The Runaways: Thoughts on Episodes 1-5

Netflix has been getting a lot of attention from the series’ they’re doing with Marvel. After the success of 2 seasons of Daredevil, a season of Jessica Jones, and a season of Luke Cage, and even the, er, more lukewarm reception of Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher, they seemed to absolutely have the formula down for how to do a series about adult heroes (or antiheroes) in gritty contemporary America. But what if someone made a show about teenage Marvel heroes? That formula would have to be different. So Hulu decided to take a whack at it and picked up The Runaways.

I’ve read a good portion of the comic. My enjoyment of it was the reason I wanted to watch the show in the first place. I liked the source material. Of course, leading up to its premier there was a lot of muttering about how this or that looked too different from the comic. I don’t have a problem with things being changed. They absolutely have to be if you’re converting a media, so I decided to be cautiously optimistic, and I think that was 100% the right way to feel.

I don’t love Hulu’s The Runaways. I like it. There are a lot of things that I don’t like, but there are some really great things about it.

Whether, in your brain, you want to say the universe of this show and the universe of all the Netflix shows is the same, could essentially be left up to you. I’ll be clear, they have nothing to do with each other. Yet. And those shows are all set in New York. Runaways is set in LA. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m from LA. And I slightly resent New York for being considered America’s “it” city. Like, we’re always somehow seen as 2nd best, and that slightly needles at me. But the LA in The Runaways feels a little glossy in a way I don’t love. I get that it’s stylized. It’s a TV show about a comic, and most of the people in this show are ridiculously rich. Like insanely ridiculously rich. So maybe they can afford to somehow have a filter inserted in their retinas. I’m just saying, if the whole series looked like the credits sequence, I’d not being sticking around for the ensuing episode.

It’s a little more teen-angsty than is ideal for me. And there’s this whole thing about how Chase had a falling out with his Lacrosse buddies after he stopped them from raping Karolina, which, like, ugh. That’s not a thing from the original content and is clearly just there to say “look! Chase may act like a dick, but he’s a hero to root for.”

It follows the comic. And it completely strays from the comic.

All the characters got updated a little. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I think it especially worked for Gert. But, like, in the comic, my favorite character was Nico. And I still like her in this, but there’s this whole storyline about this dead sister that was invented for the show. And I get why they put her in there, but it just casts a dark angsty shadow over the whole series. And I thought this was supposed to be the light Marvel show.

One of the major differences is how much of the show focuses on the parents. In the comics, they quickly become the villains. They’re still villains here, but we’re shown quite a few of the events from their perspective. And the kids are less willing to believe that the parents are super evil and less anxious to…er…runaway. 5 episodes in and that hasn’t happened yet. It will, right? I mean, there’s the title to think of.

The parents are all given their own little plots. Alex’s father is an ex-convict, who married his lawyer, Nico’s parents are trapped in a loveless marriage and the father is having an affair with Chases’s mother, whose husband is physically and mentally abusive and played by James Marsters.

The problem is when I hear a young whippersnapper giving lip to James Marsters, I want to grab him by the lapels and yell, “first of all, he’s Spike! Second of all, he’s made out with John Barrowman! So sit down and shut up! You might learn a thing or two!”

Then there’s Karolina’s mother, who started a cult and has some disconcerting relationship with, like, Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road. And her husband’s sort of a well-meaning idiot, who doesn’t really know anything. Finally, there are Gert’s parents, who are also Molly’s adoptive parents. They’re just sort of quirky and entertaining and my favorite. And there’s that whole dinosaur thing. I’ll get to that in a bit. You got all that? Great. Moving on.

For the most part, characters and costumes are spot on. The most notable exception being Molly Hayes becoming Molly Hernandez, but I’m totally okay with it. As a matter of fact, I think Molly may be my favorite of the kids. She’s younger than the others and develops super strength (which coincides with her first getting her period. That’s right, kids. Menstruation gives you super powers), and she’s just really psyched about it. The others are happy about their abilities and weapons, as well, but they can’t control them in the same way, and they don’t have the same giddiness about it all, like Molly.

But the pacing! The pacing has GOT to pick up. That’s one of my major problems. Where we ended up by the end of episode 5 (which was great) needed to happen by episode 3, or even episode 2 if you really wanted a nice clip. That was really where all the stuff I’d been waiting for happened. The gang was all together. Their superpowers or super weapons were all revealed. The relationships with the parents were all heightened in one way or another. The time machine premise was finally named (meaning they finally were like “yeah, here’s the time machine”), and the future’s gonna be dire. And we actually got some good quality time with Old Lace. It was great. But we should have gotten there sooner.

So finally, let’s talk bout Old Lace. Cause honestly who the hell cares about literally anything else when there’s s goddamn dinosaur on the show? To be fair, the series actually does a good job about making you care about the anything else you have to watch to get to the goddamn dinosaur bits. They really buried the lead on Old Lace when they were first promoting the show. There was no mention of her or confirmation she’d appear, she was missing from all the photos…and then, that glorious teaser. It was only a moment and only at the very end, and it was only a salivating snout, but we had our dinosaur. Clever girl…

The way she’s used in the show, so far has been pretty great. There’s, of course, a big mysterious build up, and she pounces on Molly, but the scene between Old Lace, Molly, Gert, and the parents in episode 5 is exactly why I’m tuning in to this show. It also makes me wonder what other possibilities this could open up in future. Like, all my friends are probably sick of me saying this, but can we have a Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series/movie now? It should be for a slightly younger audience, but bring me them dinos!

The other thing I really appreciate about Old Lace is that she’s not 100% CGI. They used practical effects for some of her scenes too. It seems like there’s something there. Because there’s really something there!

So there’s a lot in The Runaways I like. As I’m writing this. the 6th episode is already available, but I’m saving it. I like to watch them in little groups. If you’re on the fence, it may be worth checking out. Just be prepared. You need to give it a little time. Then it just may runaway with you. (Sorry.)

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About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I work on stories for kids when I'm on the clock and screenplays quite a bit less for kids when I'm not. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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