Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Graceland - 1.04 - Pizza Box - Preview

On the USA Network, characters do face hard times and hard choices but the personal consequences of those choices tend not to last very long. Within a few episodes they diminish and new problems take their place. It's not nicknamed the Blue Sky Network for nothing. As a result things on USA Network tend to be more black and white with a few scant shades of grey thrown in. I actually like that about the network since my moral coding falls more to the black and white sides of the scale too. Graceland however plays all in the grey as episodes 1.03 and 1.04 clearly show. Are you still a hero when you use subterfuge to purposely force someone to transfer when they don't want to? Are you still a hero when your decisions threaten someone's very life?

This episode starts off in typical case of the week style. Paige participates in a drug bust but she's suspicious about the quality of the pot they find. She enlists the help of Jakes and Johnny to investigate Achica Pearl, a pot farmer whom Jakes investigated before. She now legally grows pot but Paige believes she's exceeding the legal limit she is allowed to grow and selling it on the streets for more money. Since Jakes' first contact with Achica came through the Mexican mafia, Johnny needs to be the buyer instead of Paige. Unfortunately Johnny doesn't take pot farming very seriously, which comes back to bite them. Meanwhile Bello calls a meeting with Briggs and Mike, who is a bit gun shy after the last time. To Briggs' shock, it is Mike he wants to do business with and Briggs is sent away.

While Charlie and Briggs got most of the screen time in the previous episode, this one delves more into Jakes and Johnny while Paige gets bonus points for kicking butt. Fans who wanted to see more of these three shouldn't be disappointed. They each make questionable decisions but there's no question that they have each others' backs. The interdepartmental cooperation remains stunning as always. However it is Mike who is hit hardest in this episode. It's his first shot going solo on a major case and it should have lingering consequences if I'm reading this show right.

Although this episode started rather ho-hum for me, it ended up riveting. I dropped my pen and stopped taking notes about halfway through. I also jumped twice. Pizza Box does a good job of mixing tense moments with buddy comedy, and while Charlie and Briggs are not in it very much it is clear that they are the masterminds and authorities of Graceland. I also enjoyed Mia Kirshner as Achica. This role is different than her role as Kenya on Defiance and it was interesting to see. At the risk of sounding repetitive, to me this is the best episode of Graceland yet. It's a slow build but pays off in the end.

The "What Were You Thinking" Award - Johnny
Best entrance - Paige
Best back story - Johnny
Best scene - Charlie and Briggs and rum
Most intense scene / Best reason to watch - about 10 minutes before the end
Most touching offer - Briggs

Biggest subtext - Food
- TVP is not about textured vegetable protein and a pizza box isn't getting delivered by Dominos. Even the sauce comes with its own back story.

Great lines -
"I know you're a white boy but come on man, that sounded ridiculous."
"I think we can both agree that 'Abby Who Likes Crabs' is a nickname that should not stick."
"I'll save you 30 seconds and a broken hand."
"In what alternate Mexican universe do drug dealers suggest skinny dipping?"
"So what are you most interested in - the yards or the ring?"
"Sweetheart, I don't need vocational advice from some low-level banger selling ditchweed out of his El Camino."
"We didn't have summer camp in the ghetto man."
"You want to keep your eyeballs?" "Uh…yeah."

Graceland airs Thursdays at 10/9 C on USA Network.

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