Run creator breaks down the cliffhanger finale and Ruby's choice
'I do think she's heartbroken,' Vicky Jones says.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Run season 1 finale.
After seven episodes of illicit train sex, a lot of emotional hand-wringing, and one very unexpected death, HBO's Run went full-steam ahead to its conclusion Sunday night. It hasn't been renewed for a second season yet, but creator Vicky Jones is hopeful she'll get the chance to tell more of Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) and Ruby's (Merritt Wever) story. We hope so too because the finale ended on a massive cliffhanger, leaving the central relationship with one big question mark.
Once back on their train to Los Angeles, Ruby and Billy renewed their lusty adventures, but Billy caught Ruby off guard with a heartfelt speech about his love for her. "I want you to miss me every day for the rest of your life," he told her. That convinced Ruby to choose him over her family, but she changed her mind once she saw the video pitch he'd made for a new book using their "Run" pact.
Things were further complicated by the pursuit of Officer Cloud (Tamara Podemski) and Laurel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Cloud called Ruby's husband, Laurence (Rich Sommer), further blowing holes in Ruby's cover story. Once Ruby felt the sting of Billy's betrayal, she called the police and pulled the emergency brake, allowing Cloud to board the train and pursue Billy. But before Billy faced legal consequences for his role in the death of Fiona (Archie Panjabi), the train pulled into L.A.' Union Station, offering him and Ruby both a clean break.
Realizing that Ruby saw the video, Billy chased her through the station, catching up with her just as Laurence and the kids arrived to bring her home. She was caught between the two, and Billy tried to tell her the video was bulls— and that everything he said on the train was true. He wanted her to choose him, or at least admit to him that she knew he loved her. But Ruby walked away to her family without saying a word.
With this heartbreaking, maybe even somewhat infuriating ending, we called up Jones to get on track with what she thought was going through Ruby and Billy's heads in those final moments, how Waller-Bridge (her EP and longtime creative partner) helped craft Laurel's wacky character, and what Ruby and Billy might have to face if there is a season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It looked like Ruby might answer Billy, but then she walks away without saying anything. Does she really love him? Or did his video just make it easier for her not to choose him over her family?
VICKY JONES: In some ways, I always knew and I felt like Ruby always knew she was going home. Because she's got her kids and her husband. The whole thing, in some ways it's just a bit of emotional tourism. She just trying to remind herself of this person — not the person she remembers in Billy, but the person she remembers in herself. Just to see that with him and then go home. But I feel like if I got it right, then we get much more invested in them as they travel as a viable couple. It was always such a difficult thing trying to work out the story because we knew that she did have kids and we didn't want to tell the story of someone who doesn't go home to her children or doesn't make any plans to see them at least. We made that into her final dilemma, and he does make it easier for her to do what she inevitably had to do. I feel like she loves him so much. They'd always had that pact, and a little bit of her was holding on to the imagined perfect moments that they'd have, and it was surprise that it was that great. She was still in love with him; she did remember correctly and he hasn't changed that much. She does feels wonderful when she's with him. Maybe she didn't expect that to happen. When he says that speech to her, she thinks, "I am going to work this out. I'm going to make this happen." But I think there'd be this horrible feeling of horror and guilt, of "How am I going to square this in my life?" So maybe when she sees that video, it is a relief. I do think she's heartbroken by walking away from him.
Can Ruby really just go back? I expect Laurence will have a lot of questions.
Almost the most hurtful thing is not telling him that she was going to go somewhere away, just doing it and then leaving him to pick up the pieces. In some ways, it was such a pleasure to write that because you feel like, "I know this guy. He doesn't do anything. He doesn't change the nappies. He doesn't pick up the clothes." That kind of thing. It was always much more cathartic to write that side of him, but it felt correct to make him complicated. The truth is always more nuanced, isn't it? I hope he's not that bad. He does have the right to be really upset and really, really angry at what's happened. She's walking home to a mess, for sure.
That speech Billy gives on the train is a hell of a promise. Does he really mean those things? He is, as Ruby points out, very good at selling himself.
I've always felt he was a liar. That doesn't mean he's a bad person. He just is addicted to saying what people want him to say. He's good at that and good at finding the words, and it doesn't really matter where the truth lies. He became an interesting character to write because I think on the one hand he's very good at lying, and on the other hand he's absolutely telling her the truth. He doesn't love many things, he doesn't love himself, but he really, really loves her. That was something that we knew for sure right from the beginning. That moment when he says all that stuff, she feels it and she believes him. It knocks her over that it's happened. But when she finds out that, it doesn't really matter if he did the book. He planned the book. He took their sacred pact and he planned to use it for his for his own personal gain. That's certainly how she feels at the end of episode 7. She feels like she doesn't even know who he is, that he betrayed everything.
Officer Cloud didn’t manage to catch him on the train and still doesn’t know what he looks like, so how likely is it he will actually get caught or turn himself in and have to answer for Fiona’s death?
I think he will have to answer. I don't want to say what happens next. We don't have season 2 confirmed yet, but I feel like he knows that she called the police on him and he knows he's got to pay. Ruby just delicately sidestepped that whole thing [and they] actually ran away from it because of her. Which is a little bit unfair of her to do that, but I think she feels no guilt about it whatsoever. He has taken that on the chin because he knows that she's so hurt by what she just found. He is just going to have to face the music. Unless he runs. That would be ridiculous. He might text her "Run" as soon as season 1 ends, and they'll both go and get in a cab and go to Australia. [Laughs]
Is it possible, even subconsciously, that he purposefully helped Fiona to her death?
He couldn't have known that the farming equipment was in the in the hay. It's absolutely possible that he got angry with her. He says, "She was screaming at me and I let go of her hand," and so I guess that amounts to something if he did do that. He let go of her hand, but she was screaming, "Let me go!" So I don't know, does that make him guilty? It's not ideal for his conscience if he has one, which he definitely does. I think he has a good conscience.
You and Phoebe have such a great creative partnership, and the “Run” pact was even inspired by a moment your friendship. She ended up playing a fun, unexpected role in the series. Did you write it specifically for her?
We had an idea she would be in it. I wrote a character very early on, and she was just like, "I can't stop thinking about her." I was thrilled. I immediately started building her for Phoebe, and Phoebe was always across the scripts and across the story and across the edit and so on. It was a very natural thing for her to contribute as well. Things like the karaoke scene, she very much came up with that on the basis of reading the scripts. She's a great singer, and I wanted her to sing "I Will Always Love You." She came up with this hilarious thing of her being very quiet, and that informed a lot more of the character and how she was lonely but not actively or sadly or anything, but just in need of some social things in her diary because she spent so much time with dead animals. She was actively trying to have a go at self-improvement. Those lovely nuances spring up from working with Phoebe because she's got a brain that just jumps out of the box.
Trains are a lot less popular for cross-country travel in the States than the U.K., so what made you choose that as the predominant setting for the series?
I love trains. I love being on one and that feeling of you're already going somewhere so you feel like you're doing something productive and so you can relax a little bit. Just that feeling of being in a different place continuing; there is a different time-space rule in physics for being on a train. It feels to this couple like they're taking some time out of their existence and are just in a parallel universe while they're there, even though they're not, of course. But that notion of escape. Those old romantic ideas of trains as well: Hitchock and the Before trilogy, by Richard Linklater. Also, just the challenge of it. That forward momentum in a small space and [the train is] almost constantly cock-blocking them because they're in these tiny little private spaces, which is impossible to have sex in.
In some ways Ruby did remind me of Fleabag a little, just in how she is both unapologetically herself but also a bit broken and grasping at things to put herself back together. Was that something you were drawing on at all?
I always take that as a massive compliment, because to watch Phoebe draw that character was the greatest education I could have ever had. That's definitely something that in our friendship and our friendship with others and our sisters, the way that we all talk to each other, it felt accurate. It felt like a real woman who changes her mind all the time, and that doesn't make her a flip-flopper. Someone who is in touch emotionally and sexually and so on, but at the same time doesn't do what's right for her all the time and has a ton of contradictions. Someone who isn't led by one single objective and who is capable of being really flawed, who can do bad things, but not have comeuppance and be the bad female character in the story and can not necessarily learn from her mistakes either. Somebody who feels like she's living a truly three-dimensional Technicolor existence like women I know. It feels really necessary to consciously write flawed characters like that.
The two things society judges women most harshly for are (1) being dissatisfied in the role of wife and mother and (2) openly enjoying sex. What made you want into jump in on both those things and pick them apart with Ruby?
In part, it's just how dare we be made to feel like that? It's the mother-whore thing, isn't it? You're supposed to be this perfect mother that's completely obsessed with your baby against all self. And then when a man wishes you to, you're supposed to be available. It's all just very, very f—ed up… Being a mother or wife, you do have to hand over an aspect of your career or identity most of the time. There are huge pressures and judgments upon every woman about whether she's individually capable or together enough to be a mother. People are constantly siding with the child against you. I hate all of that, and I feel very angry at the way society has judged and pressured women that I know to lose their career or to take a step back or to somehow substitute their own wants all day for what's seen as their duty as a mother. The endlessly thankless self-sacrifice that we're encouraged to engage in is something that has been doing for a very, very long time — marrying a guy who never questioned it and doing everything that she thought was right that made her lose herself and give too much of herself away. I wanted to tell a story of a woman that had happened to. I think many, many people have done that.
And then sex, I mean, f— that. Women pretending they're not interested in sex has got to be resigned to history. That's just plain not true or interesting. Most of the women I know, it's a strain in their relationships because they're the ones who want it more than the guys do. Not most, but plenty. We carry around guilt because we feel like we're the only ones, because it's not being talked about enough.