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You won't believe everything you see
It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you, right? That's the bumper sticker slapped on the back of Kiefer Sutherland's new Paramount+ thriller Rabbit Hole, in which the former 24 star does indeed go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that tie together untimely defenestrations, clandestine corporate espionage, and deep state government takeovers. But, if you can believe it, in practice it's actually even wilder and more convoluted than how that sounds.
Sutherland plays John Weir, a corporate consultant who uses social psychology and behavioral data to conduct shady operations designed to manipulate stock prices for the highest bidder, and based on one of Rabbit Hole's opening scenes, in which Weir and his team pull off a ludicrous dupe job on a standard-issue Wall Street finance bro, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the show will be a playful thriller that has more in common with Ocean's Eleven than a 4Chan thread.
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One inciting incident later, and things go all topsy-turvy for Weir, who finds himself the most wanted man in New York City by the end of the first episode, framed for something he didn't do. OR DID HE? Probably not, as Weir doesn't seem the type to be an unreliable narrator. That job goes to the writers, led by creators John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, who have never seen a twist that couldn't use a few more turns. Statements of fact are blown up into shrapnel of lies so often in Rabbit Hole that it quickly becomes hard to believe anything the show says, which helps with the immersion of the conspiracy themes but doesn't always make for smooth television viewing.
It's also hard to believe a lot of the things your eyes are seeing when it comes to getting Weir from Point A to Point B. Case in point: While he's the most wanted man in New York City, Weir pulls off a scheme that involves walking into a New York police department, having face-to-face interactions with several police officers — including one of the leads on his case — and walking out of the building with the intel he needs. In a series built on challenging credibility and questioning authority, there are often times when that's flipped onto the show itself. Yes, I can believe that Weir is the smartest person in the room, but Rabbit Hole gets us there by making everyone else as dumb as a doorknob.
Still, Sutherland is great in the role. No longer as spry as Jack Bauer, Sutherland powers the show with his charisma, his know-it-all wisecracking pumping blood into the mental cat-and-mouse games. Game of Thrones' Charles Dance, who plays [redacted for spoilers], somehow seems above the material while also game for it at the same time, at one point announcing his presence — in a twist, naturally — with a booming, "Who the f--- is this?" The "this" he's referring to is Meta Golding's Hailey, an innocent bystander (like we actually believe that) roped into the ragtag team helping Weir's fugitive run. Early on, it feels like the show is only keeping Hailey around to give Weir someone to flirt with, but given the show's love of deception, I'm sure there are big things planned for her. Rob Yang and Jason Butler Harner are also great as pieces of the puzzle who flip-flop in their allegiances. But the best character not played by Kiefer Sutherland belongs to an unnamed wild card known only as The Intern (Walt Klink), a baby-faced assassin who goes through his job with all the enthusiasm of a Fiver gofer.
This is a show for 24 fans who want to see Sutherland run around and slip out of tight spaces, and Rabbit Hole certainly provides that with nonstop forward momentum — when it's not an achingly long scene of Weir trying to crack a password! — as if it's better to move on to the next conspiracy, twist, and reveal as fast as possible than to let viewers dwell on the ridiculousness of what they just watched. Like a bedside page-turner drumming up the doubt of a nation divided — the conspiracies have it both ways by laughing at the lunacy of QAnon-type hogwash while also suggesting "but it could be true!" — it's something to pass the time and may just help you go to bed.
Premieres: Sunday, March 26 on Paramount+ (first two episodes, followed by new episodes weekly)
Who's in it: Kiefer Sutherland, Charles Dance, Meta Golding, Enid Graham, Jason Butler Harner, Rob Yang, Walt Klink
Who's behind it: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (creators, directors)
For fans of: Deep states, conspiracy theories, Kiefer Kieferin'
How many episodes we watched: 4 of 8 (4 were sent for review)