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Rabbit Hole - Ace In The Hole (Season Finale) - Review: "Incredibly effective"

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The knock-on effect of “Rabbit Hole” being so keen to misdirect viewers throughout this season is that “Ace In The Hole,” the finale, is incredibly effective when every moment feels planned and strategic for John and his team to beat Crowley. For once, their nemesis doesn’t see something coming – by extension, nor do we.

I’m reminded often of Alfred Hitchcock’s take on the idea of surprised vs. suspense, which he illustrated with a bomb under a table: explode it out of the blue and give viewers 15 seconds of surprise, or show the audience the bomb and a timer and give it 15 minutes of suspense. "Whenever possible the public must be informed,” he said. Informing the audience is not a theory “Rabbit Hole” has subscribed to much this season, and yet still this finale builds suspense. Ben and fake Liv, the misdirect with Madi’s wife, Kyle’s appearance at the studio. So much of this episode dictates that you watch on the edge of your seat.

The biggest issue with the various twists throughout this season has been that they have so often felt off-the-cuff – almost an afterthought; a revolving door letting out the most random of occurrences. But with this there was always a sense of a clear plan which we were not privy to. From the moment Ben and John explained that they were the ones behind the #EdIsNotDead leaks, it felt like “Rabbit Hole” was taking after Crowley and was in control of the narrative.

So the strategic plotting as time ticked on seemed deliberate: the black SUV following Hailey and Homm (despite it going nowhere), Madi arresting John, even Ben ending up in Crowley’s clutches. Like with much of Ben and John’s planning for this entire operation, some of it seems utterly ludicrous and beyond acceptable risk, but this is the game. Crowley won’t play fair; making your moves on a different board is the only way to win.

Setting up the “badass pro” who rescued John’s now-estranged ex-wife was a particular stroke of genius, both now and on reflection. Watch back the scene between the pair in the pilot and you can see their words take on an illusionary role. The first shot of them outside of Sam’s music performance is from the inside of the watching car, with their voices reverberating; we begin listening to them through a microphone, from the perspective of Crowley’s agent. He knows of John’s family and the role they might play in him securing the upper hand. There’s enough conversation to suggest this is a legitimate conversation between two divorcees and yet, knowing the truth, it’s vague enough to pass as fake.

It's the cause of the climax. The tension which builds throughout this hour comes to a head during the phone call between John and Crowley, and it relies on everyone – he and audience both – not seeing through the ruse. That I couldn’t remember seeing Madi’s wife at any point, the call from her daughter, Chloe, and the mysterious urgent email she received all combined to suggest that someone had taken her. It made sense given what Madi knew about the people involved, and that John might reach out to her for help. Clever, especially when we see the reality: John used the fact that Hailey passed over the dossier to his advantage, getting ahead of corrupt FBI chief Morello and Crowley.

But we see yet again throughout this finale the real-world dangers of its message. Crowley’s acquisition of all sorts of data points, thanks to the Nora Evers Americcan Protection Act, means he can control everyone and everything. He immediately, like with Eliza, targets individuals with a history of anxiety and depression to kill three D.C. federal judges and shut down the courts; later, he uses Kyle’s phone camera to identify his arresting security guard and leverage him to release Kyle thanks to information he finds on the guard’s history of, among other things, soliciting a minor.

Homm outlines the very relevant fear: “We place a lot of trust in institutions and politicians, businesses or even a spouse. A family. Without thinking whether or not they’ve earned it... You surrender your information, pieces of yourself, to them... Somewhere in our minds we’ve always… known… but still we do it, because we don’t really have a choice.”

“Rabbit Hole” is a reminder to all of us about the perils of online data. How much of yours is online? What could someone find out about you if they really, really tried? And how much trust should you put into people?

Back to the episode, and the showdown between Ben and Crowley (Lance Henriksen) is perhaps underwhelming, but given the build-up of hatred from Ben towards him throughout this season, that was always likely to be the way, especially when a verbal showdown was the most predictable outcome than anything else. It’s the satisfaction of the crew beating Crowley at his own game, and teeing up Ben to kill his former friend as he wished, which is the most satisfying element. It’s “the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for” Ben and completes decades of his life’s work.

Except... does a new threat loom? Kyle chooses not to kill Homm and journalist Debra upon hearing Crowley’s fatal bullet and, given how resourceful an operative he has proven to be over the course of this season, his freedom from his master could pave the way for him to try and create his own dynasty. He certainly knows enough of the way Crowley operated and the importance of information, and as Ben addresses him before the cut to black, that is the clear suggestion.

Paramount+ is yet to confirm whether the show will return for a second season and, given the WGA strike currently ongoing, it might yet be a while before we hear. It has potential now that we’re past a lot of the historic twists upon twists upon twists, and clearly “Rabbit Hole” has shown a talent for some clever plotting. Taken in its entirety, this season has been a fun – albeit often complicated – ride, and more of it would certainly be worth the price of admission.

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