Despite the heartache the final scene in “Faith 7” brought, the fact that it was an unpredictable and tasteful plot twist made this episode one of Graceland’s strongest.
Episode Summary: One of Amber’s men interrogates Charlie because he believes she works for law enforcement. Sid frames Mike. Paige learns the truth about Lina. Carlito and Lucia learn the truth about Johnny’s cover. Jakes remains the only logical man in the house. Briggs rescues Charlie. And a member of the team loses their life …sort of.
Review | Analysis: This season of Graceland has done a great job of depicting the consequences of poor decisions and the pangs of deception
“The reason why we are living in this house together is because there are certain missions we can’t be expected to handle alone. Alone we come untethered. Alone we lose control. Now at some point along the way we lost sight of our purpose of what led sanctity to these walls. We don’t guard Graceland, guys. Graceland doesn’t guard us. We guard each other. And when systems are failing, that’s exactly when we need each other the most.“
What I loved most about this moment was Sunjata’s delivery of the line. It felt organic for his character to be the one monitoring the team while simultaneously shielding them. Briggs’ actions are often driven by rage and if you haven’t read my previous reviews on the matter, then I’d recommend you do so because I’ve never once condoned his actions. Although he’s most certainly not a saint, as viewers we cannot repudiate his protective nature, and the fact that he’d undoubtedly go to extreme measures to defend those he works for. As much as Briggs has his faults, there hasn’t been a speech on Graceland that’s been more accurate than the one above. Yes, they’re supposed to fight to make the world a better place, but they’re also supposed to fight for one another. And they’re supposed to do everything in their power to combine their expertise in order for situations not to spiral out of control. They’re a family. They fight like cats and dogs, but at the end of the day, when one’s in trouble, they’re the first to defend them. And no matter how many emotions sprinkle the air like motes of dust, they’re placed there in order to build one another up. They’re meant to bring out the best in each other. Individually they’re great, but together they’re unstoppable. And they’ve lost that bond in the midst of the all the chaos thats erupted from the sole fact that they’ve each chosen to take matters into their own hands.
If you had told me at the start of this season that I’d probably regain respect for Paul Briggs, I would’ve shrugged the statement off without any hesitation. I love what the writers have done with him since the truth about Juan’s murder was revealed. While I’m still upset with him for lying and going to extreme measures such as attempting to kill Mike a few episodes back, at the end of the day, it cannot be denied that Paul Briggs is a man who truly cares about those around him. As stated above, this season’s essentially showcased the fact that decisions shouldn’t be made lightly for consequences always follow. In the field of law enforcement, quick decisions are a must when lives are on the line, but personal matters shouldn’t come in-between such cases. At the end of the day, work and home aren’t the same place — your lies aren’t your life contrary to what Briggs has always believed. Additionally, it all comes down to anger – the unhealthiest state for a person to ever make a decision in. A state where Briggs was fortunate enough to be stopped during, or we can all be certain that guilt would’ve driven him to insanity.
At the end of last week’s episode, Amber abducted Charlie because of suspicions that she’s a cop. Luckily at the moment, baby Peanut is safe, but recent interviews suggest that diapers and unicorn pillow pets aren’t in Charlie’s future. (Insert every crying gif available here).
Fundamentally, the way Charlie’s handled the situation with Briggs is incredibly interesting to think through, and so far from what I had originally imagined after the season one finale. It all comes down to one thing – is love enough to inspire forgiveness or is it a reason to make excuses for those we care for? The complexity of the situation astoundingly illuminates the intense magnitude of which passions both cloud judgments and pave routes. That said, Briggs’ mistakes are inexcusable and as much as I hate writing this little bit every week, I feel it’s necessary to remind everyone that plainly, simply, every member of this house is screwed up. However, what’s made me regain a certain portion of respect back for Briggs is the fact that in every circumstance where Charlie’s life was threatened, he’s been selfless – a quality that despite anything is exceedingly admirable. Just like in season one, nothing he was doing came close to being more important than Charlie’s life. Therefore, if you’ve read my previous reviews then you know how often their relationship would actually irritate me because of how perfectly fooled Charlie was with his lies. And the only reason Briggs was ever tolerable was strictly due to Daniel Sunjata’s portrayal. However, in their scenes this week, Sunjata’s representation depicted Briggs’ love on a whole new level. It was in the broken and tearfully driven state where Sunjata’s performance corroborated the fact that Briggs’ love is genuine – he’s screwed up in numerous ways, but in this very moment, nothing in the world but this woman matters.
Jakes continues to be the voice of reason in the house – the one character who’s not made me want to throw things at the television screen. In this week’s episode he helps Paige identify who actually wrote the letter that was sent to Lina’s family. Jakes’ statement regarding Paige being the crazy one as opposed to Mike is something that sadly relates to everyone in the house. It all goes back to Briggs’ speech about the lack of unity destroying them. I’m a firm believer in the fact that as human beings our instincts tend to be right a lot of the times – why not follow them? And sometimes, it’s not just about finding proof, it’s merely about confronting the person – at least that’s how it’d be in the real world or in mine, but this is a TV show so let’s look at it in that perspective. Another thing Graceland’s done is presented the notion that emotionally driven concerns eventually become obsessions. It’s occurred with Charlie and Odin, Briggs and Jangles, Mike and the buses/Sid, plus Paige and Lina. It’s an on going cycle of wanting to get to the bottom of something so bad that they end up losing themselves in the process. It’s never their fault as much as the subjects, but it’d be nice to have at least one of these people just openly confront situations as opposed to going around in circles. Jakes’ statement solidifies the very conception that in the midst of the chase, it’s easy to get lost within the mind’s desires. Jakes is the one character who’s taken everything he’s gone through in the past and masked his wounds for the job – none of his actions were personally driven. He’s picked himself up after the downfall and not only grown as a stronger being, but a better agent. If there was an Agent of the Year Award, Dale Jakes wins it without hesitation. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, Brandon J. McLaren’s performance this entire season was flawless – from the very first episode to the last, he’s brought such complexity, wit, and level headedness to the character that the only fault is that there wasn’t enough screen time.
Due to the fact that Lucia grabbed the wrong brief case, she then learns about Johnny’s true identity. After rationally expressing the truth about what their lives would be like if her father and brother aren’t arrested, Lucia agrees to help Johnny. Before I go into Johnny’s journey this season and this episode especially, I want to take a moment to address the fact that this was Manny Montana at his best. His performance throughout the episode astounded me – Montana’s taken Johnny to a whole new level this season by giving him a voice that demands to be heard. We a saw a glimpse of this in “King’s Castle” last season, but the softer, more confident demeanor in this week’s episode gave him a firmer credibility.
That said, Carlito later finds an excuse to get a ride with Johnny and it’s here where he too confronts him about what he does for the government. They stop at an area where Lucia’s later brought as well, and after making them kiss in front of him, Carlito states that if Johnny interferes with the planes in any way, Lucia will be dead. Erik Valdez has brought it all this season, and I say that confidently for there’s not a single character that makes me cringe with disgust as much as Carlito. I almost find myself wanting to go watch one of Valdez’s interviews after every episode simply to see the man in his natural, normal, kind state. Carlito’s vicious and that’s how you know an actor’s done his job well when you’re fueled with repugnance after every scene.
Even though he was warned numerous times not to get romantically involved with Lucia, Johnny manages to fall in love and this takes us back to the earlier debates in a different way. Is love enough to change a person? Could Johnny possibly turn his back on his teammates because the woman he loves is in jeopardy? Johnny’s always been the heart of Graceland, the one member who’s loved his team above and beyond, but things have changed – circumstances have forced him to change. Back in season one we saw his frustration with the lack of respect he was given, but now that he has a certain amount, it’s plausible that along with his love for Lucia, it could get inside his head. And perhaps this is wishful thinking, but hopefully, he’s the one member of the team who doesn’t take matters into his own hands but asks for help. I wasn’t team Lucia and Johnny for a very long time because I wasn’t sure how she’d react to the truth; however, now that it’s all in the open, their relationship feels more authentic. And knowing that I’m now rooting for them to make it, scares me even more for the future. Montana and Hyder have exquisite chemistry; therefore, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of their journey plays out if one doesn’t end up dead.
Mike’s journey this season wasn’t exactly cookie cutter clean as it was last. Week after week I sat on pins and needles wondering how far he’d be willing to take this case. I have voiced my concerns with the Lina situation enough times that I don’t want to do it again. I’m someone who has no problem admitting when they’re wrong, and when it comes to the “Gratis” review, I was wrong to blame the writing of the episode. My entire frustration was with the parallels between Mike and Briggs, and the fact that the moment and the lie felt ridiculously out of character. However, if we’re looking at the season as a whole, as mentioned above, it all comes down to emotions clouding judgments. I don’t want to point fingers and I don’t want to play the whose crime is bigger game. The only statement that can be made is that Mike’s agenda was never to harm Lina or any of the other girls. He set out to put an end to everything, but lines got crossed, mistakes were made, and emotions drove his actions. For a while, I questioned whether or not his heart had grown colder or his ambitions were truly blinding him. Aaron Tveit’s a gifted being, and I’m one of those people that fauns over the smallest moments because they’re often not looked into as much. Upon learning that Mike sent the letter, I really didn’t think there was anything he could say or do that’d make the situation okay. However, Tveit’s performance in that fragmented moment where the letter was brought up shattered me. The letter wasn’t sent to cover his tracks, it was sent to instill hope inside the family – wounded and broken by the aftermath of everything, the innocence that was lost in Mike because of the case and what it’s forced him to do (i.e. burning Lina’s body) instantly resurfaced. Though we couldn’t see the expression he wore in his eyes, the childlike smile as Mike says “that she’s happy” is an acting choice that must certainly be commended. It is Tveit’s performance which showcases the fact that Mike’s still in many ways a heartfelt being – a naïve and compassionate man whose ambitions aren’t to harm the world, but to save it. It’s not about rising to the top, but it’s about doing good.
That’s ultimately what it comes down to with this group of agents – they’ve each made the undoable mistake of allowing their emotions and ambitions to govern their paths, their pride to get in the way of them asking for help by talking to someone, and being open to accept advice when they may be wrong. Do people even talk about things anymore? When’s the last time Charlie and Paige had a girls night while the men went on a golfing trip? What this house needs is a nice day that involves pizza and discussions monitored by an adult who won’t let them break each other down any chance they get.
This part is the most difficult to write at the moment, so I ask that you bear with me because I don’t want to condone anyone’s actions or point fingers. None of the mistakes the agents inside Graceland have committed are excusable, to some degree, it’s all screwed up, and they’re all flawed. However, there’s a prodigious difference between excusing a character’s actions and understanding them. What Briggs and Mike have done are understandable, inexcusable, but understandable. Similarly with Paige to a certain level. If you’ve been following my reviews since the season started then you know Paige’s arc has been my favorite. There’s not a moment where I wasn’t proud of her. There was not a moment where I wasn’t rooting for her. Paige’s flaw comes from the very fact that she’s refused to listen to anyone, she’s been quick on her feet, and she’s made decisions based on what she momentarily feels. I don’t think Paige thought too far into her desires. It almost seems as though her first thought was merely “Mike must be punished”, but she didn’t think about what kind of punishment would actually provide a form of justice. Briggs was luckily stopped when he quickly figured screwing Mike over would be best, but Paige’s choice to not communicate with anyone has forced her to be engulfed with her own mind. Here’s where I’m disappointed with the writing and I always hate to be, but more than that, I hate to have to address it. During Sauce Night, Paige confronted Mike, but in later episodes, she starts going backwards. Essentially, this is where I wish the story differed from Briggs and Charlie’s. Paige is ambitious, she doesn’t take anyone’s crap, but she lost herself after this case. A case we must remember she wasn’t trained for as she herself stated back in episode 4. As a viewer and a human being, I too momentarily lost sight of the true message. As an audience, we grew a similar attachment to Lina and the heartbreaking truth is because she was the face of Human Trafficking. That’s primarily the reason why I found myself so upset after “Gratis”. I, like Paige felt an attachment to her because I wanted to believe that though tragedies occur on a daily basis maybe we can get a happy ending with this storyline. But what Graceland’s done is shown the inevitable truth – sometimes it’s not a happy ending. Sometimes, situations are so flawed that we cannot even begin to wrap our heads around the actuality of what’s occurred. Sometimes, a few innocent people lose their lives during a fight in order for a larger group to be saved. We aren’t ever fully aware of the horrors that take place in the lives of those who are sold as sex slaves – but thankfully, Graceland’s played a part in spreading awareness and that’s commendable. As much as “Gratis” hurt me as a viewer, it made complete sense. And as I’ve said previously, Mike’s biggest flaw in all this, is that he could never find a better way to communicate his plans to Paige. His mind was always in the right place, but his words told a different story. When she was emotionally attached, he used logic in a way where it wasn’t going to help. Certain situations demand to be handled in a specific matter, and the lack of communication between these two has played a vast role in their frustrations towards one another. What fundamentally will always bother me most is the fact that Mike chose to lie and that lie was stemmed from his fear of disappointment. Mike never went in their with the intensions to kill – he tried his hardest to save Lina but unfortunately Sulla didn’t let that happen. Mike was still very wrong to burn the body, but perhaps that’s what Sulla meant by ‘take care of it’. Hopefully in season 3, we learn about what went through Mike’s head while doing so, because that and the entire case without a doubt damaged him.
Paige, like Briggs and Mike, made a decision while anger was still fresh within her. At the end of the day, her cruelly executed comments to Sid and later to Briggs, don’t exactly mean she wanted Mike dead. The primary issue is that she didn’t think – she didn’t consider the fact that perhaps Sid’s a liar or a horrible man like Mike believed. Again, her actions are inexcusable and to an extent not entirely understandable. She, just as everyone else needed to confront someone else in this situation. She needed another perspective. And this is an issue everyone in this entire house has. You’d think they were sworn enemies by the way they behave towards one another sometimes. Serinda Swan has been knocking it out of the ballpark this season with her performance, and the only reason I’m holding onto the hope that her intentions weren’t to get him killed, is because of the moment where you can pinpoint Paige realizes the potential severity of what she’s done. And even when she’s played a part in getting the man she once cared for killed, Swan’s performance in that breakdown is what lets viewers see that she’s not a murderous being, but a flawed human who’s horribly screwed up. Once again, it all comes down to anger and the fact that it’s governed her actions, but had she been thinking straight, Mike’s death isn’t something she’d want or at least, we hope that’s not how dark her heart’s gotten.
I have a few mottos in life and one of them is this, if you could find an excuse to quote The Office or Friday Night Lights, do it. We’re going to take one of my favorites by Coach Eric Taylor right now because I feel it relates to the finale wonderfully.
“Life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”
In any line of work, game, or task, mistakes are inevitable, as human beings, we’re flawed, we’re capable of greatness, but we’re also capable of stumbling, and as this season of Graceland wrapped, that’s exactly what it taught its viewers. Our intensions could be in the right place, but it’s easy to get lost, it’s easy to lose ourselves in the things we’re most passionate about. It’s those moments where we’ve fallen, that the bravest thing we can do is to accept that we are vulnerable. True strength is enduring everything. Each of these characters, in different ways, have lost themselves when they’ve fallen. But in this moment, the possible death of one of their own will undeniably test them all in ways they never imagined. And hopefully if the show’s picked up for a 3rd season, we see all of this. Hopefully we see their struggles and every single emotion that fuels them. My hope is that nothing will be held back, and that we see them endure every emotion they’re feeling because that’s exactly where strength comes from.
Unanswered Questions and Predictions:
1) Is Mike really dead? While it most certainly looks like he’s gone, I don’t believe his story’s over for good. There are a few ensemble casts that need all of their members to survive and I genuinely feel Graceland is one of them. Not to mention, if Mike were to die, this weren’t the way, and it seems like Eastin wouldn’t kill off such a pivotal character without giving him proper closure. Mike’s death didn’t provide closure and it doesn’t exactly give him the opportunity to “repent of his sins”. Therefore, I’m almost 95% positive, that in order for the show to be written well and for its characters to be treated well, death of a main character wouldn’t come like this. They’d die when their chapter is over, but Mike Warren’s chapter most certainly isn’t.
2) Will Johnny betray the group? I desperately want to believe that he won’t. I want to believe that he’s the one person in the group who’ll actually take strategic steps because he knows a life is on the line. I’m hoping that that in itself is enough reason to inspire him.
3) Will Graceland burn like the Estate now that Sid knows? I don’t think so. Sid was after Mike because Mike was after Sid, but now that Sid believes Mike’s out of the picture and no one saw him kill him, I have a feeling he’ll back away for a bit, that or they’ll have Mike wake up and reveal what he’s heard. It’s a plot line that really doesn’t need to be repeated again, and I feel as though because Graceland is in jeopardy like the Estate now, it’ll have a different outcome this time.
4) With Solano Sr. gone can Carlito succeed? I hope not. I’m always going back and forth with whether or not I hate Sid or Carlito more but at this point, I feel like we’ve dragged on the storyline of Carlito far too long to keep it going for another season. I’m hoping it raps up quickly as next season surfaces, but I feel that’s merely wishful thinking. He won’t succeed, but stoping him most definitely won’t be easy.
5) Can Graceland be Graceland after this betrayal? Yes. If there’s any house that can bounce back, it’s this. At the end of the day, as I’ve stated too many times by now, they’re all flawed. They all need each other to survive, to succeed, and to be the best versions of themselves possible. It’s not going to be easy but it’s not impossible. All that’s occurred will make them stronger but above all that it’ll allow them to understand one another in ways no one ever will. It’ll consolidate all of their relationships in a way nothing ever has before.
I know I said that I would give the show until the finale to see whether or not I would continue reviewing it, and the answer is yes, I will. Despite all that’s occurred, I believe in this show too much to give up on it. Therefore, if the show’s back for a 3rd season, I will be too. More than anything, the performances by the cast floored me this season. I’ve never been so torn in regards to writing weekly performance reviews because every one has truly brought something masterfully exceptional week after week. No matter how much substance some of the episodes lacked, the cast’s performances have made them worth it.
Thank you all for sticking around and reading these reviews every week. Your support and kindness is greatly appreciated. Remember, we’re always open to discussions about anything as long as they’re voiced without the intensions of spreading hate. What’d you all think of the finale? What are you hoping for most? Is there something you’d like us to address that we haven’t?