In this time of such profound fear and loneliness, we could all do with some escapism. Trust Phoebe Waller-Bridge, master of the complex dark comedy, to help serve up something, quite literally, about escaping. Even though Waller-Bridge is only tangentially involved as executive producer, her Fleabag collaborator Vicky Jones’s new seven-part series has that show’s DNA coursing through its veins. Mixing sexual farce and Hitchcockian suspense, it unfurls with such speed and vigour that you feel constantly wrong-footed. It’s jittery, sardonic – and quite brilliant.
The premise is based on a pact made 17 years ago by then college sweethearts Ruby (Merritt Wever) and Billy (Domhnall Gleeson): if either texts “RUN” and the other replies with the same, they will drop everything, meet up in Grand Central Station and take a train together across the US. But 19 they are no longer. When we meet thirtysomething Ruby, she’s sitting alone in her family-sized SUV in a West Coast parking lot, torn between getting to use her new yoga mat and heading home to sign for her husband’s speakers. Then the text arrives from Billy and suddenly she’s all a flutter. Before she’s even had time to consider what she’s risking, she’s hopped on a plane to New York to begin a train odyssey with a man she hasn’t seen in nearly two decades.
From there, Run (Sky Comedy) never stops moving. All its momentum comes from Kate Dennis’s brisk direction and the scorching chemistry between Wever and Gleeson, whose scenes together have the frisson of a Sharon Stone film from the Eighties. Run is a mystery of sorts, too. Early on, Ruby and Billy agree to a “moratorium” on personal details, which means only gradually are we fed precious morsels of information about who they are. What is waiting back home for Ruby, for example, other than stifling, suburban ennui? Why is Billy, a hugely successful motivational speaker, secretly talking to someone called Fiona? Between all the lust lurks genuine intrigue.
As Ruby, Wever does much of the heavy lifting, juggling both comedy and pathos. Flat-out excellent in everything she appears in, from Marriage Story to the Netflix western Godless, here she peels back her character’s buoyant outer layer to reveal a mix of vulnerability and simmering anger – that same mix driving her to derail her life so spectacularly. Gleeson is just as good, although not as obviously at first. On the surface, Billy seems made: rich, charming, in demand. But as the series unfolds – or at least, the five episodes I’ve seen – so you’ll see his neuroses come into play, with Gleeson managing to locate every nuance.
They are performances fitting of a bold set-up. Yes, there’s a chance this train could run out of steam, but I suspect we’re in for a thrilling ride.