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Just Your Typical Teens with Superpowers on ‘Marvel’s Runaways’
November 21, 2017  | By David Hinckley

If Republicans and Democrats could get along half as well as the multiple dramatic genres mashed up in Marvel’s Runaways, we’d have bipartisan heaven.

Runaways, whose ten episodes start rolling out Tuesday on the streaming service Hulu, essentially sets six teenagers against their parents.

While that may sound like the status quo at every household in America, these parents aren’t just arbitrarily cutting off iPad privileges.

They are a group of ultra-rich folks who belong to an organization called The Pride that nominally funds benevolent community projects like schools.

The truth is, The Pride is a cult whose rituals include disturbing practices. When their kids inadvertently witness a Pride meeting and realize what’s going on, they become concerned.

The kids, naturally, are a model of diversity. Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) is a smart nerd. Nico (Lyrica Okano) is a Wiccan. Chase (Gregg Sulkin) is a popular jock. Karolina (Virginia Gardner) is church girl, always smiling. Gert (Ariela Barer) is an activist. Molly (Allegra Acosta) is a bright young optimist.

At one time they were all besties, braving high school together. Then Nico’s popular sister Amy died, and it split the group apart, for reasons that initially seem as mysterious as Amy’s death.

Only Alex seems to want to put this broken unit back together, and his awkward attempt to do so sets up the moment when they see The Pride in action. Now, like it or not, they don’t have much choice except to reboot the old gang.  

The Pride seems to be steered by Karolina’s mother Leslie (Annie Wersching), head of the Church of Gibborim, a cult that every viewer will immediately understand, oozes menace and evil.

Leslie has several secrets, each one creepier than the next. She also has a clueless husband, Frank (Kip Pardue), who she seems to have married because he used to be a teen idol and brought attention, popularity, and credibility to her church, which was founded by her father and passed down to her.

The other parents have a conveniently odd bunch of backstories. Alex’s father, Geoffrey (Ryan Sands, right), started as a street thug, spent time in prison and turned himself into an apparently legitimate real estate billionaire.

Exactly how they all got into The Pride, and what they get out of it, comes in a slow reveal – slightly slower, for those keeping score, than the fact that several of the kids have superpowers.

As Runaways picks up momentum, viewers will notice similarities to superhero shows, Empire, and Rosemary’s Baby, for starters.

The main thread, and the strongest, feels much like the teen dramas Freeform has often done so well.

A group of teenagers – nominally high school students, though some of the actors look a tiny bit older – bands together into their own no-grownups family.

They make mistakes. They’re impulsive. They can be blunt and cruel. They turn routine parts of life into major drama. Of course, they do. They’re teenagers.

They’re also smart, and sometimes they aren’t exaggerating about the adversities they face.

Runaways will likely have its best moments when it’s not falling back on superpower exploits. While this group faces an extreme set of teenage problems, the basic dynamics here will be familiar to everyone who lived through high school.

We like the kids and, as a bonus, the parents seem to be multi-dimensional, not the caricatures we often find in shows with teenage protagonists.  

These parents just have a lot of explaining to do. Which, as we know, is a line that usually is delivered from parents to kids, not vice versa.

Runaways creates a strange world. It’s worth a look.

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