AMC, the top dog in creating cable dramas, even ahead of the always busy new programming department at HBO, debuted its third original program this summer–Rubicon–starring James Badge Dale, who you may have caught in HBO’s Pacific. Their first two originals, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, are probably finest A and finest B, when it comes to acted dramas on television right now.
The bar is obviously set high on Dale, who will no doubt be compared to Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston, and on a show that takes its name from the Greek pass that the Roman army took on the orders of Caesar in 49 B.C., and which has come to mean “a limit that when passed or exceeded permits of no return and typically results in irrevocable commitment.” Dale, playing Will Travers, an intelligence analyst at a high level think tank, is a widower who lost his wife and daughter in 9/11, and who mostly lives an isolated existence. Travers’ father-in-law and boss, David Hadas (Peter Gerety), is killed in a train crash, and Will is quickly offered his old job of team leader. While Will was conflicted about remaining in their employ, he takes the job so he can pursue the mystery of what really happened to his father-in-law, who sent him a number of clues as part of a code he wanted Will to break in relation to his murder, we presume, which started with him parking his car on the morning of the train crash in spot # 13–something the superstitious Hadas would never do unless he was trying to get someone’s attention.
Before the crash, Travers was depressed, and had confided to Hadas that he missed his family and that he hated his job. After the crash, Will is quickly offered the promotion, though the dirt wasn’t dry on Hadas’ casket, literally. Will is approached by Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard), who is the highest ranking employee to work “downstairs”, at Hadas’ funeral. Will says he’s going to reject the offer, but pleas from co-workers, and more importantly, clues from David, compel him to change his mind. A retired analyst, Ed Bancroft (Roger Robinson), who Will has just met but who may now be his only confidante, figures out that a piece of information that David left Will was a match book code–one where each person has the same book, and they look up a series of letter postions to put a message together–ingenius, because it can never be cracked without knowing what book was used. David had given Will a book right before his death, and Will looks up the letters which form the sentence, “they hide in plain sight.”
Obviously Hadas is referring to Will’s co-workers and superiors. Will’s assistant (Jessica Collins) happens to be secretly giving info to Kale Ingram about the different members of the team. Kale makes a point of asking if Will is overly preoccupied with David’s murder. Kale may very well know what happened to Hadas, and their boss, Truxton Spangler (Michael Christopher), it looks like, may be part of the group responsible for Hadas’ death. Will’s first meeting with Spangler was tense, at which, Spangler shows them a picture of George Beck, a German Muslim person of interest to the agency, and says of the two guys in the photo with him, “I’d like to know who they are.”
Will, who walked up to the roof and stood out on the ledge for a minute, before walking in and taking his new job, has eyes on him. His rooftop dalliances are being photographed (by Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played state senator Clay Davis on The Wire), and Will is being followed. David, who gave him his motorcycle before he died, left Will a revolver, and a strip of coded numbers inside the seat–numbers we would later learn correlated to the dates the Yankees won their 27 championships, something David knew Will would know.
David wasn’t the only person to die early on in Rubicon, as in the very first scene, we see billionaire magnate Tom Rhumor (Bill Murray buddy Harris Yulin), upon seeing a green four leaf clover on his morning paper, take out a gun and blow his brain’s out. The clover was significant to Will, who spotted a trend in the crossword puzzles of a few major papers, that there was a pattern of clues representing the 3 branches of government, and the fourth–the intelligence community–all represented by a four leaf clover. Will would piece together the signifcance, that the crosswords were a go code for revenge killings, after another analyst tells him that a similar pattern in 11 newspaper crosswords in 1983 came right after a terrorist attack, and that a few days later, a number of senior Hezbollah money men went missing.
Will thinks that David’s train crashed because of that go code, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this all connects to George Beck, and has terrorist implications. It wouldn’t surprise me–in fact–I predict that at some point we will learn that the agency where Will works knew the towers were going to fall. Will, to find the truth, must pass the rubicon, and probably has already. Dale plays an intellectual, not a brute, so it should be interesting to see how he handles himself with that gun, and with the weird shadowy types who are following him.
Will Travers may not be Don Draper or Walter White, and the vague intrigue of Rubicon may not yet compare with beauty of Mad Men or the grit of Breaking Bad, but Will is a character to root for on an intelligent show.
Will Travers, welcome to the Layer Cake.