“Men need to admit they don’t feel like that [toxic masculinity] guy that society says they’re supposed to be — that’s not what’s going on inside,” Run showrunner and longtime Phoebe Waller-Bridge collaborator Vicky Jones told Refinery29 on a recent phone call. “For me the sexiest thing is a man who can admit that and who can be open ... We all want that guy who loves you, who sees you, who gets you.”
Jones’ heroine in her new Waller-Bridge-produced HBO thriller, Ruby Richardson (Emmy-winner Merritt Wever), would seemingly agree, as we learn in Run’s Sunday night series premiere, “Run.” During the episode, wife and mom Ruby drops her entire life — down to her new yoga mat — to hop on a cross-country train ride with her college era ex-boyfriend, Billy Johnson (Irish heartthrob Domhnall Gleeson). Motivational speaker Billy is an endless font of emotion — the kind of guy who will grab your hand at the beginning of an intimidating journey, as much for his own comfort as yours. Before Ruby even sees Billy, she is overwhelmingly hungry for him and his kind eyes. The feelings are so intense, Ruby has to masturbate while standing alone in the bathroom of a speeding train within minutes of being around Billy.
Yet, Jones says the magic of Run can only be held together by waiting to see its main characters go at it.
Both Ruby and Billy desperately want the answer to that sexy mystery to be “as soon as possible,” as shown by their respective mad dashes to public restrooms for some sexual alone time. “That moment when they both masturbate about the other one — you have to be desperate to masturbate in a train toilet,” Jones said with a laugh, explaining how she managed to telegraph a lifetime of history and sexual tension between her protagonists in a very short amount of time. After all, by the midpoint of “Run” viewers can easily feel like they understand the specific contours of Ruby and Billy’s college relationship, their years of subsequent yearning, and the electric chemistry they still produce.
It’s also possible Run’s train setting may have gotten Ruby and Billy particularly hot and bothered — and given us a clue into their past. While “Run” is realistically hazy about the couple’s backstory — no one actually speaks in exposition-heavy dialogue about their lives — Jones mused that Ruby and Billy came up with their “Run” pact long ago, during a very different Amtrak ride.
“It was during their breakup, I think … Maybe they went on a train journey that was really beautiful — but one not so far,” Jones began. “It was probably Ruby who started it because she was the one who was succeeding at that time.” As we hear in “Run,” Ruby tells Billy she is a powerful architect rather than the bored stay-at-home mom the premiere’s cold open suggests she is. The writer believes Ruby created the Run pact as “one tiny insurance policy” before heading out into the big, scary post-college world and away from Billy.
“She came up with [the pact] at a point when she felt that she needed to give Billy something,” Jones continued. “But she probably didn’t think she was going to have to wait for 15 years for them to get back [to each other]. Life didn’t happen like that. A lot of time passes of course before they come back together.”
Now the question is if and when they can come together… in the roomette Ruby rented.