Marvel’s Runaways: Escapism At Its Very Best

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Marvel's Runaways

I am not one of those folks that subscribes to the whole “superhero fatigue” thing. I believe, if done well, any Marvel (or DC television) series has the potential to reel in new eyeballs.

Naturally, a new show must bring something unique to the mix, in order to keep the genre from becoming stale. That said, I will confess that hearing Marvel’s Runaways described as The O.C./Gossip Girl meets Stranger Things did little to peak my interest. Then again, I’m not really the show’s demographic… just a Marvel geek. Although Runaways does share the same creative team as The O.C. and Gossip Girl (Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage), I’m here to tell you this series is so much more than spoiled rich kids behaving badly.

While DC has found terrific success with its Arrowverse on The CW, Marvel has branched out quite a bit more with shows airing not only on Disney-owned ABC, but Netflix, FX, FOX, Freeform, and now Hulu. As a longtime MCU fan, and yes there have been missteps (I’m lookin’ at you Iron Fist and Inhumans), signing up for Hulu’s commercial-free option was a no-brainer. Had the pilot disappointed me, I would have simply canceled my free trial and never looked back. Sure, the first episode felt sluggish at times, as we got to know each character and learned about their falling out after Nico’s (Lyrica Okano) sister’s death. Nevertheless, the writing team did their job well because by the time our teen-hero’s parents were revealed as the show’s villains… I was undeniably hooked. We’ve got our fresh spin on the genre here, no question.

In keeping with the spirit of Gossip Girl, the cast is predictably “CW” pretty, only here they’re also ethnically diverse. Marvel gets trashed a ton for its cookie cutter characters, but to me, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven that Season 1’s characterizations were simply a jumping off point. If you still watch that series (and you should be watching), just look how far Skye/Daisy, Fitz-Simmons, Agent May and the others have come leading into Season 5.

There’s also an ongoing (very valid) complaint that super-villains are generally lame. Well, by introducing the Church of Gibborim and the criminal organization The PRIDE, Marvel has given us antagonists that are just as interesting and complex as our protagonists. Are they just trying to build a better world? What’s their true motivation?

Though I love comic book shows and movies, I wasn’t big into comics as a kid. Sure, I read a few here and there, but Marvel’s Runaways (first published in 2003) was never on my radar. Which, in a way, is great since not only do I not have a clue what’s in store, but also because the series will never suffer by comparison. There’s nothing more annoying than Game of Thrones fans pointing out where the show diverged from the source material. It’s a different medium guys, get over it.

Marvel's Runaways
Hulu

Anyway, since this show is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Molly (Allegra Acosta) has already displayed some superpowers, I’m assuming all the kids will develop abilities at some point. The writers should take their time developing those stories, after all we’ve got ten hours to fill.

Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) is probably my favorite character, as he appears to be the heart of the show. He’s the one who managed to reunite his childhood buddies though they’d drifted apart. Karolina’s (Virginia Gardner) storyline is super interesting and a first for the MCU. I’m not sure Marvel has tackled cults before, have they? Also, what’s the deal with the bracelet and those glowing lights?

Good thing studly “lacrosse player with a heart of gold,” Chase (Gregg Sulkin) was at that party and saved our mysterious pretty blonde from rapist jocks. Yes there are tropes to spare, but subverting those tropes is actually where the fun lies. Though he seems like your stereotypical dumb jock, Sulkin has promised Chase will be “more layered” than in the comics. Is he a genius like dear ‘ol dad?

Social activist Gert’s (Ariela Barer) crush on Chase got a little annoying, but I admit it did make for some funny scenes. I’m not sure she’s going to be one of my faves though.

Nico came across as bitter and nasty, but the death of her sister helped justify her behavior a bit. Don’t you think? I do think that Alex will ultimately reach Nico, perhaps making them more that just friends in the end.

As I mentioned, the parents’ arcs are going to be a blast to follow as well. James Marsters (Buffy) as Victor Stein is probably the most recognizable genre face and he does great work in the first two episodes. However, it was Geoffrey (Ryan Sands) and Catherine Wilder’s (Angel Parker) characters that drew me in the most. I’m curious to learn more about their relationship and Geoffrey’s conflicted attitude toward The PRIDE.

Marvel's Runaways
Hulu

Gert’s bio-engineering folks don’t come across as evil at all, right? What are Stacey (Brigid Brannagh) and Dale Yorkes (Kevin Weisman) really up to and what’s with the dino? Now, cult-leader Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), well that’s another story. She seems like the worst of the bunch: poor Destiny. Yeah, Leslie’s an easy character to despise. Actually Tina Minoru (Brittany Ishibashi), Nico’s ruthless CEO mom, is right up there as well. Bit of trivia for you, Tina’s the one Runaways character that has previously appeared in the MCU. Linda Louise Duan played Tina Minoru in a minor Doctor Strange role, as a Master of the Mystic Arts.

At this point, we’re still unsure where Marvel’s Runaways is headed. They’re dangling so many juicy morsels in front of us, yet we don’t know what the main course (or bigger picture) is. That’s okay, because where’s the fun in knowing the ending before starting the journey? From what I understand, even fans of the Runaways comics will be surprised by this television adaptation.

“Reunion” and “Rewind” were a wonderful introduction to the world and characters of Runaways. I loved that we revisited the events of the pilot from the parents’ point of view in Episode 2. What a trip! The mystery deepens with Episode 3, titled “Destiny,” and as more answers come to light the teens work together to figure out what their parents are up to… which is no good, of course.

Like all great television shows, Marvel’s Runaways has a fascinating cast of characters and a diabolical plot to solve. If these first few episodes are merely a taste of the quality of the series, we’re in for a delicious ride. I have a feeling the 10 episodes are going to fly by. Perhaps Hulu will order a few more for Season 2? Pretty please?!?

 

So, what did you think of Marvel’s Runaways? Are you in for the season? What’s your favorite storyline? Are you familiar with the comics or a newbie, like myself? Let’s discuss!

Marvel’s Runaways hits Hulu with new episodes at midnight on Tuesdays and airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Showcase in Canada.

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