Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. International Politics
22 April 2020updated 23 Jul 2021 2:07pm

New HBO series Run is powered by sheer chemistry

Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson shine in this playful, suspenseful thriller.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Run, the new HBO thriller from the creators of Fleabag airing on Sky Comedy, dispenses with its premise in under three minutes. We know barely anything about Ruby (the brilliant Merritt Wever), but we know enough. Hers is a suburban world of SUVs, yoga classes, waiting at home for deliveries, and the expansive car parks you only find in middle America. She is visibly bored, until she receives a text from “Billy”, reading simply: “RUN”. She returns the same text, and promptly abandons her entire life.

Run takes a familiar, playful what-if question, the kind many couples have posed but few have acted on (“What if, years from now, no matter what we’re doing in life, we run away with each other?”), and imagines what would happen if two exes really did it. It begins with this brief rush of sudden activity – Ruby, in excited hysteria, boards a plane to New York while hurriedly touching up her hair and make-up in the reflection of shiny billboards – but quickly settles into a long period of awkward, sexually tense stasis, as she and Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) face each other, and their rash decision, on a Chicago-bound train leaving Grand Central Station.

Very little happens in the rest of the first episode, which from then on takes place solely in Amtrak carriages. Between bouts of staring into space and restlessly jiggling in their seats, Ruby and Billy flirt, argue and despair over their own impulsiveness. But the story is not propelled by plot, or even the forward-motion of the train (why the pair are heading to Chicago, and what they plan to do once they get there, seems somehow of little importance). It is driven by the sheer chemistry of Gleeson and Wever, who create a seductive, suspenseful dynamic with undeniable charisma. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

This article appears in the 22 Apr 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The coronavirus timebomb