*Warning: This review contains spoilers*
Runaways is back, and after an incredibly cheesy cold open where the members of Pride are directed by the LAPD to cosplay knockoff versions of their children, there’s some actual running away in the season 2 premiere “Gimmie Shelter”, which is written by the show’s creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and directed by veteran TV helmer Allison Liddi-Brown (Grey’s Anatomy, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood). The episode explores the new normal of the Runaways’ kids, and how they’ve become a family while struggling to survive away from their privileged Brentwood/rich part of LA existences. Like in Season 1, a big portion of the episode is dedicated to their parents and their varying degrees of evil and scheming. Aka Tina Minoru is one scary woman.
The building of community and awareness of privilege is a throughline that gives “Gimmie Shelter” depth and empathy that the prep school sequences in Runaways Season 1 didn’t have. In the beginning of the episode, Chase loses his Fistigons and the group’s money to a low level bike thief named Mike, and they have to humble themselves and get food at an outdoor soup kitchen because they have no money. Ariela Barer, whose performance as Gert, was the standout of Season 1 gets to showcase her character’s softer edges as she realizes that in her call for social justice that she had never really experienced injustice up close.
This sense of community continues in the Wiccan funeral of Graciela Aguirre, who is Molly’s last living relative and gave her a VHS tape with a warning from her parents about Pride and the mysterious Jonah, who still isn’t as great a bad guy as Tina Minoru or the Wilders. Her death is the big plot beat of “Gimmie Shelter”, but Schwartz and Savage take time to dwell on the emotional impact of her passing, especially Gert and Molly. Viewers didn’t get a lot of time to know Graciela as a character beyond her fierce protection of Molly and opposition towards the Pride (Her shooting a gun at the Yorkeses is this episode’s finest moment.), and Molly talks about this in her eulogy. She feels alone in the world until she slowly finds family in the Runaways with a loving shot of her snuggled up with Old Lace after the team finally discovers their underground mansion hideout from the original comics.
Like in Season 1, the extended scenes with the Pride aren’t effective as the ones with the Runaways that crackle with chemistry, raw feelings, and even a little humor. For example, Alex gets a solo plot line where he helps Darius, his father’s old business associate, paint his newborn daughter’s room instead of doing stereotypical “gangster” things. On the other hand, the Pride’s scenes are just a round table of scheming, and Schwartz and Savage’s writing for them is stiffer like they’re trying to get each actor a line in the scene instead of letting the natural charisma of Ryan Sands’ Geoffrey Wilder or Brittany Ishibashi’s Tina Minoru take over. This is because the Yorkeses continue to be grating, and Janet Stein and Leslie Dean sadly have no character apart from their husband/cult respectively.
A continued over focus on the parents aside, “Gimmie Shelter” is an excellent reminder of how talented the young cast of Runaways is, especially as they have to negotiate their identities, powers, and relationships while also being wanted fugitives. There’s also a pretty major surprise wedged in this episode somewhere that gives the series both a plot and character hook.
Overall Rating: 8.0