|"Can't stay at home, Can't stay at school."|
Runaways is a Marvel property I have heard a great deal about, but don't really know much about, at least in part because I've always intended to maybe try and read it some time. I never got around to that, but now they've made it into a TV series, which may or may not be a part of the MCU(1).
The story centres on a group of privileged, yet troubled teens, whose parents are all members of a charitable trust called the Pride Foundation(2). Alex is a proud geek, whose formerly close bond with his friends was broken when one of their number, Amy, died two years previously. In large part for the sake of Amy's angry Goth sister Nico, he tries to stage a reunion with her and their other friends: jock and closet engineering genius Chase(3); perpetually sunny Karolina, who was raised in her mother's cult; and adoptive sisters Gert, an Angry Young Woman, and Molly, the youngest of the group, who is hitting the puberty and discovering that she has super strength. Sadly, no-one is really interested in getting the band back together.
Gert arranges a Spanish tutoring session with Chase - she either has a super-obvious crush on him, or the show is dummying us and she has complicated feels for other reasons - but he blows her off to go to a party with his Lacrosse team as part of a commitment to better living through douchebaggery. He hits a limit, however, when Karolina blows off church stuff for the party, takes off her cult bracelet for the first time, sees her arms go all sparkly and passes out. The other lacrosse players see this as an ideal opportunity for some date rape, but Chase sees them off and Karolina comes to when he replaces her bracelet. He warns her against drugs, but we see her dispose of a pill that she was given without taking anything. Molly feeds her parents many pets, and discovers a door in the basement leading to the dinosaur room. No, really and literally.
With Molly and Karolina in a state of advancing freakout, they beg Gert and Chase respectively to take them 'somewhere else, but not home,' and so they wind up at Alex's place, as does Nico after failing to raise her sister's spirit in a candle-lit beach ritual(4). While their parents toast their own organisation and snark at Gert and Molly's hippy parents, the kids awkwardly reunite, tempers flaring over what exactly came between them when the 'glue' of Amy's presence and personality was gone. Chase decides that stealing the good booze is the way forward, which leads to the accidental discovery of a secret door triggered by a stack of coasters(5).
The kids descend into a cellar, where they see their parents wearing red robes and feeding a young girl from the church into a glowing coffin of, we presume, evil. Molly tries to use her phone as a periscope and accidentally lets of the flash, and they flee.
Runaways has a good rep and a fair amount of potential. Of course, the kids are the real heart of this show, and so far, they make a decent fist of it. They're all pretty privileged, but their shared loss allows the audience to sympathise with them for the one thing that no amount of money can insulate against. None of them really look quite as young as I think they're supposed to be, although they're slightly more convincing high schoolers than the cast of Teen Wolf. As antagonists, the parents are a mixed bag - right on, dino-breeding hippies; douchebag lawyer and trophy wife; uptight tech moguls; sinister-happy cult leaders; ruthless ex-ghetto(6) realtors - and so far seem to embody a fairly banal kind of evil, and even their human sacrifice ritual is kind of sterile and clean - feeding an unresisting victim into a glowing light while shrouded in a sound-dampening forcefield - the ultimate in middle class, house proud cult activity.
'Reunion' is very much a set-up episode, establishing and beginning to upset the status quo. As with all such series, transferring from this 'everyday' set-up to the ongoing situation is a challenge, and it remains to be seen how Runaways manages that. Better than Inhumans and more involving than The Gifted, I'm keen to see where the series will go.
(1) I hear yes, but there's been no direct connection so far.
(2) No relation to LBQTA rights that we can see yet.
(3) He's cool and gadgety, and probably intended to be like Tony Stark, but I read him more like Jonathon Brown in Paddington 2; secretly into steam engines, but asking to be called 'J-Dog' to fit in.
(4) This is the problem with learning all your witchery from The Craft, although fair play she has some good candles, because none of them blow out.
(5) I guess the parents never expected their kids to try to use a coaster.
(6) The rest of Pride suggest that Alex's dad at least comes from 'the hood', but they're so upper-middle class that they could mean anything from a trashbag in an alley to a suburb that isn't quite the thing anymore.