Hightown does little to build momentum in “B.F.O.”, succumbing to excess for its own sake, as unlikable characters continue to plod through a mystery that has largely been solved already.
This recap of Hightown season 1, episode 4 recap, “B.F.O.”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Way back in its premiere episode, Starz’ Hightown felt like it was making a point. Freed from network constraints, it was a show that took the typical procedural format but made it sexier and grimier. The point, or at least what I assumed to be the point, was to lend rawness to a study of addiction, promiscuity, and violence; to be able to depict, for better or worse, the acts that most shows only gloss over. Back then, which isn’t that long ago but certainly feels it, it worked – at least it worked for me. But as of Hightown episode 4, I have no idea what the show is trying to be. What was frankness seems like titillation; excess for the sake of it, or perhaps in the absence of anything better to be getting on with.
This is partly – okay, mostly – because we already know the truth of the mystery that Jackie is investigating. At the start of “B.F.O.”, she’s at the construction yard that her snooping led to in the previous episode, but is forced to make a quick exit. She’s offered the opportunity to redeem herself among her colleagues. If this is the start of a redemptive arc, I’m not sure it feels like it. Despite Junior’s suggestion that she return to therapy, she instead follows Anthony’s truck and demands Krista’s whereabouts from him. She gets them, rifles through Krista’s things, and leaves her a contact number in case she needs help. She’s summoned back to work, and Anthony severs ties with Krista because of how close Jackie is to the truth. All of this is difficult to care about one way or the other since we largely know that truth; the pieces Jackie is putting together have already been presented to us. Hightown breaks the cardinal rule of any good mystery, which is to let the audience figure it out along with the characters.
Ray, meanwhile, fits neatly into a classic but largely uninteresting corrupt cop archetype, mixing business and pleasure with Renee, not to mention proving himself easily manipulated, and using heavy-handed tactics to convince citizens to endanger themselves in conducting his investigation for him. Ethan becomes a victim in Hightown episode 2, in a situation that Alan rightly takes issue with. But Ray’s concerns are Renee and Osito; his constant use of the greater good as justification is a classic tactic but doesn’t work that well here since Ray has so few redeeming qualities that you’d rather he didn’t get the satisfaction of reaching the truth – especially since we already know it and it isn’t that interesting anyway.
Much of “B.F.O.” proves itself that aforementioned redemptive arc for Jackie, who is eventually, after a successful late shift, allowed to start working again, albeit on dubious legal grounds. But this feels more like manipulation than redemption. She seems to have learned nothing from her previous mishaps, and her rehabilitation is not only a waste of time to her but to us, the audience, a particularly damaging feeling when investment in these characters – and in Jackie especially – is central to the success of the show.
With Ray and Osito right in front of each other, and Jackie on the trail of Krista, Hightown season 1, episode 4 finds itself at its least interesting, in terms of both character and plot. There’s little to like here beyond a well-made aesthetic sheen and the enduring sense of a lived-in setting, but like Jackie, the show itself seems to be reluctant to learn from its own mistakes.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.