Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catching Up With… Rubicon

Will Travers (James Badge Dale) knows that just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean that they're not after you on 'Rubicon'
Photo Credit: AMC
By Paul Steven Brown

Season 1 – Episodes 1 – 3
“Gone in the Teeth”
“The First Day of School”
“Keep the Ends Out”

I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue watching ‘Rubicon’, the new conspiracy series from AMC, after the first episode. Despite the intrigue and the acting, this show is a very slow burner. I decided to catch up with it this week and I can finally say that I’m sold on it and I’ll continue with it through the rest of the season. As a result, this review will be a truncated look at the first three episodes.

Series creator Jason Horwitch left after the first episode and the series has been handed over to former ‘Homicide: Life on the Streets’ producer and writer, Henry Bromell. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this, but I’ve found the second and third hours more engaging than the first. It’s not that the answers to the various conspiracies are coming faster or that a bigger picture is forming more quickly, but there seems to be a more urgency that the premiere did not have.

‘Rubicon’ stars James Badge Dale (formerly of ‘24’) as Will Travers, an intelligence analyst for an independent firm that mills through mountains of data for the U.S. government. Will’s wife and daughter were killed on September 11th, 2001. When his boss, who also happens to be his father-in-law, David, mysteriously dies, Will begins to find clues that lead him to believe that it was not accidental. Will is promoted into David’s position and given a case to solve, all the while privately trying to figure out the clues left behind by his mentor.

Dale is a solid performer and he embodies Will with just a right, small amount of intensity under the surface. He comes across as justifiably paranoid, but due to the nature of his job and the eccentric personalities that work there, he’s just “off” enough. He’s obviously very smart and good at his job, but proactive enough to be a hero we can root for. Oh, and that hair is great.

There are three main plots that have been running through the series thus far. The main, of course, is Will’s attempts to find out what happened to David by cracking the various codes and clues he left behind. A second storyline involves a woman named Katherine Rhumor, played by Miranda Richardson, whose husband committed suicide, but not before leaving her one of his companies and a townhouse that she never knew he owned. The third mystery involves Will’s team being assigned the job of identifying several men in a photograph and determining their connections to each other.

Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson) and James Wheeler (David Rasche) discuss the mysteries surrounding her husband on 'Rubicon'.
Photo Credit: AMC
Katherine’s story has yet to cross into the other two, at least not that I can see. Her husband’s best friend was shown in a meeting with Will’s boss from upstairs, but that’s been it. This is probably the least interesting part of the show so far, but solely due to its lack of connectivity to the mysteries being pursued by Will and his team. Richardson is good in the role and I’m looking forward to widening of her character’s story.

I like the three members of Will’s team. Dallas Roberts as Miles is by far the most interesting of the bunch. In the first episode, he comes off as quirky and distracted, but by the second we come to realize that his obsessive nature and the stress of his job has severely strained his marriage and continues to isolate him from his children. Another member of the team, Grant (Christopher Evan Welch) is frustrated when he can’t talk about his job at Career Day at his kid’s school. He’s also resentful of Will getting David’s job. The third and youngest member is Tanya (Lauren Hodges), who may or may not have a drinking problem, and is quite good at verbally sparing with Grant.
Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard) and Maggie Young (Jessica Collins) discuss a personal matter on 'Rubicon'
Photo Credit: AMC
I’m not sure what to think of Maggie Young (Jessica Collins), Will’s assistant. What compels me about Collins’ performance is that there seems to be an underlying current of sadness about the character. She is also apparently attracted to Will and has made it evident. When Will pays for her lunch in the company cafeteria, she quips that it’s the closest they’ll ever get to an actual lunch date. Her ex-husband has re-entered her and her daughter’s life, but that’s not as interesting as the fact that Will’s immediate supervisor, Kale, has her delivering intel on Will and his team members to him.

Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard) is unnerving. He’s constantly dressed in black, but it’s his ever-present nature that casts a shadow over every move that Will makes. Also, his relationship with Maggie, and I suspect that there’s more than what we’ve seen, is simply creepy.

Last, but not least, is Ed Bancroft (Roger Robinson), a former code cracker and lifelong friend of David. He’s been the one person that Will feels that he can possibly trust in his quest to uncover the truth about David’s death. I’ve got a bad feeling that this old guy is not going to make it to the end of the season. One way to set back a hero is to remove his support system, particularly wise old advisors.

So far, ‘Rubicon’ has been all about the characters for me. The mysteries are good, but not enough has been revealed yet to really get my juices flowing. It’s a well photographed show too and the sound really pulls you into the streets of New York City. This is just further evidence that AMC isn’t just throwing anything together when it comes to the network’s ongoing television projects. I’m glad I decided to take another look at ‘Rubicon’ and I’m looking forward to see what answers lie ahead.

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