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Rubicon Recap: The First Day of School

August 2, 2010
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While I’ve been waiting to get my hands on We Were Strangers for the next John Huston installment (entering into the more obscure Huston films), Shannon suggested I check out AMC’s new conspiracy series Rubicon. The prospect of Miranda Richardson in what I originally thought was going to be another sword-and-sandals series (read, I hope they give her the same sexy treatment they did to Lucy Lawless in Spartacus: Blood and Sand) was an easy sell. But while Rubicon, despite its name, has nothing to do with Rome, Miranda Richardson’s still in it and looking as gorgeous as ever.

So I watched it, and here’s what happens:

The episode opens with Will standing at the roof of the API building, looking down at the scurrying ants of civilization below, ostensibly planning to jump. Across the way, in another building, he’s watched by a shadowy figure.

He doesn’t jump.

Morning at the office: Tanya vomits not-so-discreetly into one of the ladies’ room latrines; Will confesses to Maggie that he’s nervous about taking over David’s position at API, a shadowy organization that apparently exists to find patterns among crossword puzzles; Kale takes Will to meet API’s director Spangler, who asks Kale for an update on the crossword puzzles.

Kale has nothing to report.

Spangler shows Will a picture of several men, asking him to identify two of them before the next day’s over.

Katherine’s husband Tom’s mysterious suicide,  seems to get all the more mysterious when his will is read. Tom evidently left Katherine a house, the catch is he updated his will to include it only a few days before his death.

Katherine travels to the house and finds a number of Tom’s effects, among them a copy of Our Man in Havana. However, Tom apparently detested Graham Greene.

Meanwhile, Grant gets abruptly, and for whatever reason violently angry atthe doughnuts Tanya brought to their meeting. We’re also informed that none of the group–Will, Tanya, Maggie, Kale, can talk about their jobs.

Will identifies one of the men in the picture, and Hal tells Will about an incident in 1983 where several international newspapers ran identical crosswords.

Katherine and Will’s unconnected (or are they?) investigations seem to invite further mysteries–Katherine suspects that Tom was cheating on her; Will suspects foul play in David’s death or that he knew something about the train wreck from the previous episode. He also learns through David’s letters that the crosswords represent a sort of code that convey messages, for what, I’m not entirely sure, though I expect it to have something to do with the news of a Nigerian coup, which Miles seems to know something about. They also appear to be tied into revenge killings, as Hal explains, citing a 1983 marine barracks bombing that led to the deaths of several terrorists.

Soon after, a car tries to run down Will.

Meanwhile, Maggie meets up with Kale to give him a status update on her teammates. She mentions Grant’s dislike of Will and Tanya’s apparent drinking problem. Later in a meeting, Will erupts at Grant’s antagonisms.

The episode ends with Will back on the roof, watched again by two mysterious figures.

If this sounds cryptic, I guess that’s the point. Of course, this is only the second episode of Rubicon, so it’s tough to get a bead on what’s important to report and what’s not, and which characters are in league with whom, and for what.

But it’s also tough to follow. A lot of the episode seemed to focus too much on introducing new mysteries and having Will and Katherine try to follow them up, only to discover yet another mystery. That appeared to be the “plot.” I understand that the threads are supposed to be ambiguous and even non-existent, but I would have enjoyed more time devoted to getting to know the characters. It’s tough to get interested in the conspiracy when you’re not even sure how it (if it does) affect the people trying to seek it out.

Likewise each mystery when they seem to have little to do with the characters. Perhaps they will later on, but looking back over the great conspiracy dramas–Three Days of the Condor, The Conversation, The Bourne Series, The Manchurian Candidate, even A Beautiful Mind (which the opening credits are outrightly obviously derived from) The X-Files–what those had and what so far (again, we’re only two episodes in) Rubicon lacks is tying the conspiracies in with their protagonists. The drama moves forward because the heroes’ very lives depend on getting to the bottom of the mystery, but here, it just feels like Will’s doing his job, and the driving motivation of the hero to do his job doesn’t make for very compelling drama. And Katherine’s motivation seems all over the place–is she trying to solve the mystery of Tom’s death? Why he updated his will immediately before he died? Or is she simply trying to figure out if he cheated on her? Or does she want to get to know the kind of person her husband might have been? Maybe all of the above, but for this episode I had a difficult time understanding what she’s after or if she’s after it.

But I’ll keep quiet for now and see what next week brings.

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One Response to “ Rubicon Recap: The First Day of School ”

  1. Fred on August 2, 2010 at 10:13 am

    “But it’s also tough to follow.” That’s a huge understatement. Nothing in this drama says “come back to see the next episode.” It has been overly hyped and is incoherent. The multiple commercial breaks in the second half hour of both episodes 1 and 2, only add to the desire to stay away.

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