Hightown premiere review: Is Monica Raymund’s new series worth watching?

Monica Raymund in Hightown. (Photo Credit: Claire Folger/Courtesy of Starz.)
Monica Raymund in Hightown. (Photo Credit: Claire Folger/Courtesy of Starz.) /

Hightown stars Chicago Fire alum Monica Raymund, but is the Starz drama something that One Chicago fans will consider must-see TV?

Hightown will draw interest from Chicago Fire fans because of Monica Raymund, but the Starz series is miles away from Gabriela Dawson or anything in the One Chicago universe.

Raymund gives a strong performance as Jackie Quinones, a Marine Fisheries Services officer who’s jaded and burned out on life, and only seems to be engaged when she’s doing something reckless.

But Jackie is the kind of character Dawson would have no patience for, and viewers who enjoy the network TV heroism of Chicago Fire will have a hard time with a show where there are no heroes; the characters are all too busy getting in trouble.

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That’s because Hightown takes full advantage of being on premium cable; the series is rated TV-MA, and the plot centers on drugs, murder and sex. In fact, Raymund’s Jackie spends most of the first episode going from one inappropriate behavior to another.

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She starts the series hungover, picks up a college student in a Massachusetts bar after only about thirty seconds of conversation, and is later seen doing drugs in the bathroom of another bar before engaging in sexual activity while driving. She’s not a character you can immediately root for, unlike Dawson, who could be difficult but was always trying to do the right thing. Jackie seems to be always trying to do the wrong thing.

Hightown wants viewers to believe that finding the body of a young woman is going to be Jackie’s wake-up call, but the episode struggles to find the balance between telling Jackie’s addiction story and the murder mystery.

The latter comes from the perspective of Ray Abruzzo (James Badge Dale of Rubicon and 24), who is the stereotypical tough cop. Ray is almost as flawed as Jackie, but where Raymund gets to play some emotional notes while her character is haunted by the dead body, Badge Dale’s character is stuck in the same gear for most of the episode.

Unlike Chicago Fire, this isn’t a series where there are a lot of good guys and the good guys usually win. The characters aren’t that endearing, and everything is bleak and dark (sometimes literally, as it’s hard to see in some scenes). And it moves much, much slower; this isn’t an action-based show.

Pilots have a tough job of providing all the backstory while still trying to set up an interesting plot, so it’s possible that Hightown will get better in the following weeks. But right now, unless you’re a hardcore Monica Raymund fan, it has little to offer that audiences haven’t seen before.

Raymund is the best thing about the series, which feels a little like Jackie Quinones—tough and gritty on the outside, but missing any real heart on the inside.

Next. How to watch Hightown online. dark

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