A girl faces the wall in her parents’ garage, her back to the van behind her. Her outfit is a dedicated shrine to bubblegum innocence: there’s a little cat-shaped clip in her wavy hair, pastel dinosaurs on her pink shirt, purple speckles on her leggings and chunky magenta bracelets around her wrists.
The van starts rolling down towards her. She whips around and pushes it back with her bare hands, eyes flashing bright gold.
If there’s anything to be said about Marvel’s “Runaways”, which premiered Nov. 21 exclusively on Hulu Plus and is based off a comic of the same name, it’s that its characters are more dimensional than the writing appears to be able to handle.
From Molly (Allegra Acosta), the aforementioned super-strong “baby” of the teenage team, to Alex (Rhenzy Feliz), a nerd who just wants to unite his friends again, the first episode alone hooks the audience by offering quick glimpses into each character’s life. But with over a dozen main characters — parents along with the teens — the followup to that hook suffers in trying to live up to and maintain that potential.
In fairness, the plot is a lot to juggle. Episode one begins innocently enough: with a “Riverdale”-esque vibe of underlying menace, the teenagers go about their vastly different lives, having grown apart after the death of one of their friends. In the meantime, Alex windmills desperately in the background trying to reunite the six. It’s relatable in a quietly sad way — how many teens have seen their friends drift apart, maybe not because of something as morbid as a death, but because of diverging interests?
But soon (although not quickly — the show takes much too long to set up background details), that relative normalcy is shredded apart with the discovery that their parents may or may not be part of an evil supernatural cult. It’s one thing to call your mom evil for grounding you, but it’s another to call her evil after seeing her go about nefarious deeds in sinister red robes.
So that’s new.
Or rather, what’s new is how “Runaways” handles this dilemma. Again, in keeping with the “Riverdale” comparison, the show takes a magnifying glass to the parents’ lives as well, going so far as to turn the second episode into a retelling of the first one from the adults’ perspective.
The pacing, once more, suffers because of this, as the cliffhanger in the first episode is only returned to after 40 minutes of the second one, but it does give some much-needed time to flesh out the gargantuan list of characters.
So, the plot takes its time developing. The questions outnumber the answers. Everyone has weirdly nice houses where they can throw outrageous parties.
At the surface level, “Runaways” is much less in the vein of the recent, more lighthearted Marvel movies, and more like every “edgy” teen show you’ve ever seen, complete with a host of characters all unrealistically capable of popcorn-worthy snark like “Great party! Thanks for all the pizza and sadness.”
Yet, under all the formula, “Runaways” has heart inherent in its characters. So long as it chooses to focus on the teens it’s telling a story about rather than just the shiny technology and glowy magic, it compels you to watch more.
Genre: Sci-fi, Action/Adventure
Release date: Nov. 21, 2017
Available on: Hulu Plus
Rating: 3.5 stars