Review: Run

From ‘Fleabag’ writer Vicky Jones (with the signature help of Phoebe Waller-Bridge) comes ‘Run’, a new black comedy airing on Sky Atlantic. It’s an odd and gripping story of two college friends reconnecting on a train, in extreme and irreverent circumstances.

It’s less Strangers on a Train, and more ‘highly-strung adults who know each other, on multiple trains’. Ruby Richardson (Merrit Weever) receives an ominous text in the opening scene: her phone reads ‘RUN’. This is where the show’s mystery and intrigue begins, and it’s not going anywhere. She boards the next train to NY and meets Billy Johnson (Domnhall Gleeson) on board. They’re friends, figuring out these new versions of each other and adjusting to new lives.

Apologies if that short synopsis was jumbled and made little sense, it’s a very hard story to nail down. The point is that it’s frustrating- the viewer knows so little about what they’re watching. You have to watch the story unfold, as, with each episode,  you’re drip-fed more back story, secrets and plot lines.

It’s witty and fast paced - blink, and you might miss quite a lot. The jokes and quips are very politically aware meaning it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it is very intelligent and dry. At the same time, it’s very darkly lit and moody, making for an eerie atmosphere. The show is a mix of Waller-Bridge satire, Hitchcock thriller and Christie mystery. And it works.

In many ways, the way the story moves does resemble that of a train. It gets off to a kind of slow start, as you’re figuring what you’re watching, and it’s a bumpy ride, as bits of plot are revealed in jolts and bursts. Characters appear one way, and then before you know, it, you’re in a tunnel, and everything appears deeper and darker than you thought. 

I would recommend ‘Run’ to anyone currently experiencing a ‘Normal People’ shaped hole in their lives. If you’re feeling lost and need a fix of watching two people struggle and figure out whether or not they’re meant to be against societal pressure… you’ll really like this show. At least at first. 

Waller-Bridge features in an American accented cameo, so hold out for that. Weever is excellent as Ruby, presenting a complex modern woman struggling to be who she is, who she wants to be, and who everyone else wants her to be. Billy Johnson is a tougher nut to crack. A compulsively bad liar and constantly tense, his motivations are cloudy and he’s hard to like. Gleeson carries the role though- they’re both great pretenders…

With Ruby an architect and Billy a life coach, it does make you wonder whether their two highly paid careers share the same drive: wanting to build people shelter from the truth they face. This is a strong theme in ‘Run’; the thriller is quick with raw shocks of comedy distracting from trauma and stress. A short series shown in 28 minute chunks makes each episode a piece of a much bigger puzzle. 

The penultimate episode of ‘Run’ airs Sunday 24th May on Sky Atlantic.

Rating: 3.5