Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 Review: There’s a Witch, But No Wardrobe
Leave it to Hulu to cancel this series just after I got into it, but regardless, I’ve been waiting months for Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 and even though I know there’s no more coming (and they went out on a very cruel and open-ended cliffhanger) I still enjoyed every last second of it.
It really is a shame that they canceled the show, because Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 probably was the best season. Aside from introducing plot elements that it didn’t have the time to expand on (like Gert learning how to control Old Lace and then never using that knowledge), it proved that there are more interesting things to have happen other than just the kids versus their parents narrative that dominated the first two seasons of the series. After two and a half seasons, we are finally done with the Gibborim plotline and brought in a new villain – Morgan le Fay, a sorceress who was so unbelievably powerful that I’m a little surprised they actually managed to stop her in the span of only four episodes. (Not that I’m disappointed, because we could have had a much worse cliffhanger than the one we actually got.)
Unfortunately, this meant that there were some pacing issues. The first half of the season and the second half of the season felt completely disconnected from each other, even though there were threads tying them together. The Gibborim plotline ended so abruptly that I’m not sure the show was entirely clear on what happened to the Magistrate and his family (Did they die in the Dark Dimension after being separated from their hosts?), and I feel they built up the Son too much to dispose of him so quickly. The time jump in the middle muddled the already confusing timeline (how long has it been since the first episode?), and despite assertions that this series is set in the MCU (and references like the Dark Dimension and Victor Mancha – son of Ultron), there was absolutely no mention of the Snap or its ensuing fallout. Not to mention that their version of time travel acts very differently than time travel in Avengers: Endgame, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s a shame that a show like Runaways, which is very focused on the dynamic and relationships between its core cast members, spends so much time with them separated from each other. Molly was often left to her own devices, and poor Alex was in the Dark Dimension for several episodes. Plus, it was very frustrating how quickly the Runaways would turn on each other; it made sense at the beginning of the series, but they’ve all been through too much now not to trust each other. Even with Chase betraying them at the end of season 2, they were all way too eager to believe the worst of each other. Although, considering Alex ends up evil in the future, maybe they were right to be suspicious.
But even though they are suspicious, these kids are still willing to risk everything in order to save each other. They are incredibly devoted to each other for a group of friends who don’t seem to trust each other half the time. Gert’s death in “The Broken Circle” is perhaps one of the more heartbreaking scenes on television this year. I can understand why they almost immediately negated it with that whole haphazard time travel plot in “Cheat the Gallows”, which some people may feel cheapened the sacrifice, but Gert dying and how the Runaways deal with the potential to bring her back are exactly why I love these characters so much.
That said, several characters were severely underutilized this season. Karolina barely used her powers. Old Lace was often locked up in the hostel. Even Chase hardly used the Fistigons. It seems like they spent too much of the budget on special effects for all the magic in the second half of the season and unintentionally crippled half of their characters.
Props also to Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 for being the first Marvel property to show a same-sex wedding on-screen (although “Hallelujah” is a terrible choice for a wedding song). Yes, it was in Karolina’s Algorithm, and then in Nico’s head, but it’s more than any of the MCU films have managed to do over the course of a decade. (We don’t count Endgame for obvious reasons.) It really is a shame that this series was canceled, because Karolina and Nico are the first queer superheroes in the MCU (if you count Runaways as part of the MCU), so naturally, we aren’t going to get to see any more of them.
I did like the interesting dynamic of having the kids working with their parents rather than against them for a change. Honestly, after they killed Catherine (“Lord of Lies”) and Robert (“The Left-Hand Path”) and turned Janet into the internet, I expected the rest of the parents to die as well. I’m sort of glad that they didn’t; as I said, I liked them all working together, but I also liked that the kids still showed some animosity towards their parents for being, you know, mass-murdering sociopaths. Catherine’s death was shocking and brutal, and naturally, Alex carried that guilt with him into the Dark Dimension, which played a big role in his changed mental state after he gets rescued.
The change in dynamics between the parents themselves was also a nice change from the previous two seasons. Stacey and Victor hanging out together, going to alien abductee support meetings (which, if this is set in the MCU, people know aliens are real, this shouldn’t be as much of a joke as it was – although the scene was way funnier than it had any right to be), and solving mysteries was a fabulous addition to the show. Geoffrey’s determination to save Molly after having failed all of the other kids was great, and I love that Robert and Tina reconciled before his death. I mean, they’re all terrible people, but still. I can admit that I teared up at that scene.
The Cloak & Dagger crossover was really well done. It tied enough of both shows together that it was a treat for fans of both, but not confusing for anyone who doesn’t watch Cloak & Dagger. It was mentioned at the NYCC panel that Ty and Tandy would be an important part of the episode, and they were, but one of the best things about a crossover like this is the potential for competing powers to work together. Instead, they were in the Dark Dimension without superpowered Molly, without Chase’s Fistigons, and without Old Lace, so only Ty, Tandy, and Nico were able to use their powers. Still, they were able to use their experiences to dispense wisdom to the Runaways in a natural manner – just a bunch of superpowered teens comparing notes. Ty and Tandy also proved a nice parallel to Nico and Karolina.
With all of the hints peppered throughout the season and the way the final episode ended, it’s clear that they didn’t intend for this to be the last season, even though “Cheat the Gallows” feels very much like they got the cancellation order and wanted to do something nice for the fans. That episode tied in much more to the comics than most of the season, with Chase traveling from the future to save Gert, Karolina and Julie, and evil!Alex. It seems a shame that we’ll never know what Alex decided to do with that note from his future self – whether he followed through on the plan, thus creating the same future 2028!Chase died to prevent, or whether he chose to ignore it and end the cycle. They never chose to use Gert’s sharpened connection with Old Lace. Plus, think of how much could be done with the fact that Janet essentially lives in the internet. There was a lot of untapped potential present in this series, and Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 only served to emphasize that.
There was still a lot that could have been done with this show, and for that, I’m upset at the loss of future storylines. But I feel like Runaways ended on a high note, with a season that – despite its plot holes and pacing issues – was entertaining, emotional, and enjoyable.
Marvel’s Runaways Season 3 is currently streaming on Hulu.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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