Check out our Drew’s review of Run, and why it doesn’t quite stick the landing…
There’s a certain kind of fiction that sticks in my brain more than any other – ones that are almost there. The films, shows, games, whatever – they’re perfect about 90% of the time, but there’s one big thing that stands out as wrong, like a single typo in an otherwise beautifully-written sentence. Run is one such thing that was almost, almost there, but didn’t quite stick the landing.
Run depicts a deal made by old flames Ruby and Billy – if one of them texts ‘RUN’, and the other responds with the same, they have to meet at Grand Central Station and travel across the US on a train together. The creative team behind Run is one that naturally turned heads: Vicky Jones (of Fleabag and Killing Eve fame) ran the show, with Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie; Godless) and Domnhall Gleeson (Star Wars; Ex Machina) in front of the screen. That’s a heck of a lot of talent in one place. How’d they screw it up?
First we’ve got to take a look at what it did right, because it did a hell of a lot right. Wever and Gleeson are absolutely stunning in their roles. They carry the entire show through the good and the bad with three-dimensional, relatable, sympathetic performances, and their chemistry is positively electrifying. It may be the best work both have ever done, and that’s saying something.
The humour of the show is absolutely wonderful. I constantly went from uproarious laughter to awkward giggling, before being thrust into intensely emotional moments with some fantastic timing. The first half of the show at least is a sheer joy to watch, and at just 7 episodes of around 25 minutes each, it pushes forward at a solid pace that never lets up until it comes to a close.
But this is all good stuff – what was it in the end that derailed the crazy train? One thing that I have to mention is the abruptness of the ending. Now, I really do appreciate a show that ends once it’s finished the story it came here to tell. Take the second season of Fleabag which, as delightful as it was (and it was), feels redundant – the end of the story was Fleabag allowing herself to have a second chance, not seeing it happen to her.
Run similarly ends at the moment its main character goes through a huge change in perspective, but it’s much clumsier. It’s altogether unsatisfying, perhaps on account of the time spent developing a couple of side characters (the taxidermist and the cop) and endearing us to their awkward blossoming relationship, only for them to have little to no impact on the story.
The thing that stands out the most to me as having taken Run off its tracks was the crime plotline in its entirety. You clock pretty early in the story that these aren’t really good people, and the wild romance of the affair grimly slips away episode after episode. They’re often intruded upon by the lives they abandoned, demanding they come back to reality and their responsibilities. Once a truly devastating betrayal is revealed to the audience, like Chekhov’s Gun you know it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
With all of that, did they really need the detour of a bit of manslaughter? The crime ends up spiralling into a series of contrived events that enable the couple to turn on each other, but it wasn’t what made them want to do it in the first place. The whole thing takes up a good chunk of the latter half of the series, and can pretty much be summarised in the plot as “hijinks ensue” for all the long-term impact it had.
The problem with it is the show started with full focus on dissecting a toxic relationship. Everything that at first seems to be the friction of 17 years of change evolves into an understanding that they’re just awful together, no matter how attracted they are to each other. When you so desperately want to believe in the ridiculous romance, it’s the little sabotages they do to each other that are most devastating: needling in on the other’s vulnerable points out of their own insecurity; a mounting list of white lies; the blame they place on the other for their flaws.
Throwing in a situation where they have to run from the law brought the lens far out, away from the compelling intimacy of those issues, away from the relatability that makes you feel so much for them. In the end, it’s not even the thing that tears the relationship apart – they did that to themselves and were well on their way to the same end regardless. But by the time everything re-focuses, your attention has already shifted away, and like that – it’s done.
Run is a fantastic journey on the outset, makes a massive detour into strange territory, and leaves a bad taste in mouth when you step off. Everyone involved has done, and will continue to do, great things, but if you give this one a go, don’t get your hopes up too high.
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