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Series / Rake

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An Australian comedy series beginning in 2010 about the antics of an irascible, hedonistic, self-destructive lawyer operating in central Sydney - Mr. Cleaver Greene, portrayed by Richard Roxburgh.

Rake is a slow-burning comedy set within the justice system of New South Wales, and each episode revolves around peculiar or well-publicized court cases that grab Cleaver's attention. In addition to his rebellion against the justice system, there are ongoing subplots about his relationship with ex-prostitute "Missy", his ongoing battle against the Australian Tax Office, his gambling debts to dubious underworld gangsters, and the dissolving relationship between Barney and Scarlet - his fellow lawyers and best friends from university.

The series is noted for its well-written episodes (they manage to avoid most of the legal jargon seen in other court shows), and strong acting (with plenty of guest stars every episode).


In January 2014, a US remake starring Greg Kinnear began airing on the Fox network, but only lasted one season.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: A few.
    • Missy becomes a world-famous author and socialite, but she then is abruptly driven back to Australia and cocaine addiction.
    • Missy passes law, but she never actually practices ever again.
    • Season 3 ends with the problem that Barney's cancer has come back and he's probably not going to make it a second time. In Season 4, Barney is fine and referred to as a "miracle"...that occurred offscreen.
  • Abuse Mistake: Cleaver accidentally injures Felicity three times in a row, making the police understandably suspicious, though she assures them he didn't do this on purpose.
  • Accidental Misnaming / Malicious Misnaming: The Running Gag that Cleaver can never remember anyone's name straddles these tropes. On the "malicious" side is probably Harry-Sorry-David, while the genuinely accidental (because he's never listening) is Nicole's one-time fiancee/husband Bevan.
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  • Adaptation Name Change: In the US remake, Cleaver becomes "Keegan Deane," Missy becomes "Mikki" (short for "Michaela" as opposed to Melissa), Ben & Scarlet's last names become "Leon," and Nicole becomes "Leanne." Cleaver/Keegan's son is still named Finnegan, but is called "Finn" for short instead of Fuzz.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Cleaver seems to think so, making comments which invoke Freud to his ex-wife Wendy, who's a psychiatrist. It's averted with her actual techniques however.
  • All-Star Cast: While the main cast are all fairly well known, Richard Roxburgh particularly, a lot of Australian Hollywood A-listers appear in guest roles:
  • Amicable Exes: Cleaver and Wendy, to the point of barely being exes at some points, especially in Season 2 when she briefly falls back in love with him.
  • Amoral Attorney: Cleaver Greene - being an extremely proficient lawyer, Cleaver will twist the rules, consult outside sources and even sleep with his clients if he thinks it'll help. It’s played with, though; while Cleave does some pretty amoral things, he's shown to have genuine moral compass that makes him reluctant to defend people who don't deserve his help like Eddie Langhorn, Damien Trengrove or Mick Corella. He's also shown to be legitimately furious when he finds out too late that Denny Lorton really was guilty of killing a teenager.
  • Amusing Injuries: Cleaver casually attempting to play backgammon with Barney, right after having his nose broken by Col.
    Barney: Oh, please, I can't see the board with you dripping blood...
    Cleaver: Well I apologise for my subdural haematoma inconveniencing you, mate!
    • Most of Cleaver's injuries via Col fall into this, such as when he politely asks Col to kick him elsewhere, and he obliges.
  • Author Avatar: Executive producer Charles Waterstreet is himself a practising barrister from Sydney with a reputation that precedes him.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Constantly. Notable examples include:
    • In Season 1, it seems like Cleaver has got himself off his gambling debt hook when meek abused wife Kirsty takes over the business from her murdered husband. Nope - turns out Kirsty has gone full From Nobody to Nightmare since taking over and while she is more grateful to Cleave, she tells him that business is business.
    • In Season 2, it seems like she might spare him once he engineers her getting together with Col. Nope, as she tells him, business is still business.
    • In Season 2, Cleaver seems to have extricated himself from the murder charge by accusing Mc Gregor of corruption, but as the judge points out, none of this prevents himself from having conspired to commit the he goes to prison anyway.
  • Batman Gambit: When Cleaver's not up to his usual tricks, he excels at this trope. Best exemplified in his bringing mouldy, catpiss-soaked tax documents into his audit, successfully delaying the case again with a dismissal and charge of contempt.
  • Becoming the Mask/Secret Identity Identity: Missy goes through a variation of this.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Cleaver and Scarlet have a simmering, powerful attraction to each other dating back to their university days, but for various reasons, neither one is ever willing to commit to the other. When his and Scarlett's ship sinks, he and Wendy develop more of a relationship akin to this.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: In a case Ripped from the Headlines Cleaver defends a respected doctor charged with having Three-Way Sex with the family dog and his wife.
  • Betty and Veronica: In Season 1, Harry-Sorry-David (Betty) and Cleaver (Veronica) to Missy (Archie).
  • Big Damn Heroes: David, on several occasions.
    • He tackles a gun-toting neighbor in Season 1.
    • In Season 3, he jumps in front of a van (getting stuck under it) to save a baby in a pushchair that has been falling down a long flight of steps.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A season finale staple, particularly in Season 2; Cleaver has successfully brought down Cal McGregor, but is stuck with fourteen years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder.
  • Blind Without 'Em: David Potter is extremely nearsighted without his glasses, and eventually decides to get laser correction for his vision.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three women in Cleaver's life - Missy (blonde), Scarlett (red), and Wendy (brunette).
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The common ending for all of Rake's season is that Cleaver will face somehow insurmountable odds. Special mentions goes to Season 2, which ends with Cleaver going to prison for twenty years, and Season 3, which ends with Barney's cancer coming back and Cleaver dangling from a hot air balloon.
  • Broken Ace:
    • In Season 3, Misty goes from being a highly respected ex-prostitute / lawyer who returns from America addicted to drugs and even makes a drunken pass at Barney in an attempt to get drugs.
    • Cleaver to a much lesser extent as he is more able to bounce back, despite being a drunken, drug-addicted Jaded Washout.
    • Harry becomes a tragic version in Season 4. After Scarlett's sudden death, he goes to trial for murder, is accused of being a domestic abuser, and loses his reputation.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Played with in the case of Cleaver Greene; sometimes he deserves some of the things that happen and sometimes he doesn't.
    • Harry-Sorry-David gets hit with this trope repeatedly — he quits the Bar to (unknowingly) become a back-bencher in the Opposition, he goes steady with Missy - who everyone but him knows is an ex-prostitute - and he gets shot twice on top of everything else.
    • Both Keegan and Ben in the US remake, with Keegan getting it from the mayor, the police, and all of his loan sharks, and Ben getting it from his coworkers.
  • Byronic Hero: Cleaver hits pretty much every trait; intelligent, passionate, cynical, selfish from time to time, and endlessly self-destructive.
  • The Cameo: Cate Blanchett plays a Large Ham lesbian Cleaver in the adaptation of Joshua Floyd's life. Elizabeth Debicki plays Missy.
  • The Casanova: Cleave has no trouble whatsoever in hooking up with the opposite sex, and has a long string of affairs and sexual trysts with various married women. Not to mention his regular visits to the brothel.
    • Even his ex-wife Wendy briefly falls in love with Cleave all over again in series 2.
    • Subverted with Missy, who spurns nearly every advance he ever makes on her after she quits the brothel.
  • Camp Gay: In the US remake, Keegan's Straight Gay pimp poses as such in order to avoid being perceived as a Scary Black Man when expecting delinquent johns to pay him.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Cate Blanchett, who plays Cleaver in the film of Missy's book, starred opposite Richard Roxburgh in the film Thank God He Met Lizzie.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Kirsty Corella is this for Cleaver.
  • Coincidental Broadcast:
    • Cleaver gets up and watches TV in the early hours, and during some rolling credits, the channel announces that Alfred Hitchcock's movie 'Rope' is on next. This flicks a lightbulb in Cleaver's head, and it turns out that this exact movie was the inspiration for a stabbing by two sociopathic teenage girls (one of who Cleaver is defending).
    • This trope is sorely abused in almost every episode of series 3.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Cleaver weaponizes this trope in the defense of a bestiality charge. He shows the implicating footage to the jury several dozen times, frame by frame, second by second, until the shock horror of the clip has worn off on the jurors.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The lawsuit equivalent happens in the US remake's episode "Staple Holes," where Keegan wins the case on Day 1 of the trial by noticing some staple holes in a document entered into evidence, much to the dismay of his coworkers who wanted it to go on for a long time simply to rack up billable hours.
  • Driven to Suicide:
  • Easily Forgiven: This is one of Cleaver's great strengths, due to his own...shortcomings. He forgives Nicole in a minute for embezzling hundreds of thousands from him, and lets her keep doing it. He also takes his rocky relationships with Scarlett and Barney in his stride.
  • Ephebophile: Fiona, Fuzz's English teacher/lover in Season 1.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex:
    • Cleaver, of course, with just about everybody from criminals, to one-night stands, to homicidal drug lords...
    • Including his best friend's wife Scarlett.
    • Fuzz has a revolving door of girlfriends.
    • Missy starts off the series as a prostitute but also has sex consistently throughout (with David, with Cleaver, with Joshua...)
    • Even Barney, who has been faithful to Scarlett, and Nicole, who has only had one boyfriend (Bevan), before have sex in Season 2.
  • Expy: Missy starts dating Joshua Floyd in the second season; Floyd is wanted internationally for treason after leaking sensitive government information via his website in a situation not at all unlike that of Julian Assange in real life.
    • 'Smoking Guy', Cleave's Mysterious Informant in season 2 is very similar to Deep Throat. Missy even lampshades this by calling Cleaver Agent Mulder.
    • Edgar Allan Thompson - Cleaver's intellectual equal, and a well-connected criminal mastermind hiding in plain sight as a lawyer - is very reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty.
  • Friendly Enemy: Mostly just about everybody, though slightly unusually, it doesn't ever interfere with their antagonism towards him: Kirsty and Col are two of the clearest examples, but Harry-Sorry-David and Polly both fall into it occasionally.
  • Graceful Loser: Cleaver really can roll with the punches.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: After she gets pregnant from Fuzz, Sally has an abortion. This upsets him, but no one else opposes it.
  • Groin Attack: One case deals with a man having his penis severed using garden shears. The neighbor he's been in a long-running feud with was charged with the crime, but later he gets his cut off too.
  • The Hedonist: Cleaver himself, but he'll insist to anyone who'll listen, especially Fuzz and Wendy, that At Least I Admit It.
  • Heroic BSoD: Missy goes through one following her fiancee's murder.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Cleaver and Barney, who even recover from Cleaver sleeping with Scarlett in Season 1, with a great deal of Homoerotic Subtext that gets called out in Season 3.
    Cleaver (going in for a hug): If it leads to sex, it leads to sex!
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Cal McGregor makes a show of having "got religion" while in prison, wearing a crucifix and carrying a Bible at all times, from which he quotes liberally. This was only to better his chances of parole however. The moment he gets out, he's back to his old ways, bedding two prostitutes and doing cocaine.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Cleaver is mentioned as being an atheist once, and definitely fits in the "hedonist" category too. However, he still goes to confession, being raised Catholic. In fact it's his former priest who brings up the odd fact of him still confessing to a God he doesn't believe exists. One episode also has Cleaver starting to invoke this regarding an atheist witness as a stalling tactic before Barney brings some evidence.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Melissa "Missy" Partridge used to be one of these and much of her plot is about covering this fact up.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Professor Graham Murray in the pilot. Unlike most examples of the trope, Murray is not villainous nor murderous, instead being rather curious and ultimately regretful of his culinary choices. His "dish" was also a suicidal man who agreed to have his body eaten after killing himself.
  • Insistent Terminology: Cleaver wasn't acquitted from jail, he was 'exonerated'.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: A common theme, with Missy's fiance Joshua being killed off shortly after he returns to Australia, but the clearest example is Cleaver's "relationship" with Kirsty: violent, aggressive, and only continuing because of Kirsty's constant threat of violence. It actually gets more like this when Cleaver persuades Kirsty to hook up with her lackey Col, although they are Make-Out Kids and frequently shown doing it before brutally beating or threatening Cleave.
  • Karma Houdini: Immoral con-artist Lane Hole is set up as this in series 2. He is dragged to court by Cleaver, harassed in person and even has a hit from Cleave's gang mates placed on his head, but he miraculously escapes every single encounter through sheer luck and fate. This is finally averted right at the end of the series, when Lane faceplants after Fuzz knocks him off his bike. It's a tiny consolation though, as Cleaver is imprisoned for 14 years for conspiring to murder Lane.
  • Kavorka Man: Barney is a fat, balding, soppy old romantic, with barely a tenth of the roguish nihilism and hedonism that Cleave possesses. Not only is he married to the rather foxy Scarlet, he has an affair with secretary Nicole, and ends up with both women living with him together in the same house.
    • Harry-Sorry-David is also kind of this, but it might cross over with Informed Attribute. He describes himself as a bore who nevertheless manages to propose to Missy and hook up with Scarlet, but he's really not that bad.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Nicole openly admits to embezzling $90,000 from Cleaver over the course of her employment, and minutes later is knocked straight into hospital by a falling gargoyle head.
  • Left Hanging: Every season ends on an inconclusive note, but special mention goes to Season 3, which features Cleaver literally hanging, floating off into the sky tethered to an errant hot air balloon.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Fuzz — over the course of four seasons — becomes more and more like his philandering father, culminating in his seducing a princess whilst doing charity work in Africa.
    • It's worth noting that Cleave does everything in his power to stop his son from becoming like him. It doesn't work.
  • Mad Artist: Denny Lorton in Season 1 was an award-winning artist before he lost his mind and became the homeless painter Pica, and in the episode proper he kills a rent boy in the pursuit of his art.
  • May–December Romance: This becomes a Running Gag with Cleaver's teenage son Fuzz, who exclusively dates much older women, ranging from his teachers, his mum's friends and even the wives of foreign diplomats.
  • Mood Whiplash: In the second episode, one scene shows David and Melissa having a humorous discussion about Melissa's fictitious relative Angus. The next scene has David getting shot twice in an attempted murder.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Cleaver, who has sex with prostitutes, is an functional alcoholic, and a somewhat unorthodox lawyer.
  • Mysterious Informant: The Smoking Guy.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Political activist Joshua Floyd in Season 2 is a thinly-disguised Julian Assange.
  • Nominated As A Prank: This is how Cleaver ends up as a politician at the end of Season 4. Unlike most examples of this trope, he nominates himself as a prank, to mess with his much-disliked sister Jane, who is running for office. He intentionally runs without policies and the prank gains him so many fans that he wins the election.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Parodied in a season 2 episode. While talking to the Smoking Guy, Cleaver is distracted by the sound of a car and turns around. When he turns around, he's actually surprised that the guy hasn't disappeared while he wasn't looking.
  • OutGambitted: Cleaver publicly trolls, trashes and coaxes Cal and the DPP into upgrading his charges, from 'manslaughter of Albert Platt' to 'murder of Albert Platt', on the premise that murder would be impossible to prove and therefore leading to automatic acquittal. It seems like a great piece of Xanatos Speed Chess, until Cleave finds out he's been out-gamed; the charges are unexpectedly upgraded to 'conspiracy to murder Lane Hole' instead.
    • This mistake proves extremely costly for Cleave, who is found guilty of conspiracy to murder, and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. The original manslaughter charge would have only gotten him two years.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • After his and Scarlet's marriage breaks down, Barney cheats on Scarlett with Nicole. They eventually get together after his divorce.
    • After this, Scarlet gets together with Harry, Cleaver and Barney's onetime legal, and now political, rival.
  • Polyamory: Practiced, of all people, by mob boss Mick Corella and his wife Kirsty.
  • Questionable Consent: Cleaver is basically coerced into getting involved with Kirsty by Col. While he isn't specifically forced to be with her, Col unsubtly makes it clear he'll get hurt if she isn't kept happy. This includes sleeping with her, as Cleaver clearly thinks she won't be happy if he refuses. It only ends when he gets Col to confess his feelings for Kirsty, so they get together instead.
  • Race Lift: In the US remake Ben becomes Latino and Scarlet becomes Persian.
  • Running Gag: After his release from prison, Cleave insists to everyone around him that he was 'exonerated' of all charges, but practically the entire city knows he was actually 'acquitted'. He doesn't succeed in fooling anybody.
  • Setting Update: The US remake transplants it to Los Angeles.
  • Spotting the Thread: Barney discovers Cleave and Scarlett's tryst in Season 1 through their separate but successive references to the uncommonly named 'John Bartrop' - a name Cleave specifically admits to using as an alias.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Comically subverted in "R vs Turner" when Cleaver meets a mysterious informant in an underground garage. After the conversation, Cleaver turns away at the sound of squealing tires, and is startled when he turns back and the informant is still there.
  • The Nicknamer: Cleaver Greene, especially where Harry-Sorry-David Potter, the Shadow Minister for Toasters, Lobotomies and Nasal Hair is concerned. Ironically, he is hurt when he learns that Wendy and Fuzz call him "El Fucko" occasionally behind their back.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cleaver delivers one to a rich socialite wife at a dinner party in S 01 E 02, which ends with him receiving a glass of wine to the face.
    Cleaver: When somebody says something that you agree with, you don't say 'yes' or 'uh-huh', or even, 'you go, girl!', you say 'correct'.
    Leanne: ...I'm sorry, you've lost me Cleaver.
    Cleaver: Oh, well it's sort of like a school teacher talking to a ten year old, you know? You're not actually agreeing, you're approving. It's as if the statement is invalid until you deem it so.
    Leanne: Your point being?
    Cleaver: Well, it's like you're an arbiter of the truth. It's a way of being smug and superior, Leanne, which is why so many fuckwits in the city use it. And now it's spread into the mouths of the spouses like some sort of contagion. Your kids'll be saying it soon from the backseat of the four wheel drive Porsche, feeling safe and smug and superior! Buying a Porsche SUV, for the sake of the kids' safety, I don't think I've heard such transparently banal bullshit in my entire life! You go girl!
    [Leanne's friend slings her glass of red wine into Cleaver's face]
  • The Sociopath: Cleaver defends two teenage girls charged with manslaughter who he eventually realizes both have this disorder, and actually committed premeditated cold-blooded murder. They're explicitly compared to Leopold and Loeb, two similar (though male) "thrill killers" in Chicago during the 1920s.
  • Those Two Guys: During their political careers, David Potter and Cal McGregor both have their own pairs of sycophantic special advisers who follow them everywhere.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Finn, Cleaver's son, has a relationship with his English teacher, which lasts until she drops him for a younger boy.
  • Teens Are Monsters: In Season 2 Cleaver ends up defending (and sleeping with) Michelle, who is charged with killing one of the actors in her student film. When Cleave determines the murder was deliberate, Michelle attempts to blackmail him into continued service by revealing she's not even 16 yet.
  • Triang Relations:
    • Cleaver<- Missy ->David "Harry" Potter. It's sort of resolved in the Season 1 finale.
    • Season 2 and 3 develops Cleaver<- Wendy -> Richard.
    • In Season 3, Scarlett<- Barney -> Nicole is more or less explicitly called this.
    • The US remake has Keegan in a second one with his ex-wife Maddie and her ex-lesbian lover Glenn Shepard.
  • Two First Names: Cleaver gives this as a reason for disliking Joshua Floyd.
  • Undying Loyalty: Missy has a platonic version for Cleaver, and vice versa (although less platonic on his side).
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Lots of examples of this, mainly concerning Cleave and his use/abuse of the mainstream media. However, his best example is managing to get out of prison, 11 months into his term, simply by uttering a controversial, career-damaging-yet-innocuous word in front of a corrupt judge at his appeal.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A lot of season one's legal proceedings are based on interesting aspects from cases in the casebook of one of the Executive Producers (who is a practicing barrister).
    • Missy's book is this in-universe, as many of the characters in it are based on her former clients.

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