RUNAWAYS Episode 7 "Refraction"
Plot
Characterization
Acting
Summary
RUNAWAYS Episode 7 has a number of good things going for it. A renewed focus on characterization and on social issues gives this episode a much-needed edge. However, a bland plot keeps it from greatness.
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Every student dreads parent-teacher conferences. Whether it stems from bad grades, bad behavior, or just the general embarrassment of your parents sitting in your classrooms, students can come to dislike the day. Add in the fact that your parents are supervillains, and you’re going to have a bad time. After the drama of Episode 6, RUNAWAYS Episode 7 delves deep into the building tensions between our young heroes. As it becomes clear that the kids may know more than they let on, the Pride seeks answers and remedies. The parents and children go head-to-head in this cryptic, and sometimes silly, episode.

As RUNAWAYS Episode 7 opens, we glimpse a brief history of the Stein family. From the first meeting between parents Victor and Janet, we delve into Victor’s utter adoration of his young boy. Fast forward several years, and Chase has won a Junior Lacrosse Championship. The problem? His father didn’t attend. After Victor essentially tells Chase that his science is more important than Chase’s games, the pair exchanges some cutting words. Then Victor assaults his son.

Moving to the present, Victor Stein and Dale Yorkes both experience the highs and lows of their leader, Jonah’s, blood. Somehow mutated, the blood gives them incredible intellectual inspiration but inspires intense mood swings after wearing off. Meanwhile, the children confront each other over the previous night’s issues. Gertrude and Karolina are still walking on eggshells. After Molly reveals that she accidentally divulged the team’s intentions to their parents, she is ostracized. She turns to the cheerleading team for solace. Also, after the events of Episode 6, Nico feels as if Alex is hiding something from the group. Throughout the episode, she questions Alex on how he broke into her mother’s office the night before and what he’s hiding.

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RUNAWAYS Episode 6
Courtesy of Marvel Comics

In general, RUNAWAYS Episode 7 is satisfactory. In itself, the tension doesn’t quite overflow as it has in previous episodes. However, it does tie together a number of plot threads that, moving forward, act as the impetus for the show’s climactic showdown. In previous episodes, the Runaways have come together out of necessity. They neither fully liked nor hated each other. Their sole unifying factor was their evil parents. RUNAWAYS Episode 7 displays our first glimpse of the team coming together by choice. While we can’t exactly call them friends yet, we do get to see them start coming together as a family.

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The plot isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it is still genuinely fun and ticks all the right boxes. One of the greatest focuses of this television series stems from the true to life sense of teenage-ness. Each of these characters craves community. They seek out belonging. This episode feels realistic because it handles that community aspect incredibly well. Placed next to the fractured Pride, the Runaways almost seem like a well-oiled machine.

My sole problem is that this episode continues to feel more like RIVERDALE than IRON MAN. The superhero feel is almost gone. Other than two moments, characters do not display powers. Sure, the underlying drama is interesting, but it lacks something. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I thought about Gert’s dinosaur, Old Lace. Besides one brief glimpse in Episode 5, we haven’t seen this character for three episodes. It feels almost as if the writers and directors have forgotten that this is a Marvel television series. While I understand that the budget is far lower than the rest of the MCU, the fact still remains that this is a superhero show that has started to forget its roots.

Refraction and Education

With that negative aspect out of the way, let’s get to the heart of what makes RUNAWAYS Episode 7 so great. As always, the acting in this episode is superb. This episode rides on its character moments, still managing to flesh out these multifaceted people. From the exploration of Victor Stein’s abusiveness to the further breakdown of Molly’s need for family, this episode stands out from almost anything else Marvel offers.

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The Stein Conspiracy

RUNAWAYS Episode 7
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

James Marster’s Victor Stein made a mark on me from Episode 1. Steely and manic, Victor is a character with more bad than good within him. However, as the story progressed, I hesitated to “like” the portrayal of the abusive patriarch. The writing seemed to forgive Victor for his failures by blaming it on a malignant brain tumor. Not only did I feel like this belittled the experiences of the other characters in the Stein family, but I thought it cheapened the nuanced and fearsome portrayal of true emotional abuse.

RUNAWAYS Episode 7 got me back on board with Victor Stein’s portrayal. The flashback moments act as a beautiful dichotomy between the man Victor was before his fame and the man he has become. In the early days, he was an intellectual with a deep kindness. As the years passed in this happy sheen, he suddenly turned to abuse. At the end of the episode, when Victor starts to display some of these attitudes again, Chase (played by Gregg Sulkin) states that he has fallen for this game too many times. Immediately, new layers to the abuse come forward in the form of regressive kindness. No matter how many times Victor begs for forgiveness, he makes the same mistakes again and again. As an abuse narrative, this works well.

Paranoia Rising

RUNAWAYS Episode 7
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

What is the fun in characters who never make mistakes? I’ve loved the renewed focus on the villainous Pride in the TV series. They were always such archetypal bad guys in the comic books, but here, they seem like people with real motives. As each episode passes, we gain a newfound glimpse into their reality. After learning that Molly may know more than she seems to tell, the Wilder parents fall into a spiral of paranoia and anger over the possibilities.

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At the start, we see Catherine Wilder (Angel Parker) digging through her son Alex’s (Rhenzy Feliz) room. This story thread helps give the parents a more thorough arc. From the series beginning, the parents seemed to be in complete control of events. There were missteps along the way, but now they seem to be failing at every step. They can’t go on living the way they always had. Now, their own children have become their main threat. The entire parental cast takes this to heart in their acting, and their story benefits from the newfound tension.

Cheating Scandal

RUNAWAYS Episode 7
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

From Episode 1, viewers have witnessed a scandal amidst the Pride. Janet Stein (Ever Carradine) has been having an affair with Robert Minoru (James Yaegashi). While these events have served to infuse the plot with more drama, recent episodes have made the affair a full-blown plot point. In Episode 6, Victor Stein made the news public and the events have since devolved into chaos.

RUNAWAYS has a good track record in handling social commentary. Despite some hiccups, the show gives major realities like abuse and foster parenting their due. With this cheating scandal, the showrunners continue this trend. Carradine portrays someone who sees nothing but her husband’s present “good day”. Janet turned to Robert at a time when her husband treated her like trash. She had dreams of being a gravitational scientist before meeting her husband. She didn’t sign on for years of abusive treatment, but some part of her still dreams of the early good years. Meanwhile, Yaegashi’s Robert ends his marriage to be with Janet.

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The tension between the two is palpable, but it is the effect on the children that is the most interesting. Nico and Chase have to each deal with this new way of life, but neither knows what to do. Chase is trapped in the same cycle of abuse as his mother, and he gets why, on one of his father’s good days, she wants to stay. Nico believes that this somehow stems from a misunderstanding. She’s convinced that if Robert speaks to Brittany Ishibashi’s Tina Minoru that all will be fixed. By showing both sides of this coin, the show creates a mood of uncertainty that feels real and heartbreaking.

Molly Hernandez and Community

RUNAWAYS Episode 7
Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Allegra Acosta has had a few moments here throughout the series. Her character, Molly Hernandez, is the youngest of the Runaways, but her super strength has the most power. However, except for the first and third episodes, Molly hasn’t gotten any spotlight. Her character jumps off the screen with her positivity, but we rarely get to see her. RUNAWAYS Episode 7 finally gives her a chance to shine.

Similarly to my previous point, the big social focus on Molly’s character is her foster status. She was adopted by the Yorkes at an early age, and she suffers from some issues with being left behind. Her new connection to her fellow Runaways gives her that sense of community she needs in order to help find herself. When the team ostracizes her, she rightfully feels like she is alone. While the writing for Allegra Acosta can come off a bit kitschy at times, this young actress does a fantastic job giving her character a lot of depth.

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RUNAWAYS Episode 7 grounds Molly in ways that feel unique to this setting. She doesn’t want to be left behind. She is even willing to be pushed around by others to find that sense of belonging. In this way, Molly acts as the team’s glue. The viewer sees that Molly’s right. No one else has ever witnessed anything like they have. They need to come together as some form of family to survive. The show benefits greatly from this newfound focus, and it helps to push the team forward to their final battle.

Final Thoughts: RUNAWAYS Episode 7

The RUNAWAYS series, up until this point, has bordered on greatness. Sadly, RUNAWAYS Episode 7 loses some of the oomph of past episodes. It is still good, and it sets the stage for some strong moments to come. Despite stellar acting, though, this show has lost some of its superhero flavor. The focus on characterization still keeps this series binge-worthy, but this episode stands out for a rather bland plot. The moment we get back to dinosaur pets and Fistigons, the moment this show will again soar to the stars.

One Comment

  1. Nina Wilder

    December 12, 2017 at 3:18 am

    How on earth did you see this episode when it hasn’t aired on hulu yet?! However, I agree with most of what you said. I read the series so I still have a lot of expectations, and while disappointed in some things that aren’t the same, like Chase kissing Carolina, or the focus on a new character’s death- I did appreciate new twists like Chase being super smart and his and Nico’s sudden getting along with their parents. I guess that’s the bonus of having an adaptation- there are still surprises in store.

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