Drilling for TV (black) gold is The Rig, starring Iain Glen (Game of Thrones). It’s the North Sea. It’s cold. It’s secluded. And what lies beneath is getting pretty miffed.
Whilst there are many factors at play in making compelling television, the core two must surely be ‘intriguing concept’ and ‘interesting characters’.
So does The Rig have them? Let's find out…
What Is The Rig About?
Staffed with a mostly macho gaggle of guys and gals who argue about who is more entitled to be relieved by upcoming shift helicopter, Kinloch Bravo oil rig is crippled by the sudden appearance of a spooky rolling bank of fog that obscures everything beyond a few feet.
There aren’t horror films called The Fog or The Mist for no reason, and The Rig trades on paranoia early on.
Crew leader Magnus MacMillan (Glen) struggles to maintain order. He’s hampered by gnarled old hand Lars (Owen Teale’s stock in trade character, see also Game of Thrones), a surreptitious relationship between communications officer Fulmer (Martin Compston – Line of Duty) and Pictor Oil’s representative, Rose (Emily Hampshire – Schitt’s Creek), and a catastrophic high fall from cocky young Baz Roberts (Calvin Demba).
From thereon in everything goes a bit Doctor Who, which is a plus or minus depending on your tastes.
There is a lot of storming around from one area of the rig to another as mysterious occurrences pile up, and for the most part, this equals a nicely paced and tense show, buoyed up considerably by some excellent performances.
The Rig Official Trailer
Is The Rig Worth Watching?
Standout star is Iain Glen. He gets a tragic backstory and the stress of authority to deal with, which is always good grist for an actor’s mill. However, he also gets to speak in his native Scottish accent.
Glen’s previous performances have often sounded a little stilted in the dialogue but his outstanding emotional scenes in The Rig suggest that he can grab the audience by the feels if given licence to not have to watch the intonation of his words. A standout scene in which he breaks down is masterfully underplayed.
The Rig does struggle to maintain its central mystery. The fog is so inherently disquieting that once it lifts – quite early on – we are left with pondering the survivability of our cast, given surreptitious efforts to undermine them.
Given the enclosed setting, it feels like the writers hit a wall and ended up binning off the antagonistic force in another room to mostly monologue to effectively thin air.
The late addition of Pictor high up David Coake (Mark Addy completing the Game of Thrones alumni) raises the pressure further on our beleaguered crew.
Thankfully it is the character beats that keep things connected, and for those who don’t survive the story, there is afforded the right amount of gravitas to tug at the heartstrings.
Battered by tumultuous seas, The Rig, outperforms other recent watery mystery 1899 by giving us people we want to succeed, or fail, or save, or damn.
It never quite manages to recapture the spooky highs of the first episode or two – drawing tons of strange circles isn’t quite the same as FOG! AHHH! – but The Rig pumps out energy to keep the lights on for what few days are left.
Words by Mike Record
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