Run review – Episode One – Channel 4

Run Channel 4If you’re looking for an antidote to all this happy sunshine we’re currently getting in the UK then you could do worse than Run, Channel 4’s grim drama, airing over four consecutive days, which takes a brutal look at a dark and miserable underbelly of society.

In this first episode, Olivia Coleman plays Carol, a mother of two teenage boys, living in a council estate so deprived that people shrug their shoulders when someone turns up beaten to death. Carol’s sons were responsible for that murder, taking their anger out on the passer-by after he looked in the wrong direction.

With Run, Coleman, fresh from her Bafta victory and currently enjoying mass critical praise, has taken the next step on the TV superstar trajectory: playing the lead in a gritty, working class drama. She is good here though, conveying a woman whose love for her sons corrupts her own life.

The writing in the episode though is a little overt in its effort to be authentically ‘working class’; people pointedly use the word ‘cunt,’ and wake up with cans of lager on their bedside table. Have you ever noticed how all poor people smoke cigarettes a lot? They certainly do on TV anyway.

Looming in the background of Carol’s life was her ex-husband Kieran, whose hinted at criminal past hung over every aspect of her life, including her ability to find a new partner. Neil Maskell brought a quiet menace to the role, but I’m not sure his dialogue needed to be so aggressive. Maskell has the ability to convey threat without it being so explicit. The directing was good though, adding to Kieran’s power by leaving him just out of frame in a few scenes.

At the episode’s end Carol came to the painful realisation that her sons were on the unalterable course towards mimicking their violent father, with Carol’s realisation illustrated in a nice scene where the younger, less dickish son took a bite out of an apple in a call-back to his father doing the same earlier in the episode.

Distraught, Carol left the flat in a daze and stared at her mobile for a bit, before returning home, where the police broke down the door and dragged her sons away. I’m assuming that she phoned the police and told them about the attack. In the final scene, a police officer noticeably called Carol by her maiden name Elliot, as opposed to earlier when he used her husband’s surname. Phoning the police is the painful price Carol paid to give her sons a chance at avoiding their father’s fate.

Random notes:

  • Maskell worked well with some decent writing to give an impression of someone struggling – and failing – to break from his violent tendencies.
  • The two sons weren’t particularly real or rounded characters. The episode was a bit like a one character film, with everything revolving around Carol.
  • I liked that Carol’s alarm clock was set to 8:36, not 8:30. It was a nice note of realism.
  • The fake lager in the episode was called Czas, which is Polish for ‘time.’ No idea if that has any significance.
  • If you thought this episode was too grim then you should probably avoid tonight’s light-hearted follow-up, which the Radio Times says involves rape and torture. It focuses on the Chinese girl who bought stolen goods from Carol in this episode.

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