Sunday, May 17, 2020

REVIEW: 'Hightown' - Jackie Spirals Out of Control After Finding a Body on the Beach in 'Love You Like a Sister'

Starz's Hightown - Episode 1.01 "Love You Like a Sister"

NMFS agent Jackie Quiñones has a wrench thrown in her fun, free-wheeling, booze-addled life when she uncovers a dead body on the beach, plunging her into the center of a complicated and dangerous opioid ring investigation.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Starz's Hightown.

"Love You Like a Sister" was written by Rebecca Cutter and directed by Rachel Morrison

At first, this drama presents as the latest season-long mystery where a body is discovered and a pair of polar opposite detectives must work together to solve the case. That isn't what this show aspires to though. Yes, a murder takes place in the opening moments. The body is eventually found washed up on the beach. However, that is used as the incident that forces things into motion for the personal lives of the main characters. Sure, this investigation is more than likely going to be insanely important to the overall narrative. There are numerous characters introduced with direct ties to the case. And yet, it's more fascinating to watch as Jackie spins out following this discovery. Her life was erratic and destructive long before she ended up on that beach in the morning. She tells herself that she is living the best life. She lives in the gay mecca of Provincetown, Massachusetts. All she has to do is tell women that she is in law enforcement in order to get them to sleep with her. She is that confident. Of course, she actually works for the National Marine Fisheries Services. That wouldn't be the first guess anyone has about the work she does for the law. It's also a job she is barely hanging onto. She has a badge and a gun. And yet, this premiere climaxes with Jackie spiraling out of control. She is constantly drinking and snorting drugs. All it takes is the right product for her to completely blackout for a little while. She has little flashes of memory that highlight all the disastrous decisions she makes in the hopes of impressing a girl. But it also leads to her flipping her car and injuring her passenger. She is arrested and could be charged with a felony. This could be the wake-up call necessary for her to get clean and potentially build a better life. The show does a solid job in exploring the various addictions and vices that people desperately hold onto in order to maintain some sense of control over their lives. Jackie believes she is perfectly fine. And yet, she breaks down when having to confront the truth about her life when she lands in rehab. This isn't something she wants to do. She views it as the only thing that could potentially make her seem more credible and sympathetic in front of a judge. That may be the only way she can avoid jail time. Her discovery of a body is traumatic too. It's just something that haunts her from her dreams. When she's awake, it's simply a detail she brings up in such a nonchalant way. It's not important to her. It's life-changing for the woman who witnessed the crime and doesn't think she has anyone who can help her through that. It's potentially life-changing for this community which is already being destroyed by the opioid crisis. The police department feels that they have the authority to make big moves and act recklessly in order to potentially disrupt the drug operations. Jackie still gets her product though. It's easy for her actually. Meanwhile, the top drug dealer sits in jail awaiting trial. It still feels like his influence is known throughout this community. Detective Ray Abruzzo absolutely skirts the law in order to coerce people into submission. He manipulates Renee into becoming his new informant. He is keenly focused on locking up Frankie for the rest of his life. That would be a major victory for him. His life is consumed by that investigation. This new murder dovetails into that because he knows exactly who this young woman was and how she got caught up in this mess. Meanwhile, Jackie is in rehab not knowing that the person with all the pivotal clues is pictured on the wall behind her. Many people are struggling with the same issues. Jackie's friend Junior is trying to stay sober as well. Life may not make it easy for anyone. Jackie may not be engaged with the program. It's where she happens to be right now though. That may be a key first step. Or she could simply trade one addiction for a new obsession. One that could send her spiraling further. That may be a somewhat familiar character arc for this season. However, the specificity comes from the unique environment depicted onscreen and the universality of the struggles depicted. That makes quite an effective blend in this premiere that puts the characters front and center so that the audience has a reason to return for more.