Chase, and it was a very wise move to put him in the spotlight this time whilst balancing the other characters. It's pretty interesting to note as well that were it not for Geoffrey taking the deal, Alex could have found himself in very different circumstances indeed, potentially even in the same situation as Andre.

Nico meanwhile is discovered with the staff in her possession and Tina is actually surprised to see that the staff responds to her commands. Tina uses this as a way back into Nico's life, saying that she doesn't have to have the same nonexistent relationship that she shared with her grandmother and wants to help Nico. This is a different Tina from what we've seen in the past, more relaxed and welcoming. Both Tina and Victor have been among the more hardline members of Pride so it's good to see them both opening up to their kids this week, with Victor actually inventing the time machine in what has to be one of the quietest inventions of a time machine ever. But in a universe with aliens and superpowers, time travel doesn't actually seem that big of a leap. The time machine is a bit different from your TARDISes and DeLoreans, and it's meant to show visions of the future rather than allowing people to travel there. But when it backfires, Victor flips out, revealing that he has brain cancer. But of course, this is Victor we're talking about here, and he's not going to go down quietly and is willing to put up a fight even if his days may be numbered.

The time machine however does end up working, but only after Victor and Chase have left the room, and well, it doesn't look good at all for future Los Angeles, depicting a city in chaos. Is this what we're ultimately headed towards? The destruction of the city? It certainly proves to be an ominous warning for things to come.

We finally catch up with Leslie and Frank at the end of the episode. Leslie heads into the room where we see the man in the bed has become less crustier than normal, and kisses Leslie. We first saw him in the flashbacks earlier this episode as a Geoffrey's mysterious lawyer, and here he's played by Julian McMahon, who it's worth noting, has Marvel connections in the past, starring in both Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer as Doctor Doom, so he has plenty of experience playing the antagonist. You can almost certainly expect more of him in the future. Meanwhile, while this is all going on - Frank is in the process of becoming Ultra unaware of what his wife is up to, but is shot down by the Gibborim advisors who cut off his medication. His readings are short, and he can't progress any further. It seems like Frank and Leslie's paths are further dividing, creating problem after problem for the Pride.

On the whole, Kingdom was a fun and enjoyable episode although not without its flaws. It's interesting to watch how the show deals with the whole parents and kids dilemma of splitting the characters development. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't, as is the case here where the flashbacks felt like something out of a different show altogether even if they were still entertaining enough to watch. But even so, the show continues to remain fairly solid and I'm looking forward to seeing where the writers take it from here, with the show once again ending on a note that makes sure the wait for next week's episode is going to be a long one.

What did you think of Kingdom? Let me know in the comments below. Don't forget to check out episode six, Metamorphosis which airs next Tuesday on Hulu.

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