Graceland: “Bagman”
C+

Graceland: “Bagman”

C+

Graceland

“Bagman”

Season 1, Episode 8

In which the show follows up last episode’s plot-twist big guns with a lot of literal guns, and hopes a lot of smoke equals traction.

Early in the episode, while on stakeout, Jakes (released from the basement of Graceland long enough to appear in this episode) warns Johnny, “Don’t get this place twisted. This ain’t your family.” It’s a marked contrast to pretty much everything that’s come before (wither Sauce Night?), but of Graceland’s concerns, internal continuity is low on the list. So while the A-plot is focused on catching the titular bag man in hopes he’s really Odin, this week is really all about how all the previous discussions of loyalty to your fellow agents in the bunker down by the sea were a sack of lies.

A lot of this is in the service of retrofitting the big reveal that the elusive supplier Odin is actually Briggs. The good news: The show was not leading anyone on, and despite being something of a “just go with it” twist, the series is committed. The bad news: For this reveal to work, Briggs is suddenly donning the tactical equivalent of a pair of glasses with a fake nose on them, and everyone else is being pretty awful at their jobs. Though Charlie and Johnny continue to have the best cop-partner chemistry on the show and Charlie has the sense to be the only one in the house suspicious of Briggs, their scene this week still means sitting through a search of a known safe house by two experienced FBI agents who regularly deal in drug busts and yet who do not knock on any of the walls in the locked secret room, apparently assuming that any heroin back there is the dealers’ business and they should be given some privacy.

Mike fares even worse; after canny police work in the front seven, he must have been saving his rookie mistakes, because he cashes in a lot of them this episode. He urges a woman to her feet during a firefight, then is shocked when she’s shot. He brings Abby back to Graceland to prove he’s not cheating on her, where she pretty much blows everybody’s cover. When they move in on Odin in the episode’s climactic sting, he gets his ass kicked, which provides a lot of information he immediately and cheerfully passes on to Briggs in a list that accidentally skirts Naked Gun levels of deadpan comedy. (He’s about Briggs’s height, about his build, is trained to fight a lot like Briggs is, and probably has a couple of broken ribs from that fight they had moments before Briggs magically appeared on the scene and Odin vanished without a trace. Anyway, it’s a shame you don’t want to go for a run for no reason, Briggs! Fun times! Bye!)

But it isn’t supposed to be funny. In fact, nothing in this episode is supposed to be funny, and to make sure we all understand that Shit is On now, there’s more violence here than in any other episode. Someone’s skin is chemically burned and his hand cut off; Caza’s raid on the (abandoned) bank racks up a double-digit body count, including a phalanx of undie-clad drug stuffers; and Briggs walks something of a fine line strangling Mike into unconsciousness without accidentally murdering him. Even Paige and the gun she brandished in the house are all business this week, though she’s suffering the collective bout of continuity-itis when confronting Mike about his supposed assets as a person: “Unlike the rest of us, there will always be a part of you that’s uncomfortable with the lies,” she says earnestly to the man who has been enthusiastically telling every lie he can think of for seven weeks and even now manages to give the in-house drug lord a run for his sociopathy.

While it’s still undetermined if making Briggs an underworld mover turns out to be a smarter move than having him remain in the shallow waters of Concerned Patriarch, at the moment it feels like the show’s trying not to trip on its own plot, leaving us with an episode in which there aren’t so much characters as pieces being moved around the board, setting up for the next big reveal. Mike manages to rouse himself enough to be suspicious that Briggs is angling to draw out Jangles, the awkwardly-named master assassin, a suspicion based on a confession Mike hasn’t told the others in the house. It has the most potential for payoff (and provides Briggs something of a motivation besides The Plot Made Me), but everybody else needs to get back in the game before this week’s bumbling police work becomes a trend.

Stray observations:

  • Best line of the week goes to Charlie, describing a miserable Jakes on the treadmill: “It’s like putting a sweater on a dog.”
  • Other best line, but for totally different reasons, is Bello to Mike, for anyone who assumed the gilded hideout might just be a super fancy warehouse: “This abandoned bank is safe. Trust me.”
  • The best cover Briggs could have given himself is to confide in Mike, who feasts on the secrets of others and on being the very best boy in class; that said, this bubble needs to burst sooner rather than later.
  • Jakes is back! They pretended to give him a plot, even. Still waiting for the entire season’s heroin trade to have been so Caza could raise the money for a really gigantic shipment of endangered parakeets that Jakes manages to lock up single-handed, smack in the middle of sweeps.

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