'Hightown' Cast & EPs Break Down the Season 1 Finale
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Hightown, "#Blessed."]
Quite a bit goes down in the final episode of Hightown Season 1, leaving at least one character on the right path while another hits rock bottom.
First, a quick recap: Informant Renee Segna (Riley Voelkel) tells the department of her relationship with Detective Ray Abruzzo (James Badge Dale), and the case against her boyfriend, drug kingpin Frankie Cuevas (Amaury Nolasco), is dropped as a result. (It doesn't help that this isn't his first romance with a CI.) He has to turn in his badge and gun and ends up checking IDs at a bar. Oh, how far he's fallen.
Meanwhile, Ray's former partner, Alan Saintille (Dohn Norwood) gets a promotion and offers to recruit newly sober Jackie Quiñones (Monica Raymund) as a liaison on the case to take down Frankie ... who reunites with Renee and their son after he gets out of prison. Alan also goes to Frankie's number two, Osito (Atkins Estimond), to see if he'll play ball with Frankie free.
Here, the stars and executive producers break down the season and share their hopes for Season 2 (though the series hadn't yet been renewed at the time).
Will Jackie Stay Sober?
"I definitely wanted Jackie to end on a high note. Maybe on paper it's not a high note, but she seems like she's actually going to get sober now," creator Rebecca Cutter told TV Insider. "There's a positivity that comes out of that." That came after what she saw as the most significant moments in that character's journey: her failure to save Krista Collins because she drank in Episode 5 and Junior's (Shane Harper) death.
"We wanted her to end up with a win," EP Gary Lennon added before promising, "There are great twists and turns [in] Season 2."
"She wants to stay sober," Raymund said of her character. "The intention is there, but oftentimes the road to recovery is not straight. It's very wind-y and has a lot of twists and turns, so I would not be surprised if she's challenged again in that way. ... Relapse is a part of recovery."
Consequences for Ray
"Ray got to do whatever he wanted the whole season, and then he finally gets his consequences. That's satisfying and surprising and inevitable all at the same time," Cutter noted of the detective's arc. "[He] learned a lesson that you can't just use people however you want. Everyone has agency."
In Dale's mind, his character's downfall was "a long time coming for his behavior over the years." "Ray's a cowboy, he's an outlaw, he's a bounty hunter, he's a bank robber in a weird way," he said. "He's just marching to his own beat, and that can only work for so long."
The Ray-Renee-Frankie Love Triangle
Ray's relationship with Renee was real in the (former) detective's mind. (Frankie, however, had wanted his girlfriend to get close to the other man, a power move that Nolasco considered "checkmate" for his character.) "He definitely loved her and she definitely loved him, but in the real world that we exist in, just because you love someone, it's not enough," Lennon explained. "It's just lip service until your actions start stepping in line with your thoughts and behavior. There's a line that I love that I remember: 'You can love someone and still fail them and you can fail someone and still love them.' That is really at the core of their relationship."
"When Ray closed his eyes at the end of the day, [a happily ever after with Renee] is what he thought about," Dale agreed.
Ultimately, what mattered most to Renee was the same thing that did at the beginning of the season — what was best for herself and her son. "I really wanted to let her be in love with both men at the same time. Let her enjoy having sex with both men," Cutter said. "She's really looking out for number one, but her life view is limited, so she can only view that through picking one or the other man, attaching herself to whoever is going to achieve that for her."
That's why Renee informs on Ray to his department and ends up with Frankie at the end. ("[They're] Bonnie and Clyde," according to Nolasco.) "Finding that receipt [that labeled her outings with Ray as part of his CI work] showed [her she] was a pawn in a game, and it snapped Renee right back into, 'You know what, this whole thing that's going on? Not worth it. I have a kid. I have the father of my kid. And that's just what's going to be more important right now. Not my feelings or what I thought something was,'" Voelkel explained.
Renee also called Frankie out on the way he spoke to her. After that, "He realizes her power and he realizes that he can use that to his advantage and that she really is his queen and he really does need her and want to go on this journey, this power quest with her," the creator added.
Will Frankie Remain a Free Man?
Trying to bring him down is something we could see in Season 2. Alan and Jackie aren't going to let it go, though he may not have it any easier with her than he did with his former partner. "Jackie would be Ray Part 2," according to Cutter. "She would frustrate Alan the same way that Ray frustrated Alan."
But that partnership would be good for Jackie, and not just because it would allow her to investigate Frankie in an official capacity. "This is why she got into this mess as an addict," Raymund said. "She didn't know what her purpose was and what her mission is and here is this incredible investigation and she brings something to that."
Ray's not letting it go, either, even though he no longer has a badge, and Jackie knows that. "With Ray, they help each other in a much more intimate level," Raymund continued. "It's very personal. In the beginning, they butt heads, but by the end of the season, they learn that they each have more in common with each other than they originally thought. They balance each other out."
"His relationship with Jackie grows and changes so much and especially in those last few episodes, where you do see a different side of Ray," Dale added. "Ray really likes Jackie, deep down, almost in a strange way, as much as he loves Renee. Is that obsession? Is that just another infatuation? Ray's had a lot of lovers in his life. I would question how many friends he's had." (And he can't count Alan among them after this season.)
While Frankie is concerned about Jackie — she's "that ball that came out of left field" and "an enigma," according to Nolasco — his bigger concern should be Osito. After all, his number two was at least willing to listen to Alan in the finale. Plus, he didn't kill Junior (Shane Harper), offing Kizzle instead, when his boss had ordered him to. "That's a huge shift in the world for Osito," Estimond admitted. "For him also, it's the first time he's not really sure what he's supposed to do next."
And that leads into why Osito doesn't just immediately reject Alan's offer. "He is seeing that I'm a little bit tired with Frankie as well, so he's found me in the ideal place to be open to any sort of alliance," the actor said.
Norwood agreed that his character visited Osito at the right time, "during a moment of vulnerability, to offer him, in my eyes, pretty much his only way out, because he's gotta know Frankie's coming."
But if Osito does turn against Frankie, he has to be careful. His (former?) boss "would cut loose ends," Nolasco said. "If [Osito's] willing to listen to the detective and even contemplate the idea, then it's all about loyalty with Frankie and he's clearly not being loyal there."
Season 2 Hopes
Dale is interested in seeing what's next for Ray and Frankie "because that's why he was there in the first place. That's still the number one thing in Ray's mind."
Meanwhile, both Raymund and Voelkel are hoping their characters interact more. (They only had one scene together, when Jackie went to Renee at the strip club for information.) "I loved working with her, and I think the two characters, being very layered, female characters, seeing them interact more would be interesting," Voelkel said, while Raymund is hoping that Renee flips the script from what we've already seen.
"A lot of these people, because they're so flawed and hungry for their immediate desire, don't think things through. They use each other because they want so badly to get what they want. A lot of these people are very selfish," she said. "Ray goes to Renee and uses her, and Renee uses Ray, and Jackie's going to Renee, using her. Maybe Renee will show up at Jackie's door and use Jackie to get what she needs."
Raymund also hopes to see more from Jackie and Ray and Jackie and her National Marine Fisheries Service partner Ed Murphy (Mike Pniewski). "Ed takes this pretty hardcore father figure in her life and this pillar of stability and love and reliability," she explained. "I'd like to see what happens with that relationship as she continues to try to stay sober and take an even stronger hold on this investigation."
And Nolasco is hoping to explore how Frankie and Osito's relationship changes. "I want to see what relationship is going to happen when we're both outside and how is that going to play out," he shared. "He's the one doing all the dirty work for me, but these are the two main villains."
Cutter agreed: "I would love to see Osito not under Frankie's thumb. He's a great character, and it would be fun to see what he would do on his own, and certainly Frankie didn't treat him very kindly at least and Osito's the one out there doing it, so it's exciting to see him break out of that mold."
The good news is that with the Season 2 renewal, we'll get a chance to see what's next for these characters.
Hightown, Season 2, TBA, Starz