Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 31: Rubicon

16 Aug

By the skin of its teeth, Rubicon makes it onto the list, as it aired last summer, and well, won’t ever be airing again, but I did watch each and every episode, and I imagine I was one of the few.

I was actually extremely into the show when it started.  The main character, Will, is portrayed by the guy who played CTU agent and Elisha Cuthbert lover Chase Edmonds in the third season of 24 (James Badge Dale), though I would never have recognized him as he looks ten years older.  Will was a  socially awkward but brilliant intelligence agent for a mysterious top secret US intelligence agency in New York.  His family had died in 9/11, an unnecessary detail put in because every serious book, movie or television series set in New York has to show its connections to 9/11 to add drama and depth.  He worked under his father-and-law who dies in an insane train crash in the first episode, and we’re led to believe that this was indeed no accident.  The show set itself up as a long serial mystery show, like Lost, in that there would be a little bit of material given to the viewers in every episode, and if it was done well, its audience would be on the internet checking out what everybody else thought, and coming up with their own conspiracy theories about the conspiracy theories on the show.

The feel was of a classic, Three Days of the Condor-style ‘70s conspiracy thriller.  It got this part exactly right.  The mood was ominous, there were code names aplenty, and paranoia was everywhere.  Within a couple of episodes main character Will became paranoid, and then realized he wasn’t nearly being paranoid enough – his room was bugged, he didn’t know which high level employees were out for him (but at least a couple were), and eventually he had an assassin after him.

There are a lot of reasons why it ended up not working.  One might be that it played too far into clichés.  The plot really was that the events of the world being more or less controlled by a group of old white men (a very white show for a very white genre, I suppose).  Another reason was that the second most important plotline , which involved Miranda Richardson, as the young second wife of an old white man who died mysteriously/was murdered because he violated the terms of his cabal (we didn’t know this exactly at the time), was a lot less interesting than Will’s.

Throughout the show, away from the cabal, we saw the project Will and his team were working on at the top-secret-more-powerful-than-CIA intelligence agency, and the show ended up spending much more time on this plot, which seemed kind of irrelevant, until it was revealed that it was connected to the kind of cabal in a sort of ridiculous and pointless way.  The show had off-the-screen trouble with its showrunner and stuff turnover as it was being filmed, and it was easy to see watching the show.  The show just didn’t seem plotted or paced well, and the payoff at the end was a little bit disappointing and didn’t feel right.  Even though the last episode ended with a cliffhanger and I would have liked to see how it turned out, I didn’t feel all that disappointed that it was cancelled; I couldn’t say it didn’t earn it.

Why it’s this high:  It did a great job of setting mood, and brought back a great underused genre.

What it’s not higher:  It didn’t come together – the plot had no real direction and the pacing was poor and strange to say the least.

Best Episode of the most recent season:  I had to dig back in the archives here, but I think I’m going to say the first episode, because this is the type of show where that was really the high point– experiencing the potential before the execution kind of bungled it.

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One Response to “Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 31: Rubicon”

  1. Anonymous August 18, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    I miss Rubicon. Can you offer the show’s writers a guest column where they reveal the full arc of the story?

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