Rubicon

Calling Rubicon a spy thriller is like referring to Crime and Punishment as a murder mystery. Cerebral, chilly and cloaked in languorous foreboding, this morose espionage drama about intelligence data analysts in a government think tank is likely to be championed by some as "a thinking person's 24" — which many may see as code for "Where's the pulse?"

We have learned to be patient with AMC's classy dramas, most notably Mad Men, which often takes its swank time in setting up its stories. (This season, though, is off to a crackling start.) But as Rubicon sifts through its conspiratorial enigmas, including riddles embedded in crossword puzzles and books — "This is really old-school," remarks a veteran of the game — the ominous tone fails to generate much real tension.

With shadowy figures constantly lurking about, spooking our brainy and twitchy (and well-played) heroes, it all seems a game of watch and wait. And wait. And wait. For something, anything to happen. When one of the characters gets punched, he's told, "That's what you get for acting like John Wayne." Jack Bauer, I miss you.

As it wrestles with Big Moral Questions, Rubicon is unquestionably smart but undeniably sluggish.

Rubicon premieres Sunday at 8/7c on AMC.

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