Graceland Season 2 Premiere Review: Animal House With Guns

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jun 12, 2014

Graceland S02E01: "The Line"

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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  • beacon2009 Aug 08, 2014

    I like Graceland all of the characters and the plots...I especially like the character of Paul Briggs...the cat and mouse game between Mike and Briggs with one of the those lovely ladies Catherine was truly intense...first seasons ending with Mike saving Paul and Catherine from Jingles was vintage T.V. drama....I just saw the previews for next weeks show and I hope and pray that they don't turn Paul into a bad guy .... that would be unfortunate....

  • FoxZerro Jun 16, 2014

    Finally forced myself to watch it during the Sunday morning Rerun. My one question was why everybody was calling DJ, Jake. It made me feel like I had screwed up in remembering his name as DJ... Thankfully this review assuaged that guilt.

    If I had one big complaint its that the house didn't feel as different as Mike insisted it did. One of the reasons I tuned in was because the promos and log line made it sound like in the wake of last seasons tragedy the status quo had been disrupted at Graceland, but as even you said everything felt the same. Lesser complaints include a severe lack of any kind of character development for "Bates" making him feel more like a featured extra than a new member of the house and the fact that his presence raises the question as to why a new DEA agent was never sent out to the campus since that was the agency that lost an agent in the pilot.

    While I vowed I wouldn't watch this season after the nose dive the first season took around episode seven. I think I'm going to be forcing myself to watch if I'm up at 9:00 AM on Sunday. Stupid engaging Graceland!

  • creasdaddy Jun 16, 2014

    DJ was always called Jakes. They used that name many times in season 1

  • FoxZerro Jun 16, 2014

    Of that I am aware, but I always spoke of him as DJ as does MaryAnn in her reviews... My one hope for season two is that he wouldn't have been dropped in a network mandated change, so I kept saying I just hope DJ is still there, so when he showed up and everybody was calling him Jakes, I had that secret freak out moment that maybe I was giving him a different name in my mind or confusing him with a character on a different TV show. Thankfully I had my conscience cleared once I came and read the review

  • bleumystique Jun 15, 2014

    I watched the episode twice. And I'm still not sure what if anything really happened in the episode. It was a rather lackluster premiere to me. Maybe I needed to rewatch the finale again. But, meh. The kid's on the powertrip. The new kid barely stood out. "Mom" and "Dad" aren't exactly fit to keep the "kids" in line, Johnny is still Johnny though he isn't as happy, and DJ is inexplicably happy...because he might by planning to move out and fight for custody (or just take becuase I don't sense a reunion with his ex) his kid.

  • MichelleHood24 Jun 15, 2014

    I'm so glad this show is back and I love how they didn't make everybody the same they've all changed in some way and after last seasons finally so they should. It was great to see Mike and Briggs back in the field together I just hope mike doesn't become to much of an ass and step over the mark he needs to treed lightly when being their 'boss'. Overall a good episode and start to the season.

  • ashtray4241 Jun 15, 2014

    Totally unrelated, and still quite related -- Is Haven going to be over with this season (maybe a short season). ????? I rarely see a lead of one series getting a recurring/lead(ish) role in another series....

  • funnyl3unni Jun 15, 2014

    A lot of people are guessing that since it got renewed for a super sized season that it will likely be its last.

  • chrelle66 Jun 15, 2014

    Not exactly great drama, but it sure is chaming.

  • venabili Jun 13, 2014

    Mike is on such a power trip that I almost hoped that the guys that took him will keep him for a few episodes - just so that he stop being that annoying. It was actually a pretty good start of the season - as dark as Graceland can get, it is a summer show in its heart and this episode played nice on that.

    I hope they do something with the new guy - either kill him or kick him out or give him something to do - because for all we saw so far, he could have been a cuddly teddy bear and have the same impact on the action.

  • funnyl3unni Jun 13, 2014

    Okay, so I've scrolled through the comments thinking it might have alreayd happened but it's really starting to infuriate me that editorial (or MaryAnn herself) haven't commented on the huge discrepancies between the review and the actual episode. I really hope that this is from an early review copy that got changed prior to airing - but update the damn article it's been almost 2 days - plenty of time to edit. If this "review" is mixing up multiple episodes, as someone suggested is a possibility in the comments, than we REALLY deserve an explanation and more importantly an apology for massive plot line spoilers. If neither of the aforementioned happened and this truly was MaryAnn's take on the actual episode that aired than please hand me a application as I will gladly take over reviewing. This is nothing personal against the author - but this is a job, technically a "review" article is considered journalism and should be at the very least factual. Add in all the bias you want (I'm looking at you Tim - whom I adore) but come on ...

  • venabili Jun 13, 2014

    This actually sounds more like a review of a season or episode preview than the episode... Or a review by someone that really does not care for the show and was keeping half an eye on the screen... Oh well...

  • apostrofa Jun 13, 2014

    I must say I agree. As I was reading the review I kept thinking "did we watch the same show?" Briggs is no longer obsessed with revenge, and not on the run. DJ doesn't hate everybody, he seems in a better mood than we'd ever seen him. Mike's girlfriend is a new character. And there has been not a word about the new Graceland occupant, the DEA agent Z.
    In fact, I got the impression that the house enjoyed a generally good mood before Mike showed up.

  • TVcom_editorial Jun 16, 2014

    Hey guys, couple things—MaryAnn reviewed this episode based on the screener that USA sent to us. In some cases, we're wondering the same thing you are: Did the network change the episode before airing it? We didn't receive notice from the network that that's the case, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    As for updates/responses: I'm speaking on MaryAnn's behalf because she's been on her honeymoon for the last week. She filed the review before she left. That's why you haven't heard anything. She'll be back for this week's second episode, which we'll make a point to watch live...


  • apostrofa Jun 18, 2014

    I would also recommend that MayAnn sees the first episode as it was broadcasted as well. I believe it was much better than MayAnn seemed to think the screener was. :)

  • MarlboroMagpi Jun 13, 2014

    I find the show average in the first season. The thing that got me hook is Briggs and the question of whether "is he actually odin for real or another undercover" sort of like a Homeland question.

    Now that it had been sort of answered, I am a bit disappointed they did not really reveal his motivations. Is he the villain?

    Still I guess the reviewer had spoil it for us and perhaps in the next two episodes they will focus on that. I really hope they will explore Briggs more and let us into his mind, that is the most interesting thing about the show.

  • nullsec Jun 13, 2014

    I have found that, in the past 6-&12 months, the reviewing dynamics amongst the staff, have changed to polar opposites: Timothy 'Nitpicky' Surette is now reviewing episodes without bias, and in a fair and balanced manner, whilst inserting his personal views where it is appropriate, whereas reviewers such as Mary-Ann and Kaitlin, have switched from the previously fair and balanced style, to highly opinionated, incorrect, and, in THIS SPECIFIC CASE , so incredibly wrong, that it brings 'questionable doubt' to every other review that she has ever done!

    There are many comments, below, that question exactly what content she based her review on, and at the VERY LEAST I agree with those comments.

    The time has come for the owner of to take action, because this is NOT the first time that the staff have posted a review that was not only drastically different from what the viewers saw, but also the reviews contained references to scenes that didn't even appear in the episode that we normal people saw.

    MaryAnn Sleasman: If you are going to be continuing to reCAP (review isn't an appropriate term to use, for you, I, or the general public based on the above!) season 2 of Graceland, The EXPECTATION is that you do so, by reviewing the same content that the average joe or josephine viewer sees, and not some early 'leak' that is highly likely to change before it airs.

    And don't panic, I'm only singling you out because this is the most recent case of what is a continual problem with the staff...Rest assured, they will all receive the same scrutiny in due course.

  • MarlboroMagpi Jun 13, 2014

    I was kind of wandering if I indeed miss something as I cannot recall some of things she mentioned.

  • TVcom_editorial Jun 16, 2014

    Hey guys, couple things—MaryAnn reviewed this episode based on the screener that USA sent to us. In some cases, we're wondering the same thing you are: Did the network change the episode before airing it? We didn't receive notice from the network that that's the case, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. However, it was not an 'early leak.'

    As for updates/responses: I'm speaking on MaryAnn's behalf because she's been on her honeymoon for the last week. She filed the review before she left. That's why you haven't heard anything. She'll be back for this week's second episode, which we'll make a point to watch live...


  • MarlboroMagpi Jun 16, 2014

    Thanks for the reply

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