'Rubicon' recap: A strategic retreat, to live and fight another day [Updated]
We didn't get startling revelations Sunday night in the season finale (series finale?) of AMC's "Rubicon" so much as confirmation of what has been sparingly parsed in the last few episodes. My big question after seeing how the writers tied things up was exactly how the arrival of a four-leaf clover is to be acted upon by the members of the conspiracy using API research to plan, pull off and then profit from major global catastrophes: Is it the order to commit suicide, or the announcement that it's been decided you are better off dead, one way or another?
Truxton Spangler, that wily old API impresario, received one in the closing moments of the episode, but when last seen, he was walking away from Will Travers on the rooftop of the API building. There was no off-screen gunshot. In a way, this could be good news: If there is a second season of "Rubicon," we may still have Michael Cristofer putting a novel spin on the corrupt intelligence chief and global business manipulator. [Updated at 11:05 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly said there was an off-screen gunshot. There was not.]
Others fared less well. Katharine Rhumor discovered a video message from the grave from her husband Tom on the "Meet Me in St. Louis" DVD, outlining the activities of Spangler and the other conspirators. The video was made by ... David Hadas, who appeared briefly on camera with a message for Will that we may never see. Katharine arranged a rendezvous with Will to give it to him, but before she connected with him by the fountain in Central Park, one of the men Spangler had tailing various people throughout the series' bumped into her and (I surmise this from reading spy thrillers; it wasn't spelled out) pricked her with some kind of fast-acting lethal drug. She was holding out the DVD to Will when she collapsed and died on the fountain's plaza.
Tom had told Katharine, in the video, that if she ever felt she was in danger to go to a certain address for protection. Katharine goes there, and the door is opened by ... Andi, the artist who lived in the building behind Will's and had the thing with him. She's some kind of operative, though it's hard to figure out for whom.
The setup for Season 2 came from Kale Ingram, who tried to soothe a harried Will. "You need to make a strategic retreat," he told him. "You can lose the battle without losing the war." And, he says of the current situation: "It's the backlash they're interested in." It is in Spangler's and his crew's interest that Iran be blamed for the explosion of the oil tanker in Galveston Bay, so that the U.S. government will make a response that benefits their business holdings.
But the members of the conspiracy have turned on Spangler; they want the operation stopped.
"No, I won't. I can't. That would be the wrong thing to do," Spangler tells the man chosen to tell him to call it all off. "I'm sorry."
"So am I," the guy tells Spangler. Later, we watch as the men vote on something by raising their hands — the delivery of the clover, we suspect.
To quickly sum up and set the table for the next season, if there is one: Spangler promotes Grant to Will's job. Grant has put the intelligence together to form the answer Spangler wants: that Iran is behind the Galveston attack. Will, who saw the perfectly setup intelligence for what it was, a smokescreen, has no problem with conceding the top job of the "team." Tanya resigns from API — she can't take the pressure. Maggie and Will are reconciled. Will confides in Miles, but it's unclear whether Miles believes him.
"Rubicon" producer Henry Bromell was interviewed on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" on Saturday and again credited the political paranoid thrillers of the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam era as inspirations. (Another was that his father was in the intelligence service.) [Updated, 4:20 p.m.: Jason Horwitz created "Rubicon." An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Bromell was the series' creator.
There was one last reference to Sydney Pollack's "Three Days of the Condor" on Sunday night: When Miles questions what Will with do with his findings and asks what would become of a report summarizing them, implying that it would be shelved without any impact. "It'll make a hell of a New York Times story," Will shoots back.
The exchange sends us back to Robert Redford standing in front of the New York Times plant while Cliff Robertson implores him not to tell its reporters what he's come to find out about the CIA. With all that newspapers have been through in the last 40 years, it was a heartening touch that someone still believes in their ability to illuminate the dark corners of a democracy.
— Kelly Scott
Photo: Will Travers (James Badge Dale) is unable to reach Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson) in Central Park before an assassin does. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / AMC.