From the beginning, AMC's Rubicon was a slow burn.
Although the show eventually won the approval of many critics, the show's pacing and complicated conspiracy storytelling resulted in a very small — but passionate — viewership, leading to the assumption that last week's Season 1 finale would double as a series finale.
Rubicon: Conspiracy or commentary? "Democracy is a very fragile vessel," producer says
But based on how that episode ended, executive producer Henry Bromell didn't get the memo. American Policy Institute analyst Will Travers (James Badge Dale) finally gathered enough evidence to suggest that his boss, Truxton Spangler (Michael Cristofer), was using API intelligence to manipulate world events for profit. And though Will was convinced Truxton was behind the explosion of an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico that could create war with Iran, Will was unable to take Truxton down.
"I just don't believe in wrapping it up that simply," Bromell tells TVGuide.com. "It's not interesting drama. It's a little more conventional, a little easier. I just don't believe in it in this case. The truth is that it's not that easy to stop the bad guys."
Rather than admitting defeat and giving Will all the answers, Truxton, who has also been marked for death by his associates, dares Will to go public with what he knows. "Truxton's got a little Cheney in him, a little Rumsfeld in him. He does not chicken out. He will never fail for lack of nerve," Bromell says. "He's too convinced of his own righteousness no matter what he's doing."
Finale watch: Mad Men, Rubicon
Bromell says that finale, fittingly titled, "You Never Can Win," gives the show much more drama to play in a second season, should the show be renewed. "That will be part of what we deal with: What happens to Truxton?" Bromell says. "Does it matter? Can he just get away with it completely? What happens if Will tries to make noise?"
Will isn't acting alone, of course. He worked most of the season with the help of his supervisor, Kale Ingram (Arliss Howard), who, in the finale, advised Will to cut his losses and move on. That advice will have major implications, Bromell says.
"Kale thinks he made a mistake," Bromell says of his plans for Season 2. "He thinks even though he did the smart move, it was probably the wrong move and he hates himself for that. It's not going to be everybody sitting back and hoping sooner or later Truxton will make a mistake.
"Will's going to go through a whole series of reactions," Bromell continues. "He can't even work at API if Truxton is doing these things and he thinks no one's going to stop him. What we don't know is why exactly Truxton and the other guys, besides making money, want to do things like this. Why would they want to start a war with Iran? That's what we'd find out next season."
Check put photos of the Rubicon cast
Bromell suggests that Will has only begun to uncover the true conspiracy and that a second season would allow the show to dig deeper into the other characters in Truxton's Fishers Island crew. "It'll just get more complicated and bigger because what you're going to realize is those guys are just small potatoes," Bromell says. "They alone don't have the power to start or stop anything."
But Bromell says he doesn't want the conspiracy to dominate the show. He feels that the most successful Season 1 episodes were those that simply focused on the team doing its job. "It's my instinct to make episodes have independent shape as much as possible," Bromell says. "Even if you're coming in on stories, the episodes don't have to feel like this week's slice of pie."
Despite all of Bromell's plans, the fate of the show rests in the hands of AMC. The show's viewers surged 26 percent for the penultimate episode, but the finale pulled in a little over 1 million viewers. But Bromell remains optimistic.
"It sounds like there is a possibility," he says. "We've had good conversations. They understand my ideas, and they like them, so that's all gone well. They have to weigh our show against their three new shows and they have to decide can they afford keeping us. They're proud of the show, and they think it's a really beautifully written show and well-acted show. It's not like I'm getting sheer criticism on any of those particulars. It's really just a question of what they can fit in."
And if the show ends after its freshman run, Bromell says he hopes his intended message — that democracy is a fragile vessel — resonated.
"The idea that government intelligence could be used by private interest groups or companies for their own purposes is a pretty good example of how fragile democracy can be," he says. "The danger is that the institutions that we have to protect us fail. My point is that they fail because the people who have the power to protect those institutions don't. It's that gray area that is very interesting to me. There's a lot more to find out, hopefully in the second year, about how fragile democracy is."
Do you want to see a second season of Rubicon?