Whether you are a fan of the Runaways comics or not, you’ll be hooked on Hulu’s latest original venture by the end of the first episode. We meet this group of five young, soon-to-be heroes at high school, but the series couldn’t feel less like your typical teen drama. Over the course of its first four episodes, Josh Schwartz (The O.C.) and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl) build a sophisticated world that impressively manages to make a dozen individual storylines feel like one.
The first episode can be hard to follow without any knowledge of source material, but within the confusion and slow pace there’s a certain satisfaction. It’s okay to not know what’s happening or who’s who. The irresistible personalities, friend-group drama and refined performances from the young cast are enough to lure you right into the second episode (the first three arrive on Hulu Nov. 21).
We are first introduced to Alex Wilder and his parents, for no reason other than Alex is the one who brings the childhood friends back together: Gert Yorkes, (her younger adopted sister Molly Hernandez), Nico Minoru, Karolina Dean and Chase Stein. We quickly learn these kids aren't the whole story. The antagonists are their parents.
Things get interesting with the introduction of the villainous group called ‘Pride.’ At first, Alex’s parents appear to be at the helm -- Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder host the Pride meetings in a secret chamber in their house. There, they are joined by the Yorkes, the Deans, the Steins, and the Minorus. If you are a fan of the comics, you’ll notice there is a couple missing from that list -- The Hayes. That is one of the series’ many intriguing mysteries that I will not get into because spoilers.
There are teen cliches in The Runaways, but they serve as a source of larger ironic plot device. For example, Karolina (stereotyped as a goody-two-shoes religious girl) is almost sexually assaulted by three popular boys at school. Chase, the jock, saves her and ends up quitting the team when the coach fails to penalize his classmates. All the other characters seem to inhabit a stereotype as well -- the nerd, the goth, the social justice warrior. But, so far, the story arcs seem to defy the stereotypes themselves.
The Runaways doesn’t rely on powers and showy effects -- it relies on overall story development -- which is probably the only way the writers could successfully present viewers with so many main characters so early on. It’s clear they took the complex stories right from the comics and simplified them for an audience unfamiliar with the source material by working backward. Within each of the first four episodes, we get one more puzzle piece that leads us into a deeper and more impactful mystery. Mind you, these kids haven’t used or have just discovered their powers by the end of the fourth episode, and we only see the dinosaur in action once, all signs the first season (just 10 episodes long) is going to finish strong.