Jeff Goldblum stars in NBC's unusual new detective series, Raines [Thursdays, 10/9C]. At first, it seems like Raines talks to the victims whose cases he investigates – but it's much more than that…
Detective Michael Raines [Goldblum] seems like a regular detective. He's smart, sarcastic, and just a bit of a cynic. "My job requires me to think the worst of people," he says. When he's called to the parking lot that's the scene of the murder of a young, female college student, we soon learn that there's something different about him. After using her identification to find her home, he has Officer Lance [Enterprise's Linda Park] start knocking on doors while he enters the apartment – where he sees the dead girl, Sandy Boudreaux [Alexa Davalos], and they talk to each other!
As the investigation progresses, and he learns more about her, his new spectral friend changes to reflect what he's learned. Through their conversations, we learn that she's not an actual ghost, but a hallucination – a figment of his imagination off whom/which he bounces his thoughts about the case. When he's not talking to her, or any of the others working on the case, he talks to his ex-partner, Charlie [Malik Yoba], about her.
Raines is a bit of a departure for both NBC and Goldblum. Although it's a police show, it has elements that mimic the supernatural elements of shows like The Ghost Whisperer and Medium – and yet those elements are not what they appear to be. The key moment in the pilot – and probably the entire series – is probably Raines' final conversation with his late partner. It is this conversation that puts a spin on Raines' hallucinations and opens up a whole realm of possibilities.
When we join Raines for the second episode, Juan Doe, he is been given instructions to see a shrink for ten hours – or face suspension. The psychologist is Dr. Samantha Kohl [Madeline Stowe] and she only agrees to see Raines as a favor to his boss, Captain Daniel Lewis [Matt Craven]. Naturally, when an intriguing case comes up – the discovery of a floater – Raines uses that as an excuse not to call Dr. Kohl.
Between the particulars of the case – the floater is a young Mexican man who has taken his wife and baby son to Disneyland before he tied to see a Hispanic city councilman – the ongoing conversations with his partner, and the results of his first hour with Dr. Kohl, the second episode of the series sets up a number of interesting situations and makes for some equally intriguing possibilities for the future.
Besides Park, Stowe and Craven, Goldblum receives excellent support from Dov Davidoff [as Officer Remi Boyer, who reported Raines' tendency to, shall we say, talk to himself] and Nicole Sullivan [civilian tech person Carolyn Crumley]. It's not often that a cast gels as quickly as this one, but the chemistry between the cast members is very good and they really feel like people – as opposed to plot points and servers of exposition.
Raines is shot in a hyper-real neo noir manner – from the Venetian blinds in the captain's office to the saturated colors and interesting use of shadow [even in daylight scenes] and the cinematic composition of some scenes, it's easy to see that the show is heavily influenced by the writing of Raines' favorite writers [Chandler, Hammett, etc…] and the noir movies of the forties and fifties. The writing is sharp and sly; the direction more than suitable for the kind of characters and plots that are inspired by such classic sources.
At the show's center, Goldblum plays Raines with the restraint of a man who is moving and speaking carefully so that no one will suspect he's actually quite mad. There are few of his usual devices here – he doesn't stammer disingenuously; he keeps his furtive glances to a minimum [pulling them out only when his hallucinatory victim is appearing while other characters are nearby], and his manner eschews his common "aw shucks" demeanor.
There's an unease behind his eyes that adds weight to his assertions that he wishes these case-related apparitions would go away, but while they are available, he does use them as a way to analyze what he's learned about any ongoing case. Raines may be unsettled – may even be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, but he's making it work for him – and Goldblum definitely makes us believe that.