Sunday, March 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'Rabbit Hole' - John Weir's World Turns Upside Down When a Simple Job Has Unexpected Consequences in 'Pilot'

Paramount+'s Rabbit Hole - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

John Weir navigates the twisting, turning universe of deception as both a victim and master. But after what appears to be another successful day on the job, his world is blown to pieces.

"Pilot" was written by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa and directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Data is the most valuable currency on the marketplace today. Being able to understand and manipulate an individual is more powerful than anything else in the world. It's possible through trusting an all-knowing algorithm. People prosper on selling this information to whomever is lucky to manipulate events in their favor. A parallel is struck between the work John Weir does for his corporate clients and what these powerful institutions do to the average person. Perception becomes reality. If events are shaped in the correct way, people will believe it. All may be revealed later on to reveal the tricks behind the illusion. The emotions and actions of the moment are still very real. They carry vast consequences. Weir is seemingly motivated by helping some corporate CEOs defeat their rivals who are apparently worse somehow. It's all incredible vague with no real purpose whatsoever. Plenty of people comment on how paranoid Weir is. That's true long before he is framed for murder. He spends his life looking over his shoulder. He looks for cameras anticipating people would want to blackmail him for his illegal deeds. And yet, his relationship with Agent Madi is more combative than antagonistic. They are sparing partners and nothing more than that. They argue over the nobility of the work. Madi flexes how much she knows. She's looking for anything to knock Weir off balance. He doesn't reveal too much of himself. Of course, that requires him to be void of anything genuine in any given moment. This premiere prides itself on tricking the audience. It wants to remain grounded in Weir's experience. However, things are happening that create big dramatic turns in the plot without making sure they are sensible and rational to the people watching. It's important for the audience to receive a peak into Weir's perspective. The direction points out the many ways in which he is being monitored. He believes he's cultivated relationships that matter to his overall objectives. And yet, his office is bombed with his co-workers seemingly still inside. Meanwhile, the former colleague who hired him for this specific job jumps from his office balcony because he's ordered to do so. Everyone is essentially paranoid about the surveillance state they live in. Not much of it connects in an overarching way. Instead, it's all about Weir's instincts largely being right. His team looks to him for guidance. He asks rhetorical questions knowing that he already has the answer to their problem. Everyone lines up behind him. All of this is leading to absolute devastation and confusion. Weir makes his confession to a priest because he believes he has no where left to turn. And yet, not enough specific details occur to actually flesh out why this is such a betrayal.

The premiere loves throwing out expositional details about all of these characters. That's not atypical from a new show trying to establish itself. The stakes need to be clear. Right now, it's apparent Weir's life was complicated long before it took this turn into fugitive status. He was looking for cameras after having sex with Hailey. He digs into her past to explain why she conveniently ran into him at the bar. He was there for a job. That entire sequence is meant to showcase what Weir does. This is his line of work. It's all about altering reality to influence the actions of others. He creates a false news report where a study connects a popular medication to an increased likelihood for cancer. He was working on behalf of a client. No discussion really occurs over the morality or the cost of this work. It's simply something Weir does. He does so because he's good at it. People talk up a client meeting that should be very influential and massive for the company. And yet, Weir is quickly distracted by needing to handle a task for an old friend. In that case, he's simply creating the appearance of impropriety. He needs two people to meet who would otherwise be total strangers to one another. He succeeds. The narrative then shifts to the Treasury Department investigator being murdered. Weir is the prime suspect for that crime. He questions his reality before that damning accusation bursts. The video showing him picking up this government official could have been faked. But Weir also happens to have this man tied up in the basement of his house in the woods. It's confusing. Kiefer Sutherland does his best to ground every twist that happens. He needs to operate with confidence and swagger. He also needs to grow desperate as reality no longer starts making sense. It's all meant to convey a delicate character study over the deterioration of one's mind. Someone doesn't suddenly shift what they care about or who they are in one day. It happens much more gradually. It takes on new prescience because of the value of private data. That information opens the door for so many possibilities. Someone is watching Weir. Someone is making the world turn against him. He is more than capable of planting a bomb and detonating it. He's also suppose to be devastated when that attack occurs against the people he trusts in this line of work. Everything seems reasonably possible. As a result, it's hard to actually go through the motions seeing how impossible all of this would be for him to achieve. Instead, it's pure chaos. That quality can absolutely be seductive and agonizing. It's neither of those things because the show presents as too artificial while full of identities that don't add up to something more compelling about the teetering nature of our new digital world. Instead, it's simply another conspiracy thriller where the protagonist is desperate to get to the truth. He knows better and must convince others. The storytelling just doesn't want to present as such. That's an awkward way to craft a story. There's no shame in embracing what a show truly wants to be even though it's more generic than what this medium is at its most inventive.