Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rubicon - "The Outsider"

Will Travers (James Badge Dale) and Truxton Spangler (Michael Cristofer) have a drink after a successful trip to Washington.
Photo Credit: AMC
Review by Paul Steven Brown

Season 1 - Episode 4
"The Outsider"

Despite 'Rubicon' being a show with a handful of running mysteries to deal with from week to week, "The Outsider" is pretty much a standalone episode. We get a few scenes of the isolated Katherine subplot and Will gets some information on the names he had ran (off the record, of course), but that's about it for the bigger picture material. The real meat is in two concurrent stories; one involving Will and Spangler in D.C., the second focuses on Will's team back in New York working on a new case.

Basically, Kale tells Miles, Tanya, and Grant to put the Popovich and Boeck investigation on hold, so they can riffle through a bunch of data on an suspected terrorist operative name Kateb. What makes it so compelling is that these three have to come to an unanimous consensus on whether or not that this guy is bad enough to take out. On top of that, Kateb is holed up in a building that is in a highly populated area. If the kill order is given, he'll get hit with a missile fired by a drone and the explosion could potentially kill a lot of innocent people, including children.

Tanya is new to API, so this sort of decision making is very new to her. Miles and Grant have had to work on similar cases before, but you can tell that it's still a painful process for them as well. The three have to decide whether the deaths now will be fewer than the potential horror that Kateb wreck on others if this opportunity is allowed to pass. It's a cruel kind of calculus and it puts them all through an emotional wringer, especially Tanya.

Besides just being a compelling morality play, this story provides great insights on the characters of Grant, Tanya, and Miles. Miles tries to come at the problem at every conceivable angle. He's not going to let a bunch of potential casualties happen without covering as much information as possible, despite the deadline. We already know that Tanya maybe dealing with the hardships of her job by drinking. Throughout the episode she makes several trips to the restroom to either splash water on her face or to pop some pills. When the decision is finally reached and submitted to Kale, all three decide to drink very heavily that night, having not left the office or each other's company. All three actors are fantastic, which only makes me want to see more and more of them on this show.

Meanwhile, Will is off to D.C. with API head honco Truxton Spangler. The pair are trying to maintain API's independence and out of the hands of politicians. Their various meetings with military officers and legislators helps paint a clearer picture of what API does and its relationship to various national security organizations.

What's more interesting is how Will's interactions with Spangler help define the strange, paranoid world that these information processors live in. Spangler gives Will a new brief case to replace his messenger's bag. You can't handcuff a duffel bag securely to your person apparently. Spangler's description of what he looks for in a proper brief case is fantastic and illuminating to what kind of person he is. Will meets an old friend of Spangler who mentions that not even Truxton knows his real name. During a conversation Spangler mentions his son who is off at college. When Will asks where, Spangler quickly steers the discussion away personal details.

Will's trip to D.C. appears to work on two levels. One, Spangler wants to get to know who it is that is working for him in a newly promoted and important position. More insidiously, this is probably the first attempt to indoctrinate Will further into the company. If they make him one of them, maybe he'll be less likely to poke his nose where it isn't wanted.

"The Outsider" was my favorite episode so far and 'Rubicon' continues to draw me in. The acting is still great and I don't mind the slow burn storytelling if it continues to be this good.