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Not All Conspiracies Are Theories: Brief Thoughts on AMC's Rubicon

While you can read my feature piece on AMC's conspiracy thriller Rubicon here, I thought I'd also offer my brief thoughts on the first four episodes of the drama itself.

I found Rubicon--which stars James Badge Dale, Miranda Richardson, Lauren Hodges, Arliss Howard, Jessica Collins, Dallas Roberts, and Christopher Evan Welch--an intriguing glimpse behind the curtain of the intelligence community, where the focus wasn't on dashing Jack Bauer types but rather the analysts who are forced to pull together information and offer suggestions to an array of agencies on supported actions.

It's this specifically that provides the series' fourth episode--the best of the initial installments--its emotional heft, as the analysts at API are forced to content with a weighty moral decision that will impact the lives of countless people.

However, while there's a biting intelligence to Rubicon (which was created by Jason Horwitch and now overseen by Henry Bromell), it's nearly undone by its own languorously plodding pacing. AMC series aren't known initially for bolting out of the gate but there's a glacial quality to the unfolding plots here, a dual track of meandering currents that makes it hard to get into the overarching conspiracy. Not helping matters either: it's difficult to care about any of these characters in the first few episodes.

The aforementioned fourth episode goes to some lengths to add some much needed depth to both the analysts, Will Travers (James Badge Dale), and their shadowy boss Truxton Spangler (Michael Cristofer), particularly when the latter two embark on a trip to Washington D.C. Their strained interactions--which come to a head over a briefcase, of all things--provide some unexpected sparks as well as some well-earned tension there.

When Spandler admonishes Will about his low-key messenger bag because it lacks a "security tether," one can't help but feel that he might be talking about Rubicon itself. It needs not only an emotional tether but also a strong pull in the right direction.

Rubicon premieres Sunday evening at 8 pm ET/PT with a special two-hour launch (which includes the pilot that received its own sneak peek a few weeks back) on AMC.

Comments

Jon88 said…
Watched the "preview" first hour. Sorry to hear that the next three hours are just as sluggish. If things improve, well, there will be Netflix. But can it recover from that preposterous crossword business (and trust me, it's beyond ridiculous)?
Udo said…
Yeah, I saw the preview too and thought it was pretty slow. Mad Men started out with very slow pacing but I think that, for a conspiracy theory drama like Rubicon, you really need the tension to be there from the beginning.
abbytaz said…
I also agree and thought the pilot was slow and labor intensive. I was however glad to see Allen Coulter at the directing helm. He always brings a sense of dark mystery to his filming. See the Damages pilot episode "Get Me A Lawyer" as a prime example of a homerun.

I'll patiently watch this series to see if it improves. I would love to have another intriguing AMC show to watch this summer.
Ben said…
I'll differ with the above folks. I'm loving this series. I like that it isn't all flash and guns and that the characters take time to develop.

They are really interesting people and I'm very engaged with their stories, having stayed with it. I hope this series gets an audience, cause it is one of the best new shows out there by far.

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