Graceland: “Happy Endings”
C+

Graceland: “Happy Endings”

C+

Graceland

“Happy Endings”

Season 1, Episode 11

We’re one episode away from the season finale, and finally the longstanding, complicated friendship between Briggs and Jakes will be put to the test!

Oh, did you not know they had a deep friendship, longer than anyone else in the house, and having seen each other at their best and their worst? Well,Graceland hopes you won’t notice. (Maybe everyone who watches Graceland is the Jakes of this show: kind of around, ready to be entertained, but kept at a distance that prohibits deep engagement, and expected to forget and remember backstory however everyone orders you to, until one day you’re driving to a second location and wondering if this show is really even your friend.)

But whatever backstory the episode hopes it’s showed you, when Briggs admits to Jakes he’s trying to steal evidence of him murdering an undercover FBI agent, Jakes barely hesitates before he throws his lot in with Briggs. That imaginary deep friendship must have been awesome. Or maybe it’s just that Jakes, who’s still not forgiven by Johnny for warning him about staying out of house drama and doubly unforgiven for not liking his unwanted birthday party, is the person in the house (except Johnny) willing to do Briggs a favor at all–the rest would be thumbing 911 if Briggs checked in on them at night.

And while there are a lot of moving pieces in this episode–pieces being shifted toward a big finish, with plenty of intercutting dialogue to keep things moving–it all feels more or less like that; expected but not particularly earned.

Charlie gets to edge forward in her quest to prove that Briggs is Odin, but her bang-on hunch remains an anomaly in a pattern of her not being a fantastic judge of character, a blind spot used to present her for sufficient entanglement with Raphael “Jangles” Cortes. Sure, she gets a chance to exact ass-kicky revenge on Quinn, but when she and Cortes get their prep montage for the big strategy meeting, the show’s equivalent character prep is Cortes arranging knives and Charlie applying lipstick. There’s still some hope that this is an elaborate setup by Charlie (and that her fight with Johnny about him was her act to lull Cortes into a false sense of security), but given that she nearly went to his hotel room alone and without telling anyone where she was, we’ll see.

Though some aspects of the plot work just as they’re meant to: telegraphed or not, it’s a relief to see Mike and Briggs have treated their mutual semi-revelations right in character, by moving so far into passive-aggressive animosity they come out the other side. The things they have in common (willingness to lie poorly to someone’s face rather than risk the truth, a preternatural ability to second-guess) have led to detentes in the past where they were both crawling with suspicions but couldn’t do much about them. Those days are over, and Mike blatantly inserts himself into Briggs’ one-day job with a small-time crook for a chance at the recorder in the glove compartment of his getaway car, which happens to be the FBI vehicle in question. Briggs is angry, maybe because he brought a cockatoo to sweeten the pot and this twist is just cramping his style, but at this point their overly-earnest arguing about trying to prove Briggs’ innocence is just so much white noise scoring their stone-cold race to the evidence.

Mike wins, in that he cuffs Briggs during the robbery and keeps him away from the glove compartment; Briggs, defeated, decides to leave town ahead of what will catch up with him whenever that tape is discovered. But that won’t be this episode, because when Mike gets his turn at the Crown Vic, there’s nothing there, and Briggs is already a ghost.

In most ways it matters, actually, Briggs was always a ghost. He began as a vague den father to the chatty undercover crew, and became a vague criminal mastermind; though he held authority in the house, others’ attempts to connect with him never quite stuck. And though he’s been explicitly drawn as a foil to Mike–the ghost of Christmas future–he and Mike have been in the same place for a while. Mike has always been a shell with personalities wrapped around it as necessary (even his current partnership with Paige reads more as convenience than trust); in losing Briggs, he’s lost a collar that would make him a Good Guy, a thing he’s right to be preoccupied about.

And as Mike grasps for the brass ring and ends up with nothing, he’s left with a houseful of agents who distrust him only slightly less than they distrust the guy who strung them along for two years while he dealt drugs. It’s no accident that Briggs has to vandalize Graceland to retrieve his nest egg and bolt; the walls are cracking anyway.

Stray observations:

  • Jakes actually mentioned the parrot case again! Then literally nothing parrot-justice-related happened.
  • Johnny can make pancakes in the shape of octopi, helicopters, and circles. Spinoff for Johnny.
  • Luckily for a guy who had a whole speech about not getting too close to other people in the house, Jakes is aware he’s probably crossed a professional line, and at one point he admits to Paige why he keeps to himself: “When I do stick my neck out, this shit happens.”
  • Slightly less astute is Briggs, about being handcuffed to a pole and ditched by Mike: “He didn’t wait for me to make my move. He threw a sucker punch.”
  • Most astute is Johnny, listening in as Quinn drives home that a strung-out Katy was too high to remember something: “What a dick, man.”
  • Cream Puff has dance moves! Spinoff for the cockatoo.

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