If you’ve been missing Jack Bauer in your life, Kiefer Sutherland’s latest TV gig won’t disappoint. In “Rabbit Hole,” Paramount+’s slick new action thriller, Sutherland takes up the mantle of a present-day Robin Hood: one who robs the rich with elevated psychology and predictive behavior in order to help the causes he cares about.
Until, of course, it all goes wrong, and John Weir becomes the accused murderer at the center of a massive conspiracy, and is forced to go on the run. And that’s when the real fun (or the rabbit hole, if you must) begins.
The pilot sets up this premise spectacularly, with plenty of special effects and street shots (the show filmed in Toronto, but is set in New York). Viewers quickly learn about Weir’s paranoid disposition and his traumatic past while setting him up as the skilled swindler you can’t help rooting for. Sure, this guy is a criminal, and has an FBI agent (Enid Graham) tailing him, but he’s got rules, so it’s OK.
By the time Weir is sent into his tailspin, hoping to uncover the truth alongside an unlikely team, viewers who enjoy watching Sutherland do his high-stakes thriller thing will be hooked. It’s almost comical how this character can outsmart everyone and continuously slip by unnoticed, but a lifetime of no credit cards and online history (coupled with an endless array of secret hideouts and tech at his disposal) help to sell it.
When that sell gets hard, “Rabbit Hole” isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, either. There are plenty of quippy one-liners from Hailey (Meta Golding), the woman roped into helping Weir figure out the truth, plus self-deprecating remarks by Weir himself. Those comedic bits of relief balance out the tension in the way you’d expect from a fun action-thriller, without feeling like too much of a wink.
As for the action, there’s enough to drive each episode and keep the stakes high as the story unravels, and Weir gets closer to the truth. But the real hook is figuring out the crime itself. There is a mysterious entity pulling the strings in the first four episodes made available to press, with plenty of clues and small reveals to leave you wanting more.
That makes it an ideal streaming service entry, by the way. Paramount+ drops the first two episodes at premiere then follows a weekly release schedule, so viewers who want to see what happens next may set their timers each week. But so far, it’s also a worthy binge for those who’ll get to it later on.
Co-creators John Requa and Glenn Ficarra seem to be putting everything they learned about dramatic twists on “This Is Us” to the test, at any rate. As the mysterious Big Bad’s motives unravel, there are political, financial and economic stakes at hand. Elevated concepts like NFTs, wire fraud and encrypted files offer these characters more clues as the show progresses, but they — like the viewers — are always several steps behind.
By Episode 4, the Big Bad’s identity and intentions become clear, thanks to help from a character named Dr. Ben Wilson (Charles Dance). However, those villainous motives may not stick with viewers who are tired of hearing about a certain former president, fake news and the state of democracy. Meanwhile, with all of the twists and reveals in “Rabbit Hole,” these guys have set an awful hard pace for themselves for the remaining episodes, and it could be a challenge to keep the story’s momentum.
It’s also worth noting “Rabbit Hole” isn’t billed as a limited series, so whether this story wraps by end of season or continues for another run remains to be seen. Pacing is always an issue in serialized series such as these, and once Weir clears his name, it’s hard to fathom him becoming embroiled in a similar situation in a potential Season 2.
For now though, it’s worth enjoying the ride.
“Rabbit Hole” debuts its first two episodes Sunday, March 26 on Paramount+.
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