There are the obvious things we inherit from our parents: their eyes, their height, hereditary diseases. But what else might we inherit from our parents? Their mistakes? Their trauma? Their evil? “Kingdom” focuses on the latter, especially in terms of Alex and his father.
Alex knows about his father’s criminal past, but Geoffrey Wilder’s real evil hinges on the way he got out of prison, not in. As we learn in flashback, Geoffrey was locked up with his best friend Darius, and when a mysterious man (played by Julian McMahon) offers him $5 million for a Compton property he inherited, Geoffrey and Catherine—at the time, his lawyer but not yet his wife—strike a deal to get Geoffrey out. Darius ends up taking the blame in exchange for Geoffrey’s promise to take care of him and his family, but flash-forward to the present when Darius has been cut out of Geoffrey’s life and fortune. As it turns out, Darius is the one who abducted Alex at the end of last week’s episode, and he details his history with Geoffrey to Alex, who isn’t that surprised to learn his dad is a bad guy. He already knows it.
All of the teens are grappling with the fact that their parents are bad people at different paces and in different ways. Alex, along with Nico, seems pretty resolved to the fact that there can be no good explanation or justification for their parents’ involvement in the disappearance of several kids. But when it comes down to it, Alex still shoots a kid his own age who’s just following Darius’ orders in order to save his father. On a similar note, Chase ends up bonding with his father and wondering if he could be good after all, even though there’s a clear history of physical abuse. Runaways does an impressive job of showing just how hard it can be to distance yourself from family, to recognize their flaws and then do something about it. The teens all know their parents have done bad things, but turning against them completely is no easy task. It’s one thing to find out that your parents are evil and a whole other thing entirely to fully process what that really means, to move forward, to push back.
For as quickly as its plot moves, Runaways has already proven to have a lot of restraint in its storytelling. “Kingdom” is the first episode in which all of the teens collectively use their abilities together, and it’s thrilling precisely because there has been so much build-up. Up until now, their powers have been something they’ve explored alone, as is the case for Molly, or in one-on-one scenarios, as is the case for Karolina and Chase. And even then, Karolina didn’t quite know that her ability to glow can be weaponized. When rescuing Alex from Darius, Nico harnesses the power of her magical staff, Karolina shoots Darius with a beam of rainbow light, and Chase swoops in at the last minute with his Fistigons. Gert’s dinosaur whispering abilities don’t come into play, but shortly after the encounter, she and Molly tell the others. The bond between the teens grows with the discovery that they all bring special abilities to the table. The fact that they’re forced to use those abilities to protect each other is significant: They’re becoming each other’s chosen family. In fact, Runaways might be one of the most compelling stories on television right now about the meaning of chosen family and what it means when your birth family fails you. The slow burn lead up to their collective use of powers in the episode’s climax makes it that much more explosive. It’s a huge moment for them as individuals and a collective.
Speaking of slow burn: #GayKarolinaWatch2017. We of course have the benefit of knowing that Karolina is canonically a lesbian, which makes the subtext easier to detect, but I like how subtle the show is being about her arc. It feels real. Sometimes shows can be overwrought when it comes to coming-out narratives. But Karolina seems to be crushing on Nico, and it’s seen in very small moments: her hand instinctively rising to the back of Nico’s head as they hug and the little smile that follows, her sharp inhale as Nico walks past her after she has just walked in on her making out with Alex. Confusing feelings for a close friend are pretty par for the course when it comes to a queer awakening, and Runaways very subtly explores the small ways those feelings can manifest.
In other plot developments: Chase’s dad has brain cancer and also developed a time machine that transmits video messages from the future. He thinks it doesn’t work and throws a tantrum, but after they leave the room, the machine shows an ominous glimpse of Los Angeles falling to the ground. Also, the dying being kept in Leslie’s “meditation room” that all these sacrifices have been for is finally resurrected and turns out to be the man played by Julian McMahon from the flashbacks. He’s also, it is implied, Karolina’s father. Poor Frank, who can’t even make Ultra. Tina catches Nico with the staff but tells her she can keep it for the night, saying that she trusts her. But I’m not really buying it. These parents are very good at gaslighting their own children.