DAVID BIANCULLI

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'Marvel's Runaways' Comes Into Its Own With Season 2
December 21, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

Marvel’s Runaways feels like some odd little independent city-state standing alone in the middle of the Marvel Comic Universe. Kind of like the Vatican in the middle of Italy, only without a Pope.

But Runaways, whose 13-episode second season becomes available Friday on Hulu, keeps the Marvel tone. It also adheres to Marvel rules concerning things like superpowers. It just doesn’t require the viewer to know every other nuance of the Marvel universe.

There’s nothing wrong with the Marvel universe, by the way. And there’s also nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional breather.

Marvel’s Runaways starts, in standard Marvel fashion, with an unlikely and somewhat fractious quasi-family that’s been welded together by some dire circumstance.

The Runaways are six teenagers, who are called “the kids” by their parents, but whose maturity level exceeds that of most of the grownups from whom they are, yes, running away.

Much of the first season was devoted to cast introductions since we viewers had to meet the runaways, meet the parents, meet a bunch of other people who will figure in the plot and finally get to the plot itself.

Now that we’ve laid this much groundwork, the pace of the action should pick up, and it does. We also take a measurable leap forward in human relations, since our runaways now feel confident they can trust each other – as opposed to their parents, whose dark side goes way beyond setting early curfews or limiting the use of the family car.  

The least surprising aspect of Season 2 may be that a few strong personal attachments begin to form within the group. Will they or won’t they?

The primary point of estrangement between parents and kids, to recap briefly, is the parents’ membership in an organization called Pride. Pride nominally supports worthy community causes. In reality, it has a much less charitable underside, and the split began when the kids learned the secret. Or some part of the secret.

Since it isn’t the kind of thing that can be talked out over pizza, the kids are on the run with the parents in pursuit.

To the extent the kids have a leader, it’s Alex (Rhenzy Feliz), a geek who misses the good times he had with the rest of this group when they were younger.

The others, a real rainbow coalition, include the deceptively smart jock Chase (Gregg Sulkin), the deceptively rebellious Karolina (Virginia Gardner), the persistent social activist Gert (Ariela Barer), the Goth Wiccan Nico (Lyrica Okano, right) and the intense, fragile Molly (Allegra Acosta).

The parents are equally differentiated, but they’re a warier and more elusive bunch because their mission is multi-pronged. They have to look like well-intended community patrons while also surreptitiously pursuing their real, less admirable agenda.

Their most unnerving voices include Nico’s mother Tina (Brittany Ishibashi) and Karolina’s mother Leslie (Annie Wersching), who is also a leader of the creepy Church of Gibborim. That’s a big part of what Karolina is rebelling against.

Without getting into spoilers, Season 2 starts with an extended chase scene that has the Runaways trying to hide out in Los Angeles while a sophisticated, massive manhunt gets underway.

In a sense, they must hide in plain sight, though they do have the slight extra advantage of a few superpowers, parceled out one apiece.

Because of their circumstances, the Runaways usually are discussing more serious topics than your average band of teenagers. They do get to pop in a regular stream of pop culture references and wisecracks, if only because no one is allowed into the Marvel universe without them.

Given the title, it’s safe to assume the Runaways won’t be caught, returned home and grounded any time soon. That’s good, because the more we get to know them, the more fun they become.

Serious as their mission may turn out, and separate from the rest of the Marvel universe as they may be, they have some respect for and skill at a crazy kind of highly watchable teamwork.

 
 
 
 
 
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