Last week after mentioning to someone that I was obsessed with American TV shows, she made the recommendation to me to watch a 4 part drama that was currently on Channel 4 called ‘Run’.
Usually when it comes to British shows, I’m a bit apprehensive, but she did say it was ‘really good’, and to be honest, I have barely any American shows to watch, and I’ve felt restless about this, so I thought I’d give it a try.
And I’m so glad I did.
I found it exceptional in its portrayal of the darker sides of contemporary inner city/urban life and the people who get caught in its gloomy and vicious cycles. Every episode moved something within me, and made me want a better world, with more compassion & mercy, yet justice & vindication. Even if a character was rotten in life and deed, as an audience we were always shown elements of them that showed they had at least one redeeming quality, one reason to pity them, and one reason to relate to them in the context that we are all human beings trying to make it in this game called life and some of us win, and others of us lose…badly.
The struggles raised in the 4 episodes were very real, very gritty, unrepentant in the rawness of the portrayal of them, and conversely (as it is often claimed these kind of dramas do) absolutely not a glorification of any of the extremely serious themes raised.
These were the core themes raised in the series episode by episode:
- Juvenile Delinquency, Domestic Violence, Parental Responsibility, Murder
- Immigration, Sex Abuse, Compassion, Mercy
- Drugs, Desperation, Addiction, Loss, Hope
- Sham Weddings, Betrayal, Deception, Risk
Right now I’m conflicted with how much to reveal of the storylines, as I deeply implore everyone to try to watch them on 4OD before they come off (probably in the next 20 days). There’s only so many words I can use, that can evoke just how profoundly simultaneously disturbed, angered, helpless, and yet hopeful, watching these episodes make you feel.
I’d say my favourite episode was episode 3, the story of Richard a recovering heroin addict. His journey in this episode is so emotionally charged it is almost impossible not to cry every time he speaks. You recognise that it is a dire situation that he got himself into, yet you desperately want him to succeed in his quest to see his daughter, because he is in recovery and chooses to ignore/avoid attempts by fellow addicts to draw him back into drugs again. The emotion with which he speaks about his daughter, the sheer desperation in his longing to see her and attempts to see her, helps the audience in the wider context to see addicts not just as useless junkies deserving of the fruits of their actions, but as human beings first, fighting a relentless battle to save not just their bodies, minds and souls, but the threads by which they hang on to life. For Richard, this is the hope of seeing his daughter again. It motivates him to do good, and to do bad – and this is something quite integral to the 4 episodes. We get drawn into these anti-heroes’ lives to the extent that when they do wrong for the sake of good, we almost pardon it because we understand the journey they’ve been going through, and how hard it was for them to get there, and how much they want to be better but don’t know how. But at the same time we are repulsed by it. And this repulsion is based on the natural society-trained instinct to judge these people at face value and see them as nothing more than empty, useless, hopeless beings, who we’d rather not think about and pretend don’t exist.
Basically I feel the drama is an exploration of the depths of humanity (both high and low), when faced with some of life’s most disgusting or unpalatable scenarios. For me, it forces you to consider and analyse the extent of your own personal sense of morality, justice, mercy, compassion and value of life. It’s an emotional roller-coaster where at times your sense of humanity is punched into your face one minute making you feel a surprising twist of mercy and compassion in an unlikely situation, then ripped from you in the next causing you a wave of revulsion and anger at the ‘dregs’ of society living up to their societal expected roles.
As you can see from the themes I listed before, they are quite hard-hitting episodes, and not for the faint-hearted. But I actually think they could be very useful in terms of exploring many of these themes with young people of 17/18 years (as a side note) – By that I mean watching it with them and discussing the issues raised after, as they are real issues affecting younger and younger people. The drama is one of the most potent portrayals of urban life I have seen in a while. And what was also brilliant about it, was the way each major personal story was interlinked with the next story in the next episode. That was very cleverly executed and in no small way a key factor in the success of the drama as a whole. Make sure to watch them in chronological order.
A massive congratulations to the writers Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith, who brought this amazing concept together, and also to the exceptional cast full of many great/up and coming British actors.
If you’ve watched it, let me know what you thought.