Marvel’s Runaways is, as the headline suggests, probably the most original superhero show I’ve seen in a while. And that is partly because it doesn’t have any superheroes. You don’t see any world shattering events here, nor do we get the cheesy melodrama that many people associate with these shows (thanks, CW). What you get here is a pure, insightful drama. One which uses the staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its advantage while also not creatively stuck by it.
After the success of Avengers, Marvel ventured into television, starting with Agent of SHIELD and then expanding into Netflix with the Defenders. And so when you come to think about it, Runaways doesn’t look like the kind of show which would draw in that kind of an audience. The kind which likes action more than compelling characters.
Runaways follows the lives of six teenagers who realize that their parents are up to some bad schemes. So what’s next ? They team up to crack the case, obviously! Now, it’s easy to get behind a show when you are well-versed in the source material, and that much harder when you aren’t. I’ll admit, I knew next to nothing about the Runaways when I started binging, and it certainly has piqued my interest.
Before anything else, let me clear one thing : Yes, it is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and no, it does not overly rely on the fact that it is. Like the other shows set in the MCU, it’s free to take advantage of the fact that people in this world have seen weirder stuff happen.
The show has quite an ensemble cast, with the focus never sitting on just one person. While it would have been easy to show us just the perils the kids face and painting their parents as the ultimate evil, the show never takes that easy route. Each character here has a purpose. All of them have justifiable reasons to do what they’re doing. Yes, even the oh so evil parents.
To say a couple good words about the cast would just be a blunder. All of them give such believable performances that it becomes hard to pick a favorite just from the acting ability. While the kids here are the spotlight, the show also focuses on the parents. More so than you’d expect. We get glimpses into each of their lives including the stuff that you wouldn’t expect from a comic book show of this stature. Marital problems, sexual affairs, domestic abuse, teens discovering their sexuality … it’s all there. So don’t pass this off as a ‘kids’ show’ just yet.
Oh, and you’re gonna recognize some faces here who’ve worked in the superhero genre before. Among those being James Marsters & Julian McMahon. Ring a bell? Marsters played a very well defined villain in Braniac from Smallville, while McMahon played the evil Dr. Doom from the 2005 Fantastic Four movie. Both stars return to showcase their penchant for evil here, with Marsters in particular stealing the highlight. Clearly, Marvel knows how to cast good actors.
The rest of the parents are also given equal importance. The themes I mentioned before are dealt heavily regarding said characters. They’re never really portrayed as being evil for evil’s sake. They do have their reasons (albeit not totally justifiable) for all the horrible things they seem to be doing. I can’t testify to the faithfulness towards the source material though, seeing as how I am lacking in knowledge of that. But the dinosaur’s there ! So there’s that.
And now let’s come to the kids. The eventual ‘Runaways’. I say eventual because, well, the show takes a long time to pursue that dynamic. The initial episodes kinda set up the overall status quo of the group, instantly telling the viewer that something is wrong. We don’t get our heroes being the best of friends from the very start. I won’t say any more than that, but suffice to say the show does provide a good mystery to an already mysterious-in-premise show. Or at least one whose details most of the characters know about and the audience doesn’t.
This dual nature of mysterious has its’ own set of perks and problems. The primary one, that is, the one hidden by the parents, is great. It provides a compelling experience for you, the viewer, to remain seated on that couch and click on the “Play next episode” button. The other however, is sort which will likely make you pull your hair in frustration. We get characters willingly hiding information from others just for the sake of drama. And that, is stupid. Especially stupid when it’s done just to create drama & not be organic character actions.
And finally, coming to the protagonists. They did a good job. And that’s quite an understatement. Giving each character their own sense of identity was a nicely achieved feat. And while I might have some issues with how some of them & their arcs were handled, I most certainly don’t blame any of the actors here. Thumbs up to each and everyone here.
And so after a delightful first season, the wait for the show’s sophomore run begins…