Wednesday, September 10, 2014

REVIEW: 'Graceland' - Mike Attempts to Arrest Sid and the Solano Cartel While Paige Makes a Life-Changing Decision in 'Faith 7'

USA's Graceland - Episode 2.13 "Faith 7"

As the arrests of Sid and the Solanos near, even the best laid plans begin to crumble.

The first season of Graceland didn't exactly know what kind of show it wanted to be for a long time. It did stuff with rookie agent Mike and veteran but possibly corrupt agent Paul - and the occasion bit for fellow agent Charlie. But it had no clue who Paige, Johnny or Jakes were as characters. They served no higher purpose on the show. When the show returned for its second season earlier this summer, it came out with this season-long story arc that made it abundantly clear that the creative team had put some thought into the show. All six regular characters were given stuff to do this season. I cannot argue that. However, it wasn't meaningful or exciting. The show built up this battle with the Solaro cartel and the agents at the Gang Task Force as so very important to the fragile makeup of the series. And then, the show just ends the season with virtually no resolution. This season was basically all just rising action. It did not climax in an exciting way. Sid is very much alive and a threat by hour's end. Carlito is still alive and active with the cartel. The only major event is Carlos Solano Sr. dying. And that freaking happens offscreen! I have no clue what the point of this story even was which makes this season even more disappointing that it seemed throughout the summer.

The lack of resolution could have worked as a finale cliffhanger. In order for it to though, the show needed to have characters that I cared about. The only real positive I have for the show this season is that they finally figured out Paige and just made her the heart of the show. Unfortunately, for that to happen, it had to be done at the detriment of Mike. He filled that void in the first season. And this season was literally just full of complications that happened to him that would solely muddy up his character. The show was essentially turning him into Briggs - which is something I severely didn't want considering I hate Briggs. The show thinks it was being so clever in year one by showcasing a corrupt agent as one of their two leads. To me, that character has always played as the show confusing complicated for complexity. He has never interested me. I never bought into his little redemption arc at the start of this season. It largely felt like the show not knowing what to do with him until he went undercover for the Gang Task Force. His little arc with Brianna Brown was just the show wallowing in the events of the first season - while the rest of the show was proudly forging a new path.

Even the bad guys this season didn't work because they were so underdeveloped. Carlito has just been a very hammy and ridiculous sociopath. He was such a one-note villain that the show committed to for the entire season. Even more unsettling, they think he's working! He'll be a part of the third season if the show happens to be picked up. But that character is a failure on both a writing level and an acting level. The show should have looked at what it was doing and sensed that it wasn't clicking as strongly as it should and course-correct in the second half. That never happened. They introduced two new villains who were more entertaining in Carlos Sr. and Sid. And yet, the show didn't have enough time to fully develop their characters so we understood what motivates them and why they are the way that they are. It was a plotting problem the show just could not escape the longer the season dragged on.

And then, there's the concluding moment where Paige is so hurt by learning what happened to Lena that she tells Sid where to find Mike and he goes and kills him. My immediate reaction to the "death" of Mike is relief. Aaron Tveit can now go star in something better. But that's not the reaction I should be having! I should be upset by that cliffhanger. The show is basically saying to USA, "Just try and cancel us now with this huge cliffhanger that will make fans upset." The show hasn't been renewed yet and I don't expect the series to be killing off one of its two leads. That would be too disruptive to the status quo. And yet, I would have major respect for the series if that is exactly what they do.  

Some more thoughts:
  • "Faith 7" was written by Daniel Shattuck and directed by Russell Lee Fine.
  • Does anyone believe in the grand love story between Johnny and Lucia? The show thinks it works because it has two good looking actors fawning over each other. But they have absolutely zero chemistry! It was a plot contrivance all season long that literally went no where.
  • Similarly Jakes issues with his family this season only popped up when the show needed a complication for that character and his responsibilities to the team. It never worked either.
  • Additional story beats that didn't work were whatever was going on with the Emily Rose character and the tape of Briggs killing Juan from last season. If the show couldn't do something meaningful with the tape this season, they should have held off and reintroduced it when they had a juicy story arc for it.
  • I also like Brit Morgan but the whole bank heist stuff was also way more complicated than it had any right to be.
  • Nestor Serraro gets credited for just playing a dead body.
  • On the bright side though, Charlie's baby survived the finale. It's become quite a TV trope for a pregnant woman to go through a traumatic experience only to then loss the baby so the show wouldn't have to deal with how parenthood would limit the character. I'm glad Graceland didn't go for that easy trick - especially since the pregnancy was yet another rushed development.