The unevenness and drastic tonal shifts now can’t just be blamed on season premiere jitters, as it was clear with the second episode of Rake, “A Close Shave.” The episode struggled sorting out if Keegan Deane is supposed to be a cynical louse, if the show wants to be a procedural or quirky drama, and finding enough time for the supporting cast. The series would almost be better suited to drop the need for a “case of the week,” and give more time with the stories and interactions Keegan has with the other recurring characters. 

There are still many positives that earn this show a few more chances, such as having some brilliant moments of black comedy and Greg Kinnear is absolutely endearing and engaging as the main character.

Nothing Like a Good Shave

Let’s get the case out of the way first. It was sort of shoved in the middle and is solved with still 20 minutes to go. You can’t help feeling the writers just tossed it in based off network orders. At least it had the feel of being unique with an Amish bishop accusing three other Amish boys of attempted murder. Things get complicated when it is revealed his daughter Mary is in a relationship with one of the boys, Jebediah. The bishop’s goal is likely to close down the sect the boys run and bring his daughter home. The boys claim they weren’t trying to do any murdering, but rather just a good old fashion beard shaving, which apparently is a form of shaming in Amish culture.

Did I Tell You I Know Halle Berry?

The idea of an entire trial revolving around a beard shaving is sort of funny, but also not necessarily the most gripping of cases. The best part of the trial storyline was the prosecuting attorney who constantly found different ways to name drop major celebrities who he knew like Halle Berry and Charles Barkley. 

Keegan Saves the Day Through the Power of Jerkiness

This week’s “House moment” to prove once again the down-on-his-luck Keegan is actually an ace lawyer was also a scene that reaffirms his slimier aspects. Keegan works best as a bit of dirtbag that is charming enough for one to see past it. Keegan borderline harasses Mary by going on about her perfume and calling her sexy, and generally doing enough creepy things to get her calling for her boyfriend. It all turns out to be a masterful ploy to let her know how dangerous things would be for a pretty girl like her if Jebediah was stuck in jail. She is convinced that she needs reveal the truth about her father. This leads to her bringing in someone from the past that he once shamed by shaving the man’s beard.

The whole trial would have been more intriguing if we had more chances to really know the three guys. It does end well with them showing forgiveness to the bishop despite having to serve 6 months in prison for assault. It helped show that there were kind and good people in the world of Rake. The other great moment they ended being in was when they acted as toughs walking alongside Keegan in order to scare off Roy (Keegan’s friend who also is the hired muscle to beat him up until he pays his debt).

Supporting Characters Prove They Need More Stories

As I mentioned, the stuff that really works is Keegan’s interactions with the very large supporting cast. It was funny hearing Keegan congratulating Roy on becoming a father and them sharing a moment, but then Roy telling Keegan a beating is coming when they meet next. The storyline with the mayor having a grudge on Keegan and thus forcing him into a cavity search every time he enters the courtroom is one of the fun touches of the show. The pay off this week was Keegan trying to schmooze the mayor’s wife into convincing him to back off, and instead she gave him a fun verbal lashing. Keegan’s complicated relationship with Mikki continues to be a highlight as he clearly has stronger feelings for her and she seems to see it as a strictly business venture. All these relationships are interesting enough to see develop and hopefully, have some intriguing payoff lined up down the line.

As I already criticized, there just weren’t enough scenes with many of the more interesting characters. Keegan had a fun scene in the premiere with his ex-wife, but this week she was relegated to a short scene that is strictly foreshadowing to the eventual destruction of his new relationship. Keegan had a great insult tossing match with Ben’s mother, but it was another short scene, and would love to see more between them. One scene alluded to a crazy stalker named Margaret who I only know because she was in the original trailers for this series back in May, but she hasn’t been mentioned until a throwaway scene this episode.

Keegan Is Best When He Is Bad

The other major frustration this week is the writers’ insistence on trying to make Keegan redeemable. This is likely one of the downsides of being a network show compared to cable where they let the antiheroes do truly irredeemable acts. Scarlet suddenly acted a little out of character by not wanting to go through with the commitment ceremony with Ben. This entire meltdown exists so that Keegan can step in and convince her to go through with it. This is after an entire episode of him mocking the ceremony and feeling it is a waste. I’m not trying to say that Keegan really believes the insults he was tossing out or would actually want to ruin the day for his best friend. The entire scene does feel like a forced moment to show the heroic side of the series protagonist rather than something natural.

This Is Why You Don’t Rush Into Relationships

We don’t end up with the commitment ceremony anyway. Brooke interrupts to reveal Ben’s dad is unconscious. This leads to a ridiculous but funny scene of where Brooke reveals she was sleeping with the father in one of the boy’s bedrooms, which was what leads to the possible heart attack. It is essentially designed to once again put Keegan back in the gutter as his relationship turns out to be an entire failure. It works because Kinnear is hilarious in how he responds to the news, and how he remains to tell her off while Scarlet is screaming for him to go with her to the hospital.

Kicked to the Curb

This all leads to a funny scene with Ben pondering why his father was found in his son’s room, and Keegan doing his best to try to hide what he knows. The payoff is a guilt-ridden Keegan offers to move out of the house, and to his surprise, Ben immediately agrees to it. Poor Keegan then tries to convince Ben to allow him to stay to look after the boys, but it looks like our hero is now homeless.

Keegan hitting rock bottom is what makes this show appealing. He is a loser that gets by on his irresistible charm and wit. It is fun watching him get beat down. There is a long list of appealing characters that can administer the beats. Hopefully, the writers learn we want more stories with them and Keegan rather than the thrown together cases of the week.

Rake airs Thursdays at 9pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX) 

Chris Spicer

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV