HBO's Run: Grade the Series Premiere

Show of hands: How many people would ditch their family at the drop of a text for a secret, cross-country rendezvous with an ex? That’s the premise of Run, HBO’s new black comedy/thriller from creator Vicky Jones and executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge. And while texting an old flame is never recommended (quarantine is no excuse, people!), for Ruby (Unbelievable‘s Merritt Wever), bailing on her life to rekindle that fire is apparently a leap worth taking.

When we first meet Ruby, she’s grown complacent over the monotony of suburban life. She receives a message from her ex, Billy (Catastrophe‘s Domhnall Gleeson), that says nothing but “RUN,” and the look on her face is pure panic. She second-guesses herself before typing “R-U-N” with shaky fingers and hitting send, leaving the mundane tasks of grocery shopping and yoga behind to drive to the airport and hop a flight to New York City. Totally normal for two people who haven’t seen each other in over a decade, right?

The exes have a 17-year-old pact standing that if either one of them texted that word — and if the other half replies with the same — they’d drop everything to meet at Grand Central and travel across the country together. After a five-hour flight, a cab ride to the station and an obvious stop for lipstick and hairspray, she approaches the train track to find Billy talking on the phone to some woman named Fiona. The two silently nod to each other as they board, and just minutes in, our two leads are bound for Chicago.

Ruby’s husband (or boyfriend?) texts her asking where she is, but she’s too caught up in the spontaneity to respond. At first, the exes pretend to be strangers in front of a woman they meet on the train, with Billy pretending to be a palm reader. He takes Ruby’s hand and tells the women that she’s heading toward a love most people only dream about. Once the old lady disappears, Ruby and Billy quit playing games, but quickly call for a temporary moratorium on personal questions. Seconds later, they break that rule, and an inquiry about each others’ careers ends with Ruby insulting Billy’s life coaching seminars. “I didn’t want your new career as a prick to make me hate you,” she barks. The moment of tension would be immensely troubling if not for the sexual tension between them; they both take separate trips to the bathroom to pleasure themselves.

When her other half threatens to call the police, Ruby finally gives him a ring, but her lack of service and the noisy train prevents any actual conversation. Ruby then asks Billy why he texted her, and when he says he was just drunk, her blood boils. She panics that she ran out on her life for nothing, until he confesses: “When I texted you, I was getting hammered in a bar of a crappy hotel. I had this moment of clarity that there wasn’t a single person I’d ever met in my entire life that I ever wanted to see again… and then I thought of you.”

When the train makes a temporary stop, she kisses him on the cheek before stepping off to try her man again. The train starts moving again and when Billy suspects Ruby abandoned him, he rips a bathroom door handle off in rage. But in the next car, he finds Ruby panting, having booked it to hop back aboard. She jokingly drops her bag and fake-collapses onto the floor. Her phone falls out of her bag and behind a seat, and when Billy grabs it, the screen blinks on. He sees a photo of Ruby with a man who looks to be her husband — and presumably the couple’s two adorable children.

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