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Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.02 — “The First Day of School”

August 7th, 2010 Comments off

I think Rubicon might have what it takes to be a real winner and a hit. As such, I’m putting some faith in it and am anointing it with instant recap status.  To read prior Quick Hits for the show, click here on my posts tagged #Rubicon.  Here are my Quick Hits for Episode 1.02, “The First Day of School.”

The second episode of Rubicon kept up with the promise of the first.

There’s always a bit of a worry that episode two will not follow up to the excellence of a well run pilot.  This is because it is often the case that a pilot sees far more production glare and refinement.  I think Rubicon may avoid that problem as the season moves on, in part because the pilot was not so ambitious as to overreach.  Many pilots are designed to be able to operate independent of a greater story; they attempt to create an experience which is fulfilling so as to guarantee their good stead.  The producers here did not seem to sacrifice the story-telling methodology I’ve identified to date.

“Gone in the Teeth” served a role of introducing certain characters and themes without opening up too much or being too aggressive.  “The First Day of School” followed in that tradition.  We continued to see a bit more into the character of Travers, while getting a better glimpse of Maggie and our first real look at Katherine Rhumor.

It is with Katherine that the episode really hits home.  In an emerging pattern, the producers do seem to like their dialogue-less, visual storytelling.  In the pilot, we saw this twice with scenes featuring Travers identifying the crossword code and, later, searching David’s office.  In each case, they played the delicate balance well of conveying the dutiful intensity of Travers with enough intrigue to keep the audience intrigued.  Watching someone work a crossword is not exactly what most of America considers entertainment, but the producers were adept enough to make it interesting.

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Quick Hits: Rubicon E1.01 — “Gone in the Teeth”

August 2nd, 2010 Comments off

Rubicon stars James Badge Dale as intelligence analyst Will Travers.

I’ve noted before (link to my general endorsement of the pilot episode and the show) that I think Rubicon might have what it takes to be a real winner and a hit. As such, I intend to do what I did for LOST, posting quick hit thoughts after watching an episode in recap format. Here are mine for Episode 1.01, “Gone in the Teeth.”

“Gone in the Teeth” served more as a primer for both the idea of the show and the introduction of certain elements of the cast. As I noted in my preview, the pattern I’d like to see the show take would be in the vein and structure of a crossword – something more sophisticated than a standard puzzle which challenges the viewer and asks us to help piece together the greater construct, rather than simply handing us the answer key. If that’s the case, then the 5-down handed to the viewer in the pilot is a centerpiece clue, providing both a grounding for the key persons and a 19-letter link to the rest of the board in Marsilea quadrifolia (the entry the lead gives as the Latin translation for four-leaf clover, the answer to a clue asking for what a particularly lucky insect larva gets to chow down on).

Not the least of the clues in that answer is that Marsilea quadrifolia is not, in fact, a true four-leaf clover. No, that designation falls to a mutated Trifolium. Marsilea quadrifolia are just commonly passed as four-leaf clovers, so what is the real game here… what lies beneath? In a series that opens with a child’s game of hide-and-seek, we’re certainly warned to look a little deeper and, perhaps, not always trust that the view presented will always hold veracity.

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Crossing the Rubicon: Why I think I found a new favorite show

July 31st, 2010 Comments off

Rubicon premieres this Sunday night, August 1st.

From One Pawn To Another.

In television, a viewer might often feel a pawn, not being handed anything by a fellow pawn, but rather shifted from one board to the next. Never long to last in the fight, as the milieu of a series loses its shine and the successive attempts at new shows turn into just another run of short-lived games. Rarely does a pawn cross the board and become the queen, engrossed with and empowered by the board itself.

With a few shows I have felt myself as substantively more than a pawn in the game of television programming; in those handful of shows I have lastingly and fully been engrossed. I can really check them off with the fingers of one hand:

  • The West Wing” for its political acumen. A show that reminded us both of what we most wanted in our leaders and the forces which prevent that ideal from being manifested.
  • Battlestar Galactica” for its social commentary. In an era when America was redefining itself both at home and on the world stage, no television program so boldly captured our internalized national struggles.
  • LOST” for its Joycean depth. Bad Robot’s ambitious efforts to challenge viewers made expecting more of one’s viewers a reality and opened the door to the difficult-to-navigate world of what might aptly be termed televised literature.
  • The Wire” for its simple poetry. It is, after all, this epic, five-part poem about the decline of the American empire that gave us the inspired scene in which D’Angelo explains chess to Bodie and Wallace.

There have been other great shows. “Mad Men” gave us attention to detail and historical fiction as a commercial winner. “The Shield” offers a level of grittiness that is hard to turn from. But with most television, it’s as D’Angelo explained to Bodie, “The pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out of the game early.” In most television, it’s easy to just sit back and play dumb. Only in the best shows are the pawns challenged to be “some smart ass pawns.” It’s those shows that challenge the viewer that interest me most. In “Rubicon”, I hope we have one such show.

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