In the recommitment ceremony that is “A Close Shave,” Rake seems to repent of the meandering debauchery of its pilot and settle down as more of a square, respectable show. Greg Kinnear’s Keegan Deane still gets up to some naughtiness, but shows his heart’s in the right place (maybe too much so). He also proves he’s a real live law-talking guy, as we see him more fully handle the next in his line of peculiar defendants. Where in the opening episode Kee’s career felt shoehorned in, this week begins with future clients committing a crime, then weaves the ensuing courtroom scenes in with his personal life. This balance works much better, letting Kinnear’s strong suits in charming banter and sneaky hostility play out.
In the intro, three young reformed Amish men, led by Jedidiah, defend their female housemate (and Jedidiah’s girlfriend), Mary, from being reclaimed by the boring old-school Amish bishop and sent back to Lancaster (and not the cool, California one). Not so sure what the old guy is worried about—the boys could be enjoying all the temptations of modern society, and they’re playing Mario instead of Call of Duty—but in any case, he doesn’t get far. The three throw him down and cut off his beard with a straight razor, resulting in a charge of attempted murder.
The whole case is a little ridiculous, since Jedidiah immediately provides the ultimately successful defense—that the beard-cutting was a refutation of the bishop’s authority, or some such—it’s an Amish thing, but anyway, they clearly weren’t trying to kill him. At one point Kee kinda sorta provokes the bishop into trapping himself—truly, English, I did order the Code Red—but the case at least gives a chance for Kee to display a few flourishes in the courtroom.
Meanwhile, his own one-man Rumspringa continues, as he finds the bright side to carelessness in the Internet age, taking a joyride with the brainy, older-man-eating Brooke. Things are looking up at work, too, as he inherits a new office—his first instinct to check the couch for a pullout bed is a nice character touch. However, he still seems to be paid mostly in food, as the bakery-owning Amish hand Kee a bagful of bread. Maybe he’s developing a food-based Jesus complex, a need to feed—last week it was fishes, this week it’s loaves (though no water-into-wine at the pseudo-wedding).
In this spiritual vein, Kee even looks for enlightenment rather than earthier enjoyments with his prostitute friend, Mikki. For her part, she again finds a reason not to get it on—Brooke’s perfume, because Mikki would rather he smell dirty than cheap. There’s an awful lot of teasing from Mikki, and strangely not much action—unless exquisitely painful teasing is exactly what Kee comes there for. Kee (as Captain Spaulding):So Mikki, what do you get for having sex? 500 bucks an hour. What do you get for not having sex? You couldn’t afford it. Or maybe the show’s conservative brand of prurience demands that prostitution, like drinking (another of Kee’s mostly unobserved vices), remain largely offscreen.
While Rake hardly scales Marx Brothers heights, this episode is certainly funnier than the first, with Kee summoning his inner Groucho (or at least Triumph the Insult Comic Spaniel) to score some zingers on Ben’s mom and the mayor’s wife. Kee is more entertaining when he’s rude, and everybody loves to hate lawyers and politicians. He should have ample scope in the show’s milieu to act like a dick towards those who deserve it and still remain sympathetic. The scene in which he attacks Mary to persuade her to talk about the bishop effectively merges this more aggressive personal style with his professional life. Kinnear also finds some good comic moments playing up Kee’s physical prissiness in counterpoint to this verbal swagger, as when he rolls up with the Dutch Boyz to prevent a beating from Roy, or sanitizes his hands after jumping in Brooke’s car (without seeming to wonder much where she’s been).
Still, the deeper relationships in Kee’s life could use a bit more nastiness. When Scarlet confesses she still has a thing for Kee despite 15 years of marriage to his best friend, Ben, there’s not even a glimmer of opportunism in his eye. Bringing in the Amish characters also lends a curious moral element. They’re sending each other to jail one minute, forgiving each other the next: can they get a witness? Kee seems to absorb the lesson, continuing to be a little too soft-souled in the things that matter.
But there’s hope that Kee’s barbed tongue will take over, especially if the dialogue keeps sharpening, as it did this week. Kee’s ex-wife, Maddy, introduces him toward the end of the episode to her new boyfriend, who says, “Well, he seems like a nice guy. You told me he was kind of a lunatic.” She answers wryly, “Give it time.” Okay, Rake, okay, but I’m taking a page out of Mikki’s book: quit fooling around, you’re on the clock.