Rake: Series 4, from Acorn Media, begins right where the previous series ended. Lead character Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) is dangling by his foot from a rope underneath a hot air balloon floating over Sydney Australia’s famous harbour. Like the proverbial chaos butterfly that he is, everyone of Greene’s actions has consequences. Some funny, some sad, and some just completely unpredictable.
For those who haven’t had the privilege of meeting Greene before, he’s a criminal lawyer whose behaviour on occasion crosses the line into the criminal, both legally and morally. It seems no matter how nobel his intentions, and he really does try to do the right thing, events always seem to spiral out of his control and things happen. Of course he also has a slight problem with drugs, alcohol and fidelity, as any number of ex-girlfriends and his ex-wife can attest to.
So while taking his best friend Barney (Russell Dykstra) for a hot air balloon ride seemed like a good idea at the time, the results ripple through Series 4 like a small tsunami. Barney ends up stranded in New Zealand and has to be rescued by the Australian Navy and Greene crashes through a plate glass window only to see an ex-client who was supposed to be dead.
The warrants for a wide variety of crimes against this ex-client precipitate Greene first going into hiding and then being disbarred. Homeless and unemployed he seeks refuge with one of the few people who haven’t completely given up on him, the mother of his son, his long suffering ex-wife Wendy (Caroline Brazier). In spite of still having her son living with her, and trying to start a new relationship, she not only takes in her former husband, but Melissa (Adrienne Pickering) writer, ex-prostitute, now drug addict, and one of Greene’s ex girlfriends.
In order to try and remove Greene from his wife’s house, and life if possible, Wendy’s new partner offers to get him elected to the Australian national Senate if he agrees to finally move on. The campaign turns into a brilliant piece of satire as Greene initially runs on a platform of appealing to the lowest common denominator and immediately attracts phenomenal polling numbers. One of his best bits was suggesting government could save money on health care costs by encouraging people to drink and smoke more so they’d stop living so damn long.
Unfortunately his conscience, Wendy, calls him on his shit and he starts to seriously address the issues and his poll numbers start to go south. Meanwhile he and Barney are contesting the massive bill the Australian government is trying to saddle them with for rescuing Barney, in spite of the fact, as Cleaver points out, Barney technically rescued himself by landing on a beach in New Zealand.
Just to add a little spice to the dish, Greene’s son and Melissa begin an affair with the result Wendy and Cleaver discover they will soon be grandparents. In other words everything is just about proceeding as normal in the life of Cleaver Greene.
While this may sound like a lot, and there’s more believe me, spread over the 8 episodes in the series, it doesn’t seem like too much. In fact it all fits together nicely with what we’ve come to expect from the previous 3 seasons of Rake. As usual there are moments of incredible humour leavened by times of genuine pathos.
In some ways Greene might not seem like a very attractive character on the surface, but in spite of his flaws he’s compassionate and cares deeply about those around him. He might on occasion need a reminder to get his head out of his ass, but when he has it together he can be as good a friend as one could hope for.
However, the show does benefit from having Roxburgh as the central character. He continues to deliver a tour de force performance which gives Greene the multitude of dimensions he needs to be more than a one note joke. While all the actors in the show are wonderful in their own way, the show wins or fails on his abilities; and it continues to win big.
Sometimes a show can go on just too long and risk becoming a parody of itself. Rake: Series 4 is one of the best examples of how to keep a series fresh and intelligent over the long haul. If the small documentary included as a special feature is anything to go on, the actors involved in the show feel the same way as they all continue to rave about what a good time they’re having. The acting, script writing and direction are all superb and the show is as brilliant as it was in the first season and makes it as enjoyable as it ever was.