RUBICON “Gone in the Teeth” and “The First Day of School” Review

Rubicon (AMC)

Identical crossword puzzle clues appearing across newspapers sets off warning bells that begin our mystery in episode one of RUBICON, titled “Gone in the Teeth”. The mystery revolves around a symbolic four leaf clover (whose scientific name Marsilea quadrifolia is the answer to a clue), representing the three branches of government plus a fourth unknown entity. After the appearance of these puzzles, people begin to die. Our protagonist Will Travers’ (James Badge Dale) is an intelligence analyst. His father-in-law David Hadas (Peter Gerety), who happens to be very superstitious, dies in a freak train crash. Seeing David’s car parked in stall thirteen at the train station, Will questions how David died; he wouldn’t walk over a painted number thirteen, let alone park in the stall. Although full of uncertainty (or perhaps because of all his uncertainty), Will accepts a position to head the American Policy Institute, a position once held by his father-in-law.

Will adjusts rather unsuccessfully to his new role as boss in episode two of Rubicon, “The First Day of School.” He juggles an assignment given by Truxton Spangler (Michael Cristofer) the head of API with his search for answers regarding the crossword puzzles. Enlisting a researcher to assist off the books, he discovers in 1983 the same methodology of identical clues published in major newspapers. Ed Bancroft (Roger Robinson), the “gone crazy code guy” admits that he was the creator of those puzzles, created at the request of David as a go code to initiate revenge killings. It appears David has left clues of his own as well, trying to explain to Will what is going on. Amidst all this, Will is being followed and watched by unidentified men. And we learn that Will’s assistant Maggie (Jessica Collins) is forced to act as an informant, giving Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard) information on the analysts at API. Also in this episode, we see more of Katherine Rhumor (Miranda Richardson) whose husband committed suicide in episode one, as she searches for her own answers, concerning her husband and his secrets.

The mystery of Rubicon has only just begun. Here are some random comments, questions, and soliloquies which will certainly come up again in future episodes:

Clearly we won’t see death-defying, action hero secret agents. We get the brains of the operations, the wizard(s) behind the curtain.

It does not appear that the show will have self-contained stories in each episode. Instead it will slowly reveal the characters and story elements through the entire season. So start thinking about the big picture.

We know that Will’s wife and daughter died in the WTC bombing.

He and his colleagues are suffering job burn-out and feeling a lack of direction/motivation from the burden of their responsibilities.

What meaning do we take from the title of the show? Julius Caesar’s crossing of a small stream called the Rubicon started a civil war, which played a critical role in changing the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Who or what wants the empire now? Accepting the new job means Will can no longer turn back to what he once knew or didn’t know. He must reconnect with the world. His step into the elevator was ominous. What will he find with his new security card? What sort of duplicity will he find between business and government? What will his actions bring into play?

Is the title of Rubicon‘s pilot episode, “Gone in the Teeth”, significant? It comes from the fifth verse of Ezra Pound’s poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. It is thought to describe Pound’s opinion that civilization was intellectually and morally wasting away, becoming a civilization not worthy of all the deaths of war. Is this what we can expect to happen concerning the business with the clover; or does it refer to David’s futile death as a result of the puzzle discovery; or is Will throwing away his life by becoming the new head of API for an undetermined (maybe immoral) purpose?

Does the four leaf clover symbolize more than the three plus one branches of government? What or who is that fourth entity?

Everyone seems creepy, suspicious, and strange–all the men following Will and Kale Ingram always lurking about. What was all that shoulder touching business when he asked Will at the funeral to take over David’s position? Is Kale good or evil?

What information does Kale have over Maggie that she needs him to keep custody of her daughter?

Is David really dead? If so, will we see more of him in flashback memories? What is he trying to tell Will through his clues?

We’ll have to wait to find out answers. The die has been cast…

What did you think of RUBICON “Gone in the Teeth” and “The First Day of School”? Share your thoughts in the comments below.