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July 26, 2013

Graceland Recap: Goodbye High

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This week's episode of Graceland is the first to abandon its usual procedural format-- a Case of the Week plus or minus some progress on a season-long Big Mystery-- in favor of developing character relationships and moving that one main question to the fore. It makes for a quiet first half, for sure, and I spent that initial thirty minutes wondering whether I was going to have to pan a show I'd just finished enthusiastically recommending. But there are big enough revelations in the second half to keep the first from weighing it down too heavily, and the ending twist is good enough that I'm basically writhing in agony about the fact that it will be another two weeks before there's any kind of resolution.

Two weeks ago Charlie discovered that one of her confidential informants had overdosed in the course of a meeting with a drug dealer; when the suspicious dealer challenged her to shoot up from his stash to prove she wasn't a cop, she took the bait. Last week Briggs set her up in a crash pad stocked with high quality heroin to ride out the come down, dosing her with just enough more when she had to meet with the higher ups to explain how the case had gone wrong. This week she confesses her crimes to the rest of the house. She feels like it's crucial to come clean to them because she views them as family; Briggs takes her to task for it at the end of the episode, claiming she's burdening them by putting them in a position where they may have to lie for her in the future-- and where they'll undoubtedly have trouble trusting her as she continues to work investigations undercover as a (possibly) pretend junkie. The episode is in large part an exploration of each character's code of ethics, and the way that those ethics inform their relationships to one another. It gives depth to the rest of the proceedings; it's a confident move, to spend an hour on relationships in a high-adrenaline cop show, but I think it totally works here.

If Graceland is, per the show's closing conversation, Charlie's family and Briggs' palace, then for rookie Mike it seems to be little more than a job. He's been charged with quietly investigating Briggs, who seems to be skimming serious quantities of drugs from the busts he makes, and while he was at first reluctant to do it, every week finds him more convinced that there's something to his bosses' claims, and less argument for Briggs' innocence. This week he tells his girlfriend-- who believes he's a pilot, since she can't know he's an undercover agent-- that he'll likely be moving back east when she does, indicating that he think he's close to wrapping up the Briggs case to his bosses' satisfaction. 

It's kind of a dick move, but it's also hard not to be on his side when Briggs slips away from his housemates' surveillance to meet with a high-level drug dealer named Bello. It seems that the mysterious Odin, who Briggs and Mike have been chasing all season, is none other than Briggs himself. Or that's what he claims, anyway. He's pulled enough crazy stunts that it's possible for this to be another one, and being able to see it either way creates some truly delicious tension. The show has really effectively set up an scenario in which one of the main characters could well be hero or villain, and in which I'm certain that, whichever it is, the results will be exciting, which is no small feat, especially in its rookie season. 

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