As you may expect from a show titled Rake, a historical term for a man prone to immoral conduct, the protagonist, Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear), is your typical unlikeable antihero; on the surface at least. Like the Walter Whites and Gregory Houses of this world, Deane has a respectable job as a criminal defence lawyer by day, and by night he drinks heavily, visits a prostitute he has on retainer, takes a beating over an unpaid debt, and gambles into the early hours before passing out on his best friend’s kitchen table.
Unlike Breaking Bad and House, however, you don’t get the dreaded sense of impending doom that comes with watching a reckless man descend into moral degradation, mostly because Rake opts for a much lighter tone, playing Deane’s self-destructive behaviour for laughs.
Deane is more hapless than troubled, and only becomes more loveable as he bounds from one self-imposed calamity to another (getting pulled over by cops while on the school run, causing his son to crash a car) like a particularly unruly puppy, but in a nicer suit. The fact that he spends most of this episode fruitlessly wheeling a cooler containing a prized tuna-fish that he hopes will help pay-off his insurmountable debts only serves to make him look more ridiculous.
His is one hell of a narcissist, though, and this episode mostly concerns itself with the pratfalls of seeking fame. When Deane takes the case of accused serial killer, Jack Tarrant, it’s obvious that defending the innocent is the last thing on his mind as he drones-on about “exposure” and working on his tan in preparation for a big TV interview. Likewise, Tarrant is only in such a position because he was enticed by the notoriety of being a serial killer and agreed to confess to get the media attention.
What’s all the more refreshing about Rake is that Deane eventually decides to do the right thing, convicting Tarrant for the murder he did commit and forcing an investigation into the cop who forced him to confess to nine others. Rake offers something different to the usually tropes of the morally sketchy protagonist by leaving the audience with a sense of optimism and a belief that Deane may one day turn his life around. Whilst I fear the plot may becoming frustrating as Deane continues to mess-up people’s lives without showing signs of personal growth, right now, Rake is a refreshingly light take on the unlikeable antihero.
Click here to watch the trailer for Rake