Sunday, March 26, 2023

REVIEW: 'Rabbit Hole' - Old Memories Prove Unreliable as Weir Must Work With New Partners in 'At Any Given Moment'

Paramount+'s Rabbit Hole - Episode 1.02 "At Any Given Moment"

Triggered by the suicide of his old friend Valence and framed for the murder of Edward Homm, Weir frantically tries to piece together what went wrong the day before. The mysterious Hailey is sucked further into Weir's world as he tries to determine whether she played a role.

"At Any Given Moment" was written by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa and directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Weir agonizes over his father's death. Something happened when he was young that required him and his mother to move out. The parallels are drawn between Weir and his father. They both exhibit gifted intellects. And yet, his father has a manic outburst by trying to remove every phone from their house. The night Weir and his mother move out, his father dies from suicide. It's a singular moment that stands out in Weir's memory. He returns to it over and over again because he was present. He didn't know what his father was doing. People offer their contradictory opinions of him. Weir is told his father was a patriot. He wasn't all the things being reported about him. He is regarded as brave for the sacrifices he made. He died though. Weir could hardly participate in the ceremony. He had to run away. That was always his impulse. He had to be with his father. When that was no longer possible, he had to run away from that reality. That's how the story is being told about his youth. It's not something that only plays out for a moment. It continually pulls focus. Hailey is annoyed by the thumping of Weir's thumb. He notes how it helps him focus. He needs to imagine every scenario of what he is about to do. After that, he can execute it flawlessly. Of course, that doesn't happen. He wouldn't be a compelling protagonist if everything worked out for him. The biggest narrative misgiving is how much of this story is a lie. Weir returns home and his father is in the kitchen. It's not a huge surprise to him. In fact, it comes across as the two operating as partners in this endeavor. Weir is messing up their grand scheme somehow. That's completely contradictory of everything that has already played out. Until that point, the story was completely focused on Weir trying to understand why this is happening. He needs to know how certain people factor into things. He's convinced Hailey is an undercover agent. He needs to know precisely which agency she is working for. That's not the truth. She may simply be nothing more than someone being monitored before she met Weir. As such, his life implodes because of this innocuous connection. Of course, even that feels doubtful because of her willingness to stay. She understands people are targeting her. That's plain to see. She's confused by Weir's intentions. One moment, he's a killer and the most wanted man in the city. And then, he's a trusted partner who can honestly be believed because he's dumbstruck by everything happening. It's amusing when they banter about being thrown in the trunk of a car. That doesn't make them invaluable partners who need each other now more than ever before.

Weir doesn't believe in trust. It's not a luxury he can afford in his line of work. That's an opinion he expressed to the priest at the start of the series. He reiterates it when Hailey suggests she can support him in this mission. He has faith in his skills. He knows how to effectively warp reality to his benefit. It's a skill he has fine tuned over the years. It made him profitable in a certain sector of business. It now comes in handy for the work he must do to clear his name. But the whole false accusations against him are built on a lie. Homm isn't dead. People wanted him killed. Weir saved his life. The mission shifts to him needing to break into the local police precinct to obtain Valence's authenticator to access his encrypted messages. Weir saw a glimpse of the strings being pulled behind the scenes. He's pulling a number of them as well. However, it simply doesn't work when the show treats the viewer as someone who needs to be manipulated. Weir notes how a shift in perception is all he needs in order to bend a situation to his benefit. He has done it many times before. It means blending into his surroundings and offering commonplace responses so that he fits in no matter where he goes. It's all about redirecting attention so that no one knows the danger he poses. He had a team to help him. And now, he may only have the intern. That's the only apparent survivor from the office bombing. Agent Madi thinks it's suspicious that people died while this guy survived with only a few scratches. That allows him to effectively work for Weir once again. However, the story is driven by ever shifting allegiances. For a moment, it seems as if the intern is working in tandem with Weir as he makes his grand escape from the police precinct. Once the police are locked out of their pursuit, the intern attacks his boss. That's the moment in which Hailey proves herself useful. She becomes an ally by running over the person who clearly stands in Weir's way. It's the shifting of expectations. It plays to the untrustworthiness of every action taken. The viewer should be confused. That's precisely what the show wants to accomplish. It just doesn't make this narrative very sensical. It's a complete mess. One in which it warps the emotions of the viewer. It wants us to be confused just as much as Weir is destined to become in a few weeks. In order to accomplish that though, the show needs to provide a constant in some area of its storytelling. The audience can't endure the confusion alongside the protagonist. That doesn't line up for a story that rewards people who pay attention. Right now, it's a story about the tricks and deceit. Lies are being told. The show has no shame about doing so. It just makes it so difficult to find any reason to continue when there are so many shows willing to challenge audiences without alienating them. Characters don't have to be likable. The plot needs to have a purpose. It's unlikely anyone can succinctly sum up what's happening here. After two episodes, the audience should know what to expect from this show and want to tune in to receive that satisfaction. Nothing happens with enough specificity to create that drive despite the promise of Charles Dance joining the fray.