The dive into conspiracy theories and fears of “Big Brother” have only become stronger in recent years. The rise of QAnon and online plots increases distrust in the world at large. For many, the endless stream of data and information has become too grand to contimplate. Others struggle to comprehend how to live in the world with so much chaos. New series Rabbit Hole on Paramount+ allows one of TV’s most legendary hard men to dive headfirst into a conspiracy thriller. With Kiefer Sutherland leading the way, Rabbit Hole offers plenty of exciting moments, despite some lackluster storytelling.
John Weir (Sutherland) delivers unlikely results for his clients. With his team of experts, he brilliantly sleuths through the world, undetected and unknown. However, after a job for his old friend Valence (Jason Butler Harner) he finds himself framed for the murder of a government official (Rob Yang). As he goes on the run, Hailey Winton (Meta Golding) gets pulled into his chaos. Soon, a ghost from Weir’s past (Charles Dance) comes back into his life.
Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, known for their work in comedy, created the series and direct the pilot. They do an excellent job at infusing in the humor, but also expand on their more political side of their filmography. They strike a better balance than they had in Whisky Tango Foxtrot or in WeCrashed. Instead, owning the thriller aspects keeps us focused on dialogue that could easily veer into exposition dumps.
Sutherland gets to jump back into action thriller mode, and he once again proves the perfect fit. He brings a rogue devil persona that helps keep Rabbit Hole charming. This helps in the first two episodes, but by episode three, he begins to revert too heavily towards Jack Bauer. This series needs him embracing his nerdier side, not his action badass persona. Over the first four episodes (which were provided to critics), he mostly understands which is needed at the right times.
Dance gets a showcase supporting role, and makes the most of it. He gets to return to the scheming and cunning choices that helped him thrive on Game of Thrones. It’s his best television work in years, and he gets to play to the rafters. When you go this big, it’s bound to feel like overacting. When watching Dance, it’s exciting to watch a master work. Golding becomes our guide into the world. She brings enough disbelief and frustration to her world so that she does not fall into the “Elliot Page in Inception” conundrum.
The issue hanging over Rabbit Hole comes from its self-serious nature. By going deeper into conspiracy logic, it forces us to question everything. This creates two paths. Either the audience can enjoy the story as it unfolds, or they may begin to feel the paranoia creep up on them. While that might enhance the viewing experience, it also means that any twists and turns within the show become far less effective.
Rabbit Hole seems poised to examine the world of big data and the new understanding of “Big Brother.” The digital age allowed more people, including corporations and governments, to understand our choices. The first few episodes use flashbacks to reveal our main characters were ahead in understanding the power of predictive analytics. Adding an omniscent lens to the main characters only further degrades the world. The series digs into darker conspiracies as well. Framing the danger through the language of the deep state and Manchurian Candidate paranoia, the world of Rabbit Hole overwhelms.
The series looks very good, with sleek and well positioned cameras. The cinematographers help rows of cubicles and offices feel more visually dynamic than they should. The muted color palette does not help, even if it adds to the uncontrollable malaise of life. When we get to embrace action set pieces and explosions, the budget quickly becomes apparent. The energy and editing here helps Rabbit Hole deliver on its thriller origins, even when the story becomes too murky.
There’s a meta-nature to the series, where it actively engages with questions raised in the past eight years. The importance and power of disinformation gets pushed into centerframe. Rabbit Hole makes fun of itself in long stretches, with its characters using self-depricating humor to jab at itself. There are even moments of characters watching deep state conspiracists shows on YouTube, laughing at them for being so far off from the actual truth. It does not poke fun of itself like Marvel, but it does deflate its characters enough so that we find them entertaining.
Rabbit Hole certainly entertains, but diving headfirst into conspiracy becomes a weight on the series. Sutherland and Dance get to shine, while Golding serves as the breakout. Rabbit Hole adds to the exciting lineup at Paramount+. For Requa and Ficarra, Rabbit Hole seems like a strong new direction for them to pursue as storytellers. It’s a fun series, and it will be interesting to see if Paramount’s belief that it can stand up to Yellowjackets and Succession can be rewarded.