SXSW 2023 Rabbit Hole Review- Your Next Spy Obsession Series Is Here
Rabbit Hole is an addictive spy thriller that will send audiences to Reddit for hours of deep dives down the proverbial, err, rabbit hole.
The Paramount + series from This Is Us and Focus duo Glenn Ficarro and John Requa is a fast-paced, twisty-turny spy thriller tailor-made for a streaming audience. The show’s very nature demands you pay close attention to even the most minute details because everything matters and clues to what is really going on are everywhere if you know where to look. Unfortunately, we won’t know where to look initially and will be forced to live in the dark along with protagonist John Weir, perennial good guy Kiefer Sutherland(24, Designated Survivor). The problem is even Sutherland’s Weir isn’t reliable either through dubious deeds or shaky mental footing.
The pilot opens with Weir confessing to a priest because he doesn’t know where else to turn. Weir has all the hallmarks of Sutherland’s other great mystery characters. He seems reliable, likable, and inexplicably in way over his head. Only later, when we flashback to the three weeks that landed him in this precarious position, we wonder just how trustworthy his account of events is.
Sutherland’s John Weir is a corporate espionage expert who creates elaborate plans and schemes to manipulate public and private companies. Sometimes it is an intricate play designed to tank a company’s stock so another can profit, and others involve simple animal props, a wayward envelope, and a zoom lens. He’s a confidence man but one that does it semi-legally for a very tidy profit. It’s best not to examine the legality of this whole thing and consider it more adjacent to Ficarro and Requa’s con movie starring Will Smith Focus. Sure, he’s kind of a shady guy, but he’s our shady guy. Sutherland’s signature likability and natural charm are dialed up to an old-fashioned ten, which contrasts sharply with his highly technical operation. We know he is lying to us, but darn it, he must be doing it for the right reasons, right?
His old friend comes calling with a reasonably simple ask, and all goes well until they don’t. Like bodies splatting from a high rise into a pool of blood and crunched bone and him getting framed for murder bad., Sutherland is forced to run and take refuge with a couple of people he, and we aren’t entirely sure he can or should trust.
Rabbit Hole is the most successful when it is pulling cons. The slick sensibility and attention to detail are as exciting and entertaining as any action thriller. Sutherland does what he does best. His cocky ah-shucks persona is sarcastic yet endearing and allows his bad behavior to be forgiven. During the first con, we watch him trick an obnoxious tech-bro and bed a beautiful woman, Meta Golding’s Hailey Winton, who he accuses of spying on him after breaking some hotel knickknacks and finding a camera. She seems just as clueless as we are, but shortly after, strange stuff does happen despite Weir’s assurance that Hailey has nothing over him.
It’s hard to tell if Weir’s paranoia prompts his old-school approach to life. He takes his prescription meds with two fingers of whiskey, only pays with cash, and hates the internet despite having a high-tech business. He’s an enigma that reveals itself over the course of the season. Dude’s got loads of issues, and all of them factor into who he is and maybe what is happening to him.
What makes Rabbit Hole so special is that despite all the action-packed energy and epic deception, it is really a character-driven story about how people connect and learn to trust each other. Excellent chemistry exists between Sutherland and his costar Golding, particularly, when a third surprise member of the team shows up. Charles Dance as Ben Wilson(Game Of Thrones) is fantastically droll. At the same time, Rob Yang(Edward Homm) and Enid Graham(Josephine Madi) provide a grounded quality to the show that gives us something to hang onto when things really get wild. Walt Klink’s Intern at Weir’s company is something special and has all the makings of a character to watch.
As a fan of long-con thrillers, this is as good as they come. All of the pieces are there for your next Sutherland-led thriller. Ficarro and Requa love a good misdirect that is signposted very early on. They did it in Focus and most recently in that damned crockpot, and smoke detector in the Pearson’s house in This is Us. All of the clues to what is happening to John in Rabbit Hole are there for dissecting if we only knew what was important. That digital scavenger hunt should solidify the show in the viewer’s rotation for at least the entire first season. After that, we will have to see what kind of rabbit Paramount + can pull out of the hat.
Rabbit Hole will have eight episodes in the first season, and premiers on Paramount + on March 26th, 2023. Find all our SXSW coverage here.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.