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Streaming Review: Rubicon (Season One)
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RubiconRubicon (Season One)
Amazon (HD) | Amazon (Standard)
Created by Jason Horwitch
Produced by Henry Bromell
Directed by Brad Anderson, Ed Bianchi, Allen Coulter, Guy Ferland, Nick Gomez, Keith Gordon, Jeremy Podeswa, Sieth Mann, Alik Sakharov, Michael Slovis, Alan Taylor
Starring James Badge Dale, Jessica Collins, Lauren Hodges, Dallas Roberts, Christopher Evan Welch, Arliss Howard, Miranda Richardson, Michael Cristofer, Peter Gerety
Originally Released: June 13, 2010

In a post-9/11 world, things are often viewed with a corrupted perspective, forced upon the populace by a fear-mongering media driven by corporate interests and partisan biases. Since that moment in history, we’ve seen a lot of television shows and movies released taking the patriotic side of the government, a world in which the show 24 echoes sentiments parodied in the morning by Team America: World Police. But in 2010, a series with a different perspective on world events postulated a refreshing, and perhaps frightening yet accurate, view”¦ enter Rubicon.

Rubicon is an espionage drama. Aired in 2010, it focuses on connections and conspiracies. No more are the days of The X-Files and how "the truth is out there" about bogative government controlled plots and agendas; with Rubicon we have a startling drama that zeros in on menaces and conspiracies of a more realistic nature – those driven by the greed and profits of corporations.

Rubicon follows an intelligent analyst named Will Travers (James Badge Dale) employed by a private firm named American Policy Institute – a business that serves as a think tank of outsourced analysts sharing intelligence with mainly US interests (CIA, Pentagon, FBI, and other Gitmo Nation institutions) as well as intelligence allies from around the world. The analysts of API focus on incoming data about specific individuals identified as potential threats, and making an effort to connect the dots and form a robust basis for the provision of intelligence and data for agencies of the US Government.

But the intelligence think tank likewise serves additional purposes, somewhat shadowy, for the government. API also provides the information recommended to either hide from the people, or to obscure in plain sight. There are also some major rudiments of coded messages in media, crossword puzzles, and elsewhere – strategies that have been long established as historic trends and means of use in the intelligence industry, picked up by crackpots and buzzkills equally.


Travers stumbles across one such coded message, in the form of a crossword puzzle with 4 clues reproduced across numerous newspapers. He brings this information to his supervisor and team leader, David Hadas (Peter Gerety), also Will’s father-in-law, who by all appearances dismisses it as low priority. Hadas, in spite of this, recognizes the code’s fractal seriousness, and raises his concerns with his superiors.

But Hadas has come into treacherous territory. Unknown to Will, he is on to something huge, and the crossword revelation causes him to be targeted in an “obscured assassination” – in this case a train wreck, resulting in a huge body count, purposefully obscuring the fact that one man was targeted – so that your favorite channel can simply go "and now back to real news". This kind of practice has been speculated as a common assassination technique for sizeable organizations in real life, and there is actually some historic precedent for this as well.

Travers is unsettled by David’s untimely demise, and determines that there is more to the "Nothing To See Here" crosswords and David’s investigations than he previously believed. Promoted into David’s position as team leader, Will decides to continue his father-in-law’s work, but to also exploit his position to try and unravel what exactly it is that David was murdered for.


Meanwhile, the show also follows a secondary character, Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson), whose life is turned upside down after the death of her husband, Tom Rhumor (Harris Yulin), who committed suicide after finding a four leaf clover among his morning newspapers. Now widowed, Katherine finds herself with questions of her own, as she begins to discover seedier elements of her husband’s life she previously did not know. And notwithstanding her colleague’s insistence at "you will obey" and "move on and get on with your life" elitist attitudes, she continues digging.

Back at API, Will’s team continue focus their intelligence analysis of George Boeck, Yuri Popovich, Tanaz, Kateb, and more – trying to determine the connections between them, and what they’re doing operationally and exactly how much of a threat they are. As the complexity analysis continues to spiral, Will eventually crosses paths with Rhumor, and also learns that everything is more interconnected than he previously believed. Some conspiracies, it seems, are not just theories”¦ no matter how many times the elites tell the slaves to shut up.

The performances in Rubicon are of an outstanding standard, and mostly make for some very compelling viewing. James Badge Dale is a major standout in his chief role as main character Will Travers. He exudes the "analyst nerd" aura splendidly, but has a charismatic thinking stare about him that I found evocative of Wentworth Miller from Prison Break that will punch you in the mouth.

Additionally of brilliance is Arliss Howard as Kale Ingram – who operates mainly as a shadowy and ambiguous guide for Will (and others); a man with many connections and a long history in military and the CIA, as well as his share of "two to the head" moments. His disposition is always super calm, and slow spoken, intelligent yet deceptive, helpful yet intimidating. Howard is by far the superior performance of the season.


Will’s team is also made up of some considerably good actors with outstanding performances. Dallas Roberts is superb with his nervy, OCD twitching role, pulling off a considerably convincing performance. Christopher Evan Welch also pushes an OCD element, though more aggressive and exasperating, annoyed at the most minor change to his life. Lauren Hodges plays the new girl on the team, learning the ropes, but also wrestling with her own demons. All three become deep-rooted characters in the season, with astonishing weight causing the audience to care very much about them, as they slowly get to the bottom of intelligence needs, while inadvertently providing the "distraction of the week" to the questionable collaborators, government, and media outlets.

The plot writing of Rubicon is extraordinary, and in many ways, the show could have been called "Threads". Creator Jason Howitch and producer Henry Bromell both weave a delicate web of intricate threads that all circulate and spiral into a particular meeting point. Isn’t it great that a show can provide an impressive dance of balance, bringing the content to a climactic head as they all clash into the finale? Now that’s a great question!

But there’s something else about Rubicon. There is a convincing realism to the situations, the writing, and the character development that sits solidly at its foundation. There are numerous scenarios that arise that are so compelling that they have a staggering realistic feel to them, adding weight to many claims that Rubicon could perhaps be the most accurate television show about intelligence and espionage for the modern era. With no agenda in the morning, this is a series for all the crackpots and buzzkills out there. Fact.

But with that concept of espionage comes a massive stigma in the probability of much action. In fact, Rubicon has very little action moments in it – though in my mind, this works to its advantage. Rubicon is a thinking person’s show, with many puzzle pieces that you might not expect to be puzzle pieces at all. You realize quickly that some elements are connected, you just don’t know how, so just like Will Travers and Katherine Rhumor, you’re trying to connect the dots along with them. It will keep you guessing, but make sure you PAY ATTENTION (and not just by looking, but also by listening carefully) – because there are many things that get brought up in early episodes which pay dividends closer to the climax and beyond.


There is a great deal of symbolism throughout Rubicon as well. Some of it is moderately easy to catch, but some of it is deeply embedded; though a vast majority of them are accents to the scenes at hand and the journey of the characters. Numbers, an owl statue, a blood stain on a wall, and the malfunctioning fan in Truxton Spengler’s (Michael Cristofer) ashtray all are extremely important reflections of elements of the characters and the plot. But there’s more”¦ a LOT more, often providing opportunity for catching a glimpse of them all or as many as possibly in later views.

Which brings me to another thing: Rubicon has incredibly strong rewatching value. Many of these detail-oriented and conspiracy-based mysteries lose appeal after you know "whodunit" and why, but the joy of Rubicon is that Howitch and Bromell have fleshed out the show with so many subplots, so many layers, so much symbolism, that you’ll find yourself picking up on a great deal of new things if you watch it a second time.

In my mind, Rubicon is mandatory viewing. There’s a strong angle to it that makes you contemplate the underlying surfaces of contemporary events, not just in the ways and in the whys of how it happened, but also in how it is reported to the public. It makes you consider real-life events in a different light. Who benefits? What was the purpose of the event? Who profits? And why?

Rubicon is an exceptional series that was sadly canceled after its first season. While there’s a cliffhanger-esque conclusion, it still is satisfactorily wrapped up in a manner that makes you feel like you have completed a fulfilling story. There are a lot of open ends, but that is deliberate. This is totally worth watching. Put this at the top of your ‘must see’ list.

Overall Rating: 33 out of 13



  1. I was devastated when they canceled the show. I hold out hope someone will pick it up. The Killing is back so it’s possible.

    Comment by jwhyrock — April 20, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

  2. I wouldn’t say this review had a real critical eye. As a watcher of the series when it first aired. I indeed remember the hype and very much liking the melancholy but intelligent style of the show.

    But if you were watching The Walking Dead with a Critical Eye this past season and noticed the quality of the writing going south after the 2nd show runner was fired at mid season, You would have remembered exactly the same thing happened with Rubicons season one.

    The show was of great quality till mid season. Then due to poor ratings, it was all but said that the show was dead in the water and that AMC would finish out the first season but had no buzz from anyone about continuing the series.

    If this hanging anvil effected the quality of the 2nd half of the season or if it was just AMC cutting the budget and rewrites of more complicated(expensive) scenes, I guess we will never know But it was painfully obvious.

    The show was Horribly disappointing when compared to the 1st half season and it died with barely a whimper.

    Comment by Midas68 — April 20, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

  3. “Rubicon” was an outstanding show that was preemptively canceled — let’s be honest — because it was too close to the reality of our nation’s war-mongering, clandestine and undemocratic behind-closed-doors practices, and it cast an ugly light on our “Big-Brother-esque” and powerful secretive security apparatus that wields an alarming amount of influence over government.

    “Rubicon” was superior in terms of quality writing, plot and character development than virtually any other show today. “Walking Dead” panders to the current in vogue zombie-everything fanaticism plaguing Hollywood (and other popular media) channels these days, as well as those who need gory eye candy to make up for a ponderous and hackneyed plot line that quickly divebombed after its first season (I’ll admit I was intrigued by the idea of the global apocalypse by way of novel and unstoppable pandemic). But I quickly lost interest as Season 2 started dragging and each episode seemed like more of the same.

    “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” are both also outstanding shows that build character and portray reality without resorting to cheap Hollywood gimmicks and hyperbolized over-dramatic scenes….. In this vein, “Rubicon” was indeed a thinking person’s show. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer people who fall into that category all the time…. rampant digitizing of our lives hasn’t helped, as attention spans have piteously plummeted and society moves increasing toward a “get it now” need for immediate gratification — in the case of films, movies and t.v., by immediate answers, immediate over-dramatized and over-the-top plot lines and action scenes.

    The majority of those who say they didn’t like “Rubicon” likely fall into the category of status quo television consumer: those who can no longer appreciate well-written programming that isn’t centered merely on explosive action and drama, but that builds suspense through thought-provoking and cerebral excellence in writing. “Rubicon” likely required too much patience and paying attention to subtlety. It was a show that didn’t offer an immediate gratification of big explosions, chase or erotic scenes, and it didn’t have lots of violence, blood, gore nor rely on banal stereotypes or tropes of television writing in the 21st century. One had to absorb, think about and reflect on the plot line and characters — a very satisfying and refreshing change of pace.

    I have read other analyses of “Rubicon’s” demise that completely debunk the idea that it was too expensive or that rations were too low to justify a second season. Rather, average weekly viewing rates through “Rubicon’s” first season were virtually identical to those of “Breaking Bad.” And the terseness with which AMC announced the cancellation leads me to surmise, gloomily, that the network was likely pressured to axe the series because it too accurately depicted the nefarious capabilities of our nation’s secretive and supremely powerful national security apparatus. Surely AMC could never openly admit that it was strong-armed into canceling the show ….

    To appease the masses, AMC churned out new series — some pure low-brow absurdity, like “Small Town Security” — “The Killing,” a decent show but yet another one about cops and killers, and “Hell on Wheels,” a pretty unbelievable plot that appeals to Americans’ infatuation with the “wild West.” “Low Winter Sun” is merely a bone AMC is throwing to viewers who will rue the imminent end of a top-notch series like “Breaking Bad;” so the network has created a wan and inferior second-cousin that’s merely more of the same …. yet another cop, “city grunge” show about morally flawed characters that centers on a murder mystery. Yeah, yeah, yeah …. It’s a shadow of what “Breaking Bad” is, and is in many ways a rehashing of other shows currently available on other networks.

    AMC, please hear this message: Just let “Breaking Bad” go. Don’t try to replace your darling with an inferior wannabe ….

    Instead, bring back the originality, highly relevant and brilliantly written
    show that was “Rubicon.” Don’t assume all your viewers are too dumbed
    down by the digital age we live in to appreciate truly good writing and
    suspense-building …. This show was a modern-day classic, embodying
    Hitchcock-like brilliance that is virtually extinct in modern television and
    film. I can only hope, as another reviewer did, that some other network resuscitates this outstanding series.

    Comment by tamsyn9 — September 6, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

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