Why I Loved AMC-TV’s Rubicon

I didn’t expect to love Rubicon, either.

I watched the sneak preview of the pilot AMC-TV ran in the summer, months before the series was to debut.

I found it intriguing. But after all those years of The X-Files, I knew that conspiracy shows can horribly disappoint. They lose their direction and fall apart at the end, leaving viewers with a “I wasted all that time for this?!!?” feeling.

I suspected Rubicon would do the same. But the sneak preview episode caught my attention enough to try the series when it debuted.

I watched to episode 4 when it dawned on me that something wasn’t right here. I Googled the show and my suspicions were confirmed. Series creator Jason Horwitch had left the series right after the pilot due to “creative differences” with AMC-TV.

Now “creative differences” is usually trotted out as a standard term that could really mean anything. Except, given how the story was zig-zagging all over the place, this time I think the term applied.

But I kept watching because, dammit, the characters had grabbed me.

James Badge Dale portrayed analyst Will Travers. An introverted brainy guy who simply did his job and wound up in the crosshairs of a conspiracy he didn’t fathom until the end.

Arliss Howard portrayed Kale Ingram, a guy who was an enigma. He seemed to never waver in his blood pressure. It turned out it was because he had ice in his veins!

Dallas Roberts portrayed Miles Fiedler, an analyst who always seemed on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He also read comic books! How could you not like a character who did that?

Christopher Evan Welch portrayed Grant Test, a guy who I thought was the ultimate suck-up school tie Suit, but who actually became sympathetic as the series unwound.

Lauren Hodges portrayed Tanya MacGaffin, who I swear was API’s version of Lisbeth Salander. She was a newbie analyst who felt the pressure of both her job and her brains and I’m sure she had a blue-collar upbringing despite the degrees listed on her book.

Natalie Gold portayed Julia Harwell, not given star billing although she became a regular cast member towards the series end. She had a wide-eyed innocence combined with easy intelligence.

Roger Robinson portrayed Ed Bancroft, a mentor to Will and retired analyst who created the code that Will cracked. His character suddenly disappeared from the storyline without explanation.

Annie Parisse portrayed Andy, who turned out not to be who we thought she was at the end of the series and still probably isn’t who we thought she was.

Jessica Collins portrayed Maggie Young, an administrative assistant with a crush on Will and crushed by her need for the job she had.

Miranda Richardson portrayed Katherine Rhumor, a woman whose life was suddenly turned upside down by a suicide that was inexplicable and revealed secrets she was never supposed to know.

Michael Cristofer portayed Truxton Spangler, the head of API, who had a stylistic style of speaking not seen since Christopher Walken. He could outwit and take down Darth Vader! In one episode, he gave a speech that turned a government official against his own wife — and he got away with it!

All of these actors gave movie-quality performances that were amazing to watch. AMC-TV made the biggest mistake of that network’s life letting such talent out of their contracts. They’re all going to become huge stars and AMC-TV will never live down this mistake.

It was the first TV series to succeed in showing people thinking!

How many times do you see that happen on TV? You think you see thinking being done on a series like House? If House was true to life, one diagnosis would take several episodes! The disease Rubicon was diagnosing and trying to cure took the entire run of thirteen episodes!

Even the new BBC Sherlock series relied on deductive shortcuts based on observation, not the piecing together of an intricate puzzle over the span of an entire season.

And Rubicon left loose ends:

What the hell did any of that mean?!

Despite the series starting out on one trajectory and then bouncing around all over the place, dropping characters (where did Ed go?), dismissing material (where did Ed’s “synopsis of the synopsis” go? Why was it ever ignored?!), pushing the limits of belief (Bloom as assassin), in the final two episodes, it all came together and still made sense!

I don’t know what Horwitch originally planned — it was probably nothing like the way the series developed — but, damn it all, Henry Bromell pulled it off and created something that’s going to win a bunch of awards, sell a ton of DVD sets, and make AMC-TV kick itself in the teeth for canceling it.

Rubicon is going to grow as a cult series as word of it spreads. AMC-TV could have done so damn much with a second season to engage the audience and make it grow. All of the elements were there for a historic ratings coup and they just pissed it all away.

AMC-TV also just showed every creator and producer that the network has no sticking power when it comes to nurturing a series for a long-term win. Some series pop immediately — I mean, come on for god’s sake, zombies during a zombie craze? — while other create new paths and gather new audiences who are looking for something new and different. Such series build by word of mouth. When the season has ended, only then does the buzz begin — and it builds through repeats (something AMC-TV had plenty of time to do). (FFS, AMC-TV, you guys led me to Persons Unknown! Hello!)

Rubicon was such a series.

And, finally, to the people — or person — behind the Rubicon Twitter personas, you were genius! I will also miss all of you.

Roll the final credits:

Previously here:

Changes At The Rubicon API Building
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Will Travers Building
AMC-TV Cancels Rubicon
Hey AMCTV! Where’s The Rubicon Renewal?
In Search Of … A Rubicon Safehouse
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Chess Board
Woot! AMC-TV’s Rubicon Blog Links Here!
The Girl With The Rubicon Tattoo
In Search Of … Rubicon’s API Logo
In Search Of … Rubicon Locations #3
Hello Again, AMC. Now Renew Rubicon!
Hello, AMC! Now Renew Rubicon!
More Of Rubicon’s API Joins Twitter
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Tanya Pill
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Katherine Rhumor’s Home
AMC-TV’s Rubicon Messes With My Head!
In Search Of … Rubicon Locations #2
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Conference Room
Rubicon’s API Gets On Twitter
In Search Of … Rubicon Locations
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Episode 9 Book
In Search Of … Rubicon’s Episode 8 Meeting Places
In Search Of … Spangler’s Rubicon Office Side Window
In Search Of … Spangler’s Rubicon Office, Sequel
In Search Of … Spangler’s Rubicon Office
In Search Of … Kale’s Rubicon Office
Yeah, Baby! I Start At API Tomorrow!
In Search Of … The Rubicon Entrance
In Search Of … The Rubicon Roof

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7 Comments

Filed under Rubicon

7 responses to “Why I Loved AMC-TV’s Rubicon

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Why I Loved AMC-TV’s Rubicon « Mike Cane's xBlog -- Topsy.com

  2. Allison

    I thought the show did explain the index card in the image above–implying that there was a mysterious fourth branch of “government,” perhaps Spangler and his band of goons that influence (to say the least) world events.

  3. Mike, I explained those four cards in the first episode.
    They were the four clues in the crossword puzzles.
    Bicameral (Legislature)
    Fillmore (Executive)
    Marshall (Judicial)
    Marsilea Quadrifolia (??? – Suspect Atlas-McDowell, but What does it mean)

    • mikecane

      GAH! I haven’t watched the first episode since the sneak peek, even though I’ve seen others more than once. I am #FAIL. I’d resign from my freelance API position except, you know, API is gone.

    • mikecane

      Ah, I rewatched episode one. You’re slipping, Will! Marsilea Quadrifolia = four-leaf clover! You also changed apartment buildings. And stopped wearing that hood.

  4. joe

    The sad reality is that excellent, thoughtful, lower rated shows (like Rubicon, like FX Terriers) won’t get the benefit of the doubt from major or minor networks.
    I hate not knowing what happens next, but much like authors and musicians who die too young we are always left wondering what if?
    Would they have continued to be great or slide towards middle-aged bloat (a la X-files)?
    Sadly, we will never know

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