The Rig: Season 1 REVIEW — Under A Cloud

A well-made The Happening with many of the same problems.

The Rig
The Rig

What is there left to say about films and shows about environmentalism? Every criticism you could possibly say about the genre has already been said — they’re preachy, pretentious, smug, far from subtle, and often think good intentions can make up for weak storytelling and sketchy character development. The Rig is not exempt from any of these criticisms, but thankfully tries considerably harder than many other titles that tackle the same theme.

Taking place on an oil rig, the six-episode offering follows a crew trying to make sense of an unexpected night when all their means of communication to the outside world get cut off and it starts fogging and raining ashes. Things get worse when certain crewmates start acting bizarre, with some even dying suddenly and under unexplainable circumstances. Some of the crew members think this could be nature fighting back, and if it is, this crew needs to work together if there is any chance for them to survive.

First off, this is very much a show about environmentalism. The show makes this clear from the first episode — and yes, The Rig has all the problems you’d expect from any piece of fiction tackling this theme. There are long-winded speeches about the history and greatness of the planet and the way humans are hurting it. Awkward and forced dialogue is often given a pass, just as long as it gets its pro-nature theme across. One antagonist is such a caricature, he could give the antagonists of Avatar a run for their money.

If you can’t stand these things in fiction, I highly recommend you stay as far away from The Rig as possible. However, if you can stand these flaws — or if you don’t consider them flaws yourself — The Rig actually elevates itself from being just another environmentalist offering with terrific directing, acting, cinematography, and even occasional great writing.

I say occasional because while the writers are certainly skilled and talented, they can’t bypass the silly nature of the story. Without getting too much into spoiler territory, the storyline travels to places that require some serious suspension of disbelief. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the writers had embraced this lunacy, but they instead go the opposite route and take it too seriously instead, forcing characters to say or do things that feel unnatural in order to make the story work.

Still, when these forced moments aren’t happening, The Rig feels mostly successful with its character creation. Every major character feels three-dimensional (other than the cartoon baddy mentioned earlier). Not all of them start off that way, but the more the show goes on, the more believable these characters become. Their relationships with each other are especially well-done — it’s very clear which characters are meant to be good friends, which ones get on each other’s nerves, and which ones are still struggling to work well together.

It certainly helps that the show’s ensemble cast doesn’t have a single weak link — every actor here is cast perfectly for their respective character. A few standouts include Emily Hampshire as Rose Mason, whose portrayal of her character makes her easy to root for even when you don’t always fully agree with her, and Molly Vevers as Heather Shaw, who manages to turn in a memorable performance even when her character isn’t given a lot of screen time.

The Rig’s first half is definitely its strongest. The first three episodes are filled with mystery, intrigue, and tension, and with moments near impossible to look away from. I found myself holding my breath for many of the first half’s scenes, but despite an impressive poker face, the show becomes less alluring the more it reveals its hand. What starts off an atmospheric mystery-horror show reminiscent of titles like The Thing and The Mist veers more and more into after-school special territory.

Even with the heavy-handed nature themes aside, The Rig’s second half is just too silly and inconsistent to match up with its first. Moments regarding the seemingly supernatural phenomenon feel out-of-place with all the more grounded things going on like discussions about spouses, children, and work problems. Despite all that, though, the cast carries it through, never faltering in performances no matter how ridiculous what they’re saying gets.

Ironically, The Rig may be at its most compelling — dramatically, that is — when it’s tackling themes other than environmentalism. There are discussions here about family, work politics, what it means to be responsible for someone, the consequences of a toxic work environment, and coping with grief.

These moments are strongly written and even quite affecting. This should be the direction all future environmental fiction should follow, not simply focusing on themes of saving the planet but also allowing itself to explore themes outside of it, especially themes that make the characters feel more human.

The Rig also looks fantastic. Amazon Prime shows are known for having their big budgets on full display and this one is no exception: the special effects, costume and set designs, and cinematography all look terrific. There are some really gorgeous shots here as well as impressive camera work. The pilot even starts out with a 40-second-long tracking shot, which might be seen as an easy way for the show to show off its production value and talented camera crew, but it’s value and talent worth boasting about.

At the end of the day, though, The Rig is still exactly what it is: a six-episode show using its supernatural elements as a ham-fisted allegory for global warming and climate change. Your enjoyment will heavily depend on your tolerance for this kind of story. If you love it, The Rig is an easy recommendation for you. If you’re able to tolerate it, The Rig does have a lot more to offer, even if you’re not wild about its main theme. If you hate it, though, you’ll want to avoid this one the same way we ought to avoid single-use plastics.

READ MORE: M3GAN REVIEW – Campy Goodness

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The Rig
The Rig isn't going to convert any haters of the environmentalist genre, but it has enough to offer in terms of thrills, chills, and character writing that it might be worth the watch for any interested supernatural horror lover.