Raines, a series tragically canceled too soon, features the titular homicide detective, whose hook is that he imagines the victims whose cases he pursues. His evolving conceptions of them literalize his deductive process as he figures out their stories. For example, in Meet Juan Doe, the dead man starts off as a rotten corpse, but resembles a living human being as soon as Raines finds a driver’s license and photo. In the end, it’s always shown that Raines’ ability to psychologize the victims and picture them as complete people, rather than dead bodies, helps him to solve the crimes and understand himself a bit more. Solid acting, dry humor, thoughtful show. Entire run can be watched on Hulu. [Filed under “vampires” because people come back from the dead.]
I really like Raines for a few reasons. 1) Because I talk to myself [and frequently talk back], any show with a character who does the same interests me, especially if the show portrays him as unusual, but also imaginative, intuitive and successful because of this trait. Raines frequently worries that he’s going crazy, and everyone agrees that he’s mentally disturbed, but they don’t automatically demonize the way he talks to people in his head.
Incidentally, the show nails perfectly the ways in which seemingly independent imaginary characters talk to their creators. Raines’ characters appear and disappear easily, changing clothes and hairstyle as quickly as a thought. Their forcefulness distracts him, not because he’s literally hearing them [hallucinating], but because he’s imagining so hard that he tunes out the outside world. The characters don’t know any factual information that Raines doesn’t know; at the same time, they often make astute observations about emotions or motivations that Raines has a hard time grasping himself. They’re very Trickster-like.
2) In a manner unusual for a cop show, Raines focuses on the victims and gives them a voice. While many cop shows are about the mechanics of solving crimes [examples: any Law & Order, Bones, etc.], Raines is about as character-driven as a cop show can be. Most of the action occurs in Raines’ head, and it consists of his perceptions changing about the victims as he learns more about them. While Raines seeks to learn how the victims were murdered, the show seems just as interested in why. With most cop shows, the victim’s body is the beginning of the case investigation and the true meat of the show. With Raines, the victim’s body represents the end of a life which the show seeks to delve into and reconstruct.
3) To the end of reconstructing lives, Raines enjoys subverting stereotypes. Again, in the example of Meet Juan Doe, Juan at first appears to be an illegal Mexican immigrant out to take the life of an anti-immigration city councilman who came to LA illegally himself. Turns out that Juan was coming to see his dad, the councilman, to show him his daughter-in-law and grandson. The councilman shot his son, thinking his son was an assassin. In the pilot, prostitute Sandy Boundreau is earning money to help her mom leave her abusive husband; plus she refuses to play along with a wife to entrap a husband into supposedly cheating. By refusing to accept that characters are as cliched and evil as they may initially appear, the show argues for optimism and, surprisingly for a cop show, a view of human nature as good.