AMC Bets on ‘Breaking Bad’ to Buoy ‘Rubicon’

The season finale of “Breaking Bad” airs Sunday, and it’s every bit as tense, unpredictable and full of moral quandaries as the show has been throughout this brilliant third batch of episodes. No spoilers here, but I can’t remember a series that does a better job at keeping the audience consistently off-balance.

Breakingbad Meanwhile, AMC is going to use the show as a springboard for its next original series, “Rubicon.” In a fairly unusual (but pretty smart) stunt, the channel is previewing the new program after the “Bad” finale, although the series run won’t officially begin until Aug. 1 (when “Mad Men” will also be up and running).

So far, AMC has had only one real misstep since it seriously dove into the original programming game, with its disappointing reboot of “The Prisoner.” So the pressure will be on “Rubicon” to measure up. And while it’s difficult to draw any conclusions based on the hour shown (the series will officially launch with a two-hour premiere), what I saw certainly has me intrigued.

Mostly, “Rubicon” feels like one of those ’70s paranoid conspiracy thrillers, like “Three Days of the Condor,” with James Badge Dale as an intelligence analyst who appears to be caught up in some huge, nefarious plot. There are good actors throughout the cast (among them Arliss Howard and Miranda Richardson, the latter thus far barely seen), and a pretty tense “Trust nobody” feel.

Done right, “Rubicon” looks like it could scratch the big-brain itch that FX served with “Damages” — though it’s obviously early to draw sweeping conclusions about a project that figures to be this densely serialized.

Indeed, “Breaking Bad” is a perfect example of that. Watching the pilot, the immediate response was “Wow, that’s good — but what the hell do they do for season two?” With season three about to be in the can, now we have our answer: They keep impressing you over and over again.

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