Is this the best new show of 2017?
Marvel’s Runaways is the promising limited series from executive producer Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television. He’s also got a credit on Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter and Inhumans on ABC, Cloak and Dagger and in-development New Warriors on sister channel Freeform and all the Defenders series on Netflix. So why diversify further and broadcast Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu?
Tone is the obvious answer. The MA15+ Defenders audience is different to the family-friendly ABC series, which is different again to the young-adult Freeform or Hulu. To place these series on the same network would be jarring despite everyone sharing the same fictional universe. Plus, when Marvel shopped around its 60 episode Defenders combo to TV and streaming sites Netflix was still relatively new to the original content game. The deal was beneficial to both parties. Hulu probably cut Marvel a generous deal to get the same street cred – an immediate equaliser – to their biggest rival.
But what about the actual show? Runaways is spurred by the strength of its young multi-cultural cast and their Gen-Z lens on life. The core six are childhood friends that drifted apart following the death of one of their group, only to all witness their parents try to kill someone in a dungeon behind a secret passage. Why were they trying to kill this girl? To give her life force to one of the girl’s grandfather. Why this girl? Because she was trying to leave a culy. There’s a dinosaur and an amneisa drug, X-ray goggles and a magical staff. This is a genre show that isn’t ashamed of itself but is still determined to look inward to the characters and their parents for the conflict rather than an Infinity Stone.
Runaways is only inching forward. Three episodes in and everything is still covert and the team have yet to run away. The six are uniting out of necessity rather than desire and the core relationships are still miles apart. The main duo has been established – loners Alex and Nico – and there’s a love triangle off the to side between jock/engineer Chase, sheltered beauty queen Karolina and Ariel Winters type social justice warrior nerd Gert. Rounding out our group is adopted younger sister Molly, who despite being treated as an invilad is the only one yet to display superpowers.
(Glowing like a disco ball doesn’t count)
The cast are fresh and have developed a rhythm far earlier than a low of series, especially for newcomers. Faking It‘s Gregg Sulkin is the only familiar face and he doesn’t overpower the show in any way, shape or form. It’s good to see him land on his feet. Nerd favourite James Marsters adds a lot of legitimacy to the series as a frustrated and furious scientist. His Midas touch is worth every penny of his paycheck. And props too to Brittant Ishibashi knocking it out of the park.
It’s still early days and there’s a lot still to learn but this is looking good. After the failure of Inhumans and the divisive Iron Fist Jeph Loeb needed a win. This is unequivocally that. Here’s hoping the second season features a higher episode count!