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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

Rubicon – “Connect the Dots”

You missed a button.”

If you’ve been struggling with Rubicon then last week’s episode was probably a breath of fresh of air for you. The pacing picked up a little bit, and some of the characters surrounding Will were developed more. With “Connect the Dots,” it seems like the change in showrunners has taken a firm root within the show now, as the past two episodes are only vaguely like the first three in terms of aesthetics and pacing.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the changes that are in play with the show. Most, I suspect, will say they are for the better, but I feel a bit sad that it’s been two episodes now and I’ve barely had any of Will staring at a wall for 3 minutes straight. I miss it already.

One of the key changes is the fact there’s fewer blinds in the API offices. Sunlight, and sunny exteriors, are all the rage on Rubicon now. The pervasive darkness eased only by flickering fluorescent lights or street lamps seems to be a thing of the past (Ingram’s discussion of life before electricity seems like a not-so-subtle jab at the show’s previous aesthetics, especially when he flicks the lamp off and on to emphasize his point). Additionally, scenes inside API seem a little less present now, or limited to the conference room that Will and his team use to discuss the latest intel.

Certainly this brighter aesthetic helps the dinginess of the show that Jaime Weinman discussed when the series premiered. API in general seems cleaner now, a little less claustrophobic. While I liked the dinge and claustrophobia (I thought it helped with the reinvention of the 1970s paranoia thriller tone the show seemed to be aiming for), I could see how this would be a showblocker for some people.

More of a showblocker has been the show’s pace. I haven’t really understood this complaint about the show’s pace, as I found Mad Men to be pretty slow in places (particularly season 2) and haven’t seen much in terms of complaining about that. Like the dirtiness of the aesthetics, the slow pace was symptomatic of the 70s thriller, so I was willing to roll with it because it ultimately served a purpose. However, “Connect the Dots” moves rather briskly (even last week’s was a little slow) compared to the previous episode, but part of this could simply be the fact that there’s narrative movement, so it has the illusion of picking up the pace.

And the narrative is pretty exciting in this episode. Indeed, it puts Will squarely in the middle of the conspiracy and he has no way of knowing. He meets the Four Leaves (as I’ve taken to calling Spangler’s group) at Spangler’s wife’s charity ball, and while he has some inkling that something fishy is going on (Wheeler’s name gets jotted onto a notecard), there’s little he can do about it. It’s just one more piece, but how big of a piece is it, seeing the faces of 2 more of the men who may’ve killed your father-in-law and mentor?

However, for me, the most narratively exciting moment was the non-moment of Will and Katherine meeting, and briefly bonding, over drinking habits at the charity ball. So brief but nicely played since, really, the show has been building to this scene, only to have it be a throw away moment in an episode, quickly overshadowed by Will meeting some of the Four Leaves.

If you pile it on with Tanya coming out of her alcoholic daze long enough to make a compelling (and spot-on) case for why API should focus on George Beck instead of Yuri Po-somethingIcan’tbebotheredtolookuprightnow and Will following Donald Bloom (he used to work with Ingram while at the CIA!), and suddenly you have an episode filled with small pay-offs. The question for folks who need those small pay-offs is this: How long do you think you’ll have to wait for the next set?

While I’m not crazy about these changes, I’m willing to accept them if it means more people either tuning in, or sticking with, Rubicon.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • The episode’s big misfire was Will’s overly intense scene with Maggie. It felt like it should’ve been parody (“I think he’s from Ohio.”) but was played too straight to be funny or dramatically effective.
  • When Ingram cautioned Will about avoiding mayhem, I couldn’t help but chuckle and think, “It’s okay. Will has Allstate!”


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