Meet the Runaways.
After much anticipation, the first three episodes of Marvel’s newest show are now available for streaming on Hulu. Based on the Marvel comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the show tells the story of six former friends who must band together against their evil parents. The show is helmed by veteran showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage known for teen dramas including The O.C. and Gossip Girl.
So, does the show live up to the hype? Read on for our reviews of the first three episodes.
Warning: The rest of this article includes spoilers for episodes 1–3.
Runaways 1.01: “Reunion”
The episode starts out not with the Runaways but a runaway getting picked up by the Church of Gibborim with her attackers muttering that she would have been safer with them. Next, we cut to opening credits that look like the filtered Instagram of a hipster LA teen rather than going the animated intros we’re used to with Netflix Marvel shows, setting the mood for what this show is about.
Now to meet the gang. The first Runaway we meet is Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), longingly staring at the video game he used to play with someone named Amy. We learn that Alex hasn’t been the same since Amy’s death which broke up his group of friends two years ago. We also learn that Alex’s parents are involved in a “charity” organization called The Pride and it’s their turn to host an annual meeting. So far nothing nefarious in the show, just sad.
Next up is goth queen Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano). We learn that Amy was none other than her sister. The family is far from over the tragedy judging by the way her mother breaks down when Nico knocks over one of Amy’s old trophies. Nico says little, but it’s clear she’s not her old self either.
Someone else who has a lot of trophies? Chase Stein (Greg Sulkin), our token jock who is pumping iron in between finishing calculus homework. None of these achievements seem to impress his dad Victor (James Marsters, who knows a thing about genre teen shows), a famous inventor who has his own trophy wall of magazine covers, and threatens his son over a C in Spanish (“If you were really afraid of me, you would be getting an A.”)
Things are much more peaceful for Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), who begins her day attending her family’s church’s morning service. The Church of Gibborim, the same one we saw at the beginning of the show, seems harmless if not a little cult-ish. Karolina’s mother Leslie (Annie Wersching) praises her daughter for being “the millennial face of the church” but also stops her from going on a school field trip, causing Karolina to vent her frustrations.
Finally, rounding out our Marvel Breakfast Club are Gert, an ultra-feminist who we also know is on anti-depressants, and her younger care-free sister Molly who is only worried about dance team tryouts. Both suffer from the same pair of hippy parents though it’s later revealed Molly is adopted.
As evidenced above, the stereotypes for each character line up quickly in the episode: Chase is the smart jock who could be a nice guy if he didn’t give into peer pressure so quickly; Gert is the activist, rebel who still wants the popular guy to like her; Karolina is the pretty girl who’s perfect on the outside and raging inside; Alex is the shy geek; Molly the precocious younger character (though her age difference is reduced from the comics) and Nico is hiding behind her goth, edgy exterior.
Now that we know the players, the show sets the scene taking us to their rich Los Angeles campus that looks much nicer than any high school I’ve ever seen where they all drift into their social circles. Alex pulls out a picture of them on his phone, revealing these are indeed the friends he has been missing. It’s in this moment the show finally pulls together the main protagonists after a lengthy exposition for each one. He decides to throw a hail mary and invite them all over for the Pride meeting, their annual tradition.
Unfortunately, Alex’s plan blows up in his face. The wounds caused by their trauma runs deeper than previously thought. It’s an easy cliche for a group of very different kids to have been friends and drifted apart over the years. The fact that the death of a friend caused that separation adds an extra layer of intrigue to the show.
Everything is a normal teen drama until…wait what are those weird red robes in Alex’s parents’ basement ?! And why is Karolina’s mom saying creepy things to her allegedly dead father on a ventilator. Finally, we’re starting to see there’s more to meet the eye in Runaways.
Pizza and sadness
Despite their earlier arguments, the Runaways do start to converge. Gert offers to tutor Chase. Alex approaches Nico, but she pretends to be listening to music while wearing headphones (this is cruel given Alex’s emotional plea, but also relatable as hell.) Karolina cries in the bathroom after being bullied and has a brief heart-to-heart with Nico.
Things also start to get weird for the Runaways. Molly learns she has super strength and can bend metal. It’s starting to feel more and more like a Marvel show.
The Pride meeting starts and also hints at deeper secrets the parents might be hiding from their kids. We also get the sense all the Pride members might not get along and are there out of duty, not choice.
A montage of the Runaways lives that evening has some beautiful cinematography, more than I’m used to for a teen drama or a Marvel show. A particular stand out sequence is Nico on the beach trying to summon her sister in a heartbreaking performance by Lyrica Okano dripping with the desperation of someone missing a loved one.
Later on, Karolina winds up at the same party with Chase after rebelling against her parents. It’s here her powers are revealed, and that her disco ball light-up skin wasn’t a result of the drugs after all since she never actually took any. A note about this scene, it does involve a passed out Karolina being taken to a bedroom by some of Chase’s friends. While nothing happens before Chase can intervene, I’m disappointed they would use this an empty plot device so early in the series given how other teen shows have tackled sexual assault more sensitively recently.
While Chase is busy saving Karolina he’s also standing up Gert for their tutoring session. After being frightened by one of the unseen animals in their basement, Molly begs Gert to come home and take them somewhere else.
So after a lot of ruined plans, the gang all ends up where they should be: at Alex’s house. The episode doesn’t end at this heartwarming scene though. Chase reveals Alex didn’t come to Amy’s funeral, leading them all to air their grievances (“Thanks for all the pizza and sadness.”) Karolina insists they talk it through, but Chase insists they get some alcohol first. While looking for alcohol, they discover something more: a secret chamber.
There they find their parents sacrificing the runaway named Destiny we found at the beginning of the episode. Fortunately, they are hidden from their parents view, that is until Molly pulls the ultimate millennial move and takes a photo that causes their parents to see a flash of light.
Do they get caught? We’re left waiting for the next episode to find out.
Additional thoughts on this episode:
- I’m loving the music in this show, which uses a lot of synth-electronica. Schwartz and Savage’s previous shows were also known for their musical selection.
- The show is filmed in Los Angeles and the investment pays off. No Vancouver pretending to be somewhere else here.
- I DIED when Gert and Molly’s parents start going on about their Phish collection. I hope little gems like this don’t get lost as the plot goes on.
- There are already some clear deviations from the comic in the first episode which means there are likely to be more down the road. As with all Marvel shows, it’s sometimes better to embrace the shows as their own thing instead of judging them strictly against the source material.
Read on for our recap of 1.02 “Rewind.”
- Tags: Alex Wilder, Allegra Acosta, Ariela Barer, Catherine Wilder, Chase Stein, Church of Gibborim, Dale Yorkes, Frank Dean, Geoffrey Wilder, Gert Yorkes, Gregg Sulkin, Hulu, Janet Stein, Karolina Dean, Leslie Dean, Lyrica Okano, Molly Hernandez, Nico Minoru, Rhenzy Feliz, Robert Minoru, Runaways, Stacey Yorkes, The Pride, Tina Minoru, Victor Stein, Virginia Gardner