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Love on the ‘Run’

Rito P. Asilo

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

 /  Sun, April 12, 2020  /  12:39 pm

Editor's note: This article may contain spoilers.

What would you do if you wake up one morning and realize your life hasn’t become the dreamy and satisfying future you think you deserve?

To raise the stakes for quarantined viewers who are forcibly stuck at home during the claustrophobia-inducing lockdown and pandemic, we raise this question: Would you seize a rare opportunity to leave everything behind to be with the One That Got Away?

Former college sweethearts Ruby Richardson (Merritt Wever) and Billy Johnson (Domhnall Gleeson) thought they found a way out of this existentialist dilemma when they were only 19-year-old students:

In their youth, Billy and Ruby made a pact that if one of them texted the word “RUN” and got the same reply from the other, they would drop everything, meet at Grand Central Station in New York City—and travel across America for a week!

And when their adventure has run its course, they must choose between two options: Stay together or go their separate ways, this time for good.

This is the fascinating premise that fuels the seven-episode, 30-minute series “Run,” which premieres at 10:30 a.m. on HBO and HBO Go tomorrow. It’s a way for the show’s protagonists to reset their lives when all else fails. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always operate as intended.

Just the same, the plan creates a welcome diversion from Ruby and Billy’s quibbles and woes 17 years after they make the pact.

In fact, the plan couldn’t have come at a better time for the long-estranged couple: Ruby, now a married architect with two sons, finds herself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She realizes how “stuck” she is while she sits in the parking lot of a Target store, stuck in a car just before she begins another unsatisfying day of her humdrum existence.

So, when Ruby suddenly gets an unexpected text from Billy, who’s now a life coach and bestselling author, she thinks she’s been handed a new lease on life and romance.

Ruby then walks away from her ordinary life in the suburbs to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that allows her to reinvent herself and pursue something exciting, for a change. She takes a five-hour flight to New York as an escape from her husband Laurence’s (Rich Sommer) boring dependability.

Read also: 10 comedy series to watch during quarantine and where to stream them

“I’m not the same person I used to be,” Ruby forewarns her former squeeze. But neither is Billy, who walked out of his career-defining three-day event 30 minutes after it began, to be with Ruby!

The couple’s individual problems didn’t really come as a surprise, we later find out. Laurence, for one, has been noticing the chink in Ruby’s armor for some time now. “Are you having another breakdown?” he asks his wife when she cryptically tells him on the phone that she needs a weeklong break.

In Billy’s case, an emergency situation involving a troubled client leads him to send the urgent text to Ruby.

The series, created by Vicky Jones and produced by “Fleabag’s” Phoebe Waller Bridge, delivers a binge-worthy progression of events that is unlike so many screen romances we’ve all sat through.

It starts out like a “more mature” romantic comedy whose tone and theme drastically change midway through its seven-part run.

But knowing Phoebe’s penchant for unpredictability and storytelling innovation, keeping in mind that she was the showrunner and head writer of “Killing Eve’s” premier season, you know only too well you can count on “Run” not to turn its promising concept into just another run-of-the-mill TV potboiler.

Thereafter, “Run” becomes a thriller that boldly tackles issues transcending situations that merely make viewers’ hearts a-flutter with romantic anticipation or excitement.

In Episode 5, for instance, a shocking accident in a barn involving Billy’s persistent personal assistant (Archie Panjabi) that leads to Phoebe’s anticipated cameo, in the role of a dead badger-retrieving taxidermist named Laurel, instantly turns the rom-com genre on its head. But saying more than that would be giving away unnecessary spoilers at this point.

It doesn’t hurt that competent lead performers with the sensibility of character actors are tasked to breathe life into the romantic thriller. The Emmy-winning Merritt is known for turning in indelible portrayals in “Nurse Jackie,” “Godless” and “The Walking Dead,” while Domhnall has been a reliable fixture on the big screen (“Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Ex Machina,” “Brooklyn” and “The Revenant”). So, we’ll leave you, dear readers, to discover how this whole “compelling mess” in the lives of “Run’s” star-crossed lovers plays out in real time onscreen. It certainly isn’t a bad way to spend your isolation in the virtual company of “watchable” actors.

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This article appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post