I knew I was going to love AMC’s new series Rubicon (Sundays, 9 PM/8 PM C) the minute it started paying to homage to one of my favorite 70’s conspiracy movies, Three Days of the Condor. Mid level intelligence guy who’s a code breaker that stumbles upon a conspiracy? Yeah, I’m all in. The first episode aired on Sunday and it had all of the makings of a great television ride. Let’s hope it doesn’t get fucked up with too many twists and turns and that the creators (and network) know when to end the thing before its audience gets fed up. From the way they handled the pilot, I have confidence that things are going to be done right.
For those of you who missed it, the show opened with a suicide. An unnamed man played by character actor Harris Yulin- he has a face you’ve seen in hundreds of Law & Orders , opens his newspaper and discovers a four leaf clover. He glances out the window at his wife and children playing in the snow. She waves, perplexed. And then the wealthy man picks up a gun and kills himself.
Cut to Will Travers, played by James Badge Dale, so excellent in the recent HBO miniseries, The Pacific. Travers is a code breaker for a federal intelligence agency called the American Policy Institute. Among his jobs is to search through newspapers and literature to find patterns, perhaps codes. Sound familiar Condor fans? Will is a wreck. His wife and daughter were killed in the first tower on 9/11; he hasn’t been able to lift the burden of their death off of his shoulders. So, he works. He’s one of the best in an office of quirky freaks who spend too much time with codes and numbers and not enough time with human beings.
Will happens to work with his father in law, David Hadas, a superstitious goof played with great charm by the warm and fuzzy Peter Gerety, another fantastic character actor who’s appeared on The Wire, Homicide and even Paul Blart: Mall Cop (in which he was very funny).
While casually looking over a newspaper crossword puzzle, Will notices similarities in answers between not one or two, but several weeks worth of crossword puzzles. All with the same answers, but with different clues. Furthermore, these crosswords are not just one newspaper chain, but several from across the country, Will thinks he’s found something. He takes the information to his father in law. Hadas tells Will it’s nothing and quickly sends his away. But it’s obvious that Will has uncovered something big as Hadas soon thereafter takes Will’s info to his superior, Kale Ingram. Ingram is played by Arliss Howard and holy shit does Howard have one of the greatest faces for this role. His nearly bald head and the deep lines in his face scream out ”don’t trust this guy!” But, as in any conspiracy story, you don’t know who the hell to trust.
Rubicon does a hell of a job making every character seem like they’re in on something. Before we know Will’s relationship with David, we’re not sure why he’s taking the info Will shared with him to Ingram. Then there is Will’s co-worker, Maggie (Jessica Collins), a single mom who seems to have a thing for Will, but the way she looks at him and speaks to him when he shows up unexpectedly at her doorstep, you’re never quite sure if she believes anything David is saying. Is she hiding something, too? Mysterious men show up out of the shadows and mysterious men hold mysterious meetings without the writers giving us a clue as to what is going on. Damn, this is going to be fun. Not only in the acting and the writing, but the way Rubicon is filmed helps build the suspense and tension. When the final scene plays out and a door is closed shutting out the world and us viewers, I couldn’t wait for more! If you’re a fan of The Parallax View, Marathon Man or more recent thrillers like Michael Clayton or Syriana, I have a feeling you’re going to really like Rubicon.