Graceland: Episode 2 – Guadalajara Dog

Watched the Graceland series pilot (Show # 1) last week and did a write up of that show here. Last night was the 2nd show of the series, an episode called Guadalajara Dog. No, that reference isn’t about some case in Guadalajara – it’s just the third time in two weeks when our intrepid UC’s head off to a food stand on wheels. This week it was the Sun City Hot Dog truck and the specialty of this kitchen-on-wheels is a fanciful hot-dog called the Guadalajara Dog. But that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

So, to get back in place, to open the show, Briggs takes Mike and Johnny to a place of gastric delights called Hector’s Taco Stand. Some kid steals a bag of chips and Mike high tails it after this perp. Until he’s intercepted by Johnny. Briggs and Johnny lay into Mike heavily – about possibly blowing his cover to chase down a thief of potato crisps in a bag. Lesson learned. We hope. Not to worry, it’s all part of Mike’s learning curve and that’s both necessary as well as fun for us.

As you know, FBI agent Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit), who is just out of the Academy has been placed into Graceland. His main job – to keeps tabs on Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) who the FBI higher-ups suspect, no, believe – is dirty. But they need to catch him in the act of breaking the rules, and the law. They’re looking for an indictable offense.

But Briggs is no fool. From the jump he has been suspicious of Warren. Which creates a level of undercover within the undercover roles all these agents play. However this presents a structural problem for the show.

Briggs must be dirty – otherwise why is he so suspicious of Mike Warren. But if Briggs is dirty – we haven’t seen any evidence of malfeasance yet.

Warren is super smart. He’s clever. He can think rapidly while under duress. He’s very observant. The script has dropped more than a dozen visual clues at we viewers that Briggs suspects Warren. Warren is too smart, too observant to not have noticed.

So let us assume he’s noticed. How come he hasn’t reported this to his handler? How come he hasn’t suggested that he back off for a while and sever contact with HQ until Briggs is less suspicious?

Well the reason is obvious. The tension of Warren walking that fine line of being an under cover operative out in the world as well as being an undercover within Graceland is what drives the show and gives it an edge. But they’ve got a handle on this. Warren wants to do more and more. Briggs keeps putting him off, saying he’s too new, too inexperienced – too green. And it is working, Watch:

But beyond the basics of A watching B, and B knows A is watching him, and A knows that B knows, and B knows that A knows he knows – we will have to get down to basics and fairly quickly. When an alpha male – be it dogs, apes, or even men – begins to feel uncomfortable by the presence of another male – sooner or later – we will have a flash point. It is like a law of nature. Immutable and inevitable. Which is pretty much at the heart of this show. And why we watch a show like this.

Then there’s how some of the other situations occur. In this week’s episode, DJ is undercover and still working the exotic bird smuggling case. The caged birds are in a truck which also has a large wooden case with 1000 rounds of illegal ‘cop-killer’ bullets. What a coincidence! And this followed the bit in the pilot where another buy and bust lead to 14,000 pairs of stolen designer jeans. That’s twice in two weeks that they went to the not so brilliant contrivance of ‘well look what we found’.

And how did the bird guys deal with Jakes. They simply locked him in the truck and ran off. They left him with his phone. If they owned the bullets – why wouldn’t they kill him. And even if they were just transporting the bullets why wouldn’t they make a call? I thought that was kind of weak.

Another problem was the 2nd off-base party by the agents. This week on the beach. Last week it was also on the beach when Mike Warren got a call from Deputy Director Campbell in the midst of this party. No phone call this week – but Briggs was still suspicious. But two weeks in a row of fireside chats where they recap the days action. We saw it happen – we don’t need one agent telling the others how it played out. It is simply a waste of time otherwise known as filler.

As predicted last week, the cast has changed. No sign of Graceland House Manager Gerry Silva this week. Agent Lauren Kincaid apparently has been pulled leaving her involvement with the Russians dangling, and she’s been replaced by a new female agent. And Agent Donnie Banks has been given his walking papers as well. As they say in TV-land – his character has been written out.

No sign of Deputy Director Campbell (Courtney Vance) either.

I think the show has some structural issues to deal with, and the show also needs some more varied  situations. Meaning less repetition – unexpected swag, beach parties, etc. Plus until Briggs shows his colors, we need some villains to capture our attention. Last week, in the pilot, the Russian boss was compelling. This week we had no such character.

On the positive side – this week’s episode seemed better paced, had far better writing, and they cut the surfing down to none. We have a new female agent in place, Paige Arkin who is played by Serinda Swan, and Warren has a new handler down at FBI HQ, one Juan Badillo, played by Pedro Pascal.

I’m still positive about the show – and I hope to see some more improvement. One more thing, the show is visually beautiful, You know, those transition shots to show the passage of time, are superb. Unlike CSI Miami which made it into an art-form, yet used the same ones over and over, so far Graceland has not repeated itself.

What about you? I’d love to hear some of your input. Things you love or hate about the show.

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