9:45 pm EDT, December 16, 2018

‘Marvel’s Runaways’ season 2 review: Upped stakes and drama lead to a magical season

The first season of Marvel’s Runaways was a ton of fun, but its sophomore run amps up the drama, stakes, and magic of the world to great effect.

There is no denying that, in the back half of Marvel’s Runaways‘ freshman season, the pace slowed considerably. The build up to the titular Runaways doing, well, just what was promised, took far longer than anyone watching anticipated. It often felt a little bloated, with some of the plot purposefully dragged out in order to fulfill the episode order, but was buoyed by the compelling characters, relationships, and world building.

Season 1 was, at turns, frustrating for that very reason. However, with the events of the show’s second run picking up where the first left off, that slower pace paid dividends. The groundwork laid for each of the main team’s connections — be they platonic, familial, or romantic — was essential for making the show really shine, and those relationships were by far the most compelling part of the second season.

Nothing comes easy for the Runaways, however. With them finally abandoning their parents, and lives, at the close of the first season, they have to face some harsh realities about themselves, as well as their privilege. There are moments that highlight how young they all still are, as they try to survive and avoid discovery by their parents, but also how strong and determined they are despite them being seriously out of their depth.

The Runaways face obstacles and threats from multiple sources over the course of the second season, the most obvious of them carrying over from the first season in the form of their parents, and Jonah. But they are by far not their only challenges for this season. A newly introduced character — one of two from the comics to make their debut this season — puts some serious pressure on the team, and leaves fractures that never fully heal by the end of the season. They also have to contend with a few potential moles, all of whom, when revealed, make a ton of sense to the plot — as well as the circumstances that push them to make the decisions that they do.

Seeking answers, of course, is the primary theme of the second season — aside from the Runaways’ desire to take down their parents, and Jonah — and the show certainly doesn’t disappoint on providing them. A few of those answers take time — such as what is in the hole, who Jonah really is, and what his game plan has been all long — but ultimately have a satisfying conclusion. There are still more questions raised as the season progresses, and the final episode leaves things in a very intriguing place, but on the whole, several of the plot threads raised in the first season are either developed further, or answered in their entirety.

Once again, there is still a lot to love about the show for fans of the Runaways comics and newcomers alike. While the adaptation isn’t one that is a page-for-page copy, it takes several of the elements present and makes them work for the small screen. The addition of the previously hinted second new character was a genuinely interesting addition — one that deviates from their on-page origin — and I cannot wait to see how that develops further, should Runaways get picked up for a third season. And, genuinely, it deserves to continue the story on, with how it upped every single element from the first season.

One of those elements was Pride, and fleshing out their motivations for doing what they did. The show certainly doesn’t forgive or excuse them for their actions — specifically framed by the reactions from their kids — but also goes a long way to making their characters far more complex than their comic counterparts. It is abundantly clear that they care deeply for their children, but it leads to some misguided actions, which do have some very serious consequences down the line.

There are several standout performances once again from the cast, both within the core group of teenagers, as well as the parents. Lyrica Okano (Nico Minoru) and Gregg Sulkin (Chase Stein) were by far the MVPs of the season. They brought their A-game from episode 1, and never wavered, not even once. Their most common scene partners, Virginia Gardner (Karolina Dean) and Ariela Barer (Gertrude Yorkes), also had solid performances, and between them they gave the season its heart — particularly through their fledgling relationships, which come under strain due to several situations both in, and out, of their control. The deviation from the comics to put Karolina and Nico together? Far, far more successful than what was in the comics themselves, and — as a huge fan of the original run — that is certainly saying something.

(Among the parents, there wasn’t a single disappointing performance. They all built upon the foundations laid in the first season, and went from strength-to-strength. Runaways has something genuinely special in its adult cast, and I cannot wait to see where they all go next.)

All in all, Runaways season 2 builds on its first in some genuinely interesting and compelling ways. It gives its audience some much-needed answers, raises the stakes in a way that feels real, and pushes the characters and their relationships to their limit. The show was thrilling, and an easy binge-watch, with enough of a hook in each episode — and overarching plot — to keep me going from the first to final episode without stopping.

The only problem? I need the third season. Yesterday.

Runaways season 2 premieres in its entirety on Hulu, December 21.

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