Several weeks ago, our own Roxana Hadadi wrote a review of Run, a new HBO series starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson. The series’ hook is a compelling one, about a former couple, Billy and Ruby, who made a pact in college agreeing that if one texted “Run” to the other that if the other responded in kind, the two would meet at a specific place, spend a week together, and contemplate leaving their respective lives for one another. That “place” happens to be a train, and the promise of the first episode was something akin to a fast-paced Before Sunrise set on a train, starring Gleeson and Wever.
In her review, Roxana — who had seen 5 episodes — had reservations about the series, but based on the first episode, many of us thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” It’s been a frequent topic of conversation between Tori, Dan and myself on the Podjiba podcast: What specifically soured Roxana on the series, we wondered?
The answer availed itself in this week’s fifth episode. It should be noted, however, that Run had been flagging even before this episode. After the chaotic energy of the opening episodes, we have learned more about Billy and Ruby, and Billy and Ruby are not good people. But they are not interesting bad people, either. They are still played by Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson, so they are still very hot, but we have since learned that Ruby left her husband and kids behind — and not even her husband is interesting (he’s played by Mad Men’s Rich Sommers, who is basically reprising his G.L.O.W. role) — and that Billy is a shady motivational speaker who is trying to rebuild his career after a bad interaction went viral.
It’s a third character, Fiona (Archie Panjabi), who has changed the dynamic of the series for the worse, however. Fiona is Billy’s business partner, and she’s tracked Billy down to ensure that he doesn’t run off with all of their money. That is, in fact, exactly what Billy had attempted to do. However, after becoming friends with Ruby under false pretenses, Fiona absconds with the bag of money and jumps off the train.
Billy and Ruby, who do not want to lose the money, also jump off the train and give chase through a remote backwoods area somewhere in the Midwest. They finally locate Fiona in what appears to be an abandoned house, but in trying to take the money back, Fiona either falls, jumps out, or is pushed out of a second-floor window (it happens offscreen) and is killed/murdered when she falls on the spikes below.
Putting aside the fact that it is both tacky and problematic that the only person of color in not just the villain, but is killed off so soon — like, WTF? Do these people not know who Archie Panjabi is? Where is the respect? — the murder changes the entire tone of the series. It’s no longer a romantic comedy about two people approaching 40 and reconnecting. Now it’s a show about two people trying to dodge a murder rap. They’re not just on the run from their respective lives and families, now they are on the run from Johnny Law.
It’s not the show for which we signed up. The stakes got higher, but we didn’t want higher stakes. We wanted a road trip romcom with a lot of sexual chemistry, and we got two people who were not even sure like each other trying to escape a murder rap. This is not seven episodes of Gleeson and Wever ripping each others’ clothes off! Not only is it not what we expected, but it’s not a very good version of the kind of show it wants to be, either. Not even Phoebe Waller-Bridge — who makes a brief cameo as a taxidermist — can salvage it. With only two episodes left, it’s doubtful that Run can right itself or, with so little time remaining, provide a satisfying conclusion.
Header Image Source: HBO