At last! Cleaver Greene is back in the legal saddle with a case we can all get excited about. Scarlet has been promoted to Senior Counsel and now has an enormous workload, so at Barney’s suggestion, she agrees to take Cleaver on as one of her juniors. It seems like a pretty illogical decision for such a powerful lawyer to make, but let’s go with it.
Their first case is the stuff of Cleaver’s dreams: Helen, (Magda Szubanski), is a deluded suburban single mum who has coerced the powers that be into paying huge medical fees for the treatment of her chronically-ill son. Only problem is, her son is perfectly healthy and she’s deposited five hundred thousand dollar’s worth of ‘medical bills’ into the pokies.
Scarlet thinks that a plea bargain is the best solution to Helen’s problem. But Cleaver is thinking big. He sees the perfect opportunity to take on the powerful, ‘evil’ gambling lobbies. (This is the same Cleaver who, only the night before, won $160,000 on a roulette table. The same Cleaver whose house deposit was paid for by a lucky punt on the horses.)
Cleaver enlists the help of Malcolm’s spunky sister Felicity Finnane (Jane Allsop), a psychologist who specialises in addiction, (hint hint, nudge nudge, Cleaver) and goes to court with an argument about corporate responsibility that is almost crazy enough to work.
Meanwhile, Scarlet and Nicole struggle with Barney’s denial about his illness, while David Potter keeps denying all those gay rumours. And Wendy is busy helping Fuzz get ready to go to Africa. Professional life aside, Cleaver’s life is still more or less in the toilet, but in this episode, he has begun to deal with it by going into self-destructive overdrive, lurching from drink to drug to hangover and back throughout the show. In that respect, it’s fairly standard Rake fare.
There are also a handful of zesty cameos to add to this episode: Cate Blanchett is over-the-top as Cleaver’s lesbian alter-ego in the film about his life, while Elizabeth Debicki, (Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby), and Aden Young give subdued performances as the celluloid versions of the prostitute Missy and her ill-fated lover, Joshua.
After three episodes, it feels like season three of Rake is turning out to be the chocolate sampler box of Sunday night TV. The first episode was fruity and fun, the second dark and a little unsettling in the aftertaste, while this week’s episode has turned out to be one of those flavours that doesn’t really resemble what it claims to be. Like Cointreau chocolates. It’s still Rake, of course; all the obvious ingredients are there, but it’s just not quite as wry and dry as the Rake of previous seasons. And it’s not as subtle.
There are some awkward lurches between gag and pathos, and we really do get belted over the head with the slapstick. After being snubbed at Scarlet’s ‘Silk’ Party, there is a montage where Cleaver pretends to be a water feature, stumbles around the pool wearing the party decorations and then jumps in and out of Scarlet and Barney’s hedges to a vaudevillian soundtrack. Later, when Scarlet suffers from a badly-timed bout of nausea, the sound of her projectile vomit is heard inside the courtroom even though those rooms are insulated by solid timber and marble. You almost expect the canned laughter to kick in.
This season of Rake has seen a change in the show’s writing team, and perhaps this is what has caused such a shake-up within the show. Whether or not this is ultimately a good or a bad thing remains to be seen, but it has surely made things quite unpredictable! And whatever the outcome, it is great to see Cleaver Greene back in his wig.
Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Rake screens Sunday nights at 8.30pm on ABC1 and is also available on iView.