A killer premise and palpable chemistry between its leads gives HBO’s Run a crackling energy as it sets out full steam ahead.
This recap of Run (HBO) Episode 1 contains spoilers.
The word of the day – or at least the best one for HBO’s new comedic romantic thriller Run – is chemistry. Other similes might suffice, but you know what I mean. That essential feeling of two performers who might legitimately straddle one another at any moment is the crackling energy that Vicky Jones and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s new series burns for fuel. And its clever premise doesn’t just rely on that chemistry but instead gives it one excuse after another to combust.
Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson play Ruby and Billy, respectively, ex-lovers who must have years prior hatched a plan to disappear together into some kind of animalistic sex adventure – one triggered by texting the word “RUN” back and forth. They haven’t seen each other in years but as soon as Ruby receives the text she fires one straight back and immediately legs it to Grand Central Station, where both board a train and have some nervous exchanges for the audience’s benefit. What we learn is that, years ago, these two were together in college, invented this absconding arrangement for one reason or another, and are now following through on it – they’re both also so attracted to each other even now that they each have to take a break to ********** in the toilets.
This should have been a lot clunkier than it ends up being. But the chemistry – there’s that word again – is so palpable that it fills in a lot of details on its own, and the writing is sneaky and clever, full of little notes of familiarity, shared urges and experiences, but just enough compelling coyness that both the characters and the audience are well-aware there’s plenty Ruby and Billy aren’t saying. She, for instance, is married with kids, while he’s some sort of quasi-famous life coach. Whatever reasons they have to escape the lives they’re living, much less with each other, are unexplained currently but are definitely there.
Lots of details are obviously left blank for now, since there wouldn’t be much of a show otherwise, but the wave of questions that the setup prompts are easily enough to sustain some interest. After the train, then what? What reasons do these people have to run? Where are they running to? What are they running away from? And can they stay out of the train toilets long enough to actually get there?
It’s impossible to answer any of these for now. What’s certain, though, is that people will be tuning in to find out.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.