Along for a ride with semi-strangers on a train
Run, HBO’s romance thriller starring Merrit Wever and Domhnall Gleason, starts off mundanely enough. Ruby (Weaver) is in a West Coast parking lot facing another yoga class she would rather not attend, talking to a husband who she would rather avoid.
Then, she gets a text from Billy (Gleeson) with one word: RUN.
Ruby waits a minute and then texts back: RUN.
The tense musical cues paired with the clumsiness with which Ruby debates on how to respond set the tone for the rest of the show. Run has been compared to creator/writer/director Vicky Jones’ Killing Eve and Fleabag, but it’s tonal sensibilities also resemble Barry, the HBO show where Bill Hader is a hit man who wants to act. Run’s emotional whiplash is enough to startle the audience, but not alienate them. It’s intriguing.
It turns out, Billy and Ruby were college sweethearts who made a pact 15 years ago: If one person texts RUN and the other person texts back, they both find a way to get on a train from Grand Central Station to Chicago and run away together.
When they finally meet, it’s awkward for both parties. They can’t decide whether or not to immediately hop into bed with each other or feel out each other’s intentions for running away. You can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Gleeson and Wever have Out of Sight-level chemistry here, completely at ease with playing off of one another’s jokes and responding to come hither glances. This show is horny as hell.
Jones (Fleabag, Killing Eve) doles out information about Ruby and Billy like bread crumbs. Billy might be involved in financial trouble. It looks like Ruby was unhappy at home with her husband and two kids. The show conveys all this information through quick, screwball dialogue between the two leads, each party hinting at enough to get the other to question their intentions. We learn more about their past through flashback as the former couple careens forward on the train. As the Strangers on a Train vibe grows on the second episode, it looks as though Ruby and Billy are about to get more than they bargained for in every respect.
Wever (Marriage Story) is the more fascinating of the two. Watching her vacillate back and forth from horniness to wry humor to sincere regret, often in a single scene, makes you wonder how she hasn’t had a leading role before this one. And Gleeson, as the more enigmatic one, is never afraid to make himself look like a jerk or injure himself on screen for laughs.
While it’s not as funny so far as one would hope from someone involved in Fleabag and Killing Eve (Phoebe Waller-Bridge will make a cameo in another episode), its combination of romance, thrills, great acting and dry laughs is unlike few things on television right now, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.