Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Run readjusts its stakes, and adds Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with mixed results

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As soon as Ruby and Billy jump off the train to chase after Fiona, her fate is basically sealed. Run has mostly maintained consistent characterization (with the notable exception of Billy’s hidden motivation for instigating the journey), which means that Fiona, who’s driven by revenge and the desire for financial recompense, would never give up the money once she’s obtained it. Plus, she has sufficient dirt on Ruby and Billy to ensure that their personal lives would suffer if they were to retrieve the money. Fiona has all the leverage and refuses to negotiate. Is there any other way this can end? Did Run even need the spooky, seemingly abandoned house or the steak knife red herring to tip it off?

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So, yes, there’s an off-screen scuffle between Fiona and Billy that ends with her falling out of a country home window and fatally landing on some spikes. While this outcome might be slightly predictable, “Jump,” written by Kirstie Swain and directed by Natalie Bailey, handles its aftermath pretty well. Wever and Gleeson commit to the situation’s dark reality: Ruby takes some semblance of control and Billy goes into shock. Swain amplifies the tension by having Laurence call Ruby right when the shit goes down to demand some answers about where she is and whom she’s with. On top of that, there’s an unseen figure in the house who has witnessed the whole sordid affair, but he escapes before either Ruby or Billy notices him. It’s a disaster that plays out in woozy slow motion, like reality itself has been shifted askew.

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At the same time, Run asks viewers to swallow a few too many contrivances. I’m willing to accept that Ruby, Billy, and Fiona would survive unscathed after jumping off a moving train solely for the sake of the episode’s premise. (Still, come on.) But that plus Ruby and Billy being careless enough not to notice a fourth person in the house and leave one of their phones behind? A lot of this can be conveniently explained away by Frank Pembleton’s “crime makes you stupid” philosophy, or by Ruby and Billy’s established recklessness, but it’s still shaky. It’s getting to the point where Ruby and Billy are whatever Run needs them to be at any given moment—passionate, crafty, evasive, dumb—without putting in the time to make it believable and hoping the audience just goes with it. While Wever and Gleeson are up to the task, this feels like the unfortunate byproduct of meting out characterization instead of establishing it upfront.

In spite of these issues, “Jump” has a couple bright spots. First, there’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s guest appearance as a taxidermist who drives Ruby and Billy to the train station. She doesn’t have too much screen time and plays a more reserved character than her iconic role, but she immediately affects the show’s rhythm, moving it in a more eccentric direction. Her matter-of-fact explanation of why she’s searching for roadkill breaks up the show’s downbeat tone. When Ruby gives her a hug after she drops them off at the station, the emotional spark between them feels genuine, even if the circumstances under which they met are fraudulent. Secondly, I like the implication that Ruby encouraged Billy not to call the police and leave the scene partially to ensure that she gets back to Malibu in time for Laurence to pick her up, even though he knows that she’s lying. It’s productively dark instead of just being casually so.

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But Ruby and Billy can’t just hop on the train and head west to get away from the dead body and all their problems because they need to go back to the house and get Ruby’s phone. Wever and Gleeson deliver their shared freak-out well, even though its foundation has some cracks in it. It’s entirely possible that this forced reckoning with consequences might inject some new life into Run, or maybe all the loose ends (Fiona’s dead body, Laurence tracking Ruby’s phone, the mysterious fourth person, the taxidermist who has seen their faces) will tie together in a climactic fashion. It’s not too late for Run to pull it together in the homestretch.


Stray observations

  • I really, really hope that Fiona is not miraculously alive. That might be a bridge too far.
  • The taxidermist drives them to Trinidad Station, which means that they jumped off the train in Colorado and they’re only a day’s journey out from Los Angeles.
  • Ruby does all the talking when they first meet the taxidermist, telling her that they need to get to L.A. really soon because Billy’s mother has cancer. “Why my mother?” Billy, still in shock, asks her incredulously. “Yeah, I know, exactly,” Ruby soothes him.
  • For a life guru, Billy is extremely bad at pacifying people, giving advice, or remaining calm. Fiona kind of hits the nail on the head when she tells him, “People come to you for words and yet all that seems to flow out of your mouth is shit.”
  • Two needle-drops this week, courtesy of Steely Dan and The Kills. Listen to both below.

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

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