Trouble is, the central mystery of “The Rig” is hardly all that mysterious or original. At its core, it’s a Lovecraftian story of mankind digging into the deepest corners of the Earth and unleashing something that, in so many words, drives them mad. A character falls off a tall scaffolding early in the first episode; he’s all but dead without any real medical assistance. That is, until whatever force is in the fog gets into his bloodstream, and he’s back to life, mysteriously healed and muttering portentous phrases like “Something’s coming.” (Macpherson’s dialogue is effective, but workmanlike, and features corny bon mots like that and “I don’t have to guess; that’s the great thing about science.”)
That’s the main thematic thrust of “The Rig”—reflecting on the damage oil work wreaks on the planet and our sense of responsibility for it. Characters squabble over the feasibility of renewable energy, and what it would do to their jobs; old guys who just want to put food on the table bicker with Millennial riggers who feel stuck with the bill.
This notion bleeds through into the mechanism of the infection and what it does to the organisms it takes over. That makes for some particularly gruesome body horror, especially as it rejects any inorganic material in the host body. False teeth ping out of mouths, heart-shaped tattoos bleed out to grotesque effect. “We f**k the planet,” one rigger snaps, “and then we’re surprised when it f**ks us back.”
In those first episodes at least, director John Strickland (“Line of Duty”) ekes out a healthy amount of atmosphere with what is surely a small budget. Especially striking is how he shoots the rig itself, cherry-pickers swinging and undulating the camera around the spider-like scaffolding of the rig’s infrastructure. The show still looks cheap in the more brightly-lit common areas, and its visual effects stumble a bit due to the budget (especially in the more green-screen-heavy exterior sequences). But the exteriors mine a lot of production value out of the location, the loneliness of the oil rig popping out of the Atlantic, and the menace that could lurk around any corner, man or creature.