Graceland: “Goodbye High”
B-

Graceland: “Goodbye High”

B-

Graceland

“Goodbye High”

Season 1, Episode 7

It’s another episode of the Never Tell Mike Anything Show! Featuring other subplots occasionally.

One of the things that makes Graceland hard to get a handle on is that even in the midst of its best dynamics, the execution often dips past Fine either stylistically or in its dialogue, which robs them of power and puts the burden of interest on the intrigue subplots, with mixed results. This week, the central character beat–Charlie confessing her heroin use to the house, and its immediate backlash–is blocked like a school play and filmed with all the panache of a forgotten camcorder on a side table.

That’s a shame, because the idea of confession actually burdening those around you is a chewy one in a house filled with professional liars, and could have been a powerful glimpse at a group of people with varying agendas who now have to decide whether they’re going to lie on Charlie’s behalf or not.

Or, in Mike’s case, he has to decide whether he’s going to use this opportunity to sneak incriminating details out of her in front of the rest of the house under the guise of concern. Mike is not a particularly subtle guy, but this moment falls just short of twirling a moustache, and Charlie’s giveaway glance at Briggs when Mike asks about her source seems so obvious it might be intentionally throwing him under the bus for refusing to open up to her. (Whether you think it’s a subtle double-cross or a lead balloon depends on how much slack you’re cutting the show at the moment.)

Whatever Charlie’s reasons, the confession gets her nothing but grief after the fact from Briggs, who points out, not unfairly, that by freeing herself from the lie, she’s compromised everyone else. “Your secrets are your burden,” he finishes. “Mine are mine.” Which is an interesting wrap-up, given that he spends the first ten minutes of the episode post-NA meeting telling Mike about his history with heroin, which involves a Mexican cartel kidnapping him and shooting him up against his will. He promises Mike that he’s only been hiding it for the good of the Bureau’s reputation, because to let the information get out is to compromise everything he’s ever done as an agent.

Mike buys that. He also turns around and tells his IA handler about it instantly, ostensibly to exonerate Briggs, but largely in hopes that will wrap things up at the house and get him back to the East Coast.

One of the more interesting things Graceland has done is refuse to make Mike a particularly sympathetic character. Unlike a long string of USA antiheroes grappling with ethics on a sliding scale, Mike has comfortably settled into the role of ambitious, observant non-person – happy behind any identity that isn’t actually him, happy to betray confidences if they work to his advantage, happy to accept collateral damage so long as he’s not in the line of fire. (Literally, maybe, given all those shooting lessons he’s given the gang members.) While capable of being freaked out, as seen last week with Johnny, the embrace of his inner sociopath still seems natural. Mike set Bello up last week to undercut his own supplier in a repo mission gone sour. As a direct result, Bello spends the first half of this week trying to stretch his remaining heroin supply by cutting it with fentanyl, a scheme about which which Mike can only manage a halfhearted, “Briggs, people are going to die because of me.” Yup, they sure are! You’ll probably get over it fine.

Of course, Mike’s also more than happy to snap at any opportunity that might cover his ass, and suggests the inevitable dovetail of Charlie’s search for Odin and Bello’s need for a better supplier by having Briggs track down Odin and act as intermediary at a three-man meeting. And things go well, despite Bello and Briggs being the only two who show, right after Briggs shuts down his surveillance watch and uses the radio silence to introduce himself to Bello as Odin himself, and it’ll be a pleasure doing business.

Whether Briggs actually is Odin or this is just one of his gutsy stalls is undetermined (less because the show is examining the potential ramifications of a conflicted agent’s journey from bastion of intrahouse loyalty to secret criminal mastermind, and more because this show enjoys end-of-episode reveals about pretty much anything). The more loaded issue is how the show will handle the emergent distrust between Charlie and Briggs, which has already eclipsed the Mike/Briggs dynamic in emotional urgency. Is this a momentary blip? Will Sauce Night never come again? Will Mike end up squeegeeing his way into this dynamic, too?

Probably definitely that last one. The rest is up for grabs.

Stray observations:

  • The chore wheel is back. No word yet on who cleans the floor-to-ceiling windows every week.
  • Mike’s grandfather the crime scene photographer (remember him?) lives on in the crime scene photo IA handler Badillo gives him, possibly as a going-away present before he heads off to film Game of Thrones.
  • I’m not saying this show doesn’t trust its audience, I’m just saying that when Briggs points out that an agent was in so deep with a dealer’s family that the dealer’s mother was calling him “mijo,” Mike adds, “Son,” in case anyone was suddenly desperately thrown by the possibility that “mijo” meant “undercover federal agent.”
  • Jakes returns from invisible stasis this week for a subplot in which he gives the world’s most obvious interrogation to his estranged ex’s new boyfriend in order to get a look at his son. While this might yet play out, in this episode it exists mostly so he can advise Mike not to break up with his girlfriend despite pressure from the house, because undercover gigs come and go, but bland girlfriends are forever.

More TV Club