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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Marvel's Runaways: Reunion (Pilot)

Does Marvel's Cinematic Universe really need another show that will the expand the world, but actually only mention the Avengers in passing, if at all? Probably not, but after binging the Netflix shows, the variety from this one on Hulu is incredibly refreshing. Mix the MCU, The Breakfast Club, and some identity politics (because that sounds better than saying "woke"), and what pops out is surprisingly a well-crafted episode of what's most likely a well-crafted show.

Runaways is about "six diverse teenagers who can barely stand each other, but who must unite against a common foe - their parents." That summary is a little misleading, these are former friends who drifted apart for years after the death of one of their other friends, and this is their last chance to stay in each others' lives before college and the real drifting starts. It's not typically how these stories go, timeline wise, and it's the first part of Runaways to stick out. Next was the characters themselves.

It's a pretty busy episode, but luckily an exposition-light one. Runaways is primarily character-driven, or at the very least "Reunion" is. They've all become loners in their own way, but also there are glimpses of that reaching out shown. Going out to parties, trying out for sports, offering/requesting tutoring. Indirect ways of saying, "talk to me." "Reunion's" director made sure to emphasize how social media and tech can make this so much more difficult, when used improperly. The selfie, it's ripe for mocking, but a personal attack is still a personal attack.

What hit hard was one of the characters, Gert (Ariela Barer), a social activist, passing out flyers for the club she's starting. It's probably the toughest way, especially in high school, to get back out there, but also the most rewarding.

So one character's a social activist, there's also a reclusive gamer named Alex (Rhenzy Feliz), the sister of the deceased friend whose name is Nico (Lyrica Okano), a church-going girl seeking rebellion called Karolina (Virginia Gardner), a jock going by Chase (Gregg Sulkin), and last but not least, the coming of age Molly (Allegra Acosta).

It sounds stocky because these things always start out that way. It's helped by a cast that has great chemistry with each other, and with the actors playing their parents, and by a warmer feel than these kind of scenarios usually create. Typically these shows or movies start out with a real uphill battle for friendship, and every second is devoted to making that work. Instead "Reunion" was able to spend time on individuals and then bring them together properly. You can bet that it'll go a long way when they start kicking butt together.

Runaways starts slow on the superhero aspects of the show, as it is an origin story. From what's been shown so far, the show has a pretty good visual effects budget and knows how to use it. Feats of super-strength are easy to film, but because of how it's shot,  it's still fun to see someone, in this case Molly, stop a moving van and feel that excitement run through her veins. Even if it didn't, Runaways looks to be putting intrigue before spectacle. In the closing minutes a mystery begins, and when it's a mystery involving parents wearing red robes and standing in a circle, it's a mystery worth checking out.

4/5

I'm not one to do season/series long reviews, but wanted to get this one out there because I highly recommend people try it, or at least something like it. If you love it, or if you're looking for something a tiny bit different, I recommend CW's Black Lightning too. It's also set in high school, but if the principal had powers, and it's a mix of The Incredibles, DC, and Luke Cage.
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