Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

TV’s so-called golden age has left us with an embarrassment of wealth, meaning you’re just as likely to miss a gem when you see 5,000 versions of the same dumb premise. runaways, which debuted its first three episodes on Hulu last week, is one of those hidden gems you’ll want to find. Based on a much-loved comic by Brian K. Vaughan (saga and Y: The Last Man), it is the story of six teenagers who discover that their parents are part of a secret super-villain organization called Pride. The series takes this premise in fascinating new directions, delivering a surprisingly nuanced exploration of adolescent rebellion as a battle against adult corruption.

Slight spoilers ahead.

As for the recent TV rate for comic books, runaways belongs in the same camp as Legion, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Like these other series, runaways is character driven and has already developed a signature style that captures the “good guy vs. bad guy” tropes of more conventional (albeit delightful) superhero series such as super girl and The flash. Created by Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl, the OC) and Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, Chuck), runaways seems to exist somewhere between the heightened reality of a clever high school drama and the tech-meets-magical world of Tony Stark. The first episode takes the time to introduce our characters and make sure we know who they are as people before we find out what makes them extraordinary.

Memorable, multi-layered characters

Case in point: We meet Molly (Allegra Acosta) when she clumsily tries to do a dance tryout while on her first period — and while she’s having the worst cramps of her life. What follows is a series of nimble, funny/sad scenes where we realize that part of Molly’s pain comes from missing her mother who died in a car accident a long time ago. But Molly also tries to deal with her adoptive hippie mother, who gives her herbs for cramping instead of sweet, sweet ibuprofen. We get a concrete idea of ​​who Molly is and why she’s dealing with more than just teenage anxiety. That’s right about the time when she cramps again, her eyes glow yellow, and she bends a metal bed frame with her bare hands.

During the first three episodes, we meet each character in the same way: person first, super creature second. Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) is the nerd still recovering from his friend’s death two years ago (but who is also a natural leader). Niko (Lyrica Okano) is a grumpy goth Wiccan who, like Alex, mourns the death of her sister (but she also has real supernatural powers). Karolina (Virginia Gardner) is the reluctant “millennial face” of her mother’s sect, the Church of Gibborim (but sometimes her arms dematerialize into rainbow sparkles). Chase (Gregg Sulkin) is the abused jock son of a brilliant mad scientist (but he’s secretly a gifted engineer himself). And Gert (Ariela Barer) is the purple-haired SJW who can never get anyone to join her feminist club (but thankfully, the dinosaur living in her basement obeys her every command). They were all best friends, but high school drove them apart.

Now something has brought them back together. In part, it was a lonely Alex, who sent them all an invitation to hang out while their parents have another Pride gathering in the basement. But after accidentally catching a glimpse of what the Pride gatherings really are, they’re bound by a shared secret. Their parents are bad and they have to do something to stop them.

Realistic Evil

Except, to the credit of this show, that premise is instantly complicated. Unlike the comic book, which focuses exclusively on the teenagers, the show also invites us into the personal lives of their parents. We get to know them – each exceedingly successful in their chosen careers – and discover that they are not particularly zealous in their evil. Actually, they were all hoping to get out of Pride, but then something went terribly wrong. Rather than being super villains, these parents are more corrupt salesmen who have traded their ethics for mansions and luxury biotech labs.

Still, there’s a certain amount of super villains going on, as well as black magic, mad science, and a huge dose of no-nonsense about human life. With Alex’s somewhat dopey guidance, the teens forge a new alliance to find out exactly what Pride has been up to all these years. Their quest has an urgency beyond plot twists. runaways makes us care about these characters very quickly, thanks to great acting and writing. Even if they weren’t dealing with superpowers, they would be interesting, versatile people.

Their battle would also be interesting. It’s rare for an adventure show to recognize the depth and complexity of teenage relationships, but runaways does an excellent job, evoking the rocky history and real emotional bonds of these characters. Like their parents, these teens struggle with forces greater than themselves. But they still have the chance to make better choices.

Of course, the series also delivers the action. Alex and his friends may be dealing with weighty questions of grief and responsibility, but they’re also coping with having super strength and much weirder talents. Plus, they have to lie to their parents about something much bigger than sneaky alcohol. Best of all, the show never suggests that the teens’ powers reveal who they “really” are, a la X-Men. Gert’s dinosaur and Karolina’s stardust arms are just strange curves in a much longer path. And it’s a road that runaways made me want to follow it all the way to the end.

New episodes air on Hulu every Tuesday.

List image by Hulu

By akfire1

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