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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Run is too twisty for its own good

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The funny thing is that “Chase” has some of Run’s best sequences so far. Director Kate Dennis makes good use of the train set, emphasizing its narrow aisles while having Ruby, Billy, and Fiona constantly cross past each other, especially in the homestretch after Fiona retrieves Billy’s bag of cash. Dickon Hinchliffe’s propulsive score amplifies the tension of scenes featuring people doing nothing more than walk to and from train compartments and bathrooms. There’s a clever bit of plotting involving how Fiona cunningly obtains Laurence’s phone number from Ruby, helping her seal a blackmail scheme. (Archie Panjabi’s dastardly vibe combined with her calm, collected delivery deserves praise as well.) Wever does some great flustered phone acting when she’s talking to Laurence and her son, Scooter, who recently broke his arm at a trampoline park while out with a new nanny. The episode isn’t a total wash.

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Still, Run pulls the rug out from under the audience in an unexpected and slightly sour way that feels neither productive nor earned. After Ruby and Billy barely make their train headed to Los Angeles, they independently discover that Fiona (or “Alice,” as Ruby knows her from the department store) is also on board. Ruby continues to overshare with Fiona/Alice about Billy, like that he carries around a big bag of cash, all while Fiona taunts Billy via text and tries to find him on the train. Fiona eventually catches up to Billy and tries to persuade him, once again, to give up on running away, claiming that this is just a phase and that he’ll get sick of Ruby, which will leave her in the lurch. Then she drops a bombshell: “I’m really glad that she doesn’t know the real reason you texted her.” Fiona shows Billy a promotional video in which he explains the “Run” idea directly into the camera. It’s partially implied that Billy pulled the trigger to generate material for a new book.

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Billy concealing his true motives isn’t exactly the problem. It’s more about how Run has so far concealed expository information and then provided it to the audience piecemeal. Sometimes it works well, like Ruby detailing her mental health history, and other times it can be slightly maudlin, like Billy’s explanation for why he abandoned his book tour. (Generally speaking, Run handles Ruby’s characterization better than Billy’s.) Yet, Vicky Jones and her writers started from a place of portraying their twin protagonists as desperate, somewhat selfish people who are genuinely drawn to each other, which has so far grounded each new piece of background material we’ve received so far. This revelation suggests that one embarked on this journey sincerely while the other didn’t, which is fine, but Run doesn’t treat this like a breach of trust or anything in the ballpark of momentous. It’s just another twist, another info point, even though it fundamentally changes how we see Billy. If you’re going to play that card, it’s worth doing it with more consideration.

Of course, the revelation will almost certainly be mitigated by what the situation implies: Billy might have sparked the journey for crass professional reasons, but he fell back in love with Ruby for real while on the train. While that’s not an impossible sell, it demands at least some recontextualization of previous scenes to justify the reasoning. (If none of that actually happens, I’ll gladly eat crow.) But on top of that, “Chase” ends up negating some of the nuance from Fiona’s motivation established in the previous episode. It’s appropriate to claim that $10,000 isn’t satisfactory compensation for essentially authoring Billy’s material while remaining uncredited, but Fiona quickly becomes the person who jumps off a moving train with a bag of money after blackmailing her former employer and what amounts to a complete stranger. Though Panjabi has fun with the character, Fiona’s transformation is a little compressed. She goes from an unseen presence to a righteously determined partner to a train jumper in just too little time.

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It’s all a little slapdash and signals that Run might be moving away from its best elements, mainly Wever and Gleeson’s chemistry. The scenes with them this week are mostly small-scale and fun: Ruby and Billy’s post-coital check-in, which had to be deferred to the cab ride to Union Station because they were late, is an awkward minefield in which Billy says every conceivably wrong thing, but the tension prematurely evaporates when Billy, on the train, sheepishly admits he’s a dick. The other good moment occurs when Billy further confesses to Ruby about his on-stage behavior after being confronted by the audience member whose husband died, i.e. he called everyone in the room “a bunch of cunts”. Moments earlier, however, Fiona tells Ruby that Billy will never be entirely honest with her, and sure enough, Billy doesn’t tell her about his true motivations behind sending the “Run” text.

That isn’t flashy stuff, but they feel real and within spitting distance of human behavior, which, theoretically, is supposed to be what remains consistent even if the high-concept premise drives the bus. Instead, those scenes feel more and more like afterthoughts. Now, Fiona and the stolen cash has taken narrative precedence. It’s certainly possible that Run has more positive surprises in store, but it could just as easily be the end of the line.

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Stray observations

  • I do like that Ruby’s selfishness, which Fiona praises at one point (“I think you’re amazing. You chose yourself over everybody.”), is redirected when she discovers her son barely misses her presence. “I don’t want them to get on without me!” she exclaims.
  • The whole Grandma texting business is pretty amusing, if only because of the blink-and-you’ll-miss it “Eejit” text either sent to or from her that appears in the opening flashback. It gives minor credence to the lie that Billy spins in the present. “Your grandma taunts you? By text? In the middle of the night?”
  • The way Panjabi delivers the line, “I’m meeting a lumberjack I met on eHarmony” and Wever’s bemused, accepting facial reaction might be the episode’s finest moment.
  • The two needle drops this week are “Morning in America” by Durand Jones & the Indications and Brittany Howard’s “Short and Sweet.” Both are below.

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.

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