Marvel's first series on Hulu is adapting one of the comic publisher's cult classics, and the latest episode teased it will be very faithful to the source material.
Runaways' sixth episode, called "Metamorphosis," revealed Karolina is finally starting to be honest with the person she wants to be and is attempting to carve out her own identity, unburdened from her mother's expectations. Part of that deals with her affections for her friend Nico.
The series stars and showrunners confirmed the romantic implications for the series during discussions with EW, teasing how it would complicate the different relationships that have developed over the show's first season.
"It was a story that we always were going to tell,” said executive producer Josh Schwartz. “It was obviously hugely important to the comic, hugely important to the actors playing those parts. It was something that they really wanted to make sure we were exploring as well. We wanted to get there from a place of real emotion.”
For Karolina, she's never lived her life as an out woman, though she didn't realize that was who she was until after the show begins. At this point in the series, she is still being pursued by Chase Stein, who even attempts to kiss her in the latest episode.
"I think for Karolina, she doesn’t realize that’s how she feels at the beginning of this because the six of them have all lost touch, and we reconnect," said Virginia Gardner, who plays Karolina, "and then I meet Destiny, the runaway in the pilot, and she says some stuff about running away, and having freedom and rebelling that plants something in me that’s like, 'Oh, maybe I can try to be my own person now and not just please my parents.'
"Then, as time goes on, I experiment with Chase a little bit, and I’m kind of like, 'Oh, that didn’t really make me happy, and I’ve always been really drawn to Nico,' and then shortly after that, I realize like, 'Oh, Chase isn’t what I want. Nico is who I want, and I’m in love with Nico, and I’m not afraid to honor that now.'"
But her budding relationship with Nico is also complicated by the fact that she is just beginning to explore her bond with Alex, who has long had affections for his Wiccan friend.
"Nico was very much apart from all of her other friends, more so because she was the one who was very keen on isolating herself from the others," said Lyrica Okano, who plays Nico. "But then Alex made himself available to her from the very beginning, and she’s always had a crush on Alex, and Alex has always had a crush on Nico. So it’s very convenient, they care for each other a lot.
"But then something happens which causes Nico to sort of distrust Alex once again, and that is when Karolina pops up and is like, 'Hey, girl, this is how I be feeling, and do you feel the same way?' And I’m like, 'I don’t know, but let’s play around with this.'"
The relationship between Nico and Karolina is one of the few LGBTQ romances explored in a Marvel movie or television show.
Carrie-Anne Moss' character on Jessica Jones, Jerri Hogarth, was a married woman cheating on her wife with her secretary. Her wife later died due to manipulations by Kilgrave.
In Agents of SHIELD, a new Inhuman named Joey Guitierrez briefly joined the team, only to quit and return to a normal life after just a few episodes.
Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie was played as bisexual in Thor: Ragnarok, though a scene that confirmed her sexuality was later cut from the finished film. But so far, those are the only instances of LGBTQ inclusion in Marvel TV and film.
The fact that Runaways isn't shying away from the classic comic book storyline is promising for fans of the source material, even if Nico and Karolina's journey doesn't go the same way. Runaways is doing something different that has yet to be explored in a Marvel series, while honoring the story that die-hard fans would expect to see.
New episodes of Marvel's Runaways air every Tuesday on Hulu.