With the third episode of Marvel’s Runaways set to premiere tomorrow night on Showcase, here’s a review of the best new show on TV you probably aren’t watching.
Runaways is a mix of Riverdale, The OC, and The Defenders. Runaways was adapted for Hulu (Showcase in Canada) by Josh Schwartz (Chuck, Gossip Girl, The OC) and Stephanie Savage from Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s comic series that always felt like The Breakfast Club meets the kid Avengers kind of vibe. The show has changed the premise of the comic a bit but not by much.
Runaways involve 6 former childhood friends who have been driven apart in recent years by a loss in the group. The show takes place in California and shows the characters growing into superheroes rather than hormones like most regular teenagers. Their biggest challenge isn’t going be getting good grades or picking the perfect outfit for prom. It’s the fact their parents are supervillains and have been sacrificing teenage girls in their basement.
It’s a solid premise and the creators have no problem cutting their teeth into the angst-ridden world of the Runaways. They’ve had plenty of practice. Unfortunately, the pilot is a little shaky with some questionable acting and poor pacing but there’s a significant change in the second episode. This show has some serious potential if you can look past the slow pilot episode. Introducing six characters isn’t the easiest task but the show does do a good job painting them in a broad stroke initially and diving in after.
The first thing you’ll notice about the young cast is it’s very multicultural and diverse and that’s a great thing. There’s been no “white-washing” of the original comic. We have the goth Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), the hot blonde Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), the jacked jock Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), the young one with the coolest powers Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta), social justice warrior Gertrude “Gert” Yorkes (Ariela Barer) and the geeky Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz). Yes, these characters would fit nicely in a John Hughes movie and their scenes together are really fun. It will probably never happen but watching these kids take a trip to New York to see Spider-Man and pals would make for some great high school hijinx.
The young cast look and feel like real high school characters and have outstanding chemistry. Sure, it’s not as good as the cast of Stranger Things but you do get the sense that these characters have a deep shared history. There are plenty of Whedon-esque one-liners thrown in here that makes it feel like it is, in fact, part of the Marvel Universe. Otherwise, the show doesn’t really connect to the MCU at all. Perhaps this will change as the show goes on, and I hear there’s a Dr. Strange reference in episode 3 but I didn’t pick up on anything in the first two episodes.
Upon watching the first two episodes I went back and read some of the comics. For the most part, Runaways feels very much like Vaughan’s original comic book. There are a few changes such as adding Nico’s dead sister Amy, the Church of Gibborim has been added (comic fans will know the reference). Molly is a bit older than I was expecting but is still very naive and her parents are also not present. Of all the characters Chase feels the most different and I’m ok with that. He’s got a sensitive jock angle in the show that works with the rest of the group.
If you’re still not sold Spike (James Marsters) from Buffy The Vampire Slayer plays the villain, Victor Stein and has killer lines like: “If you were really afraid of me, you’d be getting an A.” That right there is worth watching for alone. I really like how the show is fleshing out the parents and their evil organization “The Pride” as the comics kept it more of a mystery and there’s a lot of creative freedom to pull from. Giving the parents a meatier role will allow for a bit of humanity and much more backstory.
Pilot episodes are tough to pull off. I’ll admit this show would have been probably better had it all been released at once. It seems edited that way and I wonder if plans changed at some point? I’m eager to catch episode 3 tomorrow and see where the show goes next. It’s worth giving the Runaways a shot. Its got the makings of a really great show and the 10 episode season means we should hopefully get a really tight first season.
Runaways airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on Showcase in Canada and Tuesday’s on Hulu in the States.
Pay attention to the kick-ass intro titles as it gives some hints to what power each of the kids have!