Plot: Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) has always been an outsider, even within his chosen profession. His unconventional approach and unusual social skills have kept him on the fringe of the courtrooms, despite his immense skill. But he doesn’t mind, as that helps him land the most interesting, not to mention toughest cases, ones other barristers might not even touch. But while Cleaver is no stranger to being in trouble, he now finds himself in perhaps his most difficult situation to date. His ex-prostitute lady friend Missy (Adrienne Pickering) has caused chaos with her memoir about her working girl days, plus his best friend’s wife Scarlet (Danielle Cormack) continues to hold a severe grudge against him. But these issues aren’t even Cleaver’s biggest concern, as he is squarely in the sights of new District Attorney Cal McGregor (Damien Garvey). Not because of his courtroom presence mind you, but because Cleaver engaged in an affair with his wife (Toni Collette). He has been able to squeeze through some rough spots in the past, but can even Cleaver survive this social minefield?
Entertainment Value: I had fun with the first series of Rake, as I appreciated the no apologies harsh lead, played by Richard Roxburgh. In this second series, which runs for eight episodes, our roguish Cleaver has the heat turned up and the narrative delves more into his personal life. I liked this approach, as he is an interesting character with what seems like a lot of potential to explore. Especially since the pressure was spiked to test his charm and social navigation skills, which is an ideal situation for this kind of slimy character to shine. The series puts some extra attention on the development of the lead, but this season also makes sure the meat of the show remains juicy, so the cases are interesting and worthwhile. Cleaver represents all sorts of odd folks once again, such as accused murderers, terrorists, spies, and of course he is able to spin all kinds of magic and take things in unexpected directions. This second series builds on the basics from the first series, but ratchets up the tension and doesn’t rest on its laurels, so this sophomore season never feels lazy or phoned in.
As with the the first series, Richard Roxburgh is front and center in these episodes and carries the show. He brings the Cleaver character to life almost to perfection, with the right blend of sliminess and charm. He might not be a great person, but we do need to connect with him and Roxburgh’s performance ensures that we do. I also like that he doesn’t take it over the top all the time, so it seems more relatable, not some wild, larger than life type. He is colorful and has a big personality, but he doesn’t feel like a cartoon character here. Rake is of course centered on Cleaver, the kind of lovable rogue you never tire of, but the cast as a whole is impressive. Damien Garvey, Adrienne Pickering, Danielle Cormack, and Toni Collette all have prime screen time here and do well, adding to the show’s entertainment value. The guest stars don’t have the sheer star power as the first series’ names, but we still get good performances and in the end, that is what really matters. I think this second series is a well made collection of episodes, that continues the tone of the original season, but also quickens the pace and throws in new elements for our characters to work around. If you liked the first series, this one is a no brainer, so check out Rake: Series 2.