Sunday, June 21, 2020

REVIEW: 'Hightown' - Jackie and Junior Approach Tragedy in Drastically Different Ways in 'The White Whale'

Starz's Hightown - Episode 1.06 "The White Whale"

Jackie and Junior struggle to cope in the wake of a traumatic event. Ray's investigation picks up speed. Ray is there for Renee when she really needs him.

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 next episode of Starz's Hightown.

"The White Whale" was written by Molly Manning and directed by Eagle Egilsson

Jackie knows she can't keep drinking. That's about all that she knows about her life right now. That's what she confesses when she returns to AA. However, the narrative knows that she has to keep making progress with her investigation. She found Krista Collins. She couldn't save her. Her destructive addictions prevented her from being there for her. The show has had to delicately balance these narrative impulses though. It wants to be a character study about how Jackie keeps hitting a wall because she fails to do any of the meaningful and necessary work to fix herself. She has an addiction. Raising her hand in the meeting may be the first step towards actually admitting it's a serious problem doing significant harm to her life. The threat of losing her job wasn't enough in that regard. She managed to win that back. She isn't even worried about her looming legal troubles. She had a set of goals she needed to focus on. She believed she accomplished all of them. As such, she could drink and do drugs again. That wasn't a healthy mindset for her to approach sobriety though. Life isn't that simple. Some arbitrary goals aren't enough. It was all about how Jackie was feeling in the moment. It was her personal satisfaction of accomplishing something even though others were still suffering. She got Krista's hopes up. And then, Krista was killed. That shakes Jackie to her core. She still isn't really embracing the necessary introspection to land in a healthier place in life. Instead, this episode continues to illustrate that she makes reckless choices with no real regard for her personal safety. It also features Jackie make the same exact decision as Ray when it comes to trying to get information out of Renee. It's a pattern that works for Ray seemingly because he has the stability in his authority to actually get away with it. He has that confidence. He can yell at suspects in the interrogation room because he is proven to get results. He comes up short here though. He lashes against a system that won't just take him at his word. He actually has to prove that Osito was in the same town as Krista when she was killed. It isn't good enough to know that he was behind this murder. He is still ultimately trying to get Frankie locked up for the rest of his life. Osito murdered Krista. He did so because Frankie ordered it. And now, Osito is planning for a future where Frankie could be shut out entirely. He doesn't let Ray get anything in the hopes of presenting a more damning case against him. All the evidence is absolutely out there to prove Frankie, Osito and Junior's guilt. All Jackie has to do is complete a search for which boats where out on the bay when Sherry was killed. That seems like a piece of information that should have been checked before now. As such, it highlights how people in law enforcement should be in the right headspace at all times. It's important for them to remain calm and objective. It's easy for them to get too attached to the cases they manage. It's personal to them because of the crimes that have happened. Jackie continues to be haunted by nightmares about these dead girls. She feels motivated to get answers. She just puts herself in harm's way. The audience may fear for her life more than she does. She feels protected when she visits Frankie in prison. The audience knows the guards essentially let him get away with whatever he wants. He could have threatened her even more. He wanted to kill her previously. Junior said that wasn't necessary. On some level, he wants to protect Jackie from her inquisitive instincts. That didn't happen though. Instead, he is an accessory to murder. He may be making money as a drug dealer now. However, he is broken and essentially given up on life. That is dark and depressing. But it remains difficult to feel for any of these characters. The narrative is going through the motions of meaningful character development. The pieces are there waiting for the detectives to put them all together. Those being made available upfront to the audience means we have less patience. As such, it's hard to engage with all of the obstacles preventing the outcome from being achieved. That means it's a muddled mess when trying to determine whether or not Ray and Renee actually have feelings for each other. It's complicated. But does that mean the audience cares one way or the other? It's lacking in a way that leaves those concerns up in the air with uncertainty. At this point, the audience should be enraptured by Jackie learning of Junior's betrayal. Instead, that feels like something that just had to happen to increase the tension at this point in the season.