The chase is on as Fiona catches up with Ruby and Billy, but what does a bag full of cash, 32 missed calls, and a kid named Scooter mean for HBO’s ex-sex-sells adventure?
This recap of Run Season 1, Episode 4, “Chase”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Run Episode 4 is titled “Chase”, which is so fitting that it’s almost smug. Of course, the whole show has been a chase of one kind or another since it began; a breathless fleeing from all the responsibility, family, and maturity that you want to outpace but can’t. HBO’s sort-of sexy sort-of thriller treats genre in much the same way – something to be fled from and told half-truths to. I’m still not entirely sure what the show even is. Romantic comedy? On-the-move erotica? Straight-up secrets-and-lies thriller?
I have no idea, really. What I do know is that in “Chase”, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ruby (Merritt Wever) are on the run with a big bag of money and are being pursued by a slightly off-kilter woman named Fiona (Archie Panjabi), who’s enjoyably demented but seems a bit like a transplant from a different show. Nothing she does in “Chase” seems to match up with the justifications we’ve been given for her behavior. She’s ostensibly Billy’s business partner who, after his very public meltdown during which he apparently called the entire audience and their dead relatives a “bunch of c**ts”, is worried she isn’t going to get her share of the business’s revenue. Fair enough. But that doesn’t seem like enough of an incentive to leap from a moving train with a bag full of cash, which is what she does at the very end of Run Episode 4 after spending the entire runtime skilfully blackmailing both of them.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how the see-you-next-Tuesday addendum really makes Billy’s on-stage catastrophe much worse. If people hate you, especially these days, then they hate you with every fiber of their being and want nothing more than your destruction – half of that crowd have probably trawled so far through Billy’s social media history that they have enough vaguely off-color tweets to ensure he never makes an honest living again. Calling them an (admittedly pretty bad) name isn’t going to sway that situation too much, I wouldn’t have thought.
Something’s being left out, then, which makes a fair amount of sense given some of the other things in Run Episode 4 that we either see for ourselves or hear a character obliquely mention. Fiona-as-Alice tells Ruby that Billy will never be entirely truthful with her, in a scene in which she plays an audio recording of them having sex in the hotel as an incentive to hand over Billy’s dough. When Ruby text Billy “run” five years ago, Fiona deleted it. She also has a video of Billy explaining to the camera about how the whole running away with your long-lost lover plan works and strongly implies that he’s planning on turning the entire escapade into a book. That seems very much on-brand for contemporary self-help charlatanism, but was that his plan while he was still riding the content train into wealth and adoration, or is it a last-ditch scheme to salvage his ruined reputation? Questions!
A problem, though: I’m still not entirely sure I buy Fiona as a character in the context of this show. Whenever Run focuses entirely on Billy and Ruby and the things they are or indeed are not being honest with each other about, it really works as a kind of tragi-comic adventure about two deeply unsatisfied people trying to rekindle the fumbling excitement of their college romance to paper over the dissatisfied cracks in their mundane adult lives. That stuff is great, in large part because the running away bit has the same kind of awkwardness as their apparently not-as-perfect-as-it-once-was sex. They don’t know what they’re doing, which is funny and relatable.
Fiona, though, teleports in and out of scenes like some kind of highly-trained government agent. She immediately seduced Ruby in a department store, spun a whole backstory, stayed up what one assumes was all night to record them having sex, and then made the same train connection back to Los Angeles. Then she fooled Ruby again with a really basic ha-ha-we’re-on-a-train routine, and used that to figure out where their cushy roomette and thus the bag full of moolah was. Again, how much sense does this really make?
Contrast this with the progression of Ruby’s personal story, which tells us so much about her and her life in really simple ways, such as her husband, Laurence (Rich Sommer), having left her 32 missed calls, and their son, Scooter (Jake Bover), having broken his arm on a trampoline while on a day out with a blue-haired au pair named Sarah. Firstly: Scooter. There is no more aggressively upper-middle-class name for a kid than Scooter, son of Laurence, and the fact he barely seems to have noticed Ruby has gone anywhere just smacks of that kind of detached, moneyed parenting where nannies and the au pairs raise the kids while the parents have meetings and sniff wine. But Ruby is apart from that life. The implication is that before she ran off she was basically Laurence’s glorified PA, and flunked her own chance at fulfilling personal ambition. Now that she’s gone he’s mostly worried about having to schedule his own day-to-day life, hence Sarah. If I was her, I’d run away too.
It’s Billy whose motivations are a bit more nebulous. Are we buying his story? I’m not even sure Ruby is – she just needs to feel exciting in a way that she can’t as a put-upon suburban housewife. Billy, lying or not, makes her feel that way. The question now is how he’ll make her feel if being her salvation was simply a way to create more profitable material. Has she abandoned everything in her life that was real for something – and someone – deeply inauthentic? Next week’s episode is titled “Jump”. Hasn’t she taken enough of a plunge as it is?
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