Review: ‘Marvel’s Runaways’ pits rebellious teens against their evil parents

Courtesy of Hulu.
Courtesy of Hulu.
Published

The parents in Runaways really are the worst.

Hulu's new Marvel series follows a ragtag group of teenagers who have to band together to defeat their own parents, who are collective members of a secret criminal organization called the Pride.

In the wake of a tragic death and the group's falling out, the teens (Rhenzy Feliz, Gregg Sulkin, Virginia Gardner, Allegra Acosta, Ariela Barer and Lyrica Okano) team up despite their vast differences in personalities. The character stereotypes and "fight back against authority" storyline is similar to The Breakfast Club, but with dramatic, modern twists, including the setting in an affluent Los Angeles community.

Runaways is the last in the lineup of new Marvel Comics-based series to hit small screens this fall. There was the floundering Inhumans on ABC, the solid The Gifted on Fox and Netflix's gritty The Defenders and The Punisher.

But Runaways is chiefly a family drama sprinkled with bits of science fiction and futuristic technology. While other comic book shows rely on adult team-ups and super powers, Hulu's series puts a deeper focus on individual characters.

The teens also discover they've inherited their parents' respective abilities as they dig further into the Pride's motives. Think alien traits, time-traveling abilities, supernatural powers and even the power to control a prehistoric dinosaur.

Part of the fun through the first three episodes available Tuesday is guessing at which teen gets which powers.

The first few episodes feature typical teen drama tropes — rebellion, cyber bullying, underage drinking and "parents just don't understand" attitudes. But the Runaways quickly morphs into a series that explores more than just high school pettiness.

Above all, the series aims to explore the complexity of relationships — between teens and their parents and between the Runaways and each other. All the parents are evil for being a part of a sinister organization that dabbles in ritualistic sacrifice, but each brings their own custom form of deplorable behavior to the table.

Chase (Sulkin) is the highly-intelligent jock whose father (James Marsters) is one bad Spanish test grade away from volatile abuse. Karolina (Gardner) comes off as the brainwashed perfect daughter of the leader (Annie Wersching) of the Church of Gibborim, which is totally not at all based on Scientology.

Gert (Barer) and adopted sister Molly (Acosta) are children to the sweet, progressive parents (Kevin Weisman and Brigid Brannagh) who are embarrassingly forthcoming about puberty and bodily functions. Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) has the most normal parents (Angel Parker and Ryan Sands), but Nico (Lyrica Okano) has to contend with a lonely, cold household with parents (James Yaegashi and Brittany Ishibashi) marked by tragedy.

Runaways could easily come off as a series that dumps too many characters and too many changing storylines for viewers to keep up with. But it benefits from releasing the first three episodes at the same time. For one, the first two episodes are virtually the same, with the second rehashing the first from the parents' points of view.

As the title suggests, the teens must run away at some point. That moments doesn't come in the first three episodes, which might worry some viewers of a slogging series. But each contains just enough plot points and backstory that's sure to keep people wanting to come back for more.

Runaways might not get as much hype as its cousins at Netflix and on the big screen, but it's a solid addition to Hulu's now Emmy-winning original lineup and the Marvel live-action universe.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.

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