Runaways on Hulu is coming up again one major problem which is surprisingly obvious. No one is running away from anything. Instead of the kids immediately taking off and trying to avoid their parents at all cost, they are living under their noses, trying to snoop around. The original premise in the comics, that these kids are on the run with limited resources, provided the story with a natural energy and momentum. Much like a crashed plane on an uncharted island set up, there is a natural fight for survival that gave the series some impetus. Runaways is starting to struggle a little without such a premise.
Some of the reason for this within the narrative structure of Runaways is that the parents get far more attention. This approach provides for more interesting characters. It also changes them so they cannot cause a Pavlovian fear response. Some of them aren’t as bad as others. We are supposed to like a few, ignoring the whole killing teens in the basement part. At this point, Gert and Molly might as well just talk to their parents about what happens in that “murder library” at the Wilders. They are so gosh-darn nice and they clearly are as afraid of Tina Minoru as the kids are. It is starting to feel like tortured “parents just don’t understand” tropes keeping the kids from talking to the friendly half of the pride.
Also, the show feels the need to continue to ask the kids to pair off and separate. This might make for some nice moments, like Karolina coming out to Chase as a glowy alien thing or Alex and Nico getting closer. It also takes away the best element of the show in the witty repartee between the six. (Molly particularly shines in these moments in her innocent, blunt moments.) Each episode seems to tease the viewer with a choice few moments of this dynamic, followed by the divide and conquer technique.
Now, this isn’t to say that Runaways is all bad in the fourth episode. The writers arguably are doing these things in the name of honoring the reality of the characters. Not all of the kids think their parents are evil. The concepts of the comic, that six kids would all leave and run away in a single night, is itself a bit ridiculous. People find out their loved ones have done surprising or terrible things all the time and don’t leave them, for better or worse. So the way things are unfolding is a bit more grounded in reality. Karolina has been living in a cult for fifteen years. Her “mom is evil” detector is a bit broken. Chase had plenty of reasons to leave behind Victor before a murder was added to the list.
Another complaint, but also a possible benefit of the show, is how many plot lines it has going. Mr. Wilder’s business issues with the gang have been gone for two episodes, though they may relate to the cliffhanger ending. The “serum” pops up and then disappears for a while, much like the entire character of Frank Dean. Thankfully the sexual escapades of the parents went into the background, but it is another story that is coming in and out. The history of the Pride, including their formation, the death of the Hernandez couple, and Amy Minoru’s demise, is an important bundle of subplots that are coming one little piece at a time. If these elements all return and come into one cohesive picture, that will be awesome. But right now it feels a little scattered. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, maybe juggling 16 main characters is just too much.
Often action shows can fall into a repetitive pattern of “set-up episode” and “action episode.” The first is a series of intrigue creating scenarios where the plot doesn’t really move much. The second then pays off some of that intrigue with actual shifts in the narrative. Episode four definitely felt like a setup and five is shaping up to the more action-oriented. All the elements are building. Gert has control of Old Lace, Chase will get his fistagons soon, and Alex has been kidnapped. Given how much good (if occasionally tedious) groundwork has been laid, it will be awesome if it all comes together. Runaways is still my favorite Marvel show on TV right now, but I’m ready for things to start moving.
Final Verdict: 2.5 R2-D2 thumb drives out of 5
- Where did Old Lace go? And is she smart enough to operate doors? Will we ever get to the codenames the kids come up with? If not, will Old Lace just be “the dinosaur”?
- My money had been on the old dude in the Church of the Gibborim inner sanctum being Leslie Dean’s dad. That seems to be out after naked cuddle time. (At least I HOPE so.) And was it just me, or did his crotch glow as soon as she got in bed. Ewwwww…
- I thought Chase designing his own gloves was a nice development (dumb jock is actually engineering talent). It kind of ruins it for me if he needs Victor to accomplish it.
- Molly and Old Lace fighting was great for a minute there.
- As MCU Exchange compadre Chris Compendio pointed out, the references in this show to Obama and Hillary Clinton are a real continuity pain in the neck. President Ellis was on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. like a year or so ago. Since then Obama served a term and then we had another election? It’s a small thing, but a big enough thing that it shows they clearly don’t care about continuity. And by “they” I mean Jeph Loeb.
- I should state at some point, so I can revel in my correct prediction down the road, that we will get a different traitor in this series. (For those who haven’t read the comics, go do so now!) Instead of that Runaway betraying the crew as in the source material, I’m guessing they will pull a switcheroo to make things feel fresh.