It doesn’t take long to realize that The Rig is not going to revolutionize the horror thriller. As its title suggests, this series created by David MacPherson takes place on a Scottish oil platform called Kishorn Bravo, which is lost in the waters of the North Sea. Some personnel prepare to return to the mainland, but a strange fog disrupting their communications forces them to stay put and a supernatural force from the depths attacks them.
From this pitch which could be described as The Mist encounter The Thing on an oil rig, the series goes on without trying to show originality. After introducing most of the characters and showing the existing conflicts between the managers and the employees of the drilling site, the scenario takes up the classic model of the genrewith brutal deaths, action and revelations that cause the team members to turn against each other or ally.
If the story promised to be agreed from the outset, The Rig however had several elements to get out of the game : a simple but effective plot around a strange supernatural threat, a dangerous and labyrinthine environment in which characters under tension are left to their own devices and a cast carried by a few recognizable faces.
In the first episode, workers from an unknown oil “company” talk about their miserable wages, their daily life and their families during a meal scene and the vastness and austerity of the infrastructure that has served as decor bring a certain charm, which fades once the series really begins.
As soon as incidents multiply on the platform, the atmosphere switches from science fiction to horror, passing through drama or disaster film, while the narrative continually draws on Alien, Abyssthe films of John Carpenter and a whole bunch of other works of the kind to avoid ending up dry.
GAME OF TROGNES
Assuming its Series B character and modest ambitions, The Rig could have been more or less interesting, if the story knew what it wanted to tell. But whether at the level of the rhythm, the dialogues or the management of the suspense, the writing of the series is appalling.
The scenario is as rambling as it is unnecessarily longsome dialogues are particularly laughable (like when the old rig foreman explains “that by dint of drilling holes in the Earth, she will end up getting revenge”) and except for a sketchy characterization and four dramatic scenes without emotion, the characters are almost never developed.
Magnus (Iain Glen) is the head of the drill site, a firm and pragmatic man tortured by the secrets of his past. Rose (Emily Hampshire) is the Company representative and plays the role of the rigid and insensitive administrator until she finds out the truth about the company she’s been working for all this time. Hutton (Owen Teale) is a gruff, impulsive worker who constantly opposes management’s decisions without thinking, and Cat (Rochenda Sedall) is the tough-guy nurse who waits impatiently to return to his wife.
Among the other functional characters, there is also the young idealist, the wise old man, the strong man with a tender heart, the former alcoholic in full relapse or even the wicked willing to sacrifice workers for profit (performed by another ghost of Game Of Thrones, Mark Addy, former King Baratheon). All fit exactly the disembodied caricature expected of them and the casting doesn’t help make them more compelling or endearing.
Less experienced actors and actresses try to make the best of what they have in the few scenes they appear in, and it shows, while conversely, headliners like Iain Glen, Owen Teale and Emily Hampshire oscillate between constant overplay and total absence of play and are therefore never credible.
Characters yell at each other in dark hallways to create a semblance of tension or make senseless decisions to advance the plot and the story is ultimately more interested in its mysterious threat rising from the abyss than in the fate of the men and women on this oil platform.
The Rig does not know what kind of series it wants to be or what it wants to do with its characters and the direction of John Strickland (Line of Duty, Strike Back) and Alex Holmes (Strike Back, Dominion) does not possess more identity, idea or coherence.
At the start, production then plays the economy card and eyeing the side of the horrific camera by showing sudden and violent deaths in the cramped spaces of the platform. Then, after a while, the series takes itself for Deepwater and starts to offer action and rescue scenes that are as implausible as they are spectacular before pumping some more Alien and First contact emphasizing its ecological purpose for those who still haven’t understood the message after six episodes.
Except during a few scenes where the camera wanders between the metal structures of the platform, the realization remains rudimentary and never fully conveys the isolation, loneliness or distress of the characters. Until the end, the series does not exploit its concept, its setting, its cast, or anything. Even the credits are totally missed, with its sluggish music and its psychedelic editing that does not correspond at all to the tone of the series.
In the end, instead of copying other works of science fiction or over-explaining its ecological discourse in a scenario reminiscent of the dark hours of Helix, The Rig would have done better dig into what she left out to enrich his story: the social inequalities between managers and employees, the survivalist dimension or these unfortunately forgotten secondary characters. Between this colossus who hides his talent for drawing, this laboratory assistant who relies on his faith in God or this Russian who went from a Cold War nuclear submarine to the shabby kitchen of a platform oil, there was material for.
The Rig is available since January 6, 2023 on Amazon Prime Video