3 out of 5

Created by:  Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage

covers season 1

While certainly redolent with the dramaturgy touches of O.C.-like teen dramas – creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage did, after all, work on that show – that isn’t an unfortunate CW adaptation of a franchise, as the approach was woven into the comic book source material when this was a story about kids discovering that their parents were all pretty much super villains.  Was?  Aw man, did things change?  Fear not: this is a damned faithful adaptation, only (for now) playing down some of the extreme representations of each ‘villain’ archetype – the mad inventor; the mystic mages – for something a bit more budget and plotting manageable, i.e. you done well and actually wrote the material appropriately for the medium.

The spin on teenage rebellion is also successfully ported – well-cast, well-written, well-paced; you very much buy that these very different teens (jock, nerd, outcast, etc.) were all once friends now drifted into separate social circles, brought back together by the mutual discovery of their parents’ involvement in a shady cult.  Runaways doesn’t rush their progress toward trusting one another, and the development of the interrelationships is definitely one of the most satisfying elements of the show, which, admittedly, you could say is the plus from having showrunners seasoned with that type of material.

Because it’s some of the other plotting elements that don’t really stick: discoveries of arcane powers and otherworldly things are just sort of accepted, and not in a roll-with-the-punches form – more stemming from the sense that the writers just wanted to deal with other things.  The parents get a fair amount of screen time, for example, fleshing them out into a similarly believable dynamic as the kids, which is a plus, but the motivation of the scheme that ties them together, also similarly, feels a bit floppy.  And unfortunately, once Julian McMahon is revealed as a big bad, there’s no gravity to it: it’s a superhero show that doesn’t trade in comic booky tropes nearly as well as it does with the regular character work.

And frankly, I’m happy with that balance.  The current crop of CW shows sort of Wow with referential spectacle, and then backload the shit out of things with horrible character work.  If Runaways treads lightly on its external elements in order to more firmly ground the cast, that seems like a wise move for the longterm.  And as we head into the season’s finale, with the core mysteries somewhat cleared out, allowing for a lot less “what’s every one up to?” stalling tactics, it creates a promising springboard for expanding on what worked and fortifying it further.