‘Rubicon’: ‘Ruthless is not cruel; ruthless is whatever it takes”

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‘Rubicon’ showed us something Sunday night that I hadn’t seen on television: a fictional depiction of the process by which the U.S. attempts to verify information from terrorist suspects detained in so-called black sites around the world during “enhanced interrogations.”

A suspect named Nasri might or might not have been able to verify whether Kateb survived an air strike (Will’s team had played a part in deciding to launch the air strike to kill Kateb) despite initial reports that he was dead.

Miles and Tanya were flown 13 hours to an undisclosed site. There, they were asked to listen to what interrogators were able to get out of Nasri, who was shown hanging shackled from the ceiling of a cell in a nameless facility, screaming in pain. They listened to the sessions and assessed the information. Their opinion: None of it was reliable.

This was just one strand of Sunday’s episode, in which we followed Will inside an office of Atlas McDowell, the shadowy “leviathan” that Will keeps bumping up against in his rogue investigation of a colleague and friend’s death. Inside the company’s lavish yet anonymous office on Gansevoort Street on Manhattan’s West Side, he stole a telephone list and later reported to Ingram that there was an extension not only for their boss, Truxton Spangler, but also numbers of former generals, U.S. senators and the one-time head of the NSA.

Kale Ingram was everywhere – except at the black ops site. He met Maggie under one of the major Manhattan bridges (couldn’t tell which one -- can anyone ID it?) to learn what she might have found going through Will’s office trash and coat pockets. He met Ed Bancroft on a park bench to give him some leads to research in Will’s attempts to find out who killed David Hadas. He met Will several times on the roof of API, once to rat out Maggie and another time to tell an increasingly frustrated Will that he was aware of how Will perceived him -- but “ruthless is not cruel; ruthless is whatever it takes.”


And there was another meeting between Ingram and Maggie, after Will fired her, in which he confessed to telling Will that she was spying on him. He could tell she had grown to fond of him and would probably start pulling punches in her reports back to Ingram. “Believe it or not, I’m Will Travers’ guardian angel,” Kale told her.

People kept telling Will to “follow the patterns,” whether in a chess game or his work on the larger conspiracy. Here are a few things I learned from this episode, but please: Check my work, readers, and tell me if I’m missing anything important:

-- Miles and Tanya’s trip to the black ops site left them with the sense that the CIA had used them in the interrogation of Nasri to help determine whether Tanaz Zahar, the woman in the surveillance photos of George and Uri, was actually a double agent. This resulted in much consternation on the part of Miles, who thought they had been jerked around.

-- James Wheeler appeared to be shielding Katherine Rhumor from his fellow four-leaf-clover conspirators, and he may have been close to paying the price. According to Spangler, Tom Rhumor had compromised the integrity of the group -- but we don’t know how. Wheeler spotted someone in a neighboring building looking into his office window with binoculars (again, this show has some inept surveillance teams). At episode’s end, he drew a clover on the back of the old photograph of the row of children he took from Tom Rhumor’s townhouse and sent it to Katharine.

-- If I’m not mistaken, Ingram confirmed to Will for the first time that David Hadas was purposely killed.

-- Kale Ingram has emerged as the most interesting character on the show. He is deliciously multi-motivated and extremely artful in playing people against one another. At one point, Ed Bancroft said he would not trust Ingram; yet he proceeded to follow his clues, and darned if they didn’t lead somewhere important. The question is, is it truly important or just the place Ingram wants Ed and Will to be, for now?

I’m finished complaining about the slow pace of ‘Rubicon.’ It is what it is, a somewhat strange hybrid. There is stuff you kind of think you’ve seen before, with plot elements you kind of think you can anticipate. … There is also, as one reader told me last week, an almost headache-inducing amount of things to keep track of. But then there will be a breathtaking stroke of originality or impressive, dramatic developments right off of the news. My question is how they’re going to wrap it up (how many more episodes can there be?), at least until they know whether it will be renewed for another season.

-- Kelly Scott

Above: James Badge Dale as Will Travers. Credit: Craig Blakenhorn / AMC