Welcome to the 26th installment of our 2020 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media. Today’s spotlight focuses on this great couple from HBO’s romantic dramedy series Run — Officer Babe Cloud and Laurel Halliday. This article contains spoilers for Run, so if you haven’t checked out the show yet, you should do so before reading.
Run mostly focuses on the ups and downs in the relationship between Billy and Ruby, who are two exes traveling across the country based on a pact they made 15 years before the events of the show. But when they make a deadly mistake, they (and the audience) meet some of the residents of a little town in the middle of nowhere. The two most interesting of those residents? Officer Babe Cloud, a sweet, small town cop in way over her head as she must investigate a mysterious death, and Laurel, a taxidermist with a quirky personality and bone-dry sense of humor. They seem like an unlikely pair at first, but quickly become more than friends as Babe goes to Laurel needing help with her investigation. While Babe and Laurel only appear in the final few episodes of the seven-episode first season, they make a memorable pair right away.
We first meet Laurel (played perfectly by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as Billy and Ruby flee the scene of their maybe-crime. Needing a lift to the nearest train station, they stumble upon Laurel, who is in the process of putting a dead badger in her car. A traumatized Billy asks if the badger is dead, and Laurel deadpans, “oh, yeah, I’d say she’s completely dead” in one of the funniest lines of the show.
She eventually gives Billy and Ruby a ride, explaining to their relief that she is a taxidermist. She gives Billy her jacket since he’s missing his, and comforts Ruby when they arrive at the station. But Ruby accidentally leaves her cell phone in Laurel’s car, guaranteeing this won’t be the last we see of her.
We then meet Babe (Tamara Podemski), who along with her partner is called to the scene of the crime after a tip comes in. The tip was made by Laurel, who noticed a dead body on her friend Daniel’s property when she stopped by to drop off mac n’ cheese. Babe is an adorable person with no experience with murder investigations, which becomes clear when she questions Laurel about what she saw. She sits down with Laurel and has to take the shrink wrap off her police notebook before asking her questions. But another obstacle to solving the case becomes clear quickly: Babe is smitten with Laurel. When Laurel helps Babe take off her police vest, Babe blushes uncontrollably and stammers. Babe asks how Laurel knows Daniel, and in another fabulously funny line Laurel replies, “he brings me roadkill, and I bring him mac n’ cheese.”
Proving she is a smooth operator, Babe then asks if Daniel had a girlfriend, and when Laurel says no, follow up by asking if LAUREL has a girlfriend (play it cool, Babe, play it cool). Podemski is brilliant in this scene, generating laughs but also making the audience root for Babe in her romantic pursuit. Laurel then says they can talk about this more at the local bar, where she has a longstanding commitment. Babe is tickled that Laurel just asked her out (and seems to forget entirely about the DEAD BODY Laurel found just hours earlier).
At the bar, Laurel whisper-sings “I Will Always Love You” at karaoke while Babe looks on, beaming at her. As she leaves the stage (with the karaoke emcee saying “nice to almost hear you again this week”), Laurel returns to her table with Babe. She says she knows she’s bad, but that it’s good for her to do something in front of people because she “spends a lot of time with dead animals.” Babe tells her she’s wonderful, shyly smiling at her, but then has the realization that there is a murder to be investigated and Laurel is a prime witness (better late than never). They continue to flirt even as Babe asks questions about the crime scene, and eventually Laurel offers to buy her a drink. Babe gallantly insists on buying for the both of them and declares that she’s “off duty.” But this night out turns out to be a little productive from an investigative standpoint: Laurel notices the jacket she gave Billy sitting on a bar stool. Billy left it behind while fleeing the bar, tying he and Ruby to the crime scene.
The next morning, Babe goes downstairs after having apparently spent a sexy night with Laurel. She finds Laurel stuffing the badger from the day before, and while she seems to have had a good time, Babe realizes it crossed quite a few lines for them to have been together while actively investigating a murder case Laurel is potentially involved in. Laurel tells her that she won’t tell anyone before joking that in exchange Babe should clear Daniel in the murder. All of a sudden, Babe realizes that Daniel has been hiding in this house the whole time. Was Laurel just using Babe so she could help her friend? After chasing down Daniel outside, Babe arrests Laurel for obstruction of justice, but Laurel just laughs good-naturedly, knowing Babe is just frustrated.
The two then become a crime solving duo, with Laurel able to identify Ruby and Billy and Babe getting a tip that they are on a train heading to Los Angeles. Through some pretty questionable police work, Laurel uses Ruby’s phone to reach her husband, and Ruby is forced to help Babe apprehend Billy. Before Babe boards the train, Laurel runs to her and kisses her before telling Babe to “go get ’em.” Babe smiles before going after Billy, and it’s clear their relationship is heading for great things.
Babe and Laurel are a great pair for a few reasons. Both are hilarious and well-written characters in their own right. Their motivations are complex, and both are endearing. The fact that Babe likes Laurel is treated as just a typical crush, with no massive emphasis on either her or Laurel’s sexuality. They just like each other and pursue a relationship, not worrying about labels (or, indeed, the many legal issues involved). Finally, their dynamic together brings out the best in each of them. Laurel allows Babe to have a little fun and let her funnier side show, and Babe grounds the sometimes-flighty Laurel. If Run gets a second season (and it absolutely should), I hope the writers find a way to keep Babe and Laurel around despite the end of the investigation. They are both funny and have great chemistry together, plus everyone needs more Phoebe Waller-Bridge on their televisions.
Run is available now on HBO. You can check out our other coverage of the series here. Be sure to check back here for more Pride Month spotlights!