After Ruby and Billy fled their past lives to reconnect with each other; after they passed the initial awkward discomfort to arrive at some sort of sincere connection; after Fiona got involved and stole Billy’s money and jumped off a train; after the two lovebirds jumped after her to chase her down, only for her to end up impaled on some spikes; after they deserted the body, flirted with the idea of going to the police, only to reject that in favor of getting back on the train to become fugitives: what are we left with? What does all of this add up to? Was the destination worth the journey, or vice versa?
The answer is, unfortunately, not much, but that, again, has to more to do with execution than conception. Not to beat a dead horse, but “Trick,” like the rest of Run, is very frustrating precisely because of how much it does right and how little it matters. In theory, I very much like how Ruby and Billy’s story wraps—Ruby discovers Billy’s book proposal video and rats him out to the cops; Billy catches up with her before she returns to her family and demands that she admit she loves him; Ruby denies him this courtesy—but for it to have maximum impact, the voyage to that point can’t be this rushed or sloppy. But instead, the majority of “Trick” feels like checking plot boxes, and it never slows down long enough for any of those box-checking moments to garner much emotional weight.
Except for Billy’s monologue, which might be the only reason why this episode grade is as high as it is. After Ruby and Billy re-embark the train and have sex, Billy gives this speech about how he knows she’s going to go back to her husband, and that that’s okay as long she’ll miss him. In spite of all of the series’ missteps, this speech, and the self-assuredly depressive way Domhnall Gleeson delivers it, breaks through all the mess to arrive at some genuine poignancy. In fact, it’s good enough that if Run had really focused and tapped into that downbeat inevitability, the idea that they both know they’re not meant to last but don’t want to admit it to the other, it might have been enough for me to overlook the half-assed plotting and sketchy characterizations. But alas, Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson, though very talented performers, can’t hold up the entire series on their shoulders.
It certainly doesn’t help that “Trick” spends much of its runtime on the relationship between Laurel (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and Detective Babe Cloud (Tamara Podemski). I mentioned last week that their relationship serves as a nice foil for Ruby and Billy’s, as theirs is an attraction free of baggage and dysfunction, but that only works if it’s actually developed instead of just implied. Moreover, Run spends a suspicious amount of time on Laurel and Babe in “Trick” that could be better spent on, say, fleshing out Ruby’s fury after she watches Billy’s video, or allowing their final meeting to drag on just a little longer instead of petering out abruptly. It’s not that Waller-Bridge and Podemski aren’t likable or that their chemistry is flat, it’s just that they’re tertiary characters introduced in the penultimate installment of a seven-episode season, and we’re just watching them dance around each other the morning after they spend the night together and fight-flirt on their way to stop Ruby and Billy’s train. It makes you wonder if there just wasn’t enough material in the Ruby/Billy story to fill out the whole episode.
It’s a shame because Run leaves morsels of good ideas even as it’s sheepishly wrapping up. When Ruby reunites with her husband Laurence (Rich Sommer) and her kids, Laurence asks, with concern, “How’s my baby girl?” Ruby pauses before saying, spitefully, “I’m not a baby.” It’s a great moment for Wever, who projects all the complicated feelings she still retains for her husband despite Billy’s betrayal, and it’s a well-judged moment for the finale to almost end upon, but it still feels squandered because Run never engages with the ideas behind these moments. They just sit there, amidst all the buffoonery and violence that’s also never reckoned with beyond their narrative utility.
Much like Run, Ruby and Billy’s romance is defined both by squandered potential and insufficient development. There’s real juice in the delusion that sheer passion can overcome the weight of time and years of regrets. Yet, there seems to be a real skittishness in actually focusing on that idea, on building a show around that type of chemistry, hence there’s thieving and blackmail and accidental death and evading the cops. It all feels like a little much when there’s a good thing at the center struggling to break free.
- It was funny when Ruby says she wants to see Billy’s speech and Billy says he’d rather show her his actual asshole. “It’s more inspiring. At least it’s fuckin’ honest.”
- Rich Sommer got to do very little, but I did really enjoy his “Get the fuck out of here” expression when Billy tries to shake Laurence’s hand.
- Final music corner: Laurel plays The Animals’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which is an excellent cut; Colter Wall’s “Sleeping on the Blacktop” plays over Ruby and Billy catching some winks and then Ruby taking Billy’s laptop; finally, “If You Gonna Go” by Frazey Ford closes out the episode/season. All three songs are linked below.
- Season grade: C
- Thank you so much to anyone who watched and read along these past seven weeks. It’s been an interesting ride for sure.