Graceland Season 2 Premiere Review: Animal House With Guns
Another season, another beer on the beach—or not so much. Graceland's sophomore season picked up roughly where its freshman year left off: with the trust among agents in the house shattered, Briggs on the run and out for revenge, Mike slowly but steadily climbing the FBI career ladder, Charlie trying to rebuild her career and her confidence, and everyone else just trying to stay out of the way.
Just to review, here's the state of the beach house following the crazypants Season 1 finale:
– DJ had helped Briggs hide evidence of Juan's unfortunate demise, but some kids in a pawn shop found the snuff tape.
– Mike is the big man on campus after his big undercover operation.
– DJ pretty much hates everyone.
– Johnny just wants to make a big cake out of rainbows and love, and then eat it with his friends.
Season 2's debut found the housemates no less paranoid and crabby, with Briggs vowing to exact revenge on the cartel that brought us "Jangles" (possibly television's cutest name for a torturer and enforcer) and Charlie trying to get her post-junkie life together while making sure that Briggs didn't get himself killed. She had/has her hands full.
Graceland was launched as the flagship drama of USA Network's darker side, so it seems a little "missing the point" to complain about the premiere's lack of feel-good moments, but even though Graceland's first season was heavy on the darkness and turmoil, it always managed to save a scrap of sunshine to brighten things up at least a little. The scales were still lopsided—and that was okay—because Graceland isn't meant to be White Collar or Psych. However, it can get tiresome when, week in and week out, only terrible things happen to a show's characters, and then those characters, in turn, spend an entire episode (or longer) just casually despising one another. Sure, we've got Johnny, but his blind determination to turn the beach house into a frat house again kind of reeks of naivety. Graceland is the sort of series that could benefit from humor with a darker slant. Johnny can't be the single positive presence. His desperate optimism seems out of place in a group of undercover agents who weathered some pretty rough seas last season.
The events of the Season 1 finale—as well as the actions of various characters that resulted in the events of the Season 1 finale—resonated loudly in the Season 2 premiere. Charlie feels guilty for blindly allying with the Mexican federale who, in fact, turned out to be Jangles himself. She's desperate to leave the entire experience behind, and flagellating herself by keeping tabs on the Badillo's lapsed-alcoholic widow and criticizing Briggs' refusal to let the past stay in the past.
For his part, Briggs sees an opportunity to avenge all the friends he's lost—in the original Graceland prototype, and then his forced addiction and subsequent fall from FBI grace. His inability to move forward is further complicated by the knowledge that he mistakenly killed Juan Badillo, and that evidence of that accident still exists in some form. For now, the damning tape has been dismissed as a prank, but it's only a matter of time before someone realizes what they have in their possession because otherwise what's the point of focusing on it?
As usual, Mike is kind of clueless and plagued by career tunnel-vision when it comes to whatever else is going on inside his sweet, sweet beach pad. He still has his boring girlfriend, but his chemistry with Paige is simmering like a science-fair volcano in the early stages of making a very vinegary mess. I'm sure we'll get more on that later.
All in all, "The Line" wasn't a bad start to Graceland's sophomore season. The episode wasted no time in diving back into the thick of the action, which is a good thing because Graceland is at its best when the stakes are high. The concept of Graceland—a swanky beach house full of federal agents living the SoCal life when they're not backstabbing their way to the top of the food chain—is inherently kind of goofy, despite the show's "inspired by a true story" claims. It wouldn't've been too difficult to make Graceland as "blue sky" as its network predecessors, nor would it've been hard for the show to inadvertently slip into familiar network patterns. Graceland needs its darkness and angst. However, it also needs to do something to counter—at least a little—all that trauma. At the end of the day, the denizens of Graceland are co-workers. They don't have to like each other. But the nature of their jobs dictates that they at least have to be able to fake it, and as it stands, I'm not convinced they can even do that.
What'd you think of the premiere? What are your hopes and dreams for Season 2?
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