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TV Review: Rubicon – “A Good Day’s Work”

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The most suspenseful moment I’ve watched on television this year occurred towards the end of this week’s Rubicon, AMC’s conspiracy/espionage novel. . .er. . .drama series. But we’ll get to that in a moment. This week’s episode ratcheted up the tension and the stakes exponentially as the team gets closer to nailing Kateb and Will gets much too close to uncovering the truth he’s seeking.

With only two more episodes to go, Will Travers (James Badge Dale) has begun to place the final pieces of a puzzle. It is becoming increasingly clear that a consortium of very powerful men have enriched their coffers over the years by using intelligence data and agencies to profit from a troubled geopolitical map. Using intelligence, the conspiracy has manipulated—perhaps been at the core of— terrorist attacks, massacres, riots and other events in an effort to maximize their holdings. At the head of this conspiracy and deeply involved in some new plot, may sit the very top of the API hierarchy, Truxton Spangler (Michael Cristofer).

 And so, the “A” and “B” plots of the story have now begun to converge as Will’s team is hot on the trail of the terrorist known as Kateb, an almost mythic terrorist on whom they can find no intel—who seems not to have even existed—before 2004. But after hitting a dead end with confusing intel on the terrorist’s whereabouts, Grant Test (Christopher Evan Welch), a member of the team, tries another angle: maybe Kateb wasn’t always Kateb. 

What if, instead, our Islamic terrorist is a convert, joining the cause in 2004? Tracking back through intelligence, the team pinpoints a New Jersey all-American 20-something who moved to the Middle East in 2003. What if they’re dealing with a virtually unidentifiable-in-America American white male—completely invisible as a terrorist? 

Good going Grant! Except, I’m not sure if he’s so much a convert as a hired hand. The New Jersey connection may be significant as it seems the conspiracy also has a New Jersey connection going back to the 1960s. Hmmm. So, is Kateb working for the conspiracy—for Spangler?  Spangler gives the government intel to Will and the team to work through only after the government guys request API’s help. Kateb is making a mockery of U.S. intel as he is reported in eight different locations. He’s playing a game and Spangler’s apparatus at API can perhaps untangle the good from the bad and find Kateb. 

But was it Spangler and the consortium who planted the intel for the agencies to find in the first place, knowing it would come back to API for analysis? Is it Kateb doing the mocking—or is it the old spy Spangler? Have they created this intricately tangled web figuring that not even Will’s team can unravel it? Or perhaps it’s a case of keeping your enemies closer: if the data come back to API, Spangler stays in control of the analysis—whatever it reveals. It’s all part of the overall plot. At least it sure seems that way with two episodes to go.

As Will gets a little too close to the truth for his comfort, Spangler orders him assassinated both in body and reputation, sending Donald Bloom to do the dirty work. Waiting for Will in his apartment, Bloom has planted all sorts of bad stuff that will make it look like an overdose of the bad stuff over his grief for his lost wife and child. So now we come to the most suspenseful moment of television I’ve seen this year. 

Bloom surprises Will in his apartment, stabbing him with a full syringe of narcotics, but the fight put up by Will lands the syringe in his hand, rather than in a vein. A struggle ensues, and it is clear that Bloom can easily overpower the now-groggy Will. 

It would not be outside the bounds of possibility for the series to have killed Will. But Will grabs a gun that has fallen on the floor during the struggle and lands a very lucky shot in Blooms head. Now what? Will is no spy; he doesn’t kill people. He analyzes patterns; reads reports. He’s not a field operative. 

But Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard), his boss is an old pro at this. Cleaning up the apartment and tending to Will, Kale moves quickly and silently. When he leaves, there is virtually no sign of what had transpired. (well, except for that drop of blood left on the wall). Kale is one of the most interesting characters I’ve met this season: complex and enigmatic. Howard is a master at playing all the layers and angles of Kale from beneath his nearly flat affect. (But I digress.)

While Will is supposedly dead, the incredibly sinister (man, that guy creeps me out) Spangler schmoozes with Grant, giving him the “’atta boy” he seems so much to crave. Spangler is ready, clearly, to offer Grant Will’s job as soon as word comes back that Bloom has done his job. 

And in the final moments, the intel on New Jersey boy Kateb comes back placing him in the U.S. Clearly, something is imminent. (Did anyone think the coming attractions for next week gave way too much away?)

So. How will Spangler react when Will appears very much alive? And now that Spangler’s (and the consortium’s) hand is tipped after the assassination attempt on Will, what’s the next move by all concerned parties? 

Like a good spy novel, the plot is building to quite a pitch, and I can’t wait until next Sunday to see what happens!

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.