"Rubicon" The First Day of School (TV Episode 2010) Poster

(TV Series)

(2010)

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9/10
I'm Watching This in 2018, And You Should Too
Better_TV10 April 2018
This 2010 series intrigued me for a long while, but I never ended up watching it. I regret that, because Rubicon is a phenomenal show with subtle, understated performances; a unique portrayal of what it's like to work at an intelligence consulting firm; and a quiet, paranoiac flair unlike almost any other TV show I've ever seen.

This episode picks up where the first one left off, with intelligence analyst Will Travers now filling in for his deceased mentor David Hadas, who died in a shocking train accident. The narrative thrust of this episode is propelled by three main conflicts: Will's struggle to lead a team comprised of people with whom he shared a rank only a day or so prior; the ongoing conspiracy regarding weirdly synchronous newspaper crossword puzzles, which may have resulted in David's death and Will being tailed by mysterious individuals; and Katherine Rhumor, widow of wealthy billionaire Jacob Rhumor, who is discovering things about her husband in death that she never knew during his life.

The episode spends the most time on Will, as his team is tasked with figuring out the identity of a mysterious man in a photograph by American Policy Institute head Truxton Spangler. Spangler is played as an authoritative, powerful, cigarette-smoking, speech-stuttering oddball by Michael Cristofer; he complements the other mysterious authority figure in Will's working life, his supervisor Kale Ingram - a chilly, two-faced performance by Arliss Howard (he's compared to Donald Rumsfeld in the script for episode 1, which also notes that he has "icewater in his veins" and he has "been at this longer than anyone, his formidable skills only sharpening by the decade.").

This is great stuff. It's a drama that rewards viewers who pay attention, with dialogue that is worth rewinding and listening to a second time. Here in the second episode, the show is broadening its focus so that the conspiracy that was so central to the pilot is still there, but it's now one of several plot threads in what might be called an "intelligence-gathering" procedural. I read that the show's creator wanted to channel the feel of Hollywood's many great '70s conspiracy films like "All the President's Men" and "The Parallax View"; the show totally succeeds on that front.

If you love smart, mature storytelling, you simply must watch Rubicon.
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