“Smoke and Mirrors” finds Marvel’s Runaways in much the same state as we left it, with half of Pride having been possessed by aliens and half of the kids trapped inside their own dreams and nightmares.
This recap of Marvel’s Runaways Season 3, Episode 1, “Smoke and Mirrors”, contains spoilers.
We join the cast of Marvel’s Runaways for the third and final season only to be greeted by chaos. The Hostel is in disarray. Chase (Gregg Sulkin) wakes up to carnage. Pride plan to sacrifice Gert (Ariela Barer). He fights them off and saves her. But for how long? Elsewhere, Janet (Ever Carradine) is on the cover of Forbes and Victor (James Marsters) is making crepes. Karolina (Virginia Gardner) is marrying Nico (Lyrica Okano).
The aptly titled “Smoke and Mirrors” quickly reveals why all these illusions are happening: Janet, Chase, and Karolina are all in captivity, plugged into the algorithm, lost in their own subconsciouses, their dreams and nightmares.
Nico finds herself in a crow-themed purgatorial dreamworld where we get our first glimpse of Elizabeth Hurley as season villain Morgan le Fay. The kids who remain on the run are at the Hostel. You’ll recall that at the end of the previous season Jonah and his extraterrestrial family had possessed the bodies of Victor, Tina (Brittany Ishibashi) and Stacey (Brigid Brannagh). We get some helpful exposition about this courtesy of Xavin (Clarissa Thibeaux) as the kids watch the remainder of Pride give a damage-control speech on the news. Tina is possessed by the attention-seeking daughter; Stacey by Jonah’s wife. The son of the family, the darkest of them all, is still missing and could be inside anyone. Slowly, the alien takes over until the host personality is “extinguished”.
Runaways Season 3, Episode 1 quickly splits the team up for recon missions. Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) and Nico go to find Karolina and Chase; Molly (Allegra Acosta) and Xavin go to find Gert. Leslie (Annie Wersching), still heavily pregnant, is given the important duty of bed rest.
Dale (Kevin Weisman), by the way, is still holding Gert and Old Lace hostage, though it’s not quite as sinister as it sounds. Geoffrey (Ryan Sands) and Catherine (Angel Parker) are still in custody, and evidence against them is mounting up. I think that’s all of the cast accounted for.
The regular castmembers having been replaced by alien parasites is a fun way to have them play against type. Tina, especially, is a real riot as the self-obsessed, impulsive youngster of the group, and Stacey, previously comic-relief, plays a decently scary villain as the no-nonsense matriarch. Among other facts that’ll doubtlessly become more useful as the season progresses, we also learn that strong emotion can make a host personality resurface.
As “Smoke and Mirrors” progresses, Janet figures out she’s inside the algorithm and realizes she has to either find a way out or be broken out. She’s able to briefly crack a hole in the digital walls and catch a glimpse of Chase. Molly and Xavin, meanwhile, bond a little, with the latter explaining that while she doesn’t show emotion — since soldiers aren’t supposed to — she still experiences it. They even share an awkward hug.
Relationships among the aliens are not simple in Runaways Season 3, Episode 1. Stacey enters the algorithm to confront Karolina about her relationship with the magistrate, and while she reveals that Karoline is stuck in the algorithm, Karolina reveals that the magistrate is her father, which is news that Not-Stacey doesn’t take very well, sabotaging the program upon learning it. Guests at Karolina’s fantasy wedding start winking out of existence.
Alex tries to bypass security at the Stein house, but to little success, though he manages to convince Nico not to storm in all guns blazing. They need to regroup and arm themselves. He has an idea. In the meantime, Dale opens up to Gert, eventually freeing her, and Catherine confesses to killing Darius in order to protect Geoffrey and his criminal record. As we see almost all of Pride begin to feel genuine remorse now, Jonah’s alien family is being positioned as the chief antagonists. We also learn that Dale and Stacey gave Old Lace various abilities, including a telepathic connection with Gert. She can control her, but the first attempt ends with her running headlong into a tree and knocking herself unconscious.
Back at the Hostel, Alex is able to pull up security footage of Nico flipping out during last season’s finale and seriously injuring Robert (James Yaegashi). She doesn’t take the news well. Elsewhere, Victor and Stacey get a call from Gert, who reveals she’s the missing alien son.
Thanks to Alex’s tech wizardry, he and Nico are able to break into the Stein house and enter the algorithm, where Janet explains to Alex how to get them out. He’ll need to find the Abstract. Meanwhile, the alien family goes to pick up Gert, who it turns out is Xavin in disguise. She leads them to Molly, who confronts Stacey, and then on a merry chase as Molly is able to temporarily get through to her adoptive mother, who leaves, fearful of how long she can stave off the possession.
The alien fam returns home while Alex and Nico are still inside, and they’re forced to hide. Marvel’s Runaways Season 3, Episode 1 ends with Leslie going for a sonogram; the sonographer leaves the room in some distress, so Leslie has a look herself. She sees her unborn baby very clearly, its eyes glowing with alien energy.