‘Rubicon’ – ‘A Good Day’s Work’: The conscience of the king

A review of tonight’s “Rubicon” coming up just as soon as I’m in a Moscow train station wearing a fake mustache…

“I feel I’m very close to coming to a conclusion.” -Will

Late in “A Good Day’s Work,” Truxton Spangler – who has arranged to have Will murdered because he knows too much about the Fishers Island bunch – pops by Will’s office to commend him for his great work, not just on the Kateb case, but throughout the career at API that Spangler assumes will be over in a few hours. And Will – who has been working doggedly to prove that Spangler played a role in the death of his father-in-law, and who knows his boss has been spying on him and means him harm – has to grit his teeth and play nice while listening to Spangler sing the praises of the man he had murdered.

It’s the highlight of the episode, and not just because it evokes a similar scene from “The Wire” about two old friends who have each betrayed the other and are spending one last night together, not realizing they’re just as screwed as their buddy. (If you know that show, you know the scene, and if you don’t, I’ll leave it for you to discover.) The “Rubicon” scene isn’t as emotionally complicated as “The Wire” one, simply because Spangler and Will have never been close, and because each has a better sense of what the other is up to than their “Wire” counterparts. But it’s still superbly played by Michael Cristofer (who plays Spangler as if he really does seem to feel guilt about David, if not the rest of what he does) and James Badge Dale, and as clear a sign as the quote above that we’re barreling towards a resolution to the whole crossword puzzle story.

In fact, with two episodes still to go, Will has figured most of it out – that Spangler and his childhood friends have become titans of industry who exploit the findings of API to manipulate and profit from global unrest – and the only questions left are whether Spangler’s cabal is in some way tied to the Kateb plot (at this point, my guess is yes) and whether they’re too powerful for Will to do something about. Though the ratings may make “Rubicon” into a 13-episode miniseries, it wasn’t planned as one, and whatever the finale does has to keep a hypothetical second season in mind. The show as constructed needs Will Travers more than Truxton Spangler (though I would sure miss that man and his pauses were the show to come back without him), and they’ve passed the point of potential co-existence. If/when Will comes to the office again, having survived Donald Bloom’s assassination attempt(*), I can’t imagine Spangler playing nice a second time. One’s gotta go, and it’s not likely to be the guy who’s the series lead.

(*) My one notable complaint was how well Will the analyst did in combat with Bloom the trained spy. Even though Will is young and Bloom old and (as he lamented to Kale a while back) getting fat, he’s still trained for this and Will isn’t. Earlier in the episode, Andy jokes that the spies are like the jocks in high school and analysts like Will are the AV club, and an AV club guy would have to be incredibly lucky – or have plenty of advance warning – to win a fight to the death against the jock. If the scene had played out as Will entering the apartment on guard after his conversation with Spangler, or if Bloom just had a bad bit of misfortune (say, tripping over a leftover part from David’s motorcycle), I would have gone with it. Instead, Will simply fights his way out of a submission hold and gets to David’s gun in time, and while the scene was very tense, it also seemed to go against what the show has been telling us for weeks that it’s about.

There’s a sense of the troops gathering throughout the episode. Will gets Tanya liberated from the basement and forgives Maggie’s spying to get her re-attached to the team (as Kale predicted he eventually would), and after he kills Bloom, he brings Kale back into the loop to dispose of the body. (And Kale has to put aside any feelings he has about seeing his murdered ex-lover because there’s work to be done.)

So if we assume Kateb is either working for Spangler’s bunch or simply being exploited by them, then we have two seemingly mismatched sides at work here: Will, Kale, unlucky amateur Katherine Rhumor and Will’s team, whose abilities may be impaired by emotional problems (Miles), addiction problems (Tanya) or loyalty problems (Grant); and Truxton Spangler, Mr. Roy and seemingly bottomless resources, plus whatever Kateb is up to.

We’ve come to a conclusion about what Spangler and company are up to, and why Tom Rhumor might have decided to kill himself. Now we need to see what Will can do with that information.

What did everybody else think?

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