Gators. Caymans. Smuggled newts. Stolen generators. Ex-cons. Cons. Moonshine. Diamonds.
This is a strange little show. It’s another of Netflix’s recommendations, and I’m not sure why I’m so enchanted with it.
Maybe because I believe Florida is basically one dangerous, violent swamp?
Anyway, the premise is quite straightforward. Jim Longworth, snarky Chicago homicide detective, decides to move to Florida. He teams up with the resident Chief Medical Examiner (aka coroner), Carlos Sanchez, and, after a bit of wrangling, he also teams up with a nurse, Callie Cargill. Callie is a single mom–her husband’s in prison for armed robbery, she has a teenaged son, and she’s paying the bills and going to medical school to become a doctor. The team is rounded out by Daniel, a hardworking and geeky young grad student.
The episodes are a mix of ‘ripped from the headlines’ hot topics and strangely endearing, cracked out Florida-specific crimes.
Fer instance, in the pilot, they identify the victim by finding the gator (excuse me, cayman) who ate her. The Detective shoots the cayman and hauls it into the coroner’s office. Dr Sanchez, hilariously cranky and appalled, initially refuses to autopsy a gator. But it’s lying there on the slab, little lizardy arms stuck out T-Rex-like, so Carlos gives in. The grad student, Daniel, happens to be a herpetologist, and when Carlos initially pulls out only a box turtle and some trout, Daniel explains about the long digestion time.
So Carlos digs around in the innards and eventually finds the (partially digested) jawbone.
Which is how they identify the victim, and thereby, the killer.
You gotta admit, that’s kind of awesome.
It’s usually semi-plausible, in an insane kind of way, but sometimes the plots are a bit too recent news headline for me. I skipped the episodes about kids getting guns on the black market (and yes, shooting someone by accident–too damn depressing) and I bailed out of the ‘chronic pain clinics are a drug haven’ because it was mostly just wrong. (I have a chronic pain condition, so I know a lot about it. Most pain clinics don’t prescribe narcotics at all, and those that do are extremely strict about it. Yes, there is a booming black market in pain drugs, but the show got all the details wrong. If they wanted to have a doctor in a clinic over proscribing, they could’ve tried botox injections (yes, really) instead of talking about the black market trade in fentanyl. Fentanyl comes in patch form only, outside hospitals, and it’s nearly impossible to misuse because of it. You can’t drink it, smoke it, or ingest it to get ‘high’, although if you do put it on and then take a hot bath you can OD and croak. This has been yet another nitpicking brought to you by the resident cranky person.) Ahem. Where was I?
Oh yes. The Florida specific episodes. See, there’s a lot of nice worldbuilding in this series. One episode is about a mermaid who washes up on the beach. In Florida, there’s apparently a booming business in mermaid shows. Attractive young women dress up in latex mermaid tails and swim around. One of these women shows up on a beach, in a tail, dead.
The plot involves synchronized swimming practice (harder than it looks–I used to do synchronized swimming), the strange things people do for love, and the intricacies of a sibling relationship.
Another episode covers a Papa Hemingway contest/festival, complete with moonshine subplot, and a very attractive black sable German Shepherd named Bo. (What? You don’t see black sables very often, and they’re my favorites.) It also involves a hipster with a degree in marketing from Tulane.
My favorite episode is the one about NASCAR. I don’t actually follow NASCAR, but we have a track here, and it’s a highly specialized fandom with its very own rules, royalty, and fans. I thoroughly enjoyed all the car chases and the details of how the villains did what they did and why. I’d tell you more, but it would be a spoiler.
Some of my other favorites are about the famous Florida town of psychics, the exotic bird (and newt!) smuggling ring, the town of circus freak descendents, the guy who believed in aliens, and a private island.
The characters are all well-rounded, and sometimes individual episodes focus on a particular character. There’s a relationship between the main male lead, Jim, and the main female lead, Callie. Unlike most shows, the two don’t tumble into bed first thing. She’s married and while yes, her husband is in prison, she’s too moral for that. So they wait! Until she gets a divorce! Weird, huh? Weird, but cool.
There’s some complications to the love life that bored me (just leave them together and get on with the show already!) but I can put up with that. They’ve got a habit of including implausible beach-bunny super-high heels on people who, in my experience, would not wear them, but whatever. I’m mostly in it for the gators. Who wouldn’t be?