Teenage angst has paid off well, and parental guidance is to be ignored. Hulu brings to life Brian K Vaughan’s fan-favorite Runaways.
This article contains plot points for Marvel’s Runaways Season One.
Marvel’s Runaways, which is a Hulu original, is based on the comic book written by award-winning writer Brian K. Vaughan with art by Adrian Alphona. Vaughan wanted to write a new comic book series set in the Marvel Universe, but as usual for Vaughan, he tried to avoid the same tropes as some of the other Marvel’s superhero stories. The setting is Los Angeles instead of New York. In the group, the females (4) outnumber the males (2), whereas it’s typically male-dominated. Also, the Runaways are all teenagers, between the ages of 14–17.
In the comics, the group of teens is friends by association. Their parents are part of a charity organization called Pride, which doubles as a super villain team of the same name. In the television series, the teens were friends in the past, but the death of a friend split them up to where they barely speak to one another. The relationships established in the comics are only hinted at in the series. The two coincide in a few random spots, but not enough to make reading the comics necessary. Although reading them is recommended not only for some extra added depth but also to enjoy the talents of Brian K. Vaughan, who is also one of the show’s advisers.
Meet the Runaways
Vaughan is known for having large groups of characters in his stories and Runaways is no exception. Keeping all of them straight can be a chore at first, because of the large number and their multiple moonlighting gigs. For clarity, the list of characters is as follows:
- Alex Wilder, who does not possess any powers but has a brilliant mind. He is also the leader of the group. His parents are Catherine, a lawyer, and Geoffrey, a self-made businessman who was a former gang member.
- Nico Minoru, second in command, is a goth-girl whose power is the Staff of One, which she obtains from her mother. Nico’s parents, Tina and Robert, are both tech innovators.
- Chase Stein is a high school lacrosse athlete. Chase builds what he calls Fistigons, gloves powerful enough to shoot bursts of energy. Victor, Chase’s father, is one of the world’s leading engineers but an abusive husband and dad. Janet, Chase’s mother, is a stay-at-home mom with a brilliant mind, her talents suppressed by her husband.
- Karolina Dean is a beautiful blonde and the focus of Chase’s attention. She learns that she is, in fact, an alien. Her mother, Leslie is the head of the Church of Gibborim, a cult-like religious group. Her father, Frank, was a teen heartthrob but is now a struggling actor. He is the only parent who is not a member of Pride.
- Gert Yorkes, a socially aware teen, is telepathically linked to a genetically engineered deinonychus (velociraptor in the comics) named Old Lace, developed by her bioengineer parents, Dale and Stacey.
- Molly Hernandez is the youngest member of the Runaways and is gifted with super-human strength and invulnerability, after being exposed to energy from a lab accident that claimed her parents’ lives. As a result, Molly was adopted by Dale and Stacey as a baby. She is notable for her unwavering positive attitude. Gert is Molly’s older sister, but they are not blood-related.
Is Marvel’s Runaways Season One Worth Watching?
Yes. Marvel’s Runaways season one benefited from ten episodes to tell the story, allowing the chemistry between the characters to grow and develop. If it was a film, as initially intended, the relationship between the teens would’ve been truncated. By the end of the season, two romantic couples blossom out of the group: Chase and Gert, and Karolina and Nico. This pair of couples differs from the comics, where Chase and Karolina and Nico and Alex were the ones who paired up. Adapted for television by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, Runaways was a mix of superhero film and teen drama. A commendable acting job by all members of the cast. One scene that is worth mentioning is a scene in “Metamorphosis” between Nico and her mother in which they are discussing Amy’s diary. Beneath the layers of confusion and mistrust, they are still mother and daughter mourning a death in the family. The emotions coming to the surface are real. The acting can come across as overly-melodramatic, however, but this comes with the territory; teenagers are dramatic by nature as every event has worldwide consequences. The young adult content might be a turn-off for some older fans, but then again Marvel’s Runaways is intended for younger audiences.
Marvel’s Runaways Season One Episode Guide
It’s an exciting concept and a slam dunk for two creators that are familiar with the angst-ridden worlds of The O.C. and Gossip Girl. The star of the premiere is Allegra Acosta as suddenly super-strong Molly Hernandez. Unfortunately, Marvel’s Runaways premiere has a bit of a first-year feel to it; a clumsy start, unsure exactly of its identity, more exciting in overall idea than in its execution.
The first episode starts very much like the first issue of the comic series, but it doesn’t take long for the story to veer away. How each character discovers their power is different, and it ends with Pride about to perform a human sacrifice. The sacrifice differs, too, in that in that instead of the teenage girl getting stabbed, she’s stripped down and put in an egg-like casket, which in the comics is a chest. The timetable for the comics is around 12 hours for the first six issues, while the show is more stretched out. “Reunion” ends with the kids discovering a secret passageway, and what they see downstairs will change the course of their lives from now on.
What “Rewind” does incredibly well is that it establishes the fact that Pride isn’t the typical mustache-twirling team of pure evil by retelling the events of the first episode from the parents’ point of view. When the six runaways stumbled upon their parents’ underground secret lair, it wasn’t the Legion of Doom. Pride is a group of human beings with faults, insecurities, and regrets of their own, coerced to carry out unpleasant tasks in service of someone or something.
What the episode lacks in revelations it makes up for in moving human moments. Janet Stein (Ever Carradine) sharing a secret call with another Pride member, because even antagonists have forbidden romances. Tina Minoru (Brittany Ishibashi) closing off her dead daughter’s room with a spell. Even the Yorkes, Stacy (Brigid Brannagh) and Dale (Kevin Weisman) having a proud-parent moment over the dinosaur that lives in their basement. Destiny, the girl taken in by the Church of Gibborim attempts to leave, but Leslie convinces her to stay until she reaches the stage of “Ultra.”
After two episodes of purposeful set-up, Marvel’s Runaways drops its hair with some pure comic book craziness. At this point, nothing is revealed about Pride, or why Molly suddenly has super-human strength, or why Karolina lights up like a glow stick whenever she takes her bracelet off. And there is a deinonychus locked up in the Yorkes’ basement or why would it have a nose ring in the first place.
In-between all the awkward banter that rivals a Howard Hawke’s film in its rapid-fire exchange, Marvel’s Runaways continues to pile on the mysteries onto an already flaming pile of question marks.
However, the show never lose its foundation. During their ocean-side meeting to discuss what to do after finding out their parents are murderers, Gert still offers to teach Chase Spanish. “I have flashcards.” It’s just such a perfect microcosm of this show’s charm, of comic books, and life. With the weight of the world hanging in the balance, there’s still always going to be a test to cram for. In the wake of their daughter Amy’s death, Tina and Robert try to deal with their deteriorating marriage.
The undeniable charisma of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s comic series came from the runaways themselves, a gang of misfits forced too soon by supernatural circumstances to grow up and fend for themselves. It’s a simple story, one that Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage don’t seem interested in telling—yet. A lot is going on leading up to the fourth episode of Runaways; maybe too much. The most relatable aspect of the show is that every event that happens in a teens life is the most important up to that moment.
Since so little has happened since the first episode in terms of forward momentum, it’s these little moments of bonding like Alex taking Nico’s hand in the police station, or Molly writing an email late at night looking for info on her birth parents that keeps Runaways well worth watching. Even Ariela Barer as Gert’s blatant joy at discovering the monster in her basement listens to her commands. Things come to a shock to Karolina, when Alex and Nico discover Leslie has been picking victims to sacrifice for many years. It appears Amy dies from an apparent suicide, but Nico has other thoughts.
Marvel’s Runaways is like two shows happening simultaneously. One is about agroup of teens with opposing personalities and charm to spare, discovering they’re all gifted beyond their comprehension. The other is about so much more, maybe too much more.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage—the creative minds behind The O.C. and Gossip Girl, two series defined by being as dramatic as possible—aren’t interested in simple stories. When Runaways is simple, it’s easier to digest, the issue is every episode thus far is like Thanksgiving dinner.
In “Kingdom,” the runaways line up for their first true group photo, complete with a shoulder-to-shoulder hero shot from director Jeffrey W. Byrd. However, what spotlights this scene brighter than the “Avengers Assemble” moment is that it’s as much about the teen’s self-discovery as it is a comic-book display of superpowers. Each act of super-strength or bursts from the Fistigons is met with jaw-dropping shock instead of steely confidence. It’s the exact type of endearing sloppiness to be expected from characters who are still coming to terms with their unearthly powers. In the end, Frank fails to go Ultra and the one Pride is reviving is Jonah and he is asking for Karolina.
Episode writer Kalinda Vazquez keeps things emotionally-charged as she does a first-rate job of juggling the multiple story lines Runaways has up in the air. All of the one-on-one interactions come to an intermixed conclusion at a Pride fundraising gala. As far as Pride goes, things are still a mixed bag. The episode started with another flashback, that is equal parts exciting and frustrating as Pride is currently imploding—and it has nothing to do with the kids. Jonah, as the head of Pride, has them video record their first sacrifice. He is clearly in control, however, knows Pride has faults.
In terms of character-study, Runaways is outstanding. However, story-wise, minimal action affects what follows. Much of the forward momentum seemingly comes from serendipitous coincidence. With only four episodes remaining in the first season, a gutsy text sent from Molly to Catherine Wilder comes to mind. “I’m going to need some info, because “TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!!”
“Refraction”—written by Iron Fist executive-producer Quinton Peeples—is a situation of wanting your cake and eat it too. Because of the continually changing character motivations, it can be challenging to find a thread within the group. There are several scenes where the teens are outright mean to each other. Chalk it up to kids being kids, but it seems strange that their focus is more on taking each other down with nasty insults instead of focusing their energy towards Pride. The result is sludge-like dialogue from a show that excels in writing banter. In the episode-ending scene, Victor gets shot by his wife Janet after he blasts his own son Chase with the Fistigons. Whether Victor is dead or not, Janet’s decision set in motion a series of exciting events.
Runaways’ portrayal of Pride as reluctant evil-doers has, so far, done more telling than showing. For the first time, Pride revealed that it consists of perfectly normal, flawed humans and parents playing the role of cold-hearted murderers against their will. A little pressure and fear turns Pride onto themselves, and what’s more relatable than a villain with human qualities? Runaways is determined to be a show where everyone conflicts with everyone else, almost all of the time—which is perfect for a drama. Runaways is a decent show that has a chance to be great, but it tosses the laptop to the ground and smashes it when the answers are about to reveal themselves. Alex reveals to Nico he knew of Amy’s snooping around on her mother’s laptop. Amy was about to be sacrificed but committed suicide to avoid it. Molly is not living with her aunt Graciela.
Time passes and relationships strengthen. The world is ending so now is as good a time as any for the characters to start kissing. The runaways cannot call the police, because the cops are in the pocket of Pride; the kids finally face-off against their parents as a unified team. Argue they might, but friends they will remain. These six kids can set aside their differences and stick together because in the world of comic books and high school saving your friends is equivalent to saving the world.
The true intentions of Pride are revealed as Jonah uses Geoffrey’s digging company to dig up something sinister underneath Los Angeles. “Doomsday” ends with a stand-off. Kids are facing off against the parents. Glowing, eyes-illuminated, Staff of One at the ready, Fistigons poised for action—these aren’t the kids their parents knew. Director Jeremy Webb framed it flawlessly, both epically and personally, the kids staunchly planted shoulder-to-shoulder across from their parents.
Like most of Runaways’ first season—which had issues handling anything close to a large-scale, logical story—”Hostile” had its bright spots in small doses. Molly was finally acting like a kid in the thrift shop. Gert apologizing for her anxiety in the middle of a stealth mission. Even Nico returning Karolina’s kiss, which seemed a little unearned. When has Nico showed any interest in Karolina? Leslie reveals that she was indirectly responsible for Amy’s death. She also convinces the Minoru’s, the Yorkes’s, and Janet that Jonah must die.
In the closing moments, the runaways of Marvel’s Runaways finally ran away, fugitives from the law and framed for the murder of Destiny Gonzalez. Director Marc Jobst frames the teens almost literally riding off into the sunset. A few of them are in love. One of them has a gun. Another is a dinosaur. All the while something big and alive stirs below the surface of Los Angeles.
Marvel’s Runaways Season One — The Verdict
Marvel’s Runaways season one had some growing pains, but the potential is there. The music for Runaways, composed by Siddhartha Khosla, is unique in that it used mostly electronic, 80s influenced synthesizers. Also, it supported the story-arc within each episode much like a classical film score. Kudos to the casting job, although aging-up Molly seemed disingenuous. Molly’s age is a minor detail, but if the creative team wanted an older Molly, then let her act older. It’s not an easy job writing for younger audiences; how they interact can be lost on older generations. Teenagers can be dramatic, but the Runaways are friends that went through a traumatic event and are now attempting to regain their past relationship, all the while trying to put a stop to their evil parents.
It all sounds like a typical high school life.