UK TV review: Marvel’s Runaways: Season 2
Matthew Turner | On 29, Dec 2019
The first season of Marvel’s Runaways proved a hit with both audiences and critics alike, thanks to its successful blend of teen angst and superhero action, wrapped up in a compelling children vs parents plot. Happily, the second season improves on the already superb first run by deepening the characters, springing a few surprises and demonstrating a winning confidence in the storytelling.
The plot picks more or less where the first season left off. The kids (collectively known as The Runaways, even though it took them almost the entire first season to actually run away) start the series as fugitives, but The Pride (the mostly up-to-no-good parents of The Runaways) frame someone else so the kids are no longer wanted for murder. After they find a remote hideout (known as The Hostel), the kids use it as their base, where they try to come up with a way to stop mysterious alien Jonah (Julian McMahon) from potentially destroying the city as he fires up his buried-below-the-city spacecraft.
Meanwhile, having learned that Jonah is her alien father, Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) pursues secret meetings with him and discovers the truth about her heritage. At the same time, relationships blossom between various members of the Runaways and the kids find themselves making uneasy alliances with their parents in order to thwart whatever Jonah is up to.
The fact that the children are forced to work together with their parents taps into one of the most resonant themes of The Runaways, namely that the older generation have basically screwed them all over, life-on-Earth-wise, and it’s up to the younger generation to help put things right. It’s fascinating, too, that there are varying degrees of evil within the parent characters, suggesting that some of them may achieve a measure of redemption before the series ends.
However, the second season’s strongest element is the impressive amount of teen angst that it packs into 13 episodes. With the likeable characters firmly established, the show takes its time to explore several teen-friendly issues, including social anxiety, same-sex attraction, sexual experimentation, addiction and the general themes of trust, family and friendship. Maybe the teen-angst focus isn’t all that surprising, given that show-runners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage were previously responsible for both Gossip Girl and The O.C., but either way, it’s emotionally engaging and extremely well handled.
Intriguingly, the show’s relationship with its source material (the acclaimed comics series by by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona) continues to evolve, pulling in different directions by simultaneously following elements from the comics (particularly in regard to Karolina’s storyline in the latter half of the season and the romance angle in general) and diverging from them. That keeps things nicely unpredictable and there are several shock moments in store as a result, even if you’re intimately familiar with the comics.
This season also leans into the superpowers element a little more than the previous, tying in perfectly with the children becoming more confident and more mature as they learn to use their abilities. That allows for both some exciting comic-book action (the effects work on Karolina continues to impress) and some goofy humour, such as teen witch Nico (Lyrica Okano) desperately trying to find a synonym for “spark” when they need to hot-wire a car in a hurry and she’s just learned she can only use each one-word spell with the magical Staff of One once.
The show’s pleasingly diverse young cast are uniformly excellent, particularly Gardner, Okano and Gregg Sulkin as Chase. There are also a handful of promising new characters this season, some of whom will be Important For Later (the third season is due early 2020), while others aren’t destined to make it to the end of the second season.
Speaking of which, the other thing that Marvel’s Runaways does brilliantly is maintain a regular supply of edge-of-your-seat cliff-hangers, thereby ensuring maximum bingeability. Here’s hoping the upcoming third season can maintain the high quality of the second, because this is teen superhero television at its finest.
Marvel’s Runaways: Season 1 and 2 are available on Sky until 31st January 2020. Don’t have pay-TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. Season 1 is also available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.