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Rake: “Bigamist”

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Rake

“Bigamist”

Season 1, Episode 5

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If Rake has established any sort of identity for itself (and it really hasn’t, but just humor me here), it’s as the show with the shortest attention span on television. “Bigamist” plays more like a compilation of webisodes than a coherent hour of network dramedy, yet for all its busyness, there’s very little substance. Everything that happens is equally weightless.

Last week’s episode ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with the mysterious “Margaret” seemingly about to run Keegan down with her car. As tonight’s hour begins, Kee has managed to avoid getting hit, and although we get a little more backstory about Margaret (she was a client charged with arson and Keegan slept with her). the incident doesn’t end up amounting to much in the course of the episode. It’s not even the B-story; at best, it’s the G-story.

If there’s an A-story, it’s the one that gives the episode its title. Michael Imperioli (who apparently got custody of Furio’s hairstyle after The Sopranos wrapped) guest stars as celebrity chef Alberto Rinaldi, who is charged with having two wives. Keegan takes his case, because his legal specialty is “wacky shit that hardly ever happens.” Rake is never more contemptuous of its dwindling audience than in its courtroom scenes, which carry an especially nasty misogynistic streak this week. The prosecutor in the case is the judge’s ex-wife, a turn of events that is both insulting to our intelligence (I mean, I can’t see any conflict of interest there, can you?) and the set-up for the hackiest ballbusting ex-wife jokes imaginable. Keegan’s defense of Rinaldi is that he’s basically a loving husband who is deeply involved in his kids’ lives, so really, what difference does it make that he misled two women who both assumed they were his only true love over a number of years? There may be an argument to be made that polygamy among consulting adults shouldn’t be a criminal offense, but this isn’t it. (And of course, Keegan’s case falls apart when it turns out Rinaldi has a third wife.)

But we don’t turn to Rake for its legal verisimilitude. (In fact, almost none of you turn to Rake at all, but that’s another story.) I can only assume that the creators of the show think we’re tuning in to see Greg Kinnear interacting with as many women as possible. Tonight that list includes: his assistant Leanne, pining for her long-distance boyfriend and fretting that he may stray; prostitute-turned-law student Mikki, who is being harassed by a former client; one-time fling Scarlet, who is picked up for a DUI and feels trapped in her marriage; ex-wife Maddy, who continues to be disappointed in him; and even his arch-nemesis the mayor’s wife, yet another woman who inexplicably can’t resist his charms. 

There’s no real rhythm or rhyme to the way Rake hops between all these storylines, and very little reason to care about any of them. The tone continues to be problematic. This week’s idea of a running joke is to have Keegan step in a pile of manure followed by a series of scenes in which the other characters complain that he stinks. Actually, I think that smell is coming from the writers’ room flop sweat. It’s not as if the ostensibly dramatic moments are handled any more deftly. Scarlet being pulled over for a DUI (after drinking one martini on an empty stomach) is cause only for a ham-fisted scene in which Kee shows up to berate the arresting officer after Scarlet has already smoothed the waters. 

Only the resolution to Mikki’s dilemma comes close to striking the sardonic note it seems Rake is striving for. After her client, a powerful lawyer named Clay Randolph, accosts her in a public bathroom, Keegan ensures he’ll stay off her case by going to Clay’s wife with a variation on the truth. Yes, Clay has been spending a thousand dollars a week on someone named Mickey, but it was actually financial support for a friend who was paralyzed in an accident. In return, Mickey has gifted Clay with an idol representing the Balinese god of plenty, which looks suspiciously like an enormous dildo. It’s a mildly amusing punchline at best, but at this point, that’s the most Rake has to offer.

Stray observations:

  • Small favors: At least we didn’t get the obligatory scene of Keegan being harassed for his gambling debts this week. 
  • “Who in their right mind would want to spend that much time on the 405?”

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