Review – The Rig (Episodes 1-3)

Reviewers note: This review is based on the first three (3) episodes of ‘The Rig’ that were provided by Prime Video.

Being isolated in the middle of the ocean with no contact and limited supplies is terrifying enough just in thought. But, in the new mystery-thriller, The Rig, that fear is brought to life when a Scottish oil rigging crew is left stranded after an unprecedented event causes their mechanics to break down, and something more sinister to take hold.

Created by first-time screenwriter David Macpherson, The Rig begins with the motley crew of the Kinloch Bravo, led by Offshore Installation Manager (OIM), Magnus (Iain Glen, Game of Thrones), discovering that the potential of finally being able to finish their job and go home has been withdrawn when a sister oil rig suffers a critical disaster, causing all evacuation helicopters to be redirected away from the Kinloch Bravo.

Immediately after hearing the devastating news, their own rig begins experiencing critical failure, sending the crew into survival mode. The crew prepares to evacuate above sea level, whilst the specialists on board investigate what is taking place below. The pressure not only mounts due to the time-sensitive nature of the danger at hand, but also due to the hierarchical conglomerate representation from the rig’s parent company, Pictor Energy, in the form of critical and watchful eyes of Rose (Emily Hampshire, Schitts’ Creek).

Going against their financially motivated wishes of Rose to keep the rig operational throughout the breakdown, Magnus decides to shut down a section of the rig in order to solidify the chances of saving his workers’ lives. But, not before long, a mysterious fog approaches the oil rig. A fog that would be considered unnatural based on their location and the weather. Once the fog covers the rig, all communication with the outside world is lost, power flickers between on and off, supplies become scarce, and unexplainable events begin occurring on the rig… and inside the minds of some of the riggers on board.

The Rig wastes no time getting to the meat of its premise. In fact, the first 15 minutes of the show quickly establish some basic traits of the main characters, sets up the hierarchy and relationships and slowly ramps the tension before hitting the audience with the fast-approaching fog. And while most shows may suffer from not establishing the characters enough for the audience to be fully invested in worrying about how the fog will affect them, The Rig plays it smart by using the stranded, claustrophobic isolation as a tool to discover more about certain characters as they slowly being revealing their true colours as the story goes on.

Leader of the Kinoloch Bravo, Magnus (Glen) is the connecting tissue between all the characters. Magnus struggles between doing what’s right for the team he cares about (both before and after the fog arrives) and what the company that pays him want. Glen doesn’t necessarily have a lot to chew on in this role, but his ‘every man’ approach to the character makes the tension surrounding his character accessible for the audience.

Magnus is often butting heads for Rose (Hampshire), who is not a crowd favourite with the crew when a favour-based romantic fling with one of the technicians on board becomes apparent before the bad news of not going home is revealed. This is exacerbated once the fog comes into play, as Rose takes this opportunity to research and do as many tests as possible to find out what ‘science’ could be behind the phenomenon, at the expense of the crew if necessary.

The people’s hero comes in the form of Hutton (Owen Teale, Game of Thrones) who is never afraid to voice his opinion when he thinks the bigwigs are screwing them over. Hutton takes a specific liking to the young rigger, Baz (Calvin Demba, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), who suffers a terrible accident when attempting to fix an antenna that is destroyed by the fog, leading to supernatural visions of the dread and danger that is to come.

While each of these characters, plus the others who come in and out of the story, aren’t necessarily written with enough substance to be fully emotionally invested in, there is enough happening with the relationships between them all to add to the tension of relying on each other to survive.

There is enough oddity and intrigue at play within The Rig to keep the show engaging. Whether it’s Baz’s confronting visions, disturbing visuals of seagulls dying at random or the constant looming dread of not knowing what else lies within the fog, there is always something happening that makes the audience feel like they want to find out what happens next. It’s a simple premise that uses strange events to keep the story going, and some of the strangeness works, while some of it falls a little flat or feels like it’s there for the sake of it.

Visually, the set design and practical sets of the rig are brilliant and really add scope to the world on show. The large control room or wide-spanning bridges all feel grand, before the claustrophobia of the rig sets in when the crew is forced into the tight hallways and small rooms. However, the CGI of the entirety of the rig, plus the horizons and water don’t mix well with the practical effects, often leaving a jarring image on the screen of two visual elements that don’t blend well together.

The Rig finds its suspense in both its dedication to supernatural oddness and slowly revealed character developments that are slightly predictable but work well for the story being told. The Rig works enough to keep the audience wondering what will happen next but doesn’t always feel like it hits the heights of a show that will be remembered for its mystery, rather serving as an easy watch to start the year off that you’ll probably forget within a week.

The Rig premieres on Prime Video on January 6.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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