Kiefer Sutherland is back in the corporate espionage world with Paramount+’s new financial thriller series Rabbit Hole, but unfortunately, it fails to hit the mark. In this review, we take a closer look at Sutherland’s performance and the overall feel of the show.
Sutherland plays John Weir, a data analyst and corporate spy who has a history of paranoia and mental illness. His small team of muckrakers executes variably dirty tricks to help wealthy clients make even more money, sabotaging less likable moguls. John’s relationship with Agent Jo Madi of the FBI Financial Crimes Unit is one of tense shadowboxing rather than outright antagonism.
After a one-night stand with attorney Hailey (Meta Golding), John finds himself publicly accused of murdering Edward Homm (Rob Yang), a Treasury Department investigator. He suspects he is being set up, but is Hailey involved? Is his former business partner (Jason Butler Harner)? Or is it all part of a vast conspiracy? John wants answers and will go to great lengths to find them.
Despite the attempt to create a Grand Unified Theory of Kiefer Sutherland Performances, Rabbit Hole fails to hit the mark. The first couple of episodes are really all over the place, with the third and fourth episodes dedicated to making it clear that everything in those earlier episodes was a misdirect. A 10-minute misdirect can be entertaining, but after two episodes of “Everything you know is wrong,” viewers may be inclined to ask, “Why did I bother?”
One of the main issues with Rabbit Hole is the script. It is inept in delivering its exposition and creating a fragmented narrative that mirrors John’s mental state. The opening is completely pointless, and flashbacks to things that happened minutes or decades earlier are confusing. Additionally, long bouts of characters reciting each other’s resumes, rather than finding ways to weave them into the action, are tedious.
The show is fundamentally artificial, with Toronto and surrounding environs unconvincingly doubling for New York City, undermining the creators’ attempts to do a ’70s-style paranoid thriller. Some of the production design in later episodes is pretty neat, including John’s strategy for hiding important technology and documents, but any time the show is out in the world, the actors might as well be standing in front of a green screen.
Sutherland is made to convey John’s eccentricities through darting eyes and a nervous beating of his fingers against various surfaces, rather than going full-on Weird Kiefer Sutherland. He is supposed to be showing how quick and resourceful he is at his job, but it’s basically him going into buildings and yelling at people until they just give him access.
Despite some tonal inconsistencies, the show benefits from an impressive cast, including Charles Dance and breakout star Meta Golding.
One of the standout performances comes from Golding, who plays a character caught between being a hostage and a love interest. Despite the potentially problematic premise, Golding infuses her role with a fierce energy that commands attention and steals every scene she’s in. Her chemistry with Sutherland and Dance is palpable and adds to the overall enjoyment of the show.
While the overarching theme of the show – a plot to bring down the US – feels relevant and important, the show sometimes struggles to find its footing tonally. At times, it’s a screwball comedy, while at others, it’s a full-throttle action thriller. The resulting inconsistency may be due to the show’s evolution during development, as it tries to accommodate various ideas and perspectives.
Despite this flaw, “Rabbit Hole” may have the potential to be a standout show. Its mix of humor and suspense is reminiscent of the popular series “24.” Perhaps leaning more heavily into the comedic elements could help streamline the show’s tone and create a more cohesive viewing experience.
All in all, “Rabbit Hole” is a promising new addition to the political thriller genre. However, will there be a season 2? Only time will tell.