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Thursday 10:00 PM on USA

Graceland S01E04: "Pizza Box"

A long time ago on this very planet, two of Charlie's ancestors got together and her great great great great great grandmother Francesca's tomato sauce became their family symbol of love and unity. For Mike, front-row tickets to ex-henchman Eddie's suicide severely altered the symbolism. Mmmmm brains. 

"Pizza Box" was a great—and timely—episode for exploring the way the inhabitants of Graceland interact with one another, and despite the trauma of the last ten minutes, it was a fairly lighthearted chapter in the stories of Charlie, D.J., Paige, and Johnny (though even then, we learned that Johnny's brother got mixed up in some serious gang trouble). Graceland is USA's foray into heavier storytelling, but even generally dark series have to maintain some sort of balance between utterly depressing stories and flashes of lightheartedness or even outright humor (just think about how funny Breaking Bad can be!). Johnny's angst-tinged glee at helping Paige and D.J. take down a pot farmer by posing as a Mexican gangster—complete with hardcore "ink" on his naughty bits—was genuinely enjoyable, and offered a fun-house mirror to Mike's own predicament. 

While Johnny struggled with taking his cover identity to hilarious—and too-far—lengths, Mike faced an inversion of the same problem. Because he was so impressed with Mike's gun-running Marine persona, Bello hired Mike to mentor his men in the art of being a lean, mean, killing machine. The FBI insisted that Mike "fake" teach his charges, because the last thing anyone needs is a small militia of FBI-trained Bello underlings running amok in Southern California armed with all manner of illegal weaponry. 

Unfortunately, fake-teaching anything is a challenge, and that goes double for killin' and triple for killin' under the observation of a mass-murdering psycho. Briggs and Mike determined that the best course of action was to teach Bello's men really, really slowly, with an emphasis on non-lethal skills like cleaning and assembling your probably stolen firearm. Mike's save when Bellow questioned his methods was decent, though I am finding it suspect that Bello's attitude is so casual toward including the newcomer—to the point that he unquestionably pinned the botched bullet deal from "Guajalajara Dog" on his righthand man, Eddie. Yeah, yeah, those two had trust issues beyond Mike and Briggs, but still

Eddie decided to take matters into his own hands, as he seemed to have an idea of who and what Mike really is. Mike, in turn, heat-ran back to Briggs, and rather than flat-out dragging Eddie in and revealing everything, they fanned the flames of Bello's mistrust by implicating him further in the "Guadalajara Dog" bust. It didn't work out well for Eddie at all. Briggs seemed rather desensitized to the trauma, but Mike's dinner was ruined. How rude.

Despite some speed bumps—like runny "tattoo ink" ending up all over the hippie chick's post-sexy-time sheets and tattling on Johnny's FBI pedigree—Johnny ignoring Paige's decision to call the game worked out much better than Mike's mini-catastrophe, so at least we have that win. Yay teamwork! Sort of! 


NOTES

– Okay, kids, let's be honest, how many of the alternate names for marijuana did you know? 

– Yeah, srsly Mikey, no one says "marijuana." 

– "We're not running from the inquisition. We are the inquisition!" Not sure that's something to be proud of, J. 

– While logistically, Mike and Briggs plan to get Eddie off their backs was smart, do you think it was too far? Is this another strike against Briggs as a "hero?"


What'd you think of "Pizza Box"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/12/2013

Season 1 : Episode 12

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