May 25, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Run”


HBO’s RUN turned out to be a treatise on the limitations of the elevator pitch.  Everything about the show that could be described between the lobby of an office building and, say, its 20th floor (let’s assume the occupants were socially distanced) seemed irresistible.  The premise:  a pair of onetime lovers follow through on a vow they’d made a decade before, that if they ever texted each other the word “Run,” they’d abandon their current lives and meet at Grand Central Station for a cross-country journey to decide whether they had a future together.  The protagonists:  Ruby, an unfulfilled wife and mother, and Billy, a successful but slightly shady self-help guru.  The stars:  the remarkable Merritt Wever and Dombhall Gleason, both at exactly the right point in their careers for a star vehicle hit.  The auspices:  no less than Emmy heroine Phoebe Waller-Bridge as supervising angel (and supporting performer), working with her longtime professional partner Vicky Jones as series creator and showrunner.  Even the format:  a mere 7 bite-sized half-hour episodes.

And yet, after a promising start, Run began to collapse upon itself and never found its way back.  A story like this–one of the classic templates with a similar starting point would be Jonathan Demme’s amazing 1986 Something Wild, written by E. Max Frye– basically has two ways to grow from its premise.  It can deepen, by developing and upending its characters and their relationship as they spend their time (and ours) together.  And it can broaden, adding new characters and plot complications along the way.  Run tried to do both and succeeded at neither.  We learned facts about Ruby and Billy as the series went on but hardly anything that fundamentally altered who they seemed to be when we first met them.  And despite a half-hearted crime angle that included the death of one of Billy’s associates (Archie Panjabi, more cheerful than in the network’s contemporaneous I Know This Much Is True) and the late introduction of a Deputy Sheriff (Tamara Podemski) and a taxidermist (Waller-Bridge) in significant roles, nothing about the plot was particularly gripping or even coherent.

Run‘s last chance to find its way was tonight’s finale, written by Consulting Producer Adam Countee and directed by Kevin Bray, and instead it proved once and for all that Jones hadn’t found a center for the series.  Ruby finally saw the video Billy had made in which he used their “Run” vow as a pitch for his next book, and she inevitably became furious, but there was no real emotional payoff, because we never found out what the interplay was between his crass book proposal and his presumably real feelings for Ruby.  The plot part of the story made even less sense, as the Deputy discovered her pair of murder suspects on the train just outside of LA, but apparently never called for back-up, so they just strolled off the train at Union Station with no one even in pursuit.  The season ended with Billy professing his love and Ruby abruptly turning instead to her children and seemingly unbearable husband (the little-used Rich Sommer) and a cut to black.

Run‘s ride was fairly smooth, mostly because of its fine stars, and the concept itself kept one hopeful that more would come aboard at the next stop.  Unfortunately, that never happened.  Its future is unclear (linear ratings were low, but that isn’t necessarily dispositive these days), but barring a major change in route, it’s not clear that there’s much need to buy a ticket for another trip.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."