Marvel's Runaways appears to be Hulu's version of Riverdale.
Much like its counterpart on The CW, Runaways seems to veer away from the comic book canon in a way that should change the show and the future of the characters forever.
If the trajectory remains on the same course as the episodes I've seen so far (1-4), then it's going to be well worth the effort.
The premise of Marvel's Runaways is a simple one. While most kids like to think their parents are evil, six diverse teenagers who grew up together but were torn apart at a time when they needed each other most reunite and discover their parents are truly hiding some very dark secrets.
Unlike the comic series on which the series is based, though, it doesn't seem as easy as suggesting the parents head up a seedy underground criminal organization and overtaking them will cure all ills.
Marvel’s Runaways is executive produced by series showrunners/writers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C. and Gossip Girl) along with Marvel’s Head of Television, Jeph Loeb (Marvel’s Jessica Jones) and Jim Chory (Marvel’s The Defenders) Fake Empire's Lis Rowinski will produce as well.
With such an eclectic mix behind the wheel, you can hope to see as much variety in the writing, too. The teens may be angsty, but we're not left wondering why. They have ample reason for their feathers to be ruffled. They've been through some stuff.
Their parents, all in on the shady activities, straddle the line when it comes to caring for their kids. Some are all in while others aren't sure how to do the job.
Rhenzy Feliz stars as Alex Wilder and Angel Parker and Ryan Sands are his parents, Catherine and Geoffrey Wilder. Alex will have no powers.
Lyrica Okano stars as Nico Minoru with Brittany Ishibashi and James Yaegashi as Tina and Robert Minoru. Nico will be a Wiccan, like her mother before her.
Gregg Sulkin stars as Chase Stein with James Marsters and Virginia and Ever Carradine as Victor and Janet Stein. Chase will an incredible engineer, like his parents, the mad scientists.
Ariela Barer is Gert Yorkes and Allegra Acosta is her adopted sister, Molly Hernandez. Kevin Weisman and Brigid Brannah are their parents, Dale and Stacey Yorkes. Gert will have power over a dinosaur (there's more to that secret) and Molly has incredible strength (and lit amber eyes). The Yorkes are scientific geniuses.
Virginia Gardner stars as Karolina Dean with Annie Wersching and Kip Pardue as her parents, Leslie and Frank Dean. Karolina glows with pink stars. Her mother harbors a man to whom the Pride (the organization the parents belong) make sacrifices while running a cult-like church and dad is a once-famous actor.
Listing off the kids is like beginning a new list for the Breakfast Club. There's the athlete (Chase), the nerd (Alex), the goth (Nico), the beauty (Karolina), the invisible girl (Molly), and the smart one (Gert).
They all grew up together as close friends because their parents were close. It's only now, as teens, they can't even imagine why their parents are close when they have virtually nothing in common.
Every kid has a different relationship with their parents than the next, but there are positive relationships, even if they might take time to grow.
From what I know of the Runaways comics, the parents are overthrown for their dirty deeds by their children as the kids discover their special abilities. They use them to right the wrongs made by their parents.
My early assessment might be that while what the parents did was atrocious, they did it for their families even while keeping such a deep secret did severe damage to the very thing they were trying to protect.
The parents are clearly struggling amongst themselves with whether what they've done is right and how to continue, and it would make all the sense in the world for a division of labor as some parents see the benefits of working with their children as they discover a new side to their lives and others, well, parenting was never for them in the first place.
Among the kids, there isn't a bad one in the bunch. Everyone probably wants to talk about the diversity, but I don't see it from that angles. I just see a bunch of kids and their parents. They've formed natural friendships in their natural world, which is as it should be.
There are a couple of cliche characters, but it didn't feel oppressive in any way. In fact, the characterization was welcome due to other factors I'll get to in the review of the first three episodes.
I'm not going to lie, seeing James Marsters as Victor Stein, parenting smack dab in the middle of a genre show was quite fulfilling.
Annie Wersching looks like a different person in every show she's in but always as lovely. It would be a shame to waste the parents when the casting has been done so well.
It's only the third role for Feliz, but he's impressive as Alex, the group's impromptu leader. Okano's resume looks similar to that of Feliz, and her Nico is splendid.
With the addition of powers, it will be fun watching each teen go on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery that goes beyond what the typical teen much deal with while still navigating the waters of day-to-day issues and parents who may be evil criminal overlords.
By the end of the third episode, all of which will drop on Hulu Tuesday, November 21, you'll have a very good feel for the families, even if what's going on is still beyond your grasp.
The nature of good and evil will still be shrouded in gray, but you'll have hope that it might remain that way, that the kids at the center of the story aren't going to be left alone to fend for themselves before their time even with powers. They're not ready to face the world by themselves, or even as a group, as much as they come to lean on each other.
Will they be thrust into the world before they're ready? We'll have to watch to find out. With each other, they stand a chance.
At a time when every other show is based on a comic book superhero with powers, it's easy to consider sloughing off this one. Don't do it.
Marvel's Runaways is a drama about growing up, discovering who you are and what you're going to do as the person you become. Without role models you can trust, that job becomes a little more difficult.
At the same time, It might be a place where parents get a second chance to right their wrongs, not through their own actions, but by supporting their kids on their journey and discovering who they could have been if they'd taken the right path.
It seems Runaways will let the powers be secondary to understanding how and why to use them. That's already a unique concept on within the superhero genre, so I hope it carries through.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.