The characters in Hightown, the dark new crime drama from Starz and executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, are a hard bunch to love. Not that creator Rebecca Cutter was striving for likeability when she wrote the script depicting the cycle of addiction and violence plaguing residents of Provincetown that is often masked by the colorful, vibrant, LGBT-friendly summer vacation vibes mostly associated with the Cape Cod getaway. This is a tortured group consistently making piss-poor decisions even when driven by good intentions.
Monica Raymund (Chicago Fire) stars as Jackie Quiñones, a cocaine-snorting, Jack Daniels-swilling lesbian who spends her days as a National Marine Fisheries service agent when she’s not brutally hungover from dipping into the town’s hedonistic free-for-all banquet. When the body of a murdered fentanyl addict washes ashore in the path of one of Jackie’s walks-of-shame, the discovery not only loosens her already-tenuous grip on life, it throws her into the orbit of Det. Ray Abruzzo, played by Rescue Me’s James Badge Dale. The abrasive cop will do anything to keep prime suspect, the local drug kingpin he sent to the slammer, behind bars.
The initial episodes play-act as a murder mystery, but as the who, why, and what quickly come into focus, the plot settles into how these disparate lives (the kingpin’s stripper baby momma, the newly sober but still dealing son of a fisherman, the gangster with a warped code of ethics) intersect and are forever changed by one another.
Flawed and stubborn, Jackie wrestles with demons we can’t see and very real ones that put her in harm’s way. She uses her brash, tough, expletive-riddled demeanor to hide the vulnerable and lost traits that drive her to the bottle. Raymund’s strength lies in never letting Jackie’s forbidding exterior swallow that fragility.
Still, it’s fun watching the actress be a badass. Here are five moments where that rebellious spirit is on full display:
All Raymund has to do is look at another woman in the eye (even Jackie’s fed-up ex) and the next minute they’re in bed, or a bathroom stall, or a stairwell with Raymund doing all the pleasing (what can we say, she’s a giver). It becomes quickly apparent that this need to go home with a different someone every night is a coping mechanism, but her magnetism is undeniable.
In Jackie’s quest to locate a potential witness to the story’s central murder, she must confront the hulking sugar daddy having an affair with the missing girl. After a bit of light stalking, the skeezy, self-described "family man" bashes in the headlights of Jackie’s borrowed car, while she calls his bluff and dials up his wife, threatening to expose his extracurricular activities. Despite his imposing physicality and destructive anger, Jackie never flinches. Once she acquires the information she’s seeking and he drives away, she lets out a stress giggle — she's just as surprised as we are at her own fortitude.
Never one to miss a chance to clock out early and head to the bar, Jackie surprises her sympathetic and dutiful partner by doing some actual National Marine Fisheries work, turning a fairly routine scouting mission into a federal bust with sirens blazing and guns drawn. She keeps announcing to anyone who will listen that she’s in law enforcement, but this is the first time we see her in action. Raymund drives the boat like she grew up on the water.
Still refusing to accept her rank as a “fish cop,” Jackie heads to the penitentiary to visit Frankie, the mastermind behind multiple deaths. They sit face-to-face, not even a plexiglass barrier between them, as she confronts him for his sins. “You’re just a punk sitting in a cell sending his boys to do his dirty work,” she sneers. She vows to make sure he spends the rest of his life in prison. Righteous anger? Oh buddy, the fire burning in Raymund’s eyes could ignite an entire city.
Jackie finally gets to run with the big dogs for a raid on a rival drug supplier’s abode. The bullet-proof vest emblazoned with “State Police” says it all. In lieu of spoilers, let’s just say Raymund doesn’t sit docile in the background.
The first episode of Hightown is now available on Sling On Demand, with its linear premiere scheduled for Sunday, May 17 at 8pm EST on Starz.