Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Graceland: “King's Castle”

Illustration for article titled Graceland: “King's Castle”

It’s Jakes’ birthday this week! Also Briggs arranged for Mike to get seriously beaten.

Briggs has to arrange an awful lot this week: He has to get rid of Badillo's corpse, he has to try to stop any further investigation of Odin that might lead back to his alter ego, and when that doesn’t work, he has to blow Mike’s cover and only hope that the subsequent beating doesn’t kill him. In addition, he has to keep the house from asking questions about his new willingness to let Odin go, he has to be cool about Mike finally coming clean about the investigation, and he has to keep Charlie from snapping and punching him in the face a hundred times.

The sometimes-easy camaraderie of the season’s first half has collapsed by this point, and the show seems relieved to be able to set everyone at one another’s throats by any means necessary. After a couple of episodes where Briggs was on edge about threats to his cover, he’s settled into an outwardly-Zen acceptance of the potential body count; Daniel Sunjata keeps it ambiguous as to whether it’s Briggs trying to come down off a revenge high with minimum recoil or if the revenge has just started, and it lends him some interesting menace, particularly regarding Charlie, who’s positioned herself as the one he’ll have to go through to get out of this (if she manages to avoid being killed by that clearly-bad-news Federale she agreed to work with immediately—you can take the plot points out of the girl, but you can’t take the girl out of the plot points).

And as things start tripping into one another on their way to the season finale, Bello’s coming into his own: His cowboy fixation might have seemed like a shortcut to self-romanticizing, but no one can accuse him of lacking the stoic fatalism of his heroes. He’s silent to the feds, and even after he realizes he was played, Bello gets the last laugh, calling Mike back to deliver a mixture of self-absolution and actual truthbomb the likes of which Mike has never encountered. He claims Mike’s the cause of Eddie’s death, and when Mike protests, Bello lists all the transgressions Mike did nothing about: “You did not stop them because it did not suit your purposes.” And even when Mike pulls out the card he holds dearest—nothing was ever his fault because he was under orders—it gets shot through: “My men follow orders, too. The only difference between you and me is that I will pay for my sins.” They don’t allow mics in the clink, but Bello probably has someone on the outside drop one for him.

For Mike this week, his vanished morality is only one of his concerns. A physical shambles even discounting his gut stab last week, he turns hollow eyes on a series of circumstances over which he has increasingly little control, a human pinball realizing he’s been screwed from the beginning. Though nothing shakes him as much as facing Bello without the safety net of being someone else, Paige is still on the verge of dropping the dime on him, and a suit at HQ tells him Juan “Worst Undercover Idea Ever” Badillo has vanished, and they suspect Briggs,. (The agent got hold of a pro-FBI essay Mike wrote when he was 9; it’s an odd rhetorical freefall when an FBI agent slams a finger onto a child’s stick-figure sketch of a cop and a criminal and locks his argument with, “I think it’s time we determine—is [Briggs] that guy, or is he that guy?”)

Against all this, Johnny the youngest child who wants everyone to just get along, throws Jakes a surprise party with a bouncy castle and some strippers. But Jakes has checked out of most of the subplot; he spends the night drinking with ex-wife Cassie’s boyfriend Derek, who reveals he’s been kicked out for the night. Fumbling character development ensues as Jakes pops over at two in the morning to try to reconcile with her; her on-the-nose shutdown isn’t inaccurate, but as setup to get Jakes frustrated enough to throw punches, it highlights the absence of buildup in the weeks between.


It does, however, tip Johnny over the edge. “You ain’t got nothin’ else, bro,” he snaps at the furious Jakes, which skirts an inch away from being a meta statement about his place in the show. John then settles in for some speechifying to Graceland at large, insisting they’re really family: “That’s what you call six people living in one house,” he says, never having been informed of the word ‘roommate.’ There’s no doubt he believes it; it’s less resonant that everyone seems vaguely abashed by the lecture when nearly all of them have concrete reasons to distrust one another.

But maybe the Hallmark Channel treatment did its job holding off the avalanche another week: At Charlie’s meeting with Cortez, she steps back from the point of no return and doesn’t name her suspect (though Cortez can tell she knows), and Mike actually admits the whole truth one by one to both Paige and Briggs. It says something about his desperation that he’s actually resorting to the truth. It says something about Bello that Briggs continues to be confident he won’t name names. And it says something about how far down the road Briggs has gone that when he realizes who he killed on the beach, he doesn’t seem surprised.


Stray observations:

  • Quick round of How’d That Agent Get That Essay: A) submitted in the annual FBI Awareness Month essay contest in elementary school, B) stolen off his grandfather’s desk, C) extremely thorough home search through a box marked “Childhood Whimsy Items (not to be used for emotional blackmail!).”
  • Briggs made his incriminating phone call from his personal cell phone, and was only saved from being noticed because Charlie got fed up with Johnny’s party and forgot the list when she bolted. Later, he looks up the man he murdered on his personal computer. This is the mastermind who avoided all detection?
  • Bello’s no stranger to intimidation, and though the scene between him and Charlie was largely wasted, there are some good beats. Charlie: “There’s 60,000 Mexican inmates sharpening their toothbrushes right now, waiting to shove them up your ass.” “…That’s a great deal of toothbrushes.”
  • If you make Johnny your friend, he will get you a bouncy castle and show up one wig short of Tendo Choi cosplay.