I recently binged the latest offering of Marvel’s many-tentacled universe, Runaways. Confused by the fact that I had to dig up my old Hulu account rather than bask in the warm red glow of Netflix, I started with only mediocre hopes for the show. To be clear, of the writers on this site, I am one of the least comic book experienced. Sure, I’ve read a bunch of Walking Dead, continuing stories from Buffy and Angel, all of Preacher (after watching the first season of AMC’s awesome show), but only after being drawn in by other media. If I like a property enough, I’ll go back and check out it’s origins. Looks like I need to check if Amazon has these books on Kindle.
What even is this?
Based on Marvel comics from the early 2000’s, the show tells the story of six upper class kids who discover that their parents are, literally, villains. But we don’t start there. At the beginning of the show, it seems that these various kids are basically The Breakfast Club. Alex is quiet and kinda nerdy. Nico is the depressed goth chick. Gert is an only moderately annoying social justice warrior. Karolina is the innocent beauty, but also part of a weird cult. Chase is the jock trying to hide his brains for popularity. Molly is the young, bubbly tag-a-long.
We learn that they all used to be very close, due to their parents’ involvement in a major charity. Throughout their childhood, they would spend time playing games and bonding while the adults had meetings for PRIDE. More on that PRIDE thing later. Then, after the tragic “suicide” of a group member, and Nico’s older sister, Amy, the group fractured and drifted apart.
The Plot Thickens
Picking up the story two years after this tragedy, Alex has decided that he’s tired of not having any friends, so he tries to reassemble the group. Though initially reluctant, circumstances have all six of the kids gathered at Alex’s house at the same time as the yearly PRIDE meeting. The group sneaks into Alex’s dad’s study to try to find some booze, and accidentally discovers a secret passage. Like most curious teens would, they follow it to see what’s up, and witness their parents in ceremonial robes, sacrificing a teen girl that had been picked up off the streets by Karolina’s mother’s cult/church. They nearly get caught, and moving through the rest of the season, have to try and figure out what they saw, and what they should do about it.
So many old TV references to be made
So. What makes this a Marvel show? Why isn’t this just some CW drama? Superpowers, kinda. Molly, for one, can summon enormous strength and invulnerability when agitated, though it wears her down quick, and she needs to nap afterward. Chase is an engineering natural who, with the help of his bi-polar ass-hat of a tech-genius father, creates energy shooting gloves that he calls “fistigons”. Sort of low-rent Ironman gauntlets. He also steals legit x-ray glasses from his dad’s workshop (they’re going to have to be careful how they film those shots).
Nico has access to some sort of mystical, or possibly technical, staff that does whatever she can picture in her head. A green lantern ring for the goths. Gert, whose parents are the sort of all-round science geniuses that only ever exist in entertainment, has telepathic control over a velociraptor. Yes, you read that right. Her parents bioengineered a velociraptor in their basement, and for some reason, Gert has a mental link with it. She names her new pet/weapon/friend Old Lace.
Karolina is the coolest, and it’s not really explained in the first season what’s happening with her. When she takes off the bracelet from her cult, which it seems was some sort of power suppressor, she starts to glow and sparkle like a Jem and the Holograms cartoon from the eighties. She can shoot energy, and fly, and… look really pretty. Hopefully we learn more about that in the second season, although I did some research and [POSSIBLE SEASON 2 SPOILERS AHEAD] it seems she has those powers because her real dad is an alien. No word yet on if she can freeze time by touching her fingers together like the girl from Out of This World. Alex, the seeming leader of the group, has… nothing. He’s just smart.
As the group tries to figure out what to do about their parents, the parents themselves have a whole thing going on. They did indeed sacrifice that runaway homeless girl, just like they’ve sacrificed one kid every year for the last fifteen years. All because the mysteriously un-aging Jonah has promised them power, wealth, and an unending renewable energy source. The sacrifices are converted into energy, which somehow heals him from being a weird, flaky skinned mummy looking thing. It’s unclear if any of the group other than Karolina’s mom Leslie, the leader of the cult/church of Gibborim, know that this is the purpose of the sacrifices. But after a botched attempt, a second successful sacrifice is made, and Jonah is resurrected as a smooth, elegant, somewhat sinister man (kinda reminds me of Victor Von Doom).
Drill, baby, drill
The next phase of his plan is to have Alex’s dad, a Compton gangbanger turned real-estate and construction magnate, use the cover of building a school in order to drill down below Compton to find the purported energy source. In flashbacks to the death of Molly’s parents, a couple of genius geologists apparently, we see that the samples they took from the site ten years ago are of some sort of other-worldly pulsating glowing rock. Also, possibly the source of Molly’s powers, as she was playing with a sample of the rocks just before surviving the firebomb that killed her parents.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Throughout the show, there are quite a few relationships in flux. The group is kind of incestuous. Chase and Karolina seem to be a thing for a little bit, though Gert is clearly into Chase. Nico and Alex seem to be on the verge of getting together, until it’s revealed that Alex knew more about Nico’s sister’s death than he let on. Karolina, freed from the stifling bonds of her cult-imposed morality, is finally able to admit that she’s into girls, particularly Nico. Nico seems pretty open to the idea.
Chase and Gert hook up, and seem to be on the road to an actual relationship. And it’s not just the kids. Leslie is married to the man Karolina thinks is her father, but is also sleeping with weirdly unaging magical Jonah, Karolina’s actual father. Nico’s dad Robert is having an affaire with Chase’s mom Janet. The only seemingly likable parents are the nerdy scientist parents of Gert (also foster parents of Molly), but then you remember that they also took part in killing at least 16 people over the years.
There are minor side plots like Alex’s dad Geoffrey’s old gang buddy coming around to hassle them, Chase being ostracized from the lacrosse team after stopping his teammates from raping Karolina, and Molly really wanting to be part of the dance team. But the real crux of the story is getting the team together, figuring out their powers, and trying to decipher the meaning behind the cult, the sacrifices, and the construction site dig.
Should I bother?
Watching this show, I thought this was a great first season. I binged the first eight episodes, and was genuinely distressed waiting days to watch the last two. I liked the characters, I liked the world building, hell, I even liked the third-tier superpowers. But the ending fell flat. I was expecting a lot more from the finale. It just felt like another setup episode that would be continued the next week. Only, next week isn’t until November. However, if they do as well next year as they did this year, Runaways will be worth your time. I give it 8.5/10