The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are now available to micro-binge on Hulu, which means it’s time to talk about how this show is different from the breadth of often redundant superhero shows currently taking up the pop culture airwaves.
Den of Geek was part of a group of reporters who talked to the young cast of Marvel’s Runaways at last month’s New York Comic Con, as well as the executives behind this project. They gave us some insight into what makes this show worth watching.
“This is our first foray into young heroes,” said head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb.
I think if you take a look at the Marvel universe, with the exception of now that Spider-Man‘s been rebooted, most of the characters are grown individuals who have found that their lives are suddenly turned upside down by the fact that they are somehow imbued with a gift … This is a chance for us to be able to start with kid who are 15, 16 years old and see how their lives are uprooted.
Despite its inherent weirdness, Marvel’s Runaways takes on an intensely grounded approach. The first episode, for example, includes almost no references to the supernatural or the superpowered. For co-showrunner Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl), the oh-so-relatable theme that grounds the entire narrative is the superhero as identity.
This isn’t a show where people put on costume, or capes or cowls, but, in high school, everybody does put on an identity, everybody does create an identity for themselves, so I think there’s something really thematically resonant about exploring these stories through young adults in high school who are already doing that as they come to grapple and learn about their true identity.
One of the aspects that makes this show standout from most other superpowered shows currently on TV or even in theaters is that, from its very beginning, it’s based on an ensemble rather than a single superhero. It’s about community and collective over the glorification of the individual.
For co-showrunner Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl), the ensemble is a superpower in its own right, or at least the key to unlocking the group’s success…
As they are forced to come together and form a group, you see them having to overcome their feelings about each other and let some of those masks down, and be vulnerable with each other in order to be able to go forward and be successful.
One of the best parts of the new Marvel’s Runaways is the chemistry of the show’s young, diverse leads. As we mentioned in our review of the first four episodes, this show wouldn’t work without a group of teenagers you believe have grown up together and care about one another, despite their differences.
“It’s a camaraderie,” said Allegra Acosta, who plays the youngest of the group, Molly. “It’s definitely like a brother and sisterhood that we share. From the beginning, when we met each other, we all fell in love. And we are kind of like a little dysfunctional family. Like, we’re all very different, but I think that’s why we work. We all clicked in our own ways and our relationships are really strong together. So I think you’ll see that on screen.”
Ariela Barer, who plays social justice warrior Gert, also sees power in the show’s diversity.
The great thing about such a large, ensemble cast and such a diverse — not exclusively ethnically diverse, but personality diverse cast — is that everyone gets to find the person they connect with and view the story through that lens.
“Josh and Stephanie did a really good job of not stereotyping any race or characters, so I think we’re just really relatable internationally,” added Acosta.
I mean, we show a broad spectrum. We have Latinas. Rhenzy’s [family is] from the Dominican Republic. We represent African American. We represent Caucasian. We represent Japanese [American]. We represent so many broad spectrum of ethnicities. We wanted it to be as grounded and relatable as possible with our fantasy of these super dope superheroes.
“It’s not like an issue-of-the-week type show,” said Barer. “It just doesn’t have the time to be, but the thing I love about it is it really takes to heart ‘the personal is political.'” In other words, these characters are affected by the world around them because we all are. Conversely, the choices they do and do not make have repercussions that extend beyond their own lives.
For Acosta, this is the true superpower of the show: the choice to stand up for what you think is right and actively protest against the things you know are wrong. “My way I kind of take it, in the political sense, [is] that we can be our own superhero. Because superheroes fight and protest,” said Acosta.
Virginia Gardner, who plays the seemingly perfect Karolina, echoes Acosta’s perspective. “Hopefully, we’re inspiring the younger generation to start questioning authority, coming up with their own opinions and doing something about it,” said Gardner of the show’s anti-authoritarian message.
Lyrica Okana, who plays grieving goth Nico, describes it like this: “I think this show makes it possible for any kid, any teenager, any adult to watch the show and say, ‘That’s me, and she’s powerful.'”
The first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways are now available to watch via Hulu. The final seven episodes of the season will be released weekly moving forward.