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Seven Things to Love About Sunday's 'Rubicon'

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 10th 2010 10:10PM
Recently, I wrote up Six Reasons to Save 'Rubicon.' After Sunday's excellent episode, I think the show is even more worth saving, so definitely tell your friends about this gripping intelligence saga and make some noise about it online (Twitter, message boards, Facebook, etc.).

Below are just a few thoughts about Sunday's episode, also presented in a numbered list. Given other pressing demands on my time, I wasn't able to write a long analysis (a white paper, if you will), but I hope what's below will serve as a jumping-off point for your comments and reactions to what happened Truxton, Kale, Will and the rest of the API crew on Sunday.

So, here are my Top Seven Things to Love about Sunday's 'Rubicon':

7. There was a lot of plot movement in this episode, in which the evil cabal's ultimate plan was revealed, but there were still some small but excellent moments for the API team, from Miles' bureaucratic dustup with the clueless outsider to Tanya's backsliding moment (she did eventually pop a pill she found in her pocket). Christopher Evan Welch brought a certain quiet poignance to Grant's interrogations of Kateb's relatives (I can't imagine Grant was any more successful with girls than Kateb was), and he may have had the best line of the episode. "Why don't we have stuff?" he wondered as the FBI took over a gym with lots of the kind of stuff we used to see all the time on '24.' As fun as it was to buy into the fantasy of '24' -- i.e., the idea that "stuff" and technology and a willingness to get Medieval on suspects will bring success every time -- after watching 'Rubicon,' I now believe that the Katebs of the world are more likely to be caught thanks to the work of diligent analysts pondering stacks of paper.

6. 'Meet Me in St. Louis'? Really?! Damn it, I suspected all along that Judy Garland was involved!

5. The slow build of tension throughout the episode, which was ratcheted up significantly in the last six minutes or so, was wonderfully effective yet fit perfectly into 'Rubicon's' brooding mood. We got the slow reveal of Kateb's bomb-making equipment, which wouldn't have been half as scary had it be put front and center in the first act. If Will hadn't been sent on a fool's errand to New Jersey, he might have found a link between Tenaz and Bloom, the Atlas McDowell errand boy, much sooner. Truxton assigned him to the New Jersey detail for that very reason though, and the fact that Will discovered what Kateb was up to just as the plan came together was a pulse-pounding moment, capturing a national nightmare and Will's personal worst-case scenario.

4. After seeing the picture of Kale and Maggie with Katherine, Truxton's hand was shaking as he tried to light his illicit smoke. When Truxton Spangler's hand is shaking, you know it just got real.

3. Michael Slovis' terrific direction was once again the visual cornerstone on which the rest of the show's structure was built. Even as it opened up to give us glimpses of the wider world (Kateb in Texas, Will and Grant in New Jersey), 'Rubicon' was still a study in contrasts, with the theme of constraint versus space as prominent as ever. We weren't still lost in the canyons of lower Manhattan, but Will, Katherine and Kateb all found themselves in small rooms decorated in dull browns; Kateb and Truxton found themselves, at different points, looking through constrained slats into small slices of the outside world. Hushed interiors allowed the atmosphere of dread and curiosity to percolate, and Slovis' eye for evocative compositions never deserted him. The way that Grant and Kateb's high-school friend, Virginia, were framed in black against the white walls of the cafeteria was poetic and even beautiful. After a period of restless searching, the scene said visually, he had come to see the world as black and white, even as the woman who'd known him struggled reconcile that idea with the vivid memory of the struggling human being she remembered.

2. The non-versation between Truxton Spangler and Kale Ingram was vintage 'Rubicon.' Like the skilled operatives they are, they gave nothing away as they danced around the central questions between them -- who knew what and how much? Was Truxton's "thank you" to Kale sincere (well, as sincere as Truxton is capable of being)? Does being thanked by Truxton mean that your suicide will soon be faked by very bad men who break into your apartment? Was Kale signaling that he was still loyal to Truxton and/or to API? I've no doubt that API is Kale's only true home, but Truxton might be all too willing to arrange removal via body bag. In any case, the entire scene was a masterpiece of nuance from Michael Cristofer and Arliss Howard, the show's secret weapons.

1. Will's final breakdown at the end made the horror of what had transpired personal. Like Kateb, Will had wanted the world to make more sense; Will too had wanted to understand why things worked the way they did. But unlike Kateb, after 9/11, Will dove into numbers and patterns, analysis to find order in the world. Despite his devotion to job, however, Will was unable to stop Kateb's destruction, even as he realized who had pulled Kateb's strings from afar. That knowledge prevented nothing, though. Everything he'd devoted his life to after his daughter and wife died -- it must have felt, in that moment, that it was all for nothing. James Badge Dale did a magnificent job of showing Will's grief finally breaking through. Will may not have Bloom's blood on his walls anymore, but he felt absolutely to blame for the disaster that had unfolded on his watch that day.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter. Also follow @KaleIngram, @TruxtonSpangler and @SaveRubicon, or your home and workplace may be compromised. Don't say you weren't warned!

Seriously, if you enjoy 'Rubicon' and want to see this ratings-challenged show return, write to AMC at this email address:

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Just got a chance to catch up with this last night, but I took Truxton's "thank you" to Kale in the same manner as he said it to Will, just before Will headed home for the encounter with Bloom. The difference being that Truxton knows that Kale won't be as easy to dispose of, hence the nervous hands and the statement of "I never realized how much I rely on you." Will be interesting to see how the show comes down next week and I'm praying (along with the other Rubicon fans) for a second season. Already sent my e-mail to AMC and got a polite, though not exactly encouraging reply back.

October 12 2010 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is a wonderful show. When talking about it to other people I say that it was 'slow to build' but was it really? I think if I were to go back and rewatch the first few episodes all the tension and 'non-versations' are there - we just weren't tuned into them yet at that point. You have to think that SOMEONE is going to end up 'suicided' next week but who? They are ALL such great characters I hate to think of any of them going away. (My money is on Spangler though.)

If it doesn't get renewed someone needs to get James Badge Dale another great role on tv ASAP because he's fantastic and 100 times better than the majority of network actors right now. I look at a show like The Event, which I have liked, but Ritter just does *not* do it for me at ALL. This guy would blow that character right out of the water.

October 11 2010 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 11 2010 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was perusing the Rubicon twitters, and couldn't stop laughing. Thanks for the heads-up Mo. As to the show itself, I'm with you 100% on last night's excellent episode. That scene with Kale and Spangler was like watching two old boxers feeling each other out before deciding on a strategy, and the last scene with Will was one of those "the damn finally broke" moments that we've all seen/experienced at least once in our lives. Going into next week, it'll be interesting to see what transpires with Katherine, especially now that she's left the safe house and gone back home.

October 11 2010 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Fantastic show and great writing.

I just got through blasting HBO's Boardwalk Empire on another thread because of the bad writing and production.

Then here's a great show like Rubicon that is struggling to survive but delivers a great story along with great deliveries.

I hope Rubicon will return with a Season 2. I prefer this to Mad Men (different generation) and Breaking Bad won't be back until early 2011.

What a great show. I can't wait until the finale next week.

October 11 2010 at 2:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never liked that Judy Garland, LOL!

October 10 2010 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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