Tuesday, 26 April 2011

'RUBICON' 1.3 – "Keep The Ends Out"

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Before I even started watching Rubicon I was aware it had pacing issues (by design or otherwise), but this third episode was the first time they became a notable problem. This was a glacial hour that tested my patience. A core problem for Rubicon is that, while the slow unveiling of a mystery is inherently intriguing, there are no real stakes to anything -- that we're aware of yet. At this stage I'm desperate for Will (James Badge Dale) to crack a code from his recently-deceased friend David that confirms there's a government conspiracy regarding such-and-such, so I have a reason to care going forward...

This episode expanded the cast slightly. We now have David's son Evan, who didn't have a good relationship with his father and is jealous that Will did, despite apparently having some kind of physical/mental condition that required special attention from his parents growing up. We also saw Will's colleague Maggie (Jessica Collins) with her husband/boyfriend and young son, putting a slightly more likeable face on her character. Maggie's question to Will about whether or not bears "go to the bathroom" during hibernation (originally a question posed by her little boy), was one of the show's few moments of levity. Rubicon's atmosphere has lightened since the dark and moody pilot, but it's still very solemn and slow. I'm hoping the show will break into a comparative sprint soon, as it really needs an injection of something.

The saving grace of the episode was seeing Will find the next big clue left behind by David: a roll of 10-digit numbers on the reverse of duct tape holding the seat of the motorcycle he was gifted for his birthday. The numbers are dates relevant to baseball games, which leads Will to the names "Jeffrey Garcia", "Alfred Bermudez" and "Randy Hobbs". This spy stuff's all great fun, but I am starting to wonder why David didn't just write those names in plain English...

It's also becoming very hard to care about Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson), the wife of the man who committed suicide in the pilot's opening scene. Richardson's the biggest name involved with this show, yet her character's on the sidelines so much her role feels like a way to ensure every scene doesn't revolve around Will. Here, Katherine's seen meeting with her husband's friend James Wheeler, who says he didn't know anything about the townhouse she was bequeathed -- but, in a later scene, Wheeler is seen removing a photo of a seven boys swimming together from said townhouse.

Will also confronted the ominous man who's been tailing him, only to discover it's an FBI Agent assigned to keep tabs on him as part of his company's security measures in light of his promotion. But was the Fed the same man who's been following Will for weeks, or only recently? And we still have those two other men following Will, last seen watching him through a telescope. They're not Feds, they seem irritated that Will's "still digging" for clues, but they're not going to eliminate him?

Overall, it helps that I've been promised Rubicon comes into its own in a few weeks, as I would probably have quit now, if I was watching at the US pace last summer. It's fine to have chosen a gentle pace that's thick with atmosphere instead of mindless chases and explosions, but the whole mystery's hard to get a hook on. And while that's part of the plan (so the audience is just as confused as Will), it means Rubicon's currently a dawdling exercise in watching a quiet man crack various codes, with no idea why it matters...

written by Michael Oates Palmer / directed by Jeremy Podeswa / 21 April 2011 / BBC4