'Runaways' Season 2 Spoiler Review: Remixed Comic Book Origins Leads To True Success In Show's Second Round

Out of all of Marvel's properties, Runaways had arguably the hardest page-to-screen adaptation. There's a lot of wacky shit going on in the comics, and all of that wouldn't transition to screen well – especially in a live-action version. But for Season 2 of the Marvel drama, the series retools and grounds many of these elements, and the result is some of the company's best television work.

Finally embodying its title, our teens Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), and Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta) have actually run away. One of the most frustrating aspects of the first season was that it took them entirely too long to actually become the Runaways, which didn't happen until the very last moments of the season. The teens are now on the run from their parents, The Pride – Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), Catherine Wilder (Angel Parker), Geoffrey Wilder (Ryan Sands) Janet Stein (Ever Carradine), Victor Stein (James Marsters), Dale Yorkes (Kevin Weisman), Stacey Yorkes (Brigid Brannagh), Robert Minoru (James Yaegashi), and Tina Minoru (Brittany Ishibashi) – because the adults have framed them for murder. The framing is just an attempt to lure the kids back, as they want to protect them from the wrath of Jonah – at any cost.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Soon enough, the kids learn of Jonah (Julian McMahon)'s sinister plans for Earth at the dig site, and they end up inadvertently teaming up with their parents to stop him. But after this is over with (or when they think it is over), there is no love lost between the two factions, in which the parents get super ruthless in their attempts to retrieve their children. Led by the influence of outside forces as a result of what they thought ended at the dig site, neither the Runaways nor The Pride could have anticipated what happens at the end of the Season 2, setting up a lot of things to happen for Season 3.

Here's a spoiler-heavy rundown of what really makes Season 2 pop, what could have made a great season even better, and what's on tap for Season 3.

Enter Topher

It was widely expected that the series would begin to integrate other characters that are integral to the Runaways comic books into the live-action series. The first of Season 2's two new canon characters arrives earlier than expected in the season, as Topher (Jan Luis Castellanos) drops by the hostel in Episode 3 after spotting Molly during one of her late-night vigilante runs. While a lot of Topher's storyline is retconned for the series, much of it remains the same. He's another teen who infiltrates the group. Instead of being a nearly 100-year-old vampire as in the comics, he is a mutant (although the Hulu series does not directly refer to him as such) with superhuman strength like Molly. Because of their similar abilities and the fact that he is a runaway like them, Molly takes a liking to Topher and wants him to join the team. For a moment, she even believes he could be her long-lost brother.

Meanwhile, the others don't trust him – aside from Karolina, who also wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. Over the course of the next two episodes, we quickly learn Topher's motivation and his backstory. He was in the lab working as a janitor during the explosion that killed Molly's parents. Molly's powers manifested themselves inside of her due to the rocks her parents found from Jonah's dig site. Topher, on the other hand, took rocks from the lab after the explosion and has been on the hunt for more ever since, finding some in dumpsters. A substance from the rocks is how he gets his powers. Treating the substances like a drug, when he sees Molly, he presumably believes he'll be able to find more rocks. He does, and heads to the dig site to retrieve them. For Topher, the rocks have allowed him to stay younger; he lies to the Runways, telling them his parents abandoned him when he really left home after his powers, along with his anger, put his father in a wheelchair. Both of these elements reflect Topher's comic origin, but add a twist. Thinking he may expose them, the Runaways track Topher to his house, where he is begging his family to return home. They learn all about his true story, and in a fit of rage, he throws a dumpster, which Chase deflects with the fistigons. The dumpster then nearly hits their car, which Gert is setting in, but in a final heroic act, Topher lets the dumpster land on him and dies.

In Runaways comic fandom, Topher isn't considered a major part of the story and isn't as liked a character compared to another interloper, the cyborg Victor Mancha. However, I think a major opportunity was squandered here by not expanding Topher's storyline and the amount of episodes he was in, even if that is mostly due to the fact of how great newcomer Jan Luis Castellanos is on-screen, instead of the fact that the character is interesting enough to deserve that expansion. Still, the potential was there for greater things.

Enter Xavin

Xavin is probably the top comic book character fans wanted to appear in the Runaways television series. This is why, after seeing trailers, fans jumped to conclusions that 13 Reasons Why star Ajiona Alexus, who portrays Alex's love interest Livvie, would be Xavin, given her prominent inclusion on the promotional material. But audiences were in for a shocker.

During the search for Karolina, Xavin travels through a couple of different bodies before landing in that of a young black woman, portrayed with a quiet ease by Clarissa Thibeaux. Like Topher, many of Xavin's comic book origins remain the same, but other aspects are altered. In the comics, Xavin is a shape-shifting Skrull (a race that will be super important in March's Captain Marvel), but for the television series, Xavian is Xartan (a race that has connections to the upcoming Chloe Zhao-directed movie The Eternals). In the comics, Karolina is essentially given away by her parents in an arranged marriage to stop a war between Karolina's alien race and the Skrulls. In a similar fashion in the series adaptation, Xavin is a stowaway and believes they are a part of a prophecy to marry Karolina and that this would unite their worlds. When Jonah finds them on the ship, it seems like he went along with the prophecy for some time because Xavin's skills were needed to get them to Earth and above the surface. But after Jonah and his family are free, there is no need for Xavin. Thibeaux is great in the series, and this portrayal of Xavin is extremely fun. In Season 3, there's a ton of potential for Xavin as a non-binary superhero.

Multiple Moles

In the comic books, there is one main mole: Alex Wilder. In the pages of Marvel Comics, Alex learned about the Pride's plans early on and decided to protect his family by saving them in both groups' plans. For the series, it would be very, very predictable for Alex to be the mole given the comic book history and the fact that there was a very big hole early in the first season that could have provided a super logical reason for why Alex is the traitor. So in Season 2, there isn't just one traitor, none of them are truly betraying the group, and a lot of them don't really know how they are negatively impacting the group. The most notable of the moles in the first half of the season is Karolina, who has been meeting with Jonah in an effort to learn more about herself and her abilities. However, as she leaks information to Jonah, he uses this to hold over Leslie's head.

For the second half of the season, we have Chase, who willingly chooses to go home and leave the group. This is mostly due to his father seemingly returning to his old form and the yearning to have his father and family back. But when he decides to go home, it's actually a trap by the Pride to slowly get all of the children back. Aside from those major two, there are a few minor moles, too, with Gert posing as Chase in a hospital to get Janet on the scene and Alex, via his relationship with Livvie, getting into some interactions with his own parents.

What Works Best and What Doesn’t Quite Work

While the season is stellar overall, there are a few potholes. Just as Topher is wasted, the character of Darius (DeVaughn Nixon) is also underutilized. If you remember correctly, we saw Darius during Season 1, and he has a potentially deadly grudge against his old Geoffrey Wilder, who sold him out to get his own freedom. Darius returns in Season 2 and negotiates a deal with Alex, who wants to get revenge on his parents, their mutual enemy. While Alex develops a relationship with Darius' niece, Livvie, the real relationship is the wise uncle/older brother relationship that Darius has with Alex, despite the fact that he's actually betraying Alex, because he's using the runaway to make an even better deal with the Wilders to turn Alex over to them. When they temporarily get Alex back, Catherine doesn't trust Darius, and in a two-birds-one-stone move, kills Darius and frames him for the murder of Destiny Gonzalez, the Pride's sacrifice in Season 1 which the kids witnessed. Child-actor-turned young adult star Nixon is a bright spot portraying the hustler with a heart of gold, which is why it would have been great to see more of him. But there is heavy emotional impact here due to the way Darius died and the fact that the audience probably came around to the character right before his death. So this is different from the character of Topher, who more than likely does not carry the same emotional toll on viewers.

There's also AWOL, a character and storyline that doesn't quite make sense. AWOL, a rogue corrupted cop, is stuck in an uninteresting plotline, although newcomer Myles Bullock is uber-compelling as a bad boy villain. He ends up in the Runaways story as he takes over for the first cop on The Pride's payroll. But the fact that he nor the corrupt cop storyline does much for the main story at hand makes all of this feel like a waste of time – time that could have instead been devoted to the several strong moments of the season. In short, there should have been more Darius and way less AWOL.

Speaking of the several strong moments of the season, eventually there would need to be some internal lines drawn in the Runaways and the Pride, and Chase's defection isn't as good as that of Leslie Dean, who somehow ends up pregnant with another alien child and in the care of the Runaways. The whole Scientology-esque storyline of the Church of Gibborim is meaty material for the always-fantastic Annie Wersching and is a highlight of the season. Another huge highlight was the L.A. dichotomy and culture shock for Alex in comparison to Darius, Livvie, and Tamar. There is a storyline here of black family and black community, the way they interact with each other, and how, despite having not good intentions, the family takes Alex in as one of their own while he's on the run. Though Darius was killed off, I'm hoping more of this can be seen in Season 3.

Then we have the Minorus, with excellent performances from both Brittany Ishibashi and Lyrica Okano. One of the best parts about the season was that it began to expand the Minoru women's powers further from reality. Before Season 2, Karolina's alien lineage was the only aspect of the Runaways original story that retained most of its "out there" elements. Even Molly's powers as a mutant are more grounded in reality than they should be. But with the Staff of One and Nico, we got the witch we deserve in Season 2.

A Black Panther Mention and Possible Doctor Strange Connection?

Black Panther crossed over to California a little bit during the blockbuster film, and for Season 2 of the Cali-set Runaways, there was a Wakanda mention when Alex mentions that he could have hidden Livvie's phone in the mountains of the technologically-advanced African nation.

But in a more direct and possibly true storyline-connected crossover, there is a very, very good chance Nico has access to the dark dimension seen in Doctor Strange. In a showdown with her parents (one of whom was inhabited by Jonah's alien daughter), Nico suddenly gets access to extreme power and the area around her eyes become cracked. This is similar to how Kaecilius got power from Dormammu in Doctor Strange. As stated before, the Staff of One is becoming less and less grounded in reality, not the work of science as Tina stated in Season 1. So the Minoru women could have access to the Dark Dimension, and after all, a version of Tina Minoru did appear in Doctor Strange anyway.

Multiple Hosts and a Season 3 Setup With New Squads

At the end of Season 2, both the Runaways and the Pride's plans have been turned upside down. They thought they destroyed Jonah and his family, but the aliens actually inhabited new hosts. Establishing a sort of "new Pride," Jonah is now in Victor's body, his wife is in the body of Stacey Yorkes, Tina Minoru is one of their children, and they've kidnapped Janet, Chase, and Karolina as potential sacrifices. Constantly fighting off the actual Victor, Stacey, and Tina, they are also looking for their son, who has not been found yet. (A current theory is that he's in one of the kids.) As for the other Pride members, after being set up for murder by Alex, the Wilders are arrested. Dale, scared of Stacey and scared for Gert's safety, kidnaps her and heads on a cross-country road trip. Robert Minoru is still wondering what's off with Tina. Could he team up with kids like another Pride member?

Speaking of the kids, with Karolina, Chase, and Gert MIA, this just leaves just Alex, Molly, and Nico to return back to the hostel, joined by Xavin and a pregnant Leslie Dean, leaving this group as the new "Runaways" headed into Season 3. This means that the junior outing for the show already has a lot of ground to cover as the other Runaways need to be saved, the Pride still has to fight off their alien inhabiters, and both the Runaways and The Pride still need to save earth from Jonah and his alien family.

Runaways season 2 is currently available on Hulu.