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Crossword Conspiracy

By Adrienne Saia | TV | June 14, 2010 |

By Adrienne Saia | TV | June 14, 2010 |

If you watched the season finale of Breaking Bad last night (side note: holy fucking shit, right? Can’t wait for season four), you saw that AMC ran a sneak preview of its new show, “Rubicon,” premiering August 1. AMC Originals are either hit (“Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad”) or miss (their remake of the miniseries The Prisoner) and the jury’s still out on “Rubicon” after one episode. The show stars James Badge Dale (“The Pacific,” “24”) as Will Travers, a code breaker with the American Policy Institute in New York. He’s pensive, mopey and unnaturally smart, throwing out factoids like the annual military spending of Croatia at the drop of a hat. He’s a crossword puzzle whiz, which also serves as the first step in the unhurried build toward what will be the season’s lynchpin conflict.

“Rubicon” relies on the tropes of most dramas, like ominous string music and a snail’s paced narrative, releasing just enough plot points to make you wonder what the hell this show is all about. It opens with the suicide of an unidentified character, but he’s a rich old white man so we’re to believe that he’s important and powerful. It’s winter and children are playing outside with an as-yet-unnamed woman (Miranda Richardson). The man reads the newspaper alone at the stereotypical huge mahogany dinner table that all rich, old, white men seem to have in their mansions. He finds a four-leaf clover pressed in the pages, waves out the window to the woman and kids then shoots himself in the head. So you could say that “Rubicon” begins with a bang, but then you would be an unfunny hack and be eviscerated in the comments.

Cut to the API offices, where we’re introduced to Will’s coworkers: there’s the new girl, the asshole coworker who everyone hates, the sappy maybe-love interest who’s inexplicably devoted to the emotionally unavailable main character, the disheveled genius and the shady upper-level boss (we know he’s shady because he wears a lot of black and the string music crescendos when he’s in the scene). Their names are irrelevant since they’re only stereotypes at this point. It’s revealed that Will’s wife and child died in the World Trade Center during 9/11, which explains his moody nature and newfound punctuality (he was late meeting them at the observation deck and thus survived). We learn that David, Will’s unnaturally superstitious boss, is also his father-in-law. We also learn not to get too attached to any main characters, because David’s killed off by the end of the episode.

The entire premise of the show hinges on a series of crossword puzzles in the “big ticket” dailies whose clues point to an overarching conspiracy. Will finds that the puzzles contain clues pointing to the three branches of the government and a fourth, unidentified body. The day after Will discovers the clues, David ends up dead (in an “accidental” train crash… or was it? Cue those strings). The crosswords are the equivalent to the huge fucking polar bear in the first season of “Lost”: We have no idea what the crosswords mean, what the conspiracy is about, or why people die when they find the hidden clues. The episode ends with a group of old, rich, white men talking about the man who shot himself. Then a big, heavy mahogany wood door that all rich, old, white men seem to have on their meeting rooms closes, ending the episode and reinforcing the fact that rich old white men rule the world and are part of an evil conspiracy.

“Rubicon” premieres Sunday, August 1 at 8 p.m. You can watch the sneak peek on Comcast onDemand or at

Adrienne Saia is a journalist and Philly expat living in Colorado with two pair of skis, seven Phillies hats and her pit bull, Juno. Her main goal (besides finding gainful employment) is to drink whiskey out of Lord Stanley’s cup with Chris Pronger. You can read her rants and rambling at Ex-Pat’s and Geno’s.