Sunday, June 2, 2019

REVIEW: 'Perpetual Grace, LTD' - James Meets Pa and Ma With a Plan to Con Them Out of Their Money in 'Eleven'

Epix's Perpetual Grace, LTD - Episode 1.01 "Eleven"

Pa and Ma discover drug addict James on an empty New Mexico road and bring him to their ranch in Half Acre, New Mexico.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Epix's Perpetual Grace, LTD.

"Eleven" was written by Steven Conrad & Bruce Terris and directed by Steven Conrad

This drama presents as a Western noire with a clear anti-hero at the center of the story. It's a tale of a grifter looking for an easy con and finding that the specific world he has entered is much more complicated and criminal than he expected. In fact, no one in this narrative is exactly as they seem. That may be a familiar impulse in this specific genre though. There are so many stories built around the idea of surprising the audience with some shocking reveal about a core character. Here, James believes that Pa and Ma will be easy targets because they are an elderly couple running a church in the middle of nowhere. They happen to be sitting on millions of dollars. It seems like such an easy job that gets them out of the country long enough for him to steal all of their money. However, it wasn't even James' plan to begin with. This isn't a simple story of a good man breaking bad for some reason. James is just a disillusioned former firefighter who cracked under the pressure. He is being manipulated by the true con artist - Pa and Ma's son, Paul. Their son knows exactly what's going on within his family. He has concocted this plan to take what he believes was stolen money in the first place. He can use it for his own personal benefit without having to do any of the ugly work himself. Instead, that is up to James and the Mexican sheriff, Hector, who locks Pa and Ma up for a little while. However, the elderly couple aren't as naive and brittle as everyone would assume. Instead, they are just as dangerous and lethal in this world. That's the big surprise this premiere builds towards. It first establishes how they are loving and nurturing. They pick James up from the side of the road in order to help him through withdrawal - which is another crucial detail of this plan. They help him get back on his feet. He repays them by "tracking down" their son. James then assumes Paul's identity in order to access everything that Pa and Ma own. But James also presents as a guy with morals. He is fine robbing a pawn shop. It's just difficult when a teenager happens to be the only person manning the store. Instead, he wants to show the kid compassion even though he can't allow anything to disrupt these plans. And yet, the con is already going awry. That was always expected. No amount of careful planning could prepare for what is truly going on in this world. The show is very purposeful when it comes to the stylistic depiction of this universe. It's a very specific color palette that also dwells in mystery. Things are never as simplistic as the black-and-white details that the flashbacks would suggest. Instead, it just proves the central naiveté and cunning manipulation that built up this story in the first place. And now, James is dealing with all of the consequences. He left one world behind. He was searching for direction and found it in this town in New Mexico. However, it has led him to a very dangerous family he doesn't understand at all. Paul is actually being hunted by a Texas ranger for being a person of interest in a murder. That means James also ends the premiere in a prison cell. It's only then that James realizes just how little Paul actually told him about his life. His father is actually a convicted and brutal criminal. He kills a man just to prove he should not be trifled with while in this holding cell. The whole plan depended on Pa and Ma being trapped in Mexico for two weeks. Afterwards, Paul could return home as an innocent victim in all of this as well. But that is simply not going to happen because everyone is so much more than the perception originally portrays.