Kiefer Sutherland is back in another thrilling series with worldwide life or death stakes. Unlike 24 or Designated Survivor, however, the threat isn’t necessarily a terrorist bomb or political attack. Rabbit Hole is all about corporate espionage.
Sutherland plays John Weir, a consultant who orchestrates blackmail and other manipulative missions for his clients. In the series premiere, Weir makes sure an investor sees a damning newscast to influence his sale of company stock. As the luck of Sutherland’s TV characters would have it, Weir himself becomes the target of manipulative attacks and goes on the run.
This Is Us producers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa created Rabbit Hole, the first two episodes of which are now streaming on Paramount+. The series co-stars Charles Dance as Dr. Ben Wilson, Meta Golding as Hailey Winton, Enid Graham as Josephine “Jo” Madi, Walt Klink as The Intern, and Jason Butler Harner as Miles Valence.
‘I don’t know another actor that hasn’t met Charles at first and been a little nervous’
“I’ve admired him as an actor for 20-some-odd years,” Sutherland told me about Dance. “And the one common denominator that you’ll find in all his work is just how much weight he brings to the role. There’s a real gravitas. And I don’t know another actor that hasn’t met Charles at first and been a little nervous because he’s got so much power, he’s got so much force.”
And there’s a version of Rabbit Hole where this is all that happens. It’s Kiefer Sutherland granite-jawed, lurching from crisis to crisis, singlehandedly trying to stave off disaster. The first episode certainly comes close to achieving that. Weir is essentially a paranoid spy who knows that someone is on to him, and he spends much of the episode shooting concerned glances into his rearview mirror. As it unfolds, you can feel yourself relaxing into it, the same way you’d relax into any old-fashioned network drama about a tough yet compromised protagonist. However – and I’m going to try my best to avoid spoilers – Rabbit Hole then turns on a dime and becomes completely and irreparably loopy.
Sutherland finishes the first episode pinballing between so many absurd cataclysms that it starts to feel like a prestige drama version of Mr Bean. There had been hints at this from the start – the cold open ends with Sutherland in confession, barking: “God? Maybe he can tell me WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!!!” at what must presumably be a particularly disconcerted priest – but this is the point where the loopiness ramps up beyond all comprehension. And you know what? It’s great.
This is largely because – unlike 24, where all the stupid stuff happened because that show chewed up ideas like a threshing machine – Rabbit Hole seems to be doing all this purely for fun. There is an unmistakeable lightness here amid all the disaster. Sutherland’s Weir isn’t a fully fledged hero. He’s too frustrated and befuddled for that. He bickers. He wisecracks. He loses fights with teenage skateboarders. As such, Sutherland appears to be enjoying himself. And when, aside from that video of him flinging himself into a Christmas tree, has anyone ever been able to say that?
“24” fans will be pleased to see the actor back in thriller territory, but his “Rabbit Hole” character John Weir is very different from Jack Bauer. For one thing, it’s been 22 years since “24” first premiered and Weir is not the action dynamo that Bauer was.
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