Vicky Jones is best known for directing the original stage version of Fleabag, and forming the DryWrite Theatre Company with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, but now her first script has made it to the screen in a form of a rather expensive HBO tv show. What’s supposed to be a black comedy drama (at least according to the PR blurb), there’s nothing particularly dark about this first episode and it was so irritating that I’ll never discover why it’s been given such a description.
The rather tedious story sees bored housewife Ruby Richardson (Merritt Wever) suddenly receive a text from someone called Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) and before we know it they’re on a train together, and it’s revealed that seventeen years back when they were a couple they made a pact that if one of them ever sent the other the text “Run” they should meet up and, well, do exactly that. Despite not having seen each other for a ridiculous amount of time they instantly click, to the extent that Ruby’s soon wanking in the bathroom, and then he is too, because this seems desperate to grab the audience’s attention.
Unfortunately neither Ruby or Billy seem that likeable in this first episode, perhaps that’ll change over time but the dialogue is the opposite of naturalistic and of the variety that you only ever get in tv shows like this. They play pranks on each other and lie to the people around them and it’s meant to be amusing but all it made me do is hope that the train they were travelling on crashed in to a mountain, and when the masturbation scene took place I sighed so loudly and strongly that it destroyed the poorly constructed abodes of several pigs.
Initially both Billy and Ruby decide not to talk about their lives or the reasons why either is present, presumably in the hope that the audience might stick around to find out, but it’s pretty obvious why as right at the beginning we see a desperately unhappy Ruby lie to her husband about her dreary humdrum life, and after an argument Billy confesses it’s because Ruby’s the only human being on the planet he has any time for. That suggests he’s surrounded by himself with the most tedious of turds over the past couple of decades, not that she’s exactly a terrible character, just painfully bland and average, and we’re given no reasons or evidence to suggest she’s anything that special.
At the end there’s a fake out which suggests Ruby’s gotten off the train and left Billy behind and he throws a tantrum and then looks all sad, only for it not to be the case, surprise surprise, and she’s made it back just in time. It’s a device which is lazy and annoying, an attempt at manipulating the audience that surely no one would have been fooled by, which is indicative of the kind of tropes Jones’ script deals with in general.
Fleabag works because Phoebe Waller-Bridge created such a layered, complicated central character, and one who was appealing because she was darkly funny and extremely honest about her flaws, or most of them at least. So she’s the opposite of Jones’ central leads then, who are supposed to be in some ways similar as they’re edgy and sexy types, but Jones has failed to make them in any way engaging and so I have no interest in the slightest as to what happens to them next unless it’s an extremely agonising death.