Hightown Review: Monica Raymund and James Badge Dale Lead a Robust Crime Drama


The latest series from Starz is coming to the premium cable network on Sunday, May 17. 

The premiere introduces us to Monica Raymund’s Jackie Quinones, a national marine fishing services agent, who is unlike any other female TV lead in recent memory. 

She’s unapologetic, fun-loving, and battling some demons for good measure. 

These demons come further out to play when she finds a corpse on the beach after a night of partying. While many people would be creeped out at the sight of a dead body, Jackie is eager to find out how the young woman came to be dead on the beach. 

This is the inciting incident that sets us up for a season of thrills and chills. What was so fascinating about Raymund in the role was that this was the complete opposite of roles she’s played in the past. 

When I recently chatted with the actress, she touched on that, but what’s inherently clear throughout this eight-episode drama is that Raymund is loving every single minute of getting to play this role. 

This is Monica Raymund like you’ve never seen her before, and it’s a nice change of pace after her roles on Lie to Me and Chicago Fire

There’s something satisfying about having the actress back on the screen on a regular basis, and the icing on the cake is that she gets to play a character with many layers that are slowly being peeled back. 

Jackie is a complicated woman, that’s for sure, but it’s clear she is someone who is masking her insecurities by drinking alcohol and taking drugs like they are going out of fashion. 

A murder mystery with a character at the wheel who would typically be written off because of her past actions makes for an exciting hook. 

There’s an urgency in Jackie to crack this case, but my main concern is that viewers are either going to love her or hate her. 

My best recommendation for viewers would be to give her time to grow on you. Sure, there are some things she does that will come across as selfish, but these are all pieces of a puzzle that are put together as the season plays out. 

Hightown’s strong point is the pace of it all. There are various characters in Jackie’s orbit that become integral to the story, and they are all introduced at the right time, each with their own vices. 

James Badge Dale plays the lead detective on the case. Like Jackie, he is also desperate to find the culprit before the same fate befalls someone else in the Cape.  

He’s the type of agent who plays in the gray area of the law. Those types of characters are the best because they are way more intriguing. 

What sets Badge’s iteration of this type of character apart is the vulnerability he brings to the character. He’s riveting. 

The Originals alum, Riley Voelkel, is also on board in the series regular role of Renee. Renee is a young woman whose husband is in jail, and she’s trying to care for herself and her young son. 

When we caught up with Voelkel, she said there were many challenges that came with the role, primarily because she came from fantasy worlds before it. 

She had a thirst for playing a character with real-world problems, and she does that to perfection on Hightown. 

Renee is a dancer who is trying to make ends meet.

The casting team did very well in casting the series because all of these actors have not played roles like this before. 

Renee’s in love with Frankie, played by Prison Break’s Amaury Nolasco. 

Oh, and Amaury is playing a prisoner all over again. But Frankie has no similarities to Sucre, and you can read more about that in our interview with Amaury

They are polar opposites. 

When all is said and done, Hightown is tackling topics that many shows are not. Sure, it’s got a murder mystery as the central plot, but the series is also shedding light on the opioid epidemic.

If you’re wondering how it affects communities, then Hightown is the show for you. The storytelling is grounded in reality. The struggles the characters tackle are real. 

The good thing about the show is that it has legs to stand on should Starz order up some more. There are a lot of rich storylines, and it’s clear that seeds are being carefully planted to carry some into a potential second season. 

Eight episodes is not enough to do a story of this caliber justice. There are far more themes and topics that pop up along the way, which gives the sense that Hightown Season 1 is just the tip of the iceberg. 

When I was initially watching the series, I figured it was a limited series. Generally, I prefer those series because they have a clear beginning, middle, and end so that fans can move on to something else. 

But there’s an energy in Hightown that most TV shows lack, and it comes down to the intricate plotting, acting, and directing.

Should the show emerge as a success in the ratings, there is enough going on to keep people tuned in for years. 

What about you, TV Fanatics? 

Will you give the series a chance?

Hit the comments.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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