Halfway through "Smoke Alarm," when Juan told Mike about Graceland's ill-fated predecessor, I decided that it was an excellent, game-changing (though it seems like every other installment of Graceland involves some kind of "game-changer"), and crazypants episode. When paired with Briggs' erratic and incriminating behavior, Juan's story about "The Estate" and the violent end to the experiment—which, even after the horrible deaths of five agents, somehow seemed like a great-enough idea that the FBI replicated the situation with Graceland???— made Juan's insistence that Briggs is a baddie seem perfectly plausible for the first time in the series, maybe even obvious.
I came to three possible conclusions during that scene:
1. Juan was still a total douche who was setting Briggs up for something.
2. Juan was so blinded by grief over his lost peers and friends that he was desperate to pin their deaths on anyone, even the Estate's lone survivor, Briggs.
3. Juan was right and Briggs was clearly a drug-peddling murderer.
Turns out I have no idea WTF the truth is. I don't want to say that I went into Graceland with low expectations, but they were definitely somewhere around mediocre. I figured the series probably wouldn't suck. I certainly wasn't prepared for it to be one of the high points of my summer TV schedule.
Granted, this crazy-train is starting to go a little off the rails with the revelation that there was a pre-Graceland Graceland and the Jangles who got Briggs hooked on smack and apparently lit the match that torched Graceland the First miiiight just be a good guy (but probably not.)
Mike was on punching bag duty yet again this week but getting stabbed in the gut by the evilest mofo in SoCo is more of an inconvenience than getting knocked out by your mentor. He managed to keep it together well enough to instruct the FBI grunts in keeping a cover intact as Bello was trotted past him in handcuffs, but when he came to in the hospital, he spilled the beans to Paige about his real mission at Graceland and she took it about as well as you'd expect. I mean, we don't really know enough about her to make an informed guess about how she should have reacted, but whatever. Like, I could see Johnny being all "WTF SNITCH," and I could see Charlie being thrilled to have someone who sort of shares her suspicions about their fearless leader, but I just don't think the show has paid enough attention to Paige's own philosophy about the house and her relationships with the other agents to personally feel strongly one way or the other about her response to the news. She called him a rat. That's not entirely fair, and I feel like the pros should know better, but whatever. I'm over it.
For as much as Graceland is supposed to be a pretty, summer-y ensemble show, the central conflict is increasingly coming down to Briggs, Mike, and Jangles—and in this episode, almost entirely Briggs and Jangles. However, given what was established in the background tale about the Estate, this arrangement actually works on a thematic level. We don't know how much the dearly departed former residents of the Estate actually knew about Briggs and Jangles, so we can fairly assume that they knew nothing and were the unfortunate victims of a conflict they had little to no part in. And knowing this show, that idea will be thrown out the window by the end of next week's episode—we still have to get the entire story behind Briggs' late ladyfriend, after all—but for now, the apparent ignorance of the Estate's crew versus the insight (however limited) and general nosiness of the Graceland crew serves to present Graceland as rightful successor to its ill-fated parent. Briggs seems to think that he has to avenge his deceased housemates and protect his current roommates all by himself but frankly, that approach isn't going well. Despite his best efforts, Briggs' "family" is in increasing danger. A little knowledge could be incredibly empowering and if Mike and Briggs would just come clean and tell each other the truth, there's a very good chance that they'd be able to connect the dots to the villain in their midst very quickly.
Now, clearly, neither of them can do that, but Graceland, despite giving us so little when it comes to Paige or DJ (mostly Paige) has managed to give us two excellently fleshed-out characters in Mike and Briggs, in the sense that their inability to communicate doesn't feel like a poorly written plot point that we just have to suck up and accept. Instead, it feels like the foundation for a natural, unavoidable conflict between the duo. Mike is too by-the-book to risk compromising his mission—even if he's quickly losing faith in that mission. His exchange with Paige felt more like an admission of defeat or guilt than a shred of hope that he'd find an ally or a desperate attempt to make a breakthrough. Briggs is too hurt, too incapable of trusting anyone but himself, and too Batman-y (what with the vengeance and all) to willingly seek out assistance.
But hey, even Batman gets help from time to time.
– Another MIA DJ episode. :(
– Mike on Jangles' "exclamation point": "This is unreal!" Really? Are you telling me you didn't read about effed-up cases in FBI school?
– LOL @ Mike dramatically smashing open the photo instead of taking off the back of the frame like a normal person. Also LOL @ Paige calling it "dramatic."
– WTF Jangles theories! Give me your Jangles theories! (The truth better not involve some lame-ass scorned-lover B.S. concerning the dead girlfriend.)
– I don't think Jangles is dead, do you? That whole taped segment in the car seemed designed to frame Briggs. Dude was rocking a vest. I promise.
AIRED ON 9/12/2013
Season 1 : Episode 12