New HBO series Run is powered by sheer chemistry

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

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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. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

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

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