Roush Review: Getting Down and Dirty in Starz’s ‘Hightown’

Hightown Season 1 2020

If Showtime’s sudden cancellation of Ray Donovan earlier this year left you pining for sexually aggressive and self-destructive anti-heroes (not to mention thick New England accents), you’re in luck. Just wait till you meet Jackie Quiñones, the hot mess at the center of the action in the grisly Starz crime drama Hightown. Even the Boston Donovans might think twice about welcoming her into their dysfunctional family.

Chicago Fire‘s Monica Raymund is fearlessly feisty as scrappy Jackie, who loves ’em and leaves a trail of bitter girlfriends in the bustling resort town of Provincetown, Mass., where she trawls the waters as a National Marine Fisheries Service officer. (So law enforcement-adjacent.) On a particularly debauched Carnival weekend, Jackie stumbles across her version of the deadliest catch when, bleary from too much blow and booze, she discovers a young woman’s body washed ashore.

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'Hightown' Cast & EPs Introduce the Darker Side of Beautiful Cape Cod

Monica Raymund, James Badge Dale, and the rest of the cast introduce us to their characters.

Suddenly she’s Nancy Drew, albeit with a serious substance abuse and sexual-addiction problem. “You can’t do anything the easy way, can you?” laments her indulgent co-worker and father figure, Ed (Mike Pniewski), who helps her with things like the rent, or bail, or whatever might keep her from being fired.

When she’s not spiraling through her multiple addictions, Jackie recklessly interferes — sometimes even helpfully — in the investigation of cocky Narcotics Unit sergeant Ray Abruzzo (24‘s James Badge Dale), who recognizes the watery victim as his informant in a major drug-ring operation. Before long, the hot-headed Ray gets way too involved with his latest recruit, an alluring single-mom stripper (Riley Voelkel) who’s the baby mama of the jailed drug lord (Prison Break‘s Amaury Nolasco) largely responsible for the region’s opioid crisis.

Hightown Season 1 Starz

(Credit: Starz)

Yeah, it’s complicated. Also compelling enough in a grim, propulsive and unapologetically trashy manner, as Hightown lays on the raunch and violence so thickly, you might mistake it for classic soft-core Cinemax. And yet Raymund’s combative performance is something to behold, and you might even find yourself caring about some of the lost souls caught up in the carnage: Shane Harper as Junior, a local fisherman and low-level drug runner who tries to turn Jackie on to the benefits of rehab; and Crystal Lake Evans as Krista, a witness to the murder whose own addiction leaves her with nowhere to call home and no idea who to trust.

They all seem to be circling a very dark drain, which on second thought makes Hightown just the sort of show a Ray Donovan could love.

Hightown, Series Premiere, Sunday, May 17, 8/7c, Starz