'Runaways' Season 2 Review: Marvel's YA Drama Pulls Off One Of The Biggest Season-To-Season Improvements Ever

With the universally-acclaimed first season of Marvel's Cloak and Dagger premiering earlier this year on Freeform setting a standard for the Marvel YA drama, Runaways had a huge task on its hands for its sophomore season.The first season of Runaways was a pretty bumpy ride. It started off with lots of promise, but soon lagged like most Marvel television adaptations, with too much exposition and too many episodes. But that's changed for season 2: Runaways is a much leaner series and somehow pulls off one of the biggest season-to-season improvements in recent television history.The new season begins right where we left off at the end of the first. The teens have finally run away from home after being accused of kidnapping and murder by their villainous parents in order to lure them back home and out of their business. A main critique of the first season was that for a show called Runaways, they never went on the run until the last 30 seconds of the season 1 finale. So, in their first season actually on the run, the show more than makes up for lost time, handily redeveloping storylines in new and fresh ways that will have readers of the comic books very pleased. While our teen superheroes are infuriated that their parents are "monsters" (a line that you'll hear repeatedly all season), they'll soon learn that a greater threat, courtesy of Jonah (Julian McMahon), exists under the surface and that their world could be, quite literally, destroyed. It takes them on a exhilarating ride all season in which they try to save the world from destruction while keeping their parents at bay. Meanwhile, their parents are trying to also save the world from destruction — and bring their kids home.The actors in the well-cast series continue to shine with Lyrica Okano (Nico Minoru), Gregg Sulkin (Chase Stein) and Virginia Gardner (Karolina Dean) bringing their A-game all season, alongside solid performances from Rhenzy Feliz (Alex Wilder) and Ariela Barer (Gertrude Yorkes). Though she turns in good performances as well, Allegra Acosta still remains woefully miscast as Molly Hernandez, but none of this is due to the actress' performance, as Molly should have been written older or another actress should have been cast. But again, Acosta does the best with what she's given.The adults remain a highlight this season as well and there are no disappointments whatsoever among them. Led by a standout season turns by Annie Wersching as Leslie Dean, Angel Parker, Ryan Sands, Ever Carradine, James Marsters, Kevin Weisman, Brigid Brannagh, James Yaegashi and Brittany Ishibashi are all excellent in portraying the conflicted parents, stuck in a situation that they seemingly have no way out of.An important aspect that Runaways excelled in during season 1, and continues to do a fine job with in season 2, is keeping up the moral ambiguity of the parents. One of the trickiest aspects in the comic-to-screen transition of Runaways is that the teens' parents are actually evil. Like...evil, evil. But this moral grey area that the parents are stuck in, and the fact that they really, truly want the best for their kids, adds to the complex dynamics and power struggles in the series.In subtle and not-so subtle nods to the comics, the show introduces the teens' lair, known as The Hostel. The series also pegs not one, not two, but technically three moles within the group that are leaking information to the adults and meeting with them. Three new, vital characters are added. 13 Reasons Why star Ajiona Alexus is a great add as a love interest for Alex and newcomer Jan Luis Castellanos stuns as Topher, who in the comics is a both a group member and adversary for the team. The introduction of the third newcomer, who won't be named in this review in an effort not to spoil, will surely make Runaways comic enthusiasts happy. They're brought into the fold via a storyline near the end of the season that is different from the comics, but it works very well.  With a sleek backdrop straight out of The O.C., season 1 brought a lot of the crazy elements from the comics down to earth. Again, in a second season that really prioritizes truly going for broke, the series plays a lot with the supernatural and is less concerned with science as it was in the first season. This is very evident in the Minoru's storyline, as were initially told in season 1 that the Staff of One was summoned through a sort-of genetic link and not the fact that the Minoru women are witches. And although Nico and Tina neither go full witch on us, it is a very great tweak and it's also one hell of a display for Okano.There are also fun winks at other films and series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including a nudge that recognizes Marvel's blockbuster, Black Panther, similar to the way Cloak & Dagger recognized Iron Man, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. One can only hope, as time progresses, that the Cloak & Dagger crossover that many fans have been clamoring for can finally happen.At the end of the series' 13 episodes, which honestly still could have been cut down to 10, we're left with a thrilling season that puts Runaways indisputably in the conversation as some of Marvel's best television work, even if the first season wasn't exactly your cup of tea. In continuously pushing the boundaries, it also sets up a third season that has the potential to reach even greater heights.


Runaways season 2 debuts in full on December 21 on Hulu.