Today Mary and guest blogger Todd Osborne talk about one of their new favorite shows, Runaways, a Hulu original based on the Marvel comic series of the same name.
The show follows a group of friends--Alex, Chase, Karolina, Gert, Molly, and Nico--as they discover that their parents are not what they seem.
As always, this post will be full of spoilers (though lighter ones than usual). Read more under the cut!
I first encountered the Runaways comics about five years ago, and I devoured the first 8 trade paperbacks, which includes all of original writer/co-creator (along with artist Adrian Alphona) Brian K. Vaughan’s run. Having been warned off the Terry Moore issues, I didn’t finish the series, but caught back up with some of the Runaways when they appeared in later series like Avengers Arena/Avengers Undercover.
Runaways is one of those ideas that seems immediately obvious: what if your parents were supervillains? What would you do? It is the perfect idea for a comic book, and as realized by Vaughan and Alphona, it is a comic book that is at once thrilling, heartbreaking, and oh so relatable. I, like many fans of the original comic, have been waiting for an adaptation ever since, and so when rumors started flying about the Hulu series, I got excited. When I sat down to watch, I was giddy. When I saw Alex and Nico and Gert and Chase and Karolina and Molly, it was thrilling. Mostly, when I watch the series, I have to keep myself from pumping my fists in excitement.
Mary, what are your thoughts on the show so far?
As someone who’s never read the comics (though they’re on my list of things to read and on loan to me from a friend!), I’m enjoying the show so far. As a seasoned CW viewer, I’m getting a little bit of a CW vibe from this show. It’s not entirely sure if it wants to be a teen drama or a superhero show, or a show about Parents Trying to Parent. That being said, I think it can be--and is--all of these things, and that’s a good thing! If the show was just about teens with powers, it would be boring. If it was just about shady parents, it would be boring. Instead of sticking to one thing, the show is navigating some pretty complex relationships--like the one between Chase and his dad, Victor Stein. Some of the criticism the show has been getting has been from the focus on the parents, but the parents are vital to the plot of the show. The kids might be the “runaways” (maybe, at some point), but the parents are the ones who manufactured this entire situation. They’re the ones doing shady things, and they have interesting backstories that we need to discover as viewers. I’m just as interested in the creepy corpse man Leslie keeps locked away in her cult/church as I am in her daughter Karolina’s light powers (OK, I am maybe more interested in the corpse man). The point is, we need both. Maybe the balance between parents and kids could be better, but the parents still need to be there.
I’m a little picky about TV shows, and I’ve been known to abandon them pretty quickly if I think they’re not up to my standards. I’ve been waiting impatiently for the next episode of Runaways, which is a good sign!
That is good! But as a counterpoint: maybe we don’t need more of the parents? Or to put it another way: the parents are the antagonists of this story, and while it is important to get to know the antagonist, it is arguably more important to know who the heroes are, what they believe in, and why we should care about them. In the comic, the characters are almost immediately catalyzed into running away from home, but the television series, because it is a television series and operates within a certain budget and with certain ideas about its adaptation, hasn’t had them run away yet, which is growing frustrating. It is hard to be too excited about the parents when I know what the teens’ stories will be. Obviously, this is a problem with adaptation as much as anything else, and while I think the producers have done a good job realizing this world and these characters, this question of “Runaways” being the title was probably always going to make it hard to realize the comic as a television show.
Still, I will wholeheartedly agree that I eagerly await watching the show each week.
I can only speak from my experience seeing these actors on this particular show, because most of them are unfamiliar to me. Many of these actors, like Ryan Sands (who plays Geoffery Wilder), have had parts on big name shows like The Wire or, yes, The Wizards of Waverly Place (I see you, Gregg Sulkin). I’m most familiar with James Marsters, who played Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’ve never technically watched but have absorbed through cultural osmosis. My expectations of the show aren’t built on the actors, though.
So far, I’m really enjoying Ariela Barer, who plays Gert. She manages to be funny and sarcastic while portraying emotion with her face. I think that Gert’s feelings about Chase really hit home with me because it is such a quintessential teenage girl experience to pine after a dude who’s not interested in you. When Chase talks to Karolina, you can see the hurt in Gert’s expression, and that’s a difficult thing to show, especially in a teen drama with such a young cast.
You’re definitely more tuned into the world of actors and such, Todd, so what’s your take on the stars of the show?
It can be hard to cast something based on a beloved property, especially one as iconic as Runaways. I think, for the most part, they have nailed the look of each character, slightly aging up and updating them all for 2017. Virginia Gardner and Lyric Okana both embody the role of Karolina and Nico, respectively, the polar opposites of the group (one a bubbly church girl, the other an all-black, all-sadness goth), and I agree that Ariela Barer (who I recognized from a guest starring role on Netflix’s One Day at a Time) is great as Gert, as are Gregg Sulkin and Allegra Acosta. Rhenzy Feliz, as Alex Wilder, has one of the trickier roles, and while I think he is doing well, I am also interested to see where he takes Alex as the story progresses.
The parents are a multitude of familiar faces who are at times wonderful--like Kip Pardue, who you may remember from Remember the Titans, as Karolina’s father, as well as Briggid Brannagh and Kevin Wiseman as the Yorkeses--and sometimes frightening (I’m looking at you, James Marster), but they always manage to bring a lived-in quality to their characterizations that makes the bonds with their kids more complex than it ever was in the comics, and will make the inevitable running away more tragic.
Here is a question for you, Mary. If this is a show about teens, but also prominently featuring their parents, then who is this show for? What is it striving for?
Oh man, this is one of my favorite questions. If you’ve ever listened to our podcast (especially our episode on Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne), you know I love categorizing things. Runaways occupies a strange space in television. Technically, it should be a young adult show, as it focuses on teenage protagonists and the issues of growing up, including love and school, and also discovering your parents are people--people who could potentially be evil. But the show also has the element of superpowers, a decided sci-fi bent that integrates science and magic. Like a lot of shows about teenagers (Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Riverdale), the audience for Runaways isn’t necessarily actual teens. New adults (an annoying category of 20-30 year olds) would like this show, as well as, well, just actual adults. Since the parents are just as much of a focus as the kids (at least at this point), we can’t solidly say this is a show for teens, can we?
This conversation always goes the same for me. As much as I love categorizing things, I always conclude that it doesn’t really matter what the show is. It just matters that it’s good, and I say Runaways is interesting enough to potentially be very good.
Basically, if you like shows about superheroes, if you like shows with mysteries and magic, and if you like shows that attempt to tackle the topic of growing up, you will probably like Runaways.
--Mary & Todd
Todd Osborne holds an MFA in Poetry from Oklahoma State University. His poems have appeared at The Missouri Review, Gravel, Big Muddy, and Juked. You can find him trying to tweet more at @tadasborne.
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.