No, this is no follow-up to the HBO series, "Rome." There aren't any Roman legions marching past a metaphorical point of no return or anything like that.
"Rubicon" is about right now. Any line of commitment, here, to be crossed or not has to do with whether intelligence analyst Will Travers decides to leap from the roof of the building which houses the bland and covert digs in which he and his colleagues gather data about the world's hot spots likely to affect the security of the United States of America.
Most of the time, Will (James Badge Dale) appears as if he's nearly emerged from a state of shock: sort of numb-like, yet sensitive to his surroundings. And that would be (?)---because he was late getting to the Twin Towers in the city of his employment to celebrate a family thing with his wife and young daughter who were waiting there for him when the first jet struck.
"Rubicon" is oblique as its makes an unvarnished approach on what looks to be a damned good game-playing espionage yarn that ties into the awful things going on today around the world---but something tells me, after two episodes---more in our own bad backyard.
If you're looking for a revision of a serialized Bondian caper, you'd better try USA's new cable show, "Covert Affairs." Nothing that shallow, so far, with "Rubicon." And, I hasten to add: I think Piper Perabo is hot.
Four titles came to my mind as Will and the other curious characters in "Rubicon" sallied-forth: "Damages" (in all its scary FX paranoia); "The X-Files" (sans le sci-fi); Roman Polanski's recent, "The Ghost Writer" (without the foreign glam); and, the oldie-but-goodie feature, "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" (with its stark grit and Richard Burton, too.)
Alan Coulter, who's been in the director's chair more than once handling pretty weighty TV episodes, has taken on the first one for "Rubicon," just as he did back in 2007 for the initial installment of the amazing "Damages."
From the get-go, "Rubicon" grabbed me for being deficient on breezy lead characters, hip-savvy and arrogant, who so populate situation police and spy dramas 24/7 on cable and the broadcast networks. There is no one in "Rubicon" always at the ready with a cool rejoinder as are David Caruso or his side babe, Emily Procter, of "CSI: Miami" fame. Nothing like fresh cable, I always say.
Hint: don't let the program's deliberative and reflective moments fool you into thinking that it's slow, people. There's something going on during these moments. And besides, you can catch up to what's just happened with the time allowed to rethink any subtleties that have advanced the story to where it is at the moment.
AMC follows "Rubicon" with "Mad Men," on Sunday evenings. That's a big jump in terms of tone and texture.
I must fess up, here: I've never been a fan of this big hit about Sixties ad dudes that's been sucking up the Emmys and critical raves. Honestly, I can't figure why "Damages" isn't the fairly new cable drama doing all that.
I hope my tastes for good, serious drama coming out of tubesville don't forecast that "Rubicon" will be second-rate with the masses and all those smart people who tell the vid crowd what they ought think is best on the television.
It's happened before, though.