“The dead. They hunger for human brains. The feasting will begin at sundown.”
I’m not a big fan of pilots for a very good reason: they often suck. This pilot didn’t suck. Not even a little.
The great thing about procedurals is that they don’t require a lot of setup. The audience knows the formula. All we need to do is meet our main character(s) and establish the setting, then off to work we go.
Meet Michael Raines, who is exactly what you would expect a genius detective played by Jeff Goldblum to be. He’s clever, sarcastic, and abrupt all while being immensely charming. Damn you, Jeff Goldblum! How do you do it? The rest of the characters are relatively minor. They are the ones stuck at the precinct doing the grunt work while Raines gets to Goldblum about town.
Relatively quickly we learn that Raines had previously worked with a partner, Charlie, until a shooting several months ago. This is his first case on his own. Charlie appears frequently in the episode to talk over the case with Raines, but at the end it is revealed that Charlie is a hallucination.
Ah, yes. The hallucinations. Crime procedurals nowadays can’t go the simple Law and Order route. They must have a hook. Raines’s hook is that its main character hallucinates the murder victim of the case he’s working. They’re explicitly not ghosts, as is stated several times. They know only what Raines knows and thus function more as a device to show the inner workings of Raines’s mind than anything else. It might sound a little cheesy, but the show makes it work. I’m sorry, did I say the show? Jeff Goldblum makes it work.
Rules are established. The hallucinations reflect Raines’s best understanding of the victim at the current moment. Thus, Sandy Boudreaux (Alexa Davalos, aka Gwen from Angel) develops a southern accent after he hears her voice and changes appearance after he realizes that she worked as a prostitute. The hallucinations will disappear as soon as Raines gains some sort of closure with them. For Sandy, it wasn’t enough to solve her murder, he had to finish some of her unfinished business. Charlie has yet to disappear, probably because Raines has yet to come close to getting over his longtime partner’s death.
Also relatively unique in Raines is the vulnerability of its main character. We actually see him cry, which is rare for a procedural. Detectives that connect to victims in this way are usually women (think Law and Order: SVU’s Olivia Benson). I like the switch they’ve done with Raines. It makes him much more interesting.
The case of the week is classic noir with a creative twist. It’s not overly memorable, it’s true, but it still feels like more than your average cop procedural case. It is full of noir stock characters: the sleazy P.I., the good southern girl who moved to the big city and began turning tricks, the jealous wife. It all works very neatly without pulling focus from the main substance of the piece: Raines’ developing relationship with the recently murdered Sandy. Can one have a relationship with a figment of one’s imagination? For the sake of argument, let’s go with yes.
Charlie leads the audience to believe that focus on the victim has always been a centerpiece of Raines’s process. By learning everything he can about the victim, he learns how the victim would act in certain situations and is thus able to discover what happened to them. That process may or may not work in the real world, but it apparently does in TV land.
Bits and Pieces
While most later episodes will be centered in Venice, the pilot takes us all around LA. Locations include the Hollywood Hills, “a parking lot by the 101,” the Santa Monica Pier, and, of course, the scenic Glendale train station. Also mentioned were Disneyland, where Raines would like his ashes spread, and Griffith Park, where Skunk was found.
Raines informs Sandy she wasn’t on the “back forty at Crawford,” a reference to the ranch owned by then-President Bush.
Raines also tells Sandy “It wouldn’t matter to me if you were the Queen of the Rose Parade.” The Rose Parade is a parade that takes place in Los Angeles-adjacent Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Every year the parade has a court including a queen and six princesses.
Sandy’s apartment was the same one used in The Long Goodbye, a movie based on the novel by Raymond Chandler, who Raines mentions as one of his favorite authors in the opening.
Charlie: “You have two choices, right? You could run away and get yourself committed to some institution and get shot up with tranquilizers...”
Raines: “Tranquilizers? That sounds good, tranquilizers.”
Charlie: “...Or you could do your job.”
Carolyn: “His name is William Jones, known to the residents of the camp where he lives as Skunk.”
Raines: “And they call him that because he’s got a big white stripe down his back?”
Raines: “We’ve all got a dark side, Mr. Jones. I know I do. Stuff way down deep inside that I don’t even want to think about, ‘cause I’m a good guy, like you’re a good guy. But I know what’d happen if that dark stuff ever got out, what I’d be capable of. I’m not gonna do it, because I’m a good guy, just like you, when I’m in control. And I’m always in control...Almost always.”
Raines: “Maybe he shot her, threw away the gun and washed his hands.”
Carolyn: “Well, that would be the first thing he’s washed in a long time.”
Raines: “Do not, I repeat, do not say ‘I told you so,’ but hold off on processing the wino.”
Carolyn: “I told you so.”
Raines: “Thank you, Carolyn. You’re a dear.”
Vernon: “Why the hell do you keep calling me Chester?”
Raines: “Honest mistake. See, I didn’t even know your daughter had a father. Your wife I recognized from the photos. Nice to meet you, ma’am. See in the photos, you’re missing, Chester. Not just missing, you’re cut out. All that’s left of you is your arm. Why would Sandy do that, I wonder? So I was calling you Chester ‘cause it rhymes with molester.”
Vernon: [punches him]
Raines: “Very few people get into your line of work ‘cause having sex with strangers for money was their favorite booth on career day.”
Raines: “Uh she could’ve been dressed like a cheerleader.”
Sleazebag: “A cheerleader? Yeah, that rings a bell actually. A cheerleader.”
Raines: “She just twisted her ankle so she might’ve been using a cane.”
Sleazebag: “Cane? Yeah, actually, you’re right. Now it’s all coming back to me.”
Raines: “Her face was made up like a mime?”
Sleazebag: “It’s funny you say that, I remember thinking what’s up with this mime make up, you know?”
Boyer: “You picked me to do this because you don’t like me.”
Raines: “No. I picked her to do this because one day she’s going to be lead detective. You can go scratch your butt with a rake for all I care.”
Captain: “How you doing? You okay?”
Raines: “Why? Because I accused Boudreaux of being a child molester?”
Captain: “Nah, that’s nothing. Everyone does that. I do that five times a day: yeah, can I have a tall mocha you child molesting bastard?”
Raines: “You shouldn’t say *that.* You don’t say *that,* do you?”
Captain: “It’s good to have you back, Michael.”
Raines: “Is this where I say it’s good to be back?”
Captain: “Oh no no no. This is where you say something clever to remind me how smart you are.”
Raines: “I’m rusty. Give me a couple of days.”
Carolyn: “It always comes down to penis size, doesn’t it?”
Raines/Captain: “Pretty much.”
Raines: “What if this happens on every case I get?”
Charlie: “That would be cool.”
we usually don’t rate pilots, but as there are so few episodes of Raines to rate...
four out of four hallucinations
sunbunny, who is probably not played by Tatiana Maslany