Teen angst, dysfunction energize ‘Runaways’
Easily appealing to teen and older viewers alike, Marvel’s new series “Runaways” centers on high school students who discover that their parents are evil—while gaining powers and weaponry that they decide to use for good.
Based on the Marvel comic book, “Runaways” (streaming on Hooq) looks like the source counterpart, but set in a considerably darker setting. The reluctant heroes are the African-American nerd, Alex (Rhenzy Feliz); the energy-projecting lesbian, Karolina (Virginia Gardner); the brainiac jock, Chase (Gregg Sulkin); the goth spell-caster, Nico (Lyrica Okano); the raptor-controlling feminist, Gert (Ariela Barer); and the super-strong orphan, Molly (Allegra Acosta).
The teens are close family friends who have been drifting apart. They are called together by Alex to hang out for pizza and games.
But, the group discovers a hidden room where they witness their seemingly normal parents in robes, performing a strange ritual—and killing a teen.
Shocked, the kids secretly flee, while the older family members—the elite circle of the seemingly nonthreatening group The Pride—suspect that something is amiss. In the process, most of the young runaways discover innate powers, hoping to end their parents’ sinister schemes.
Created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the 10-episode show is a competent adaptation. The crooked parents have about as much screen time as the kids, and the standouts among the adults include James Marsters, Annie Wersching and Kevin Weisman. A mystery figure tied into the players’ lives is the smarmy Jonah, played by “Nip/Tuck’s” Julian McMahon.
Despite its flashy and fantastical elements, “Runaways” has surprisingly bleak or realistic situations: One girl narrowly escapes sexual abuse, after dropping unconscious due to manifesting powers—a scene that was never in the lighter source material.
Also, some teenagers engage in sexual activity, which was only hinted at in the comics. And the seedy fictional California underbelly is more grittily conveyed.
Certain subplots involving the grownups take forever to develop, but many are nicely juggled and resolved in the season finale. In Marvel’s steadily expanding TV and film realm, the live-action “Runaways” easily stands out as a teen drama about unexpected and angsty heroes, adeptly mining its generation-gap theme for mythic conflicts and dysfunctional dynamics.
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