I was curious about Marvel’s Runaways since the beginning. While I’m not familiar with the Runaways comics, I was familiar with the co-creator Brian K. Vaughan, who also created the ongoing Saga series. I knew Vaughan was a master storyteller after reading Saga for the first time, so I figured a television adaptation of another of his comic series should at least pique my interest.
Marvel’s Runaways has fallen under some scrutiny from critics, so let me get this out of the way: this is a slow-burn series. If you’re expecting a rush of energy and action right off the bat, you’re going to be disappointed. Minor spoiler, but the characters don’t even run away until almost the end of the season. Like most other people, I initially found this frustrating, but after letting go of the “running away” question, I appreciated how deeply the show explored the characters and why everyone was doing what they were doing—including the evil parents.
The show’s premise is that a group of teenagers discover their parents’ charity organization, PRIDE, is actually a villainous cult that participates in a mysterious killing ritual every year. From the outset it sounds cut-and-dry. Evil parents. Kids have to stop them. However, as the show progresses, the parents become—not exactly sympathetic, but more complicated. They’re doing terrible things, and you never forget that, but, with one exception (JONAH!), no one’s a stiff, generic antagonist without vulnerability or humanity. Even some of the kids start to change their minds as time goes on, unwilling to accept that their parents are irredeemable.
Perhaps the teenagers did get the short end of the narrative stick because so much attention was devoted to the parents, but I also think that the teens’ departure has more drama and more pain because of the focus on their families. In the old days, the showrunners might have gotten away with the slow pace more easily. I still remember when one season had at least twenty episodes, with more room for character backgrounds, world-building, and fun or interesting filler stories alongside the main plot. Now, you’re lucky if you get ten episodes in a season, which is the case for Marvel’s Runaways. I’m confident that the second season will pick up more speed and take us on the adventure we’ve been waiting for. In the meantime, I appreciate what they’ve given us so far.
What’s also refreshing about this show is the diversity. Out of the cast of teenagers, there is only one white dude, and we get a queer romance that isn’t swept under the shadows of death or doomed love (at least not yet, anyway). The blend of Los Angeles culture and YA fiction is also unique among the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s slate of East Coast adult-driven dramas.
Marvels’ Runaways is by no means a perfect show. Not all of the plot twists, dramatic moments, or teen romances are totally earned, but there are glimmers of complexity and emotion to the characters that I would love for next season to build upon. If you’ve got the right patience and the right vibe for it, I’d say Marvel’s Runaways is worth trying.