hulu, MCU, TV Shows

Review: Marvel’s Runaways Delivers an Epic and Emotional Season 1 ***Spoilers***

Runaways is:

Every teenager thinks their parents are evil. But what if they really were? When six L.A. teens stumble onto a terrible secret, they realize their parents have been lying to them all their lives. But what are their parents after? And why? While the kids investigate, the adults start to wonder if their kids are hiding secrets of their own. The parents close in on the truth just as the kids uncover a plan with devastating consequences. Now, this unlikely crew of teenagers must band together to stop their parents before it’s too late.

Who’s in it: Rhenzy Feliz (Teen Wolf), Gregg Sulkin (Faking It), Virginia Gardner (Project Almanac), Lyrica Okano (The Affair), Ariela Barer (New Girl), Allegra Acosta (100 Things to Do Before High School) & James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Where/When to Watch it: Series premieres Tuesday, November 21st exclusively on Hulu

As you can tell from the score, I enjoyed the hell out of this show.

The acting is solid across the board, and I like Gert and Alex far better in the show than I ever did in the comics, so big props to Rhenzy and Ariela for that.  Nico was always a compelling character, and Lyrica Okano kills it in the role!  I hope the showrunners really open her character up to more supernatural aspects moving forward, but for now, we’re off to a great start.  One of my favorite scenes of the season was her making it snow in her mom’s office.

That being said, if you’re looking for a direct translation of the comic series, you’re going to be disappointed.  What serves the show well is that the comics are oft-beloved but not that well known.  I’ve read the comics, and this was quite a bit different.  Runaways isn’t one of those titles that brings with it decades of material that can loosely be adapted the way that Iron Man, Spider-Man, or The Avengers do.  The origin for this group is pretty straight forward, and maybe one of the coolest origin stories that Marvel has produced.

The premise is simple: a group of kids discover that their parents’ charity is a front for a villainous organization. The kids have to band together and take out their supervillain parents, but the kids have gained their parents’ abilities/legacies, from mutant & alien abilities to magical artifacts and tech to knowledge and skills.

While the show brings enough of this history with it to the small screen, it also offers enough of a difference to keep even the most informed readers guessing throughout the ten episodes.

The most notable difference comes in the series’ villain, Jonah, played by one-time Dr. Doom, Julian McMahon.  I have mixed feelings about Jonah.  For one, he didn’t exist in the comics and was created for this show to mix things up and throw off readers.  His introduction does one major thing: it changes the role that the parents play.

To rewind a bit, the comic book story follows six couples that form an allegiance with a group of ancient and powerful beings called the Gibborim.  The 100-foot giants with exaggerated features looked cool on a comic page, but were likely left out because they would look ridiculous on the screen.  The Gibborim enlist said couples to help them end humanity on the earth, giving them wealth and power and influence, and agreeing that the 6 that serve them best will rule with them when all is said and done.  Naturally, when the Steins have Chase, things change, and the parents continue to do the bidding of these creatures, allowing that their six kids will inherit the ruling spots and the parents will be wiped out with the rest of us.

It’s also worth noting here that the original parents were a collection of aliens, time travelers, mad scientists, warlocks, mutants, and gangsters.

The series replaces the Gibborim creatures with the cult-like religion led by Leslie Dean, the Church of Gibborim, and the creatures’ influence with Jonah, who appears to be the only alien and the prophesied enlightened one that the church was founded around.  Jonah fulfills the role of giving the parents that serve him power so long as they make an annual sacrifice to him and use their influence to buy land and dig a giant hole.  (Yes, really.)

While many of the adults are vile and horrible people that have done terrible things to each other, their kids, or others in general, there are those among them that are sympathetic, like Gert’s parents.  Or Molly’s.  Though, by the end of the first season, each parent, for the most part, has a moment of clarity and redemption that sets them up as allies to the kids, all united against the true villain, Jonah, to whom they have all proven to be pawns of.  This didn’t happen in the comics.  The parents remained villains, and while their intentions were originally altruistic, they went to their deaths defending them.

However, the real trick here is that the parents are all weak without Jonah.  The series doesn’t bestow the same tricks to them.  Karolina’s alien heritage (if that’s what she truly remains) isn’t because of her parents at all, who are just humans, but from her mother’s affair with Jonah.  Nico’s Staff of One isn’t a magical artifact from the world of Dr. Strange, either, but explained away as a technological advancement…which I hope is just a lie as it seems way too ridiculous to just be the case.  Who designs a piece of tech that uses blood as an on/off switch?  It doesn’t make sense.  Gert’s parents are time travelers, either, but geneticists that are able to clone Old Lace (the dinosaur).  And while nobody expected Molly to be a mutant, her parents were another example of the nerfdom that the ‘rents all suffered from.

Don’t get me wrong, Jonah is a terrifying villain, and he has everyone in his grip.  But season one did little to showcase his plan or give any real enlightenment to who or what he is.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as I’ve stated before how, in the comics, the first story was really the best one for The Runaways.  Everything went down hill from there, so letting that initial story drag on while peppering it with sexual tension and teen angst only serves the show better.

I can imagine that season 2 will give us more of the same, while hopefully showing the kids finding sanctuary in Victor Stein’s abandoned lab beneath the tar pits, riding around in the Leap Frog (often talked about, but never shown), learning of Karolina’s alien heritage, and discovering that whatever living entity that Jonah is trying to reclaim at the bottom of his secret hole may be a semblance of the original Gibborim, after all.

Or this show could take a giant crap at the end of Season 2 like Sleepy Hollow did, having spent its entire original premise and trying to find some weird-ass direction to head as a result.  I think, rather, this first season is more like the first season of Preacher, having spent season 1 as a grand setup to the narrative that fans are used to while allowing for certain deviances along the way.  As for now, let’s just say that Runaways is the best first season of any Marvel show to date and has the potential to be the best show that the House of M has produced.  I rank it up there with Agents of SHIELD & Daredevil, but to be fair, SHIELD didn’t get good until halfway through its initial season (after most had already given up on it).

We’ll have to wait for that, but at least we know that the series was given an official season 2 pickup.

What are your thoughts on Runaways?  Let us know below.

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