Rubicon – It’s a new TV show that just started on AMC. AMC is the channel that launched Mad Men. AMC is edgy.
Rubicon is about a secret government analyst type guy called Will Travers. Will Travers is a great name for a secret government analyst on a TV show. Will Travers is edgy. Will Travers is on the edge. We know he’s on the edge because he sometimes goes up onto the roof and stands on the edge. On the edge of the ledge.
One time, he goes up on the roof just after he’s been really edgy and unbeknown to him there are two guys in another building watching him through really powerful binoculars. Two guys. Watching the roof. In case Will Travers goes up there again. They don’t know why they’re watching him, but it’s important enough that it takes two of them. It’s because he’s edgy.
It’s a silly scene that makes no sense in any world. Even in the crazy crackpot world of super-genius but paranoid encryption analysts. Even in the world of Rubicon.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself, but beware, this scene comes with creepy music:
Rubicon began with a two-hour double episode. I just watched the whole thing. It wasn’t just incomprehensible. It was willfully meaningless. It’s like they were jumping up and down in every scene screaming, “we’re not going to tell you what this means, so there.”
Remember how paranoid Robert Redford was in 3 Days of the Condor? The set designer of Rubicon certainly does.
Remember that boring movie that Robert De Niro directed with Matt Damon about the origins of the intelligence services in the US? You remember how antiseptic and dull it was because everyone had to suppress their emotions the whole time and be suspicious of everyone and never ever tell the truth? The creators of Rubicon may have seen The Good Shepherd, but they don’t remember it the way I do.
Rubicon wants you to think that it’s clever. It wants you to think that Will Travers is really clever. The way it tells you that Will Travers is really clever is by making him really good at crossword puzzles and… no actually, that’s it. He’s just really good at crosswords. Nothing else. In the entire double episode premier launch of Rubicon, Will Travers does absolutely nothing except solve a couple of crosswords. He’s really good at them. It is not compelling viewing.
Rubicon is rubbish. Will Travers looks like a cross between teacher Will Schuester from Glee and Art Garfunkel. It’s very disconcerting. But he sure knows how to wear a sweater. I wonder if that’s significant.
Will Travers is really good at wearing sweaters. He’s a mad man for a sweater. So far it’s mostly been V-necks and one rather unfortunate hoodie, but anything can happen with someone as edgy as Will Travers. Sweaters are important in Rubicon. We’re not supposed to trust people in suits. People in suits are bad. Will Travers doesn’t wear a suit. He wears sweaters. Sweaters are good.
But there is one sweater guy we’re not sure about. Will’s boss. He’s sinister. He seems like he’s Will’s friend because he wears a sweater. But he’s sinister, because it’s a round-neck sweater with nothing underneath. Ugh.
I just watched two hours worth of TV and I don’t care about Will Travers or his writers’ room 9/11 back story. I don’t care about the mystery or how slowly they’re going to let it play out. I don’t care who is spying on who and who is on whose side. I don’t care who can be trusted and who is a duplicitous wretch.
In all my years of watching TV, I can’t remember another show that had so much regard for itself and so little for its audience. When every action is foreshadowing, when every object is a macguffin and when every comment is a clue, plot becomes meaningless. Rubicon doesn’t have a story. It’s just all a set up for the DVD commentary.
Here’s another scene from the two-part opener. It lasts 45 seconds and features two characters that don’t appear in any other scenes talking obliquely about things which don’t make any sense… yet. If Rubicon weren’t such a tedious and unentertaining show, I would swear that this scene was put in for a joke. It’s pure parody. Either that or it’s an outtake from another unconnected show that a disgruntled editor left in as a prank. You decide: