Rich girl, Kaylee, and her boyfriend, fellow student and groundskeeper’s son, Mason, are missing and Kaylee’s mother has just found a dead body in the back of her car. What has happened to Kaylee and Mason? Have they been murdered? Kidnapped? Or are they two runaways, on the run after committing murder?
By chance, rather than good planning, last week I came across Runaways, Awesomeness TV’s original mystery web series, which is now in its second season and judging by the number of YouTube views, is a runaway hit. Told using an interview format with flashbacks, Runaways is the story of Kaylee and Mason, two prep school students from different sides of the tracks, who have gone missing and are now the subject of a police investigation. “Since when are a couple of runaways a reason to interrogate half the school?” asks one student of the ever present, yet unseen, detective early in the series. A question which the audience is just as eager to know the answer to as the characters.
At the start of the series, both the audience and the characters are in the dark as to what has happened to Kaylee and Mason and Season One is all about putting together the pieces to figure out what has happened to them. Are they dead? Were they kidnapped? Did they run away? And what is that thing in the trunk at the start of episode 1 that looks suspiciously like a dead body? Even when the identity of the corpse is finally revealed at the end of the season, there are still enough unanswered questions to keep the audience wanting to come back for more.
Season Two of Runaways follows the same format as Season One, but goes into a lot more detail. For this reason, I preferred Season Two to Season One. In Season One, Kaylee and Mason are little more than names. Season Two gives them a back story, as it does for many of the other characters, putting forward a range of suspects who might want to kill Season One’s victim. If Season One was all about answering the “what?” of the mystery, Season Two is about answering “why?” At the time of writing, there is still no Season Three, but hopefully, that will answer the final and most important question: “who?” Who is the killer whose actions were the catalyst to the show?
Webisodes are a difficult medium in which to tell a story. Each episode of Runaways is only around 3 – 5 minutes long, which initially gives the story a stopping-and-starting feeling and makes it difficult to get to know the characters (although the latter is assisted by name captions which flash up whenever a new character is interviewed). Most of the web series I have seen prior to Runaways have been spin-offs of regular TV shows, which have the advantage of using characters and set-ups that are already familiar to the audience, so don’t have to waste valuable time in introducing them. Season Two of Runaway works better than Season One for this same reason. Nevertheless, the writers of Runaways know how to hook their audience. Each episode ends with a twist or development that makes you want to go onto the next episode and which resulted in me watching the second half of Season One and all of Season Two in a single sitting (not as hard as it sounds, since Season One is only around 25 minutes in total, and Season Two, 30).
Runaways is a high quality production, created by Brian Robbins who has previously worked on Smallville and One Tree Hill. The story is packed with characters and situations we’ve seen time and again, but it’s fun and interesting and the acting and writing are nothing to complain about. If Season Three were out, I would watch it right now. Unfortunately, I can’t, but if audience figures are anything to go by, the wait shouldn’t be too long.
Verdict: Although difficult to keep track of the characters at first, Runaways soon morphs into addictive popcorn entertainment that leaves you eager for Season Three.