‘Marvel’s Runaways’ Review: Teenagers with Super Problems

X-Men meets Riverdale in Marvel’s new television series.
Marvels Runaways
By  · Published on November 28th, 2017

X-Men meets Riverdale in Marvel’s new television series.

Hulu has entered the Marvel comics adaptation sphere with their new series based off of Marvel’s Runaways. Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, Runaways follows a group of teenagers with special abilities that discover their parents are part of an evil syndicate known as “Pride.” Runaways can draw comparisons to a lot of other teenage shows that are on the air currently and most obviously showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage previous shows, The O.C. and Gossip Girl. Unfortunately, only half of the ensemble cast is interesting in this teenage drama.

It’s been quite some time since Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz) hung out with his close friends. He grew up with the same group of children throughout the years due to their parents being in a charity society. The death of Amy Minoru, the older sister of Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano) led to a falling out among the kids. Outside of Alex, Nico, and Amy, the other children include; Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Gert Yorkes (Ariela Barer), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), and Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta).

Outside of each of the children representing different superpowers, they are also characterized by their social class in school. There’s the jock, the nerd, the goth, a very similar social structure that has been played out time and time again. It is extremely easy to draw comparisons to The Breakfast Club when it comes to the children. The cast of this show is huge since that doesn’t even begin to cover the principal actors in Runaways. Each of the children’s parents (minus Molly) have recurring roles as well. The standouts among the parents include Leslie Dean (Annie Wersching), the leader of the cultish Church of Gibborim, and Alex’s parents (Angel Parker and Ryan Sands) who are a high-powered lawyer and reformed crime lord in a happy marriage.

On the eve of an upcoming Pride meeting, Alex’s parents encourage Alex to bring the group back together. This is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. Luckily though, fate brings them all together at Alex’s house to try bringing the group back together one more time. When they try to steal their parent’s liquor, they discover a hidden passage into another part of Alex’s house. That’s where their parents are holding a sacred ritual where they sacrifice a runaway teenager for a supposed greater good. When the children discover what their parents are up too, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between the parents and their children on discovering what everyone seems to know about Pride.

While the first episode covers introducing the children, the second episode rewinds time to earlier in that day as each of the parents is preparing for Pride in their own fashion. Similar to how Hulu premiered The Handmaid’s Tale, they dropped three episodes on the first day and have since aired the fourth.

Each of the parents has their own special skills to provide towards Pride, outside of the financial security each one of them brings to the table. These families are extremely well off. Leslie is tasked with providing the sacrifice. She takes children who have come to her church for a place to go after running away from their families. These are kids no one cares about and they have no family, perfect opportunity to make them disappear without a trace. Chase’s father, Victor Stein, is a gifted engineer who develops the tools needed to proceed with Pride’s mission to make runaway children disappear. The episode ends in the same place as the first episode, but some more details have been revealed. The sacrifice didn’t disappear as intended and is still alive in the box, while Alex’s parents have discovered that one of the children has been near the secret entrance.

The third and fourth episodes continue to build out the world and its characters. One of the major changes from the comic series to a television show is that Karolina Dean’s father, Frank Dean, is not part of Pride. He was a successful actor for a time, but that has slowed down with his involvement in the church, which he has no financial stake in. He begins to wonder what exactly is going on with his wife and her mysterious meditation sessions. Leslie uses these sessions in a room straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a deformed figure that would seem to be the true head of Pride. Apparently, he needs the “light” or power each one of these Runaways contains in order to continue his life. Now not only are the children trying to find out exactly what their parents are involved in but so is Frank Dean.

There are some other notable events that occur during these episodes including the introduction of the Yorkes dinosaur. That’s right a dinosaur. Gert’s parents work in genetic engineering and have made a dinosaur that they just keep secret in their basement. Even stranger the dinosaur seems to have some kind of psychic link to Gert since it follows all of her commands. The kids also discover that this most recent sacrifice wasn’t a one-off and that their parents have been killing runaways for the past seventeen years. Someone has a lot of explaining to do.

Marvel’s Runaways has very little to do with any of their other properties or even the shows that have aired on Netflix. Runaways has a lot more in common with The CW’s Riverdale. Outside of both series being based on graphic novels, they also both put a lot of focus on the relationships of both the parents and the children. Where Riverdale succeeds and Runaways misses is that none of the parents in Runaways are all that interesting and some of them are cringe-worthy. Every time Gert’s parents or Nico’s parents have the screen to themselves it is almost torturous to watch. Gert’s are comically stupid despite being these bionic engineering geniuses and Nico’s are in a failing relationship that includes using techniques from Fifty Shades of Grey.

The children are the most interesting thing about Marvel’s Runaways and that would be wonderful except they are only half of what Runaways brings to the table with its narrative. There’s a ton of time spent away from the most interesting characters instead of focusing on the infidelity and stupidity each of the parents’ displays. There are still plenty of things we don’t know including the other children’s special abilities, who the man in the mediation room actually is, and what actually happened to Nico’s sister. There’s enough here to keep turning in, but hopefully the focus shifts to the children more in the upcoming episodes. That’s when Runaways really shines.

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