TV SERIES REVIEW: Marvel and Hulu’s ‘The Runaways’
Marvel and Brian K. Vaughn’s The Runaways has been a personal favorite comic book series of mine since I got my hands on it from my local library in late 2010. This coming of age story of a group of teenagers who learn their parents are part of an evil crime syndicate spoke to me then in ways nobody could possibly understand. From then on I was hooked on the series. When I found out Marvel was hosting open casting call’s for the then feature film; I instantly had to audition. Obviously, nothing came of my tape but it introduced me to Twitter where I could talk to then writer Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) on the project as much as I could. He was gracious enough to answer my tweets but his vision for The Runaways never came to light and was put on Marvel’s back-burner to focus on The Avengers.
Fast forward several years and Marvel announced a brand new tv series based on the property. This series would be developed by Gossip Girl showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephine Savage. And would stream exclusively on Hulu much like how some Marvel TV shows stream on Netflix. Luckily, after covering the casting and production of the series Hulu contacted me on reviewing an extremely early look at The Runaways. It was so early in fact many lighting, sound and VFX shots had yet to be completed.
So for obvious reasons, I won’t be going over those aspects in this review. I will simply be going over how the characters did and interacted within the first two episodes without going too deeply into the plot. Be warned there are still *spoilers* in this review:
I have screened the first two episodes of the series which was actually the same day but from both the kids and parents perspectives. The first episode focused on the kids which feature the cast of Rhenzy Feliz as Alex Wilder, Lyrica Okano as Nico Minoru, Gregg Sulkin as Chase Stein, Virginia Gardner as Karolina Dean, Ariela Barer as Gert Yokes and Allegra Acosta as Molly Hernandez.
Most of the episode surrounded the kids at their school and how they have fallen away from each other. A tragedy a year ago revolving Nico’s sister Amy has made the group of kids distant from each other and their parents. It hits Alex and Nico the most of the group. Alex just spends most of his time alone playing video games ignoring everyone because he likes it that way.
Rhenzy Feliz (above) was a massive stand-out in the role being the silent outsider Alex just trying to get through life. Throughout the episode, we get a glimpse at the dumb jock with a heart of gold Chase. Karolina who always puts on a smile for the world due to her parent’s religion in Los Angeles. She even try’s to rebel and go to a teenage party where she first discovers her powers.
We see Molly (who is adopted by the Yorkes) getting what seems to be her first period but actually gaining her signature super strength that rivals The Hulk. We can say based on the episode Molly is not an Inhuman because she doesn’t go through terrigenesis to gain her powers. However, she also can’t be a Mutant like the comics because of a rights issue with Fox.
We also see Nico’s wiccan/goth side on full display as she tries desperately to summon her long-lost sister’s soul and reconnect with her. And finally, Gert played by Ariela Barer who is the main stand-out of all the cast members. Her dry sarcasm is written perfectly into this “social justice warrior of the feminist movement”. It’s like some type of armor she proudly wears and doesn’t care who doesn’t like it. She is the by far the best written and best-acted character of all the kids. And will easily be many fans favorite. The episode concludes with the group of kids by one way or another ending up at Alex’s house for a pizza party. Which leads them to watch their parents go on and what looks like murder a young girl right before their eyes. Will there be more children sacrificed? And who will stop them?
Episode 2, however, “Rewinds” as it’s titled suggests and replays the entire day’s events from the perspective of the parents. We learn that The Wilders (Ryan Sands & Angel Parker) are a successful real estate investor and lawyer. With Geoffrey Wilder (below) given a more fleshed out a backstory when gangsters from his hood stir up trouble on a construction site he owns. Ryan Sands is a standout amongst the parent actors the most considering his raw intensity he shows when confronting the gangsters. How everything they own including their turf is allowed because he allows it.
Unfortunately, Angel Parker (above), as well as Brittany Ishibashi who plays CEO Tino Minoru, are extremely hard to watch. They are supposed to come off as strong powerful women within their households but simply come off as overacting. One dimensional women antagonists as it were. Hopefully, more of their backstory will be fleshed out in later episodes. Especially from Tina Minoru considering the death of her first daughter Amy seems to be an overarching plot device throughout the rest of the season.
James Marsters shines (of course) as the abusive inventor Victor Stein. Who tries any way he can to instil fear into Chase when it comes to his school and personal failings. James Yaegashi does fine in the role of the considerate father and tech genius Robert Minoru. While Brigid Brannagh and Kevin Weisman are fun to watch as the quirky “herbal tea can cure anything” hippies.
However, Annie Wersching stands out the most of any of the parents as Leslie Dean. In this series, they don’t just make the Dean’s both adult actors like her husband Frank Dean played by Kip Pardue. Here, Leslie is the leader of Los Angeles based religion on self-discovery; much like how The Church of Scientology has taken route in LA in real life. It’s with this religion The Pride finds their victims every year for the sacrifice. They believe they are cleansing the earth. Annie Wersching, however, is simply outstanding in the role.
All in all The Runaways is Marvel’s first great coming-of-age teen murder mystery set within the Marvel universe. You can see how Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage integrated their time on Gossip Girl into this shows writing. This might even give The CW’s Riverdale a run for its money on the best teen murder mystery comic book series of 2017. This generations Twin Peaks for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.