WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of HBO’s Run.
HBO’s Run has a weird existential feel to it, coming off like those experimental indie sci-fi flicks in the first few minutes, only to unravel as a rom-com. However, it’s not typical at all, as it transcends the genre in truly worrying fashion with former lovers Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ruby (Merritt Wever) abandoning their lives and meeting each other in New York City.
There, they board a train for a cross-country trek across America, reconnecting with their past selves while also struggling to reconcile the people they’ve become. What ensues is the weirdest, yet most relatable rom-com ever.
The series is grounded in the most human way possible, tying love and fear together as intrinsic parts of life’s yin-yang.This has been attempted in so many movies before over decades of cinema, from Pretty Woman to She’s All That, but those films are ultimately idealistic and one-dimensional. They lack a sense of reality, and it’s this pragmatism which Run’s steeped in, which is no surprise given Killing Eve’s Phoebe-Waller Bridge is a producer here, and her frequent collaborator Vicky Jones is the showrunner. As seen from their Fleabag material, they believe that the macabre side of love and relationships shouldn’t be hidden as it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Run, no pun intended, runs with this notion and doesn’t follow conventional cliches or gimmicks. Ruby automatically comes off as someone to dislike as she leaves her husband behind, jumping on a plane to New York, and lying about going to a work retreat. She doesn’t even care to call and is actually happy when reception drops as she wants to meet Billy, her university lover, after a pact they made where they vowed when one texts “RUN” to the other, and the other texts back, they have to convene in NYC and travel the country to get away from reality. As for Billy, much isn’t divulged but he’s running from his career as a self-help author after a book signing went bad, reiterating these aren’t people we should be rooting for. It becomes emphatic when Billy accidentally sees Ruby’s phone during a moratorium where they cannot ask each other anything about their personal lives, and he spots a couple of kids.
However, when you look at someone fleeing the stress and pressures of work, and someone who spends her days and nights with kids that are kicking and screaming, you can relate. Ruby’s husband doesn’t help her that much and also, his finances allowed her to quit studying architecture and become a mom. She gave up on her dream after getting knocked up too early, and while she was relieved she had a fallback plan, Ruby knows laziness dragged her down. She simply never followed her dream and didn’t make her first choice life, and now it’s tugging at her heartstrings to the point resentment creeps in.
The same happens with Billy as he’s running from his agent and the chief operating officer of his company, Fiona, as he feels like a fake. And that’s why they flee together, it’s not eloping — it’s therapy disguised as a fling with the person who knows them best. There’s no real plan, they just need a break from life which appeals to a huge portion of the world who’d want a restart with their first love. They’re selfish people who remind us at times we’re selfish too and how we just wish we could pull the parachute on the ride down and take a pause. And they’re not bored, they’re unhappy they chose the paths of companionship rather than followed their hearts. Unfortunately, as these soul mates decide to get reacquainted, live in the moment, and forget regrets about playing it safe, there’ll be a lot of collateral damage as they seek a modicum of happiness.
Starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson, Run airs Sundays on April 12 on HBO at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.
The first season of HBO's Run paints a very harrowing picture of love thus far, creating the weirdest yet most relatable rom-com of all time.