RUNAWAYS Episode 5
RUNAWAYS Episode 5: Kingdom
Plot
Acting
Visuals
Summary
RUNAWAYS Episode 5 has some issues in the visual approach to its main characters' superpowers, as well as a rushed tone throughout. However, this episode sees our young heroes coming together for the first time in a way that is incredibly satisfying and stays true to the series' devotion to character.
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The one thing that has always drawn me to the RUNAWAYS comic books is the sense of constructed family. Forced out of their homes and realizing that their parents literally control Los Angeles, the team has to come together as heroes but also as foster siblings to survive. Interestingly, this facet hasn’t come through in the Hulu Original adaptation of the fan-favorite comics just yet.

The teens have distanced themselves from each other, creating a new line of tension for the series going forward. How can these kids come to grips with their parents’ betrayal by themselves? The answer: they can’t. RUNAWAYS Episode 5 gives them their first real opportunity to come together as heroes and as a family.

At the end of RUNAWAYS Episode 4, viewers watched Alex being kidnapped by mysterious people in a black SUV. In Episode 5, we learn that these kidnappers belong to Alex’s father’s former gang. In a flashback, we learn that Geoffrey Wilder promised his former right-hand man, Darius Davis, the world. If Darius were to take the fall for Geoffrey’s murder charges, Geoffrey would use his newfound wealth to support Darius’ family for life.

Fast forward to the present, and the Runaways have banded together to find their missing friend. Gathering the weapons and powers from their parents’ homes, the teens come together to rescue Alex. Meanwhile, the Pride finds another sacrifice, and the team must race against the clock to stop their parents.

The Team-Up

RUNAWAYS Episode 5
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

As a single broad, generalized statement, RUNAWAYS Episode 5 is SO satisfying. The final coming together of the team, with powers and weapons in tow, works surprisingly well in this episode. This, of course, doesn’t mean the episode is perfect. My first point of contention stems from the coming together scene.

In terms of acting, the six actors behind the team did a fine job in their roles. However, the visual effects of the moment felt strange. They were largely low budget effects, but I am willing to look past it for the sheer cool factor of the teens as superheroes. I wasn’t expecting the visual effects of the MCU films. With this show’s considerably lower budget, the show did well enough to pass.

RUNAWAYS Episode 2 Review: The Parents Take Over

However, my biggest issue is based more on narrative. So much happens in RUNAWAYS Episode 5, but so little gets the main focus. The individual moments of the episode were wonderfully constructed and it showcased some of the best character moments so far. However, together they felt a bit messy.

The team-up scene is the perfect example. Throughout, each member only gets one brief moment to showcase their powers. It’s fantastic to see each character in action, but the scene has a chaotic feel because there doesn’t seem to be any focus. The team-up sequence rushes past several amazing moments with no breaks in between.

The Face of the Villain(s)

One of the most interesting aspects of the RUNAWAYS so far has been its focus on giving the Pride concrete emotions and character types. They aren’t faceless monsters, but living, breathing human beings that have a motivation (even if we don’t yet know the true face of that motivation). Seeing these moments has expanded the RUNAWAYS universe in ways I never could have imagined, and RUNAWAYS Episode 5 is no different.

The Wilder Sins

RUNAWAYS Episode 5
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

I have applauded Ryan Sands for his portrayal of Geoffrey Wilder in the past. While cold and calculating, this version of Wilder differs from his comic book roots with his in-depth focus on family and his moral questions surrounding the Pride’s actions. Sands portrays Wilder as this imposing but human force on screen, but RUNAWAYS Episode 5 gives viewers a new glance at this troubled villain.

We learn that his present problems, dealing with Darius Davis, stem from his own failings as a young criminal. Narratively, this gives Wilder a crueler but more interesting backstory, one riddled with betrayal. Not only that, but we get to see Geoffrey delve into his criminal roots as he mows down his former gang.

RUNAWAYS Pilot: Whose Show is it Anyways? A Look at Alex Wilder

It is the actors themselves, though, that seem to benefit most from this new-found focus. When Darius Davis and Geoffrey are on the screen together, they manage to steal the viewer’s attention. The friendly chemistry between them in the early flashback comes across as truly genuine, and we actually find ourselves siding with Darius. Needless to say, this empathy fails almost immediately when Darius has a gun pointed at Alex, but we still understand his actions. The grander Marvel Cinematic Universe may have a villain problem, but RUNAWAYS does not suffer from it.

Redeeming Science’s Demon

RUNAWAYS Episode 5
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

James Marster and Gregg Sulkin have had a powerful and interesting relationship on screen. Gregg, who plays Chase Stein, has a deep fear for Marster’s Victor Stein, as he is an emotionally and (supposedly) physically abusive man. However, we get to see a new side of both characters as they delve into the depths of the Fistigons’ construction.

As Chase and Victor design these high-tech weapons and Chase’s comic book trademark, we see a Victor Stein bolstered and happy. Like Chase, the viewer constantly fears the moment that this bond shatters, but it never does. In fact, it feels heartwarming to see these two characters finally getting along.

The RUNAWAYS: From Panel to Screen

The ensuing friendliness does raise certain questions about the portrayal of Victor Stein. This isn’t a question of acting; James Marsters still kills it as Victor. However, the inclusion of this redeeming factor has me torn. On the one hand, it does show some of the “redeeming” moments that keep abused spouses trapped in bad relationships. On the other, the show almost seems to condone and forgive Stein for the fear and abuse through which he ran his home. By the end of the episode, I lean toward the prior explanation, but I still don’t know what to think.

The Heroes’ Rise

RUNAWAYS Episode 5
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

As I discussed earlier, the final team-up of the Runaways is incredibly satisfying in this episode and, despite the lack of focus and the low-budget visuals, RUNAWAYS Episode 5 showcases some of the best performances from these young actors.

As always with this series, the episode shines brightest when the team wasn’t in the midst of a battle or intrigue, but when they get a chance to sit down and be teens together. The best scene in the entire episode comes after the team-up battle, with the team talking at a coffee shop. They constantly throw quips back and forth and congratulate each other.

Marvel Comics’ RUNAWAYS and SPIDER-WOMAN Artist Kris Anka at Flame Con 2017

It is these moments that make the comics and the TV show so good. So often with young heroes, writers fail to honor that youth. They become superheroes alone while losing that essential innocence. Here, that innocence will never be lost. Gregg Sulkin, Rhenzy Feliz, Virginia Gardner, Allegra Acosta, Lyrica Okano, and Ariela Barer embody the fun and lighthearted characters they portray. They showcase what it would be like to be a kid and suddenly get superpowers. Even in the midst of their parents’ betrayal, they still realize that superpowers kind of rule.

Final Thoughts: RUNAWAYS Episode 5

RUNAWAYS Episode 5 made my nerdy heart sing. While it had some issues in the execution, the final superpowered team-up pushes the series in the right direction.

The acting on the side of both the villainous Pride (at least those focused on here) and the Runaways team included some of the best to date. Despite a bit of rushing throughout, RUNAWAYS Episode 5 is one of the best episodes yet. If you are, were, or want to be a fan of RUNAWAYS, than this is the episode for you!

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