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We Don’t Know Sh*t About These Guys

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 9, 2010 |

By Adrienne Saia Isaac | TV | August 9, 2010 |

Seriously. It’s called “exposition.” You need to give us something. And what we’re getting in these 47 minutes is a lot of melancholy faces, coding montages and violin music.

I’m all for the slow build narrative; one of this year’s best examples was “Breaking Bad’s” “The Fly” episode. It contained the perfect amount of dialogue and metaphor, with very little action, really, but it didn’t feel like filler. That particular episode deepened the tension felt by the viewer, not necessarily between the characters themselves, and made me even more invested in the coming episodes. In “Rubicon,” the entire show feels like filler — bad filler. It’s like substituting shards of glass for bread crumbs in a really bad crabcake. Unless this show gives viewers a reason to care (besides being the lead-in to “Mad Men”), we’re going to tune out. I’m still hanging on because 1) I promised Dustin I would and 2) I want to know if this series has any hope of redeeming itself with a bang up climax.

The show opens with Will sipping his morning coffee and being followed to work by a man in a black trench coat (because the show isn’t already riddled with cliches). He meets up with his mother-in-law, wide of his dead boss David, to go through David’s office. She mentions that her son Evan is coming to town and wants to meet with Will. There’s some sort of tension between Evan and Will (because Will was banging his sister, perhaps? Or because Evan’s father liked Will more than him? Probably). We’re not given specifics — even when Will and Evan do meet, they share awkward conversation, Evan demands the motorcycle David gave Will before he died and there’s no exposition of weirdo pasty Evan’s backstory (we know he lives in Vermont and that David kept in touch with Evan’s doctors. DOCTORS FOR WHAT?).

We’re somewhat let into why secretary Maggie is such a creeper. A man approaches her and her daughter on the street. He’s daughter Sophie’s daddy, and Maggie looks like the guy just killed a puppy before picking up his kid. She mentions this to her and Will’s creepy boss, who says she shouldn’t take him back. Maggie insists he’s changed. Again - changed from WHAT?

Meanwhile, Will’s ragtag group of codebreakers — Alkie, Asshole and Miles — are still working on the Popovich photo. They uncover the identity of one of Popovich’s associates. His name is George Beck, but he was born Nassir Malamamoud so we get to hear a few Arab-related “jokes.” We learn that he’s rich … and that’s it. Miles sums up the Popovich file (and the entire series thus far) with: “We don’t know shit about these guys.” Yep.

The biggest payoff of the episode comes when Will dissects David’s motorcycle and finds code printed on the underside of a piece of tape. He also finds a handgun sewn into the seat, which is a great place to hide a gun if you want to accidentally blow your balls off.

The code contains the dates that the Yankees won the World Series; this is the key that will allow Will to crack the code. I’m not even going to get into how this comes about, because the writers just threw it in there out of nowhere. Apparently David knew that Will hates the Yankees and because of this David knew Will would recognize all of the dates they won the World Series. What? Really? I hate the Yankees and the only day I remember is the one when I read that A-Rod has a portrait of himself as a Centaur above his bed (God, that was a great day).

Will takes the code to Bancroft, the old black man who was David’s chess partner and associate. Bancroft spits some serious Stump the Schwab baseball knowledge and finds the name “Travers,” an old relief pitcher for the Tigers (I think… the explanation was convoluted and I was hopped up on Benadryl so I’m not sure), in the code. That’s also Will’s last name. According to the writers, this means the code has been broken. Will finds other names in it and has a friend run them through a database. And that’s as far as we get this episode.

This episode attempts to make us like the supporting characters, namely Alkie, Asshole and Miles, but there’s just no connection. Their dialogue and inside jokes feel forced and so removed from what we really want to know that it’s utterly annoying. We have no idea why Miles’ wife is estranged from him. Alkie hasn’t been seen drinking, nor has any explanation been given for her atrocious hangover the week before. All we know about Miranda Richardson’s parallel narrative is that she hangs out with her lawyer a lot (who may also be Tom’s brother … unless he used the word brother loosely), and that she’s still not convinced that her husband wasn’t banging chicks at the secret townhouse. All she fucking talks about is that goddamn townhouse. God forbid we learn anything about the why of the townhouse — we only know that it exists and are badgered by this point throughout the episode.

The episode ends with the same two nameless men, one black and one white, meeting in a deserted coin laundry. The white guy says that Travers met again with Bancroft. The black guy then makes a phone call and says that Will is “still digging.” Digging for what, we don’t know. Right now the writers are digging their own graves, and I’m digging for a reason to keep watching.

Adrienne Saia Isaac is a journalist and Philly expat living in Colorado with two pair of skis, seven Phillies hats and her pit bull mix, Juno. Her main goal in life (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.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.