Well this is a little more like it! Everything that fell apart in episode five — logically motivated characters, a connection between past selves and current actions, snappy dialogue, dramatic irony that actually makes sense, real tension — it’s back! It all came back! I have zero idea why episode five was such a disaster but phew, I am relieved.
One thing Run has struggled with since the first episode is how to add any third or fourth character to this story. Either they are mostly symbolic nothing people, like Laurence and Fiona, or they’re very briefly appealing minor characters whose roles don’t threaten Ruby and Billy’s centrality at all, like the hot guy on the train. The fact that Run had yet to nail any of these other characters was mostly fine as long as the major tension was between its two leads. As soon as it tried to graft a thriller plot onto its mid-30s ennui story, though, everything instantly felt flimsy and overly convenient. Even in episode six, as our new police-officer friends stand next to Fiona’s impaled corpse and discuss their favorite reality show, I suspect I was supposed to find their cheerfulness to be tensely incongruous. And instead, I’m so much more interested in the fact that one partner keeps spoiling the ending for this other partner than I am in Fiona. She was never a person, so why should I care!
It should’ve happened much earlier, but at long last, Run has some secondary characters who actually feel meaningful to the story. Phoebe Waller-Bridge the Taxidermist seemed like a one-off cameo role in the previous episode, and I was shocked to see her return. Not only that, but she’s miraculously transformed into someone with personality, a strange but caring misfit who understands her own eccentricities but isn’t embarrassed by them. (Fine, yes, in the show her name is Laurel, but until this episode “Laurel” had no substance at all and calling her anything other than Phoebe Waller-Bridge still feels like it gives the show too much credit.) Her renovation is thanks largely to the arrival of my new favorite character on this show: Deputy Detective Babe Cloud, played by Tamara Podemski, who takes this very thin role and just crushes it.
When the episode opens, Billy and Ruby are frantically running back to this farmhouse where they had the showdown with Fiona, because Ruby’s realized she left her phone there. They had to catch a ride to the train station with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but now they’re able to run back on foot? Through the forest with no lights or roads? Okay! When they get there, Ruby makes a dash to collect her phone but a light clicks on in the house they’d previously thought was empty. Wouldn’t you know it, but this house belongs to Daniel, a friend of Phoebe Waller-Bridge the Taxidermist. She’s arrived to do what’s apparently a traditional swap with Daniel — he gives her dead animals, she gives him mac ’n’ cheese — but rather than Daniel, she finds Fiona, still skewered on the hay rack.
Unlike Ruby and Billy, who witnessed Fiona’s demise and then scampered away terrified, the unflappable taxidermist calls the cops right away. Soon they arrive, and after some quiet gamesmanship about who’ll stay to cordon off the area and who will go to question Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Deputy Cloud leaves to do the interview. Of the many things I love about these characters (of course Deputy Everwood still texts Deputy Cloud reality-show spoilers), my favorite may be that while they’re not especially upset by Fiona’s dead body, they quickly acknowledge that yes, a murdered stranger in this very rural area is a big deal. Neither of them pretend like this is a typical day, which is such a relief. You cannot ask me to watch two young police officers in a sparsely populated town to greet a murder victim with a resigned shrug.
While Deputy Cloud gets going on the police work, Ruby and Billy have the heart-to-heart I’ve been waiting for them to have since very early in the show. Finally, they actually speak to each other about the deep things that brought them here: Billy’s guilt that he caused a man to kill himself, Ruby’s fury and exhaustion about being stuck in a role as suburban house mom that she feels like she fell into rather than chose. She loves her kids, she tells Billy, but she didn’t realize how much of herself she would lose. “They have no idea what they’ve taken from me,” she tells him, and it makes her equally resentful of them and anxious that they’ll be harmed by her unhappiness.
There are two big turns in this episode and they’re mostly driven by Ruby. First comes Ruby’s acquiescence, as Billy convinces her they must go to the cops. It’s not so much that Billy insists on it; it’s that Ruby gets the deciding vote and Billy finally persuades her it’s the only choice that makes sense. I don’t know if Ruby ever fully accepted that they’d go to the police. Maybe she did and then changed her mind, or maybe she only pretended to agree with Billy so she could buy a little time. Whatever the case, there’s another switchback. They go to the Thirsty Cactus to have one last drink before turning themselves in, and Ruby points out that they could easily catch up with their original train. “Run,” she tells Billy, and the romantic, thrilling, positive escape promised by those first text messages turns into something more like frantic cowardice. Before they were running toward one another, and it seemed sexy and cool. Now they’re running away, and it feels weak.
But meanwhile, and maybe even more importantly, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is singing karaoke at the Thirsty Cactus. She has a slot there, and she can barely muster the courage to sing loudly enough to be audible above the bar chatter. It doesn’t matter, though, because Deputy Cloud, who has unwrapped a brand-new interview notebook just for this occasion (possibly her first), is obviously falling in love with her anyhow. It is the cutest. It’s so cute that at the very end of the episode, I was almost annoyed when Phoebe Waller-Bridge picks up her jacket, the one she loaned to Billy in the previous episode. In his mad dash with Ruby to go catch their train and run away from their problems, he forgets it.
The jacket is a great capper for an episode that’s so much more confident and snappy than what came before. It gives the upcoming finale a good kick to get it started, it ties together Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the Billy/Ruby endgame, and it even connects neatly with Billy’s now-infamous habit of forgetting his coats. But I was still mad! A part of me will always want this show to keep going with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Deputy Cloud sitting happily at this bar together, buying each other drinks and talking about taxidermy.
• Of the many satisfying things about Billy and Ruby’s big argument in the forest, I was especially happy to hear Ruby yell at Billy that he just doesn’t know anything about her! It’s the most interesting and trickiest part of this relationship, I think — as the audience, we have this desire for them to immediately reconnect in a potent, “it just feels right” kind of way. And they do! But it’s far more interesting for Run to acknowledge how much of a lie that is, and how much their time apart has actually turned them into strangers.
• Billy, Billy, Billy. He keeps insisting that he and Ruby will need to own up to what they’ve done. He let Fiona fall to her death. Ruby did leave her husband. “We’re going to have to deal with our shit at some point,” he tells Ruby. But the desire to keep running is too strong, and he just can’t hold himself to it. Ruby says they’re still going to call the police from the train, but do any of us believe that? We do not.
• The one moment in this episode I rewound and rewatched right away: Deputy Cloud asking Phoebe Waller-Bridge if she has a girlfriend, and then Phoebe Waller-Bridge asking Deputy Cloud if she has a girlfriend. “NO,” writes Deputy Cloud in her notebook. Then she underlines it for good measure. I love them.